For many, the experience of feeling marginalized or underestimated in the workplace is a daily reality. “The key to succeeding in this tricky situation is to acknowledge that you are who you are, and that you have the strengths and the weakness that you have,” says Merry Sun, associate editor at Portfolio. “But how do you build on them? How do you portray who you are in a way that’s advantageous?” Sun edited Edge by Harvard Business School professor Laura Huang, one of several forthcoming books that suggest recasting hardship as a motivator.


Laura Huang. Portfolio, Feb. 2020

Subtitled Turning Adversity into Advantage, Huang’s book draws on her research into intuition, persuasion, and decision-making to show how shortcomings can be transformed into strengths. Central to Huang’s message is the importance of owning one’s flaws rather than trying to overcompensate for them, Merry Sun, the book’s editor, says. “People can sense that.”


Fear Is Fuel

Patrick J. Sweeney II. Rowman & Littlefield, Mar. 2020

Fear is often regarded as an obstacle to be overcome, not least in professional life. In this book, Sweeney, a motivational speaker who runs an executive boot camp called the Fear Institute, presents a contrarian view. If positioned the right way, fear, he contends, can sharpen awareness, increase ambition, strengthen performance, and enhance one’s emotional intelligence.

Female Firebrands

Mikaela Kiner. Greenleaf, Jan. 2020

Kiner, an HR specialist who worked at companies including Microsoft and Starbucks before launching Reverb, an HR consultancy, here offers a platform for 13 women from diverse backgrounds and industries. They detail the sexism and power imbalances they’ve faced in the workplace and relate how they overcame them, and suggest ways that mid-career professionals can advocate for younger women.

It’s About Damn Time

Arlan Hamilton with Rachel L. Wilson. Currency, May 2020

In this very 21st-century rags-to-riches story, Hamilton recounts how she went from living on food stamps to becoming a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Drawing on her experience as a gay African-American woman, Hamilton aims her book at those who feel undervalued, suggesting that being on the receiving end of prejudice can equip one with formidable drive.

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