To stand out from others, you must have some unique element in what you’re offering. If that element is progressive, new, or otherwise exciting to people, it will get them talking, thus helping build a buzz around your business. It can often feel like the loudest voice is the one everyone hears, and that can be discouraging for those who don’t come pre-loaded with millions of social media followers when they enter a new space. It’s important to remember that starting from the ground and working your way up is common, and success is achievable. If you look at some of the top consumer product brands, you can easily discern the ones led by someone with a great new idea. Just a decade ago, rideshare apps, grocery delivery apps, and paying friends online were foreign concepts, but now they are commonplace. When you’ve got something good, it can grow enormously.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariane Resnick, CNC. Ariane is a special diet chef, certified nutritionist, and best-selling author whose private chef clientele has included an array of celebrities. Ariane writes books and articles, and consults for individuals, brands, and chefs on nutrition, recipes, and wellness. She has been featured in media such as Forbes, CBS’ The Doctors, ABC News, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, MindBodyGreen, and ELLE. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in a family of forward thinkers in the realms of health and food; we took probiotics in the ’80s and gave up gluten in the ’90s. There has always been a family focus about what is new, emerging, and cutting edge in both cooking and wellness. This foundation propelled me to be someone who has a hard time remaining satisfied without change, and who has a frequent quest for new knowledge. My livelihood of wellness-oriented cooking and writing came about organically: they’re the activities I do as hobbies, and by centering them through the lens of wellness (which I’d also consider a hobby), I have forged a fulfilling and fun career.
Having spent age 30–35 sick with multiple chronic illnesses, I learned firsthand about how complex the wellness industry is. When I recovered from my illnesses, I became outspoken about how we all have the power to reclaim our own path to health, especially when doctors tell us our cases are hopeless. Reshaping the wellness industry into one that is personally empowering, inclusive, and accessible became a passion.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I’ve been called an iconoclast by an assortment of outlets throughout recent years, and continue to push the boundaries of how the industries I’m part of should operate. I think it’s vital to frequently reexamine where we are at and how we can improve.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’ve had a lot of “I can’t believe this is real” moments, like national TV appearances, where my life feels surreal.
The strongest example of that is when I trained P!nk’s tour chef; she was leaving for a tour and wanted to be able to continue eating the way I’d been feeding her. The chef had been cooking for as long as I’d been alive! His accomplishments were amazing, i.e. he was David Bowie’s tour chef back in the day, and here I was, showing him how to cook like me.
I never went to culinary school, and until recent years I insisted on being called “a girl who makes food” instead of a chef because I didn’t think I “counted” as one despite working in the field on and off for 20+ years now. So that had a huge impact on me, and took months to sink in.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was not researching clients before meeting them. I tend to be a bit out of touch with pop culture, and sometimes I’d go cook for someone without actually knowing who they were or what they did. In those situations, everyone assumes you know of the client, and you can find yourself at a loss in silly ways when you don’t. I learned that I should enter every work situation as educated as possible. Always do your homework! Even if it seems trite, you will benefit from knowing as much as possible about any new situation in your life.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is a person at the forefront of development and progress in their industry. They take charge and help shape the future, usually with a passion for creating positive change.
A thought leader is different than a typical leader because of the focus on shifting the narrative of a topic. A leader focuses on helping others improve, but potentially within the status quo, whereas a thought leader helps others improve by way of improving the status quo itself.
I don’t think thought leaders and influencers are related; being an influencer is about how many people follow you/what you do, while being a thought leader is about how deeply you impact others’ experiences by improving the world around them.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
If no one took action to create change, it would never occur! It’s vital to our evolution and growth. I think that anyone who feels a deep pull to create positive change will be best served by investing as much time as they can spare in exploring that.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
To stand out from others, you must have some unique element in what you’re offering. If that element is progressive, new, or otherwise exciting to people, it will get them talking, thus helping build a buzz around your business.
It can often feel like the loudest voice is the one everyone hears, and that can be discouraging for those who don’t come pre-loaded with millions of social media followers when they enter a new space. It’s important to remember that starting from the ground and working your way up is common, and success is achievable.
If you look at some of the top consumer product brands, you can easily discern the ones led by someone with a great new idea. Just a decade ago, rideshare apps, grocery delivery apps, and paying friends online were foreign concepts, but now they are commonplace. When you’ve got something good, it can grow enormously.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Educate yourself thoroughly about your topic of interest. Even if you think you know a lot, research further to make sure you aren’t attempting to reinvent the wheel.
- Know what others are saying, but don’t let their opinions outpower your own. You’ll likely make waves, so you need how to back up the statements you made factually and firmly.
- As a continuation of the above, learn how to not belittle others while you successfully argue your points. It’s important to not lose empathy for those who have other opinions and beliefs.
- Continually refine your position and research your topic, and be open to change; it’s always ok to be wrong! Science, business, food — there are scads of industries that change quickly as new studies emerge or trends shift.
- It’s common for people in a field to follow others in that field who are leaders, but I don’t think that is necessarily a good idea. That’s because people have a tendency to feel less than and competitive with others. So, allow yourself to not be fully immersed in the social media lives of those on a similar path if that doesn’t feel hopeful for you. Take time to check in with your feelings regularly, and focus your attention on what empowers you.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
One of the most visible thought leaders of recent times is Michelle Obama. She challenged the norms of her position as first lady in so many ways, from how she dressed to how she handled staff to how she attempted to implement actual cultural change. She focused on her successes, and in areas where she wasn’t allowed to effect change to the extent she attempted (like school lunches) she didn’t give up. Perhaps most importantly, she understood her audience and made sure to remain accessible to the general population. Her memoir is wildly successful because people are interested in her life and her backstory.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I think most people are still discovering the term and see nothing wrong with the use of it. It’s something to be proud of!
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Learning how to say no to things that don’t feel right for you is incredibly important. No one will care for us better than we can care for ourselves, but we’re trained socially (especially for those who live as women) to put our own needs after those of everyone around us. Taking a pause before deciding on each new activity you schedule to check in about if it’s the right choice for you is an easy way to do that. If your schedule becomes untenably busy, schedule time for yourself that isn’t just penciled in, but that you keep with similar seriousness as you would a business meeting.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I have a restaurant concept that would focus on offering those who can’t afford a luxe meal the opportunity to dine, imperceptibly, alongside those who can.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” -Fred Rogers
I have this quote tattooed on my arm. It is my reminder that when I have a difficult decision to make, I should choose the decision that will do the most good and cause the least harm. It has served me well during complex moments, and on a daily basis as well.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Tracy Chapman is my lifelong music love, and she tops that list. When I was ten years old, her album became my first cassette purchase of life, and I’ve never stopped being in awe of her poetry, her voice, and her subdued yet incredibly powerful presence.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: Ariane Resnick
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.