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VB Book Club

Double Down by Antoinette M. Clarke & Tricia Clarke-Stone

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As we kick off National Entrepreneurship Month, here's a look at two women we admire: twins and ultimate badass boss ladies, Antoinette M. Clarke and Tricia Clarke-Stone. The latter founded her own content innovation agency, Narrative; the former, is the SVP Branded Entertainment at CBS. This fall, they've added one more notch to their impressive CVs: co-authors of Double Down: Bet on Yourself and Succeed on Your Terms

That name—yes, it's a nod to the casino world. "Life is a game of blackjack," the sisters write. "Again and again you're being dealt a hand of cards, and it's up to you to calculate risk, play out scenarios in your head, know your competition, keep your cool and play to win." The goal of the card game, they point out, isn't to hit 21; it's to beat the House. And in life, the status quo—what's holding you back, the wait-your-turn mentality—is the House. To overcome it, you’ve got to double down—their book is a guideline to do just that. 

Here, we chat with the power duo and share 5 quick insights from Double Down. If, as they put it, you’re ready to be rewarded for who you are, not held back for who you’re not, this is one read you can’t miss. 

Antoinette M. Clarke, left, in the Louisa dickey jacket and Jania pant, and Tricia Clarke-Stone

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Q&A

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What was the initial inspiration behind Double Down?
To help democratize success for people who look like us. Women make up nearly 50% of our workforce, but we’re vastly underrepresented in executive roles. Last year, only 24 of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. And only one of them was a woman of color. We want to help change that by creating a new operating system where you can define success on your own terms. Tricia is an entrepreneur; she starts businesses to create change. I'm an intrepreneur; I steer existing businesses to create change. And we did it our way. We’re proof that you can achieve success on your own terms by ditching the old status quo rules and doubling down on yourself. Coming up, we didn’t look like success in our industries. Everyone has something that sets them back in the eyes of the status quo—where you come from, how much money you have. That’s immaterial. You’re the material!!! This book is for the next generation of boss ladies—whether you’re just starting out, wondering why you’re not further along, or looking to make a pivot. Double Down will help you see the power in yourself and show you how to nurture it in others.

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The single greatest challenge you've encountered in your career?
We’ve had a lot of challenges throughout our career, but one that stands out the most was when we both decided to pivot and make a career change…
Tricia Clarke-Stone: When I decided to quit my day job and become an entrepreneur, I bolted out of my comfort zone straight into the unknown. I co-founded Narrative, a creative and tech agency focused on redefining the rules of storytelling, leveraging culture and technology to create campaigns, products, platforms, experiences, content, and IP for companies and brands. The thing was… I had never worked at an advertising agency before; there was so much to navigate and I didn’t have a roadmap. Also, I suddenly had so many more people to report to in a sense. I went from having one boss to about four. Even though I technically was the boss, I had a lot of masters to serve—my investors, my team (they left prestigious jobs to come and work for a start-up because they believed in my vision), my clients (I had to secure new business and execute flawlessly), and the industry I was trying to disrupt (I planted a flag on day one as a new breed of an advertising agency and had to make sure I could deliver on it). It was very difficult to focus on so many stakeholders while figuring out the brand, business model, value prop, and operations. The pressure was on and I was afraid of failing, under delivering, and letting people down.
Antoinette M. Clarke: After 12 years in production and being a supervising producer I was one step away from becoming an executive producer, and decided to make a huge career change because I wanted more balance in my life. Everyone thought I was crazy and questioned what I was doing: Why now—you’ve worked so hard to get here? Do you really want to start over? Is this the best decision right now? My biggest challenge was figuring out how I could take the skills I honed and use it in a new capacity. As a producer, you do a lot of things so I struggled with figuring out what I was really good at, and had a really tough time identifying what my next step was going to be. I had to dig deep and dissect who I was, what I wanted, reevaluate my goals and be laser focused about my purpose. I had never been in that place before—it was scary and confusing.

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Last year, only 24 of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. And only one of them was a woman of color. We want to help change that by creating a new operating system where you can define success on your own terms.

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And how did you overcome the above?
Tricia Clarke-Stone:
I refined fear into energy, power, and fuel. I wasn’t going to let fear get in the way of my success. So I focused on the power I had and things I could do… and preparation was a big one. Also, I shifted my thinking and looked at failure as an opportunity for growth, innovation, and creativity. When I did fail I put my energy towards recovery—quickly assessing what went wrong and figuring out how to come back even stronger. Innovation became a big part of Narrative’s identity and that resulted in landing some of the world’s most iconic brands as clients, launching award-winning campaigns, and securing patents for products we developed. And then one of my dreams came true—I sold my company 4.5 years after launching it.
Antoinette M. Clarke: I focused on listful thinking instead of wishful thinking. I made a list to outline what my strengths were, and correlated that with possible new job positions. I wrote down what my overall purpose in life was and where I wanted to be in 10 years. My identity was so intertwined with being a producer so I took the steps to get to know myself and my strengths. It was like putting pieces of a puzzle together—I had half of it figured out but wasn’t sure how to fit it all together. Then I went back to school in a sense. Once I figured out the area I immersed myself in it—read articles, went to a few conferences, tapped into my tribe, revised my resume and went on a ton of interviews. I ended up landing my dream job that allowed me to use my producer skill set and learn all about sales, branding and marketing—and now I’m a TV ad executive, SVP of branded entertainment at CBS.

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What's your motivation mantra?
Antoinette M. Clarke:
You don't have to be the best to do it, but you have to do it to be the best! Double down.
Tricia Clarke-Stone: One year equals 365 possibilities. Double down.

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My sister is….
Antoinette M. Clarke:
My fearless soulmate who inspires and encourages me to be great in the world. Her picture should be in the dictionary under Action— she pushes herself to do more, and to succeed in a way that leaves me in awe. When she started her creative and tech agency, Narrative, she doubled the amount of innovation, creativity, knowledge, love, passion and purpose that she put out into the world. Being an entrepreneur and putting everything on the line has made her an even better, more powerful, compassionate, smarter, and strategic human.
Tricia Clarke-Stone: My sister is always present with purpose and completes me; she’s my first soulmate. I admire her compassion and desire to win at everything she does. Her meticulous nature to get things done, make sure everything has a place and purpose so greatness can occur is unmatched. Also, I love how she shows up in the world for her tribe with so much empathy for what they’re going through, what they need, and always figuring out how she can make it better.

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5 Quick Tips from Double Down

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Fight Like a Swiss Army Knife
A Swiss Army knife has flexibility and mobility, with various tools to confront myriad situations. This is how you need to think about how you approach your work: you are a problem solver.

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Find Your Superpower
Don't let the status quo trick you into thinking you are ordinary. Find your superpower, where your passion and your expertise meet, so that you can start leveraging your unique skills.

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Where You Are Today Isn't Where You'll Be Tomorrow
It's like the old saying, Don't dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want. Adopt the long-game mentality and know that you're going places. It's a simple trick, but just knowing where you're going will get you there faster.

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Your People Need to Give You Energy, Not Sap It
You happily give to your crew, but don't go all-in on people who constantly need things from you, or who pop up in your life only when things aren't going well for them. True friends share both victories and defeats.

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Go All-In on the Things That Matter
When you're engaged in any pursuit of importance—and we recommend you take on only pursuits that fall into this category—you must marshal all your strengths. What sets Boss Ladies apart is their ability to go all-in while others are still calculating.

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