SETH GODIN: V IS FOR VULNERABLE
Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. He writes about marketing, leadership, making HUGE changes—in your life as well as in the lives of others—and working to stand out in an over-saturated economy. He’s forward-thinking, inspiring, and to the point.
I subscribe to Seth’s daily blog and read it right away in the morning. It’s usually short and sweet (because he’s a to-the-point kind of guy), and each day he sends his readers a point to ponder, some good advice, or an excellent resource for furthering your education.
This interview of Seth Godin with Debbie Millman, where they discuss Seth’s book V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone is so good I had to share it with all of you.
Click below to play. Or scroll down for a short list of 10 take-aways.
10 Take-Aways from Seth Godin in conversation with Debbie Millman:
(all text below is paraphrased and/or transcribed from the interview)
1. Why Seth used a children’s book format to shake grownups into absorbing a serious message: I wanted to capture the way I felt as a three-year-old when my mom read me a book. I wanted to capture the way, as a parent, I felt when I read a book to my kids. And that feeling isn’t something we get when we hand a kid an iPad in a restaurant and say, “Don’t bother me.” Something magical happens when we read a book to a kid, when we’re read a book.
So I wanted to steal that feeling—that’s why the format looks like a kids’ book, so that I could get to that part of your head that’s pre-cynical, the part of your head that isn’t yet afraid of what other people are going to think of you, the part of your head that has the bravery to do this work that matters. If I can steal that and get in, that’s my goal.
2. On telling ourselves that we’re limited by what our clients want: Some people become the kind of designer they are meant to become. They become great designers because they fight for what they believe is good design. They say no to clients who push them to be mediocre. We can get paralyzed within the resistance because we are hiding from criticism.
We need to be disagreeable in the service of the client, not disagreeable in the service of the resistance. We’re being disagreeable on behalf of the client achieving more, not our ego achieving more, but the client getting more of what he or she wants. You’ll enable great clients get great designs and thus attract more great clients instead of mediocre clients.
3. Design at its core thrives when a human being cares enough to do work that touches another. It doesn’t thrive when it gets more efficient. Adopt the mindset of better not more.
4. On why we worry: it’s an accidental byproduct of the modern age. Our great, great, great, great, great grandparents instinctually worried for fear of their life against wild animals and chiefs. These genes have been passed on as a way to survive. It’s only been in the last 150 years that dancing with fear is something the eceomony will pay us to do. The resistance, fear, anxiety, and the negative voice in our heads will never go away. We need to learn to dance with it. When it shows up welcome it—say I’m glad you’re here. Let’s dance about this.
5. It’s not enough to just show up. It’s not about how hard you try, it’s what you do when you’re trying that matters.
6. On wandering generality and a meaningful specific. There’s a huge advantage to being small in risk and small in boundaries. When we say we’re working really hard, we often mean is that we’re updating our Facebook page, tweeting this latest thing, making sure our website is up to date, reading this, reading that, going to this meeting and that meeting—we’re a wandering generality.
What we NEED to do is ask ourselves, “What’s the tiniest thing I can master? What’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest group of people that will teach me to dance with fear?” These things will teach us that it isn’t fatal when we push ourselves outside our comfort zones—we’re not going to die. This is when effort turns into impact. This is meaningful specific.
7. On stepping outside our comfort zones: What are we truly afraid of? The difference between someone who wants more but isn’t getting it, and someone who wants more and is getting it, comes back to what it is we’re truly afraid of. It is when you are more afraid of settling, of not giving what you can give, than you are of not doing it—this is when you step into the fear. We have to ask ourselves, what is my work? If my work is to have more impact—we start by giving. Give what you’re most afraid of and give often. Care about the community, feed the community first. You will then get better at dancing with fear. Then you can do the work you want. There will be a line outside your door.
8. On making a living, and being an artist: We get caught up making sure to have a steady income that’s repeated by everyone we’re surrounded by. If you care enough to dance, to make this art, spend two days per week to create your art. Stop using social media, stop watching TV, make your art and give it away. The industrial economy has seduced us into believing that we need to work all day doing something we’re not proud of, decompress in the evenings with television and a whisky, and go for a run on the weekends. Do this forever and then 40 years from now you’re dead.
There’s this other deal where we’ll laugh at you, you will be on the verge of bankruptcy, you will never amount to anything, you will fail, you will fail, you will fail, and then you’ll be dead. Do something once per week, per month, per year, and use that revenue to fund your art. When you get good people will pay you for it. Don’t compromise on the way to getting good. You need to go to the edge. Find your edge and own it.
9. On feeling like a fraud: It’s so easy in our culture to deny that we’re good at something. We’re surrounded by the mindset of asking ourselves,”How did I get picked? What’s going on here? Will it happen again tomorrow?” If you’re not sure it’ll happen again tomorrow, there’s a fear. You’re not guaranteed it’s going to work, so everyone feels like a fraud. There is no guarantee in creating and selling our art.
Feeling like a fraud shows itself in many different ways. Donald Trump is sure he’s a fraud and to counteract it he acts like an obnoxious blowhard. If we’re really going to dance with the muse. If we’re really going to find that place to do something that hasn’t been done before, something that matters, that might not work, that’s generous, we have to be activating this or we’d be a psychopath—and there are very few designers who are psychopaths.
10. On creative courage: For the creative person, what’s going on outside is trivial compared to what is going on inside. Don’t try to change the structure of the outside world [hoping that] then you’ll be fine, then you’ll be creative and then you’ll be brave. No. First, figure out how to be creative and brave and courageous, and the outside world will change on your behalf.
It’s always the same case—it’s always the case of you’re a human, trying to connect to another human. And if you just pick one human that you can change for the better, with work that might not work—that’s what art is.
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