Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.”
Before we begin, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions. Have you ever wanted to become successful in a creative field? Are you a content creator, but you have difficulty sharing your work to the world?
If you answered “yes” to one or both of those questions, I have an incredibly special episode for you today!
The internet has enabled creatives to display their work to the world, regardless of their level of success, yet it seems like so few people are actually sharing quality original content online. Even though we can share our creative work with everyone, many of us have become too insecure to create or share our content. Thankfully, my guest today knows all about overcoming fear to share your creativity with the world.
Today, I’m so thrilled to have Seth Godin on The School of Greatness. Seth works in a variety of creative mediums, including podcasts, blogs, and books. Everyone will benefit from hearing Seth’s wisdom about creativity and success, but I think that this episode will especially appeal to all of you creatives out there!
In this episode, we’re going to be talking all about finding fulfillment in your passion, overcoming self-doubt and insecurities, and the essential skills and habits that you need to learn in order to become successful. I’ve got a powerhouse of an episode for you today, so let’s get started!
Seth Godin is an author, founder of altMBA, podcast host, and blogger. He has authored 19 bestselling books, including Linchpin, Tribes, and This is Marketing, and he has a new book that just dropped titled The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. Seth’s books are all about marketing, creativity, and being essential in your organization. His altMBA program is a workshop using remote communication tools to teach leadership and management. And lastly, Seth’s podcast Akimbo is all about our constantly shifting culture and how we can make efforts to improve it.
I had the pleasure of connecting with Seth back in 2010. I participated in an experiment that he was conducting with a group of entrepreneurs. It was great to connect with him at that time, and I’m so happy to have him on the show. Hopefully, we’ll do additional projects together in the future!
You guys are going to love my conversation with Seth, especially if you’re an artist or someone who puts creative content into the world. Seth knows all about being a creator in today’s world and how to navigate the balance between success and creating what you love. We covered a ton of practical and fascinating subjects that will inspire you and help you on your journey to greatness.
Seth and I kicked off our interview by discussing the current technological moment and how it relates to creating original content. The internet and social media have enabled everyone to have a platform to host their creative content, yet so few people publish their work online. Seth observed that people used to make excuses for not creating content because they didn’t have a medium to host their work:
“Excuses are good for peace of mind. And so the excuse 20 years ago was, ‘A magazine won’t feature my writing, [or] I can’t get a gallery to have my art. … So because they won’t pick me, I’m off the hook,’ and we called your bluff because now you can start a project and put it on Kickstarter, and you can make whatever art [you want.]” – Seth Godin
The internet has enabled everyone to put their art out to the world, but often, people are too afraid of receiving criticism to display their creative work.
“You can go on social media … and troll and just do what everyone else is doing right now. Well, that’s safer because then you’re off the hook. … And so what it means to be ‘on the hook’ is to make a promise to show up and say, ‘I have a podcast, and it’s going to be here next week too,’ or to show up and say, ‘I think I can figure out how to make this system better. I’m going to try. No guarantees, but put me on the hook because I’d like to try.'” – Seth Godin
It’s a lot easier for people to merely be critics or consumers of creative content than make something original. When you put your art out to the world, there’s no guarantee that it will be a success or that people will like it, but you make a guarantee that you’re going to try your best to create something that can improve other people’s lives.
A significant part of Seth’s new book The Practice is about finding passion and purpose in what you do professionally. Seth suggests that we make a conscious choice to find fulfillment and purpose in our work:
“What would happen if you didn’t have to find [fulfillment]? What would happen if you could simply summon it? And I think that that changes everything for people. If you believe that there is one thing that you were ordained to do to be, … then you’re always going to be dissatisfied as you bounce from one thing to another [with your] arms folded saying, ‘Nope, that’s not it.’ What if instead, we could simply say, ‘I am choosing to be passionate about what I do. And my purpose is whatever I am doing’?” – Seth Godin
If you believe that you can only have fulfillment and purpose in a specific job, you’ll be dissatisfied with everything you do until you get to that job. Rather than focusing on merely finding fulfillment and purpose, why not decide for yourself right now that you’re already fulfilled in your current job? That doesn’t mean that you need to lack ambition, but you can tell yourself that you are already in the place that you need to be and that you’re passionate about your work. You can still advance in the career you want while also being satisfied with what you have.
Another essential part of being fulfilled and finding purpose is not focusing on outcomes that are outside of your control:
“We’re completely trained on the outcome. If there is no outcome, [it’s] not worth the effort. … Because if you say, ‘I can’t be passionate unless there’s a prize,’ you’ve just given up your life to the outside world who gets to decide if you have a prize or not. Why not ignore the score?” – Seth Godin
Don’t focus on the results outside of your control — focus on yourself and what you CAN control.
“Ignore all the stuff that the outside world is doing that you can’t control. And simply say, ‘I have a practice. And my practice is I do this work, and I do it the best I can.’ I learn from what works and what doesn’t, but I don’t judge myself … based on whether it worked because all I have control over is the practice.” – Seth Godin
You can focus on your practice and work ethic while not focusing on what’s outside of your control. Focus on improving yourself and learning from your mistakes without judging yourself based on outcomes.
If you attach your self-worth to external success and what others think of you and your work, you’ll never be in full control of your self-worth. You’ll attach yourself and your work based on the success and opinions of others. Don’t give your sense of self-worth over to something outside of your control. Focus on learning from your experiences and improving yourself.
Do you find yourself often dealing with self-doubt and insecurities? We’re living in an age where people are posting their greatest moments and accomplishments on social media, and we’re constantly comparing ourselves to those select moments in other people’s lives. We can’t see the moments where they struggle with their mental health, finances, family, or any number of other common problems. All we can see are perfect people living perfect lives, so we feel a great deal of insecurity and self-doubt when comparing ourselves to people on social media.
Seth suggests that you should greatly limit the amount of time they spend on social media so that you’re not constantly comparing yourself to others. He observed that when we over-consume social media, our internal voice becomes more critical of ourselves and keeps us from hearing our natural, internal voice:
“It keeps you from yourself. … And so the one who’s talking is the Twitter [and] Facebook [voice] that’s saying, ‘You’re inadequate. You’re never going to amount to anything.’… My friend, Steve Pressfield, calls this ‘resistance.’ … All the problems come from resistance, but who is that voice talking to? It’s talking to a voice that wants to be trusted. It’s talking to a voice that once said something creative … [and] once made something better. All of us have done it at least once. And then along the way, resistance and that voice persuaded us not to trust that self.” – Seth Godin
Our resistance voice makes us feel insecure and unsure of ourselves. If we can separate our internal voice from social media, it will be a better reflection of our genuine internal voice. We’re capable of much more when we listen to our internal voice that’s separate from social media.
“If we turn off social media and stop checking our email for an hour [or] two hours a day, the only person left to talk to is the self. And if we can adopt a practice and give this self room, it will surprise us. It won’t always be right. It won’t always be successful, but it will always be better than your hustling, hacking way of just playing with the system.” – Seth Godin
If you listen to your internal voice separate from social media, you focus more on improving yourself rather than just your image. Seth observed that being successful on social media can actually be a hindrance to your growth because you’re focused on your image and current trends rather than actual self-improvement:
“You’re not spending time saying, ‘How do I become a better version of me?’ You’re spending time saying, ‘What’s the trend? I got to get in front of it.'” – Seth Godin
Social media can distract you from becoming the best version of yourself because you’re more concerned about your image and what others think of you rather than genuine improvement. But even though social media heavily plays into self-doubt and insecurity, it certainly didn’t invent those things. People have always had to overcome their insecurities to do great things.
So how can we overcome our insecurities? Seth recommends that we engage in patterns of action to overcome our fears. He used the example of his blogging career. Initially, he was terrified to post blogs on the internet for everyone to read, but he’s forced himself to do it enough times so that it’s no longer a source of insecurity.
“Tomorrow morning … there will be another post, but it won’t be there because it’s the best post ever, nor will it be there because I decided to post it tomorrow. It will be there because it’s Friday. And I haven’t reconsidered that decision in 20 years. So I don’t have to have a meeting with myself about whether or not it’s time to write a blog post. … So writing a blog post for a million people, it doesn’t make me nervous because I do it every day.” – Seth Godin
Seth developed the pattern of releasing blog posts to the point where he no longer has to even decide to post a blog. Posting for millions of readers used to be a source of doubt and insecurity, but he no longer has that insecurity because he’s created a pattern of action.
Seth observed that we do many daily tasks that were probably once a great source of doubt for us. Let’s take driving as an example. If you’re a licensed driver, do you remember when you first started driving? Were you terrified when you got behind the wheel for the first time? You probably don’t feel that way now. What once seemed like a daunting task has become second nature for you because you kept doing it to the point in which you developed confidence.
What do you feel insecure about now? Maybe you feel insecure about releasing your creative work online. If you develop the pattern of releasing your work despite your fears, you’ll overcome that insecurity, and it will no longer be a source of doubt in your life!
In our interview, Seth and I broke down the lessons that he’s learned over the years to become successful. The first piece of advice that he gave listeners to achieve success is understanding the difference between talent and skill. Talent is something you’re born with, while skill is acquired through hard work.
“Almost nobody is talented. Talent is completely overrated. … And so it feels to me like talent is a betrayal. It is undermining all of the people who put all that work into skill. Don’t call someone skillful talented, because they’re not [talented], they’re skillful.” – Seth Godin
Once you understand that skill has nothing to do with talent, you realize that you can develop whatever skill you want if you’re willing to work hard. Despite your level of skill that you may have currently, you can continue improving your abilities and move forward towards greatness!
“I would like to believe that being enthusiastic is a skill. And then, so is being creative. It’s a skill. You can get better at it. You can choose to put in the work in whatever form it takes. … And if that’s true, that’s really good news because it means you’re not stuck where you are. It means you can go to where you want to go.” – Seth Godin
Despite your current skill level, you can continue developing your abilities and get better at whatever you want. Maybe you’ve discovered a newfound passion for a different career or a new hobby that you’ve yet to explore. You can develop skills in your new field of interest, regardless of your current level of skill.
There are some skills that everyone can benefit from. Seth observed three major skills that are essential for becoming successful.
“Number one is the skill of possibility. [The skill] of seeing that things could be better.” – Seth Godin
To become successful, you need to see how you can continue to improve yourself and become the best version of yourself.
“Number two, the skill of … practical empathy. [The skill] of understanding people don’t know what you know, don’t want what you want, don’t see what you see, [and] that they have a noise in their head that’s different than the noise in your head, and that’s okay.” – Seth Godin
Recognizing that people see things differently than you is an essential part of having a healthy relationship with others. You can’t become successful unless you’re working and networking with other people, so empathizing in order to develop relationships is crucial.
“The third one is the skill of learning how to learn. [The skill] of being open to saying, ‘I see possibility. I see people who need to be served who aren’t. … And if I put enough into this, I can figure out how to make a contribution.’” – Seth Godin
Developing the skill of learning how to learn is essential for tapping into an untapped market. If you see a need in people that hasn’t yet been addressed, you can learn something new to address that need and corner that market. For example, if you’re a photographer and realize that there’s a need for a particular style of photography, you can learn how to engage with that style to make a profit. You can provide a service that others aren’t providing and profit from it.
Another essential tool for success is creating goals unrelated to external results. If you create goals that are outside of your control, you’re potentially dooming yourself to fail.
“Instead, what we need are practices. … That thing we call our goal is, ‘I’m going to be the kind of person that ships this much work each day, [or] that gets out of bed at this time, [or] that manages their expenses.’… You can make a list of things that are completely under your control. Call those your goals. … The practice defines who you are.” – Seth Godin
Don’t create goals around things outside of your control — create goals to develop positive, productive habits. Developing habits and engaging in consistent practice is how you gain skills and become who you want to be. Focus on developing skills and habits of success to strive forward to greatness!
Guys, I had such a great time interviewing Seth Godin. His knowledge of finding fulfillment, overcoming insecurities, and developing the skills and habits of success was incredibly enlightening. We also discussed so much more that I couldn’t cover in this article, so make sure to listen to the full episode of The School of Greatness here!
I absolutely loved Seth’s definition of greatness:
“Greatness does not mean you beat everybody else. Greatness, to me, means that [you] went right to the edge of what you were capable of doing in this moment. And so I think it is possible to be great and come in 400th [place] at the New York Marathon because compared to what you would have done if you hadn’t shown up the way you showed up, never would have happened.” – Seth Godin
Friends, join me on Episode 1,027 to learn about finding fulfillment in your passion, overcoming insecurities and self-doubt, and the key habits and skills for becoming successful!