Overconfidence

The world is filled with overconfident people. Overconfidence leads to malpractice, to fraud, and to broken promises. Overconfidence is arrogance. You don’t want an overconfident surgeon or even an overconfident bus driver. By definition, overconfidence leads to risky behavior and inadequate preparation. But the practice requires us to do our work without becoming attached to the outcome. It’s not overconfidence, it’s a practice of experiments that respect the pitfalls of hubris.

~ Seth Godin

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Culture, passion, curiosity

If culture is sufficient to establish what we eat, how we speak, and ten thousand other societal norms, why isn’t it able to teach us a process to make art? Isn’t it possible for the culture to normalize goal setting and passion and curiosity and the ability to persuade? It can. And you don’t have to wait for it to happen. You can begin now.

~ Seth Godin

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Lifelong learning

Now that we’ve built an industrial solution to teaching in bulk, we’ve seduced ourselves into believing that the only thing that can be taught are easily measured “hard” skills. We shouldn’t be buying this. We can teach people to make commitments, to overcome fear, to deal transparently to initiate, and to plan a course of action. We can teach people to desire lifelong learning, to express themselves, and to innovate.

~ Seth Godin

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I try to ask myself, “why?”

Contribute your suggestion without having built a body of work, without evidence of significant expertise and without being willing to take responsibility for what happens next.

It’s a form of yelling from the bleachers.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2022/05/the-grandstanders/

I was totally this person. Once I saw what was going on and I could work on owning and eliminating this aspect of my behavior. Awareness (after discovery), ownership (after reflection), and efficacy. The red-flag is when I’m queueing the words, “You know what you should…” for speaking. Stop. Stop stop stop. It’s like the humorous but often–true aphorism that nothing you say before the word, “but” matters. I never (okay, fine, I’m still working on it) say whatever was about to come after, “You know what you should do…” Because why ever say that?

I like to give a hat-tip to Angie Flynn-MacIver any time I start talking about intention, as I’m about to. I realized that my intention behind that thing I no longer say was to demonstrate how much I knew. It doesn’t matter to the other person how much I know. What might matter to them is whether or not I can help them. It’s potentially better if I engage with the intention of being helpful. How would saying, “you should change your menu…” ever be helpful to the wait-staff, to the manager, to the chef or owner? The menu is beyond their control, or they have already thought about it way more than I have and have vastly deeper domain knowledge. If my intention is (as it now is) to be helpful, I should be paying attention for signs subtle or direct that someone would like help. Only then might I have something useful to add, but probably not.

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And being on the hook is hard

So people are getting what they asked for. Autonomy. Responsibility instead of authority. The chance to speak up and be heard. Most of all, the opportunity to be on the hook.

Not surprisingly, some people, particularly if they’ve been indoctrinated into the industrial mindset, don’t like this.

They can’t ask, “just tell me what to do.” The search for an A, the hope to be picked by someone in charge, the desire for perfect–it’s gone. So is the deniability that comes with following instructions.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2022/05/the-post-industrial-collision/

I don’t know if what Godin points out is a common problem. I’m wondering if those who can’t make the shift mentioned by Godin are simply surrendering too soon. Modern life is complicated—the most clever thing the devil ever did was convince people the Internet was easy! The more time you spend knee-deep in technology the sooner you learn that you have to be able to throw your arms up and tap-out. That’s useful in some situations (all of life that touches technology) but would look exactly like idunnoitis in a business setting.

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Watching the light go on

This was Seth Godin’s second appearance on Brian Koppelman’s show The Moment and captures a slightly less polished version of some of his usual messaging. It’s easier to see his path to really polished books like This is Marketing and The Practice.

I think we talked last time about watching the light go on for people. That is my mission. That is what I’ve been doing since I was 18 years old, that when I’m doing my best work, what I’m doing is engaging with someone and helping them see the world differently and let them do work that they care about. And sometimes you can do that with a book. And the magic of books used to be that millions of people would go to a store waiting for a light to be turned on. So it’s scaled. And it was a combination of solitary endeavor, but a community one as well. I do it in person with people I care about. But that doesn’t scale. So the question is, is there a way in this post book world to be able to create environments where people change.

~ Seth Godin ~3:17 in the July 7, 2015 episode of The Moment with Brian Koppelman

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Depending on where you normally listen, this episode might be hard to find. It’s more than 300 episodes back (7 years) in Koppelman’s The Moment podcast. I couldn’t find it on the main web site for the show. (I originally found it because I have a way of manually, human-reading RSS feeds, beginning from the first entry in a “drip” system.)

The link below is to a service from Overcast (the podcast player app) which will let you play it in your favorite web browser.

https://overcast.fm/+HS-ViyTws

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Making choices

To create art we make choices. We do it with intent, seeking to make a change for certain people. When we find that our choices didn’t succeed, vulnerability with lots of personal angst is an available choice. The alternative is to learn from what didn’t resonate. Was it our choices in how we did the work, or did we bring this work to the wrong audience? You are not your work. Your work is a series of choices made with generous intent to cause something to happen. We can always learn to make better choices.

~ Seth Godin

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Trust yourself and promise

What we seek out is someone who sees us and consistently keeps their promises to bring us the magic we were hoping for. Someone who has committed to rhyming with what they did yesterday. When you trust yourself enough to turn pro, You’re entering into a covenant with those you seek to serve. You promise to design with intention, and they agree to engage with the work you promised to bring them.

~ Seth Godin

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Friction and process

Picasso observed that, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Inspiration has to find you in the midst of your practice.

Let’s say that I enjoy painting. When I find myself painting, I usually find myself happy. I love the feeling of setting down my brush after having worked out some little problem in a painting. And so, I decide I’m going to paint regularly.

Or let’s say I enjoy sailing. I love the adventure, or the wind in my face. And so, I decide I’m going to sail regularly.

Or, running, writing, movement, music … your choice.

But without concrete plans, and clear processes, I will never actually do the practice. Friction, followed closely by excuses, will sap my momentum. If I’m to be a runner, my shoes, clothes, music or whatever I need— Those things must be in place. For any practice there are some things which you will feel must be in place.

The processes that I’m imagining, which remove friction and enable my practice, have a steady state. For my process, what does “done” look like? It looks like me sailing so often I can’t even remember not sailing all the time. Or it looks like me running and jumping and playing so often that my body is a comfortable place for my mind.

Matthew Frederick, the author of 101 Things I learned in Architecture School, makes this point:

True style does not come from a conscious effort to create a particular look. It results obliquely—even accidentally—out of a holistic process.

This point about a holistic process—the idea that mastery isn’t some higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of throwing things together—is an idea I’ve held dearly for a long time. Every single time that I’ve decided to take a process, and repeat it in search of understanding, the learning and personal growth has paid off beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m a process process process person. The second time I have to do something, I’m trying to figure out how to either never have to do that again, or how to automate it. (And failing those two, it goes into my admin day.) Random activity, powered by inspiration works to get one thing done. But inspiration doesn’t work in the long run, and it won’t carry me through my practice.

Instead, I want to know what can I intentionally do to set up my life, so that I later find myself simply being the sort of person who does my chosen practice? I want to eliminate every possible bit of friction that may sap my momentum.

There’s a phrase in cooking, mise en place, meaning to have everything in its proper place before starting. The classic example of failure in this regard is to be half-way through making something only to realize you’re missing an ingredient and having to throw away the food. Merlin Mann, who’s little known beyond knowledge workers, has done the most to improve processes for knowledge workers and creative people. I’m not sure if he’s ever said it explicitly, but a huge part of what he did was to elevate knowledge workers and creatives by cultivating a mise en place mindset.

And don’t confuse “process” or a “mise en place” mindset with goals. Forget goals. Focus on the process, and focus on eliminating friction.

To quote Seth Godin:

The specific outcome is not the primary driver of our practice. […] We can begin with this: If we failed, would it be worth the journey? Do you trust yourself enough to commit to engaging with a project regardless of the chances of success? The first step is to separate the process from the outcome. Not because we don’t care about the outcome. But because we do.

And I’ll give my last words to Vincent Thibault, author of one of my favorite books:

That is how we are still conditioned socially as adults: Do, achieve, produce results, instead of be, feel, enjoy the process. Quantitative over qualitative. We are obsessed by performance and “tangible” results. But that is one of the great teaching of Parkour and Art du Déplacement: That the path is just as enjoyable as the destination; That sometimes it is even more important, and that oftentimes it is the destination.

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Skill

Skill is earned. It’s learned and practiced and hard-won. It’s insulting to call a professional talented. She’s skilled, first and foremost. Many people have talent, but only a few care enough to show up fully, to earn their skill. Skill is rarer than talent. Skill is earned. Skill is available to anyone who cares enough.

~ Seth Godin

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