Personal hero: Seth Godin, on doing the work that matters

Each one of us has their own personal heroes, people they admire and look up to. For me, since University, such a person was Seth Godin. Some months back I heard he’s coming to Romania to talk at Brandminds conference. That conference happened a few days back and Seth was simply great in his talk about dancing on the edge of today’s rules, and doing work that matter. He was exactly what I imagined him to be after reading his blog daily and probably all of his books. For me, seeing him in person was a dream came true. He is an absolutely amazing speaker and I loved the way he put up his professional show.

Dancing on the edge of a revolution

The first part of his speech was about the world we live in today and how rules are no longer the same. In a globalized world where we can reach anyone with only a few clicks, everyone can be your customer as well as your competition. The work that matters is no longer what it used to be. The battles are now about totally different things.

In the same way, people can have anything they want with just a few clicks. Anything in the world can be reached with little to no effort. Scarcity has left the building. There’s hardly any monopoly in consumers goods. No-one is no longer the only one.

And yet what we’re doing today is just invest more and more in advertising, in yelling more at people in an over saturated market. We do this hoping for attention and more clicks, like we used to do back when what we did was new and exciting. These people might or might not care, and might not really have the problem we’re thinking they’re having.

No wonders we have developed such a short attention span. We’re facing too much advertising that is irrelevant, coming from everywhere and sometimes so bad it really makes us think about how to choose to spend our time. So the rules that worked even a few years back are no longer efficient. We need to learn the rules of a new world and be part of the revolution if we want to win.

Lessons on doing work that matters

The new rules are about doing the work that matters, work worth seeking out. Not just a little bit more average or cheeper than what’s already out there. Work that deserves mentioning, talking about. Remarkable one, beautiful, work that moves you.

Then find the smallest viable market, and tell the stories to get their interest. They might be the weird ones, but they are the right ones to enjoy your art. Ask for permission and turn them into friends, then customers. Educate them, lead them, let them become your tribe. Be patient and mostly, care about them. People like us will like people like us. And they will follow you whenever you take them.

Then, they will begin to talk. The sales funnel that’s part of the old world will turn to become the megaphone of the new world. They’ll tell your story, and that story will be more meaningful and worthy than any advertising you will do.

The economy today is all about connections. Through generosity and a will to serve others, you’ll do work of value. And through connections the word about this will spread out and your tribe will grow. This time though, the difference is that the tribe is hooked to your product, its story and its value. They won’t switch to the cheeper product that was just launched.

What’s the work that matters? The work that’s art. Unique. Something that challenges our understanding. That produce emotions. It’s something that cannot be written down. If you (or anyone) can write down the instructions on how to produce it, a machine will eventually produce it and you’ll be out of the market.

It might not work. Yes, it may. But what if you grow wings on the way down and through adapting and trial and error you actually fly? You’ll never be fully ready, but start anyways and learn on the go. We’re perfectionist, and we’ll always wait for things to be just a little bit more though through. Just a little bit more perfect. Guess what. It’s always going to be too soon. Better to just start.

And even if you fail, it’s going to be ok. Learn as you go, but always go. Bad becomes better only by showing up, every day, and doing the work other people don’t do. Learn and re-learn. And do it for the people you seek to serve.

Believe it or not, these will be the happiest moments of your life. Those ones when you were fully engaged in something deeply meaningful. Not the perfect ones. So choose your battles, focus, and do.

“Will you choose to matter?” – Seth Godin

Seth Godin, thank you!