WCAGLS: Seth Godin – Be an Artist

Seth Godin is an out-of-the-box thinker and prodigious author. He’s written several books that you have probably heard of and might have read, such as: Tribes, Poke the Box, and his most recent, Linchpin. Godin’s presentation at the summit stitched the big ideas from several of his books together, but the overarching idea of his presentation was to be an artist.

Van Gogh Starry Night

Godin believes the industrial age is over. Workers are no longer an important component in industry, workers are cogs. Mass production has created a workforce of interchangeable people; competency is no longer a scarce commodity as it once was. A great comment from Godin illustrating the point was, “If the steps of your job can be written down, I can find a way to do it cheaper.”

To succeed in the post-industrial age, Godin says a person must understand the nature of the new economy is “tribal.” A tribal economy is a niche economy. Leaders must find ways to fulfill (or create) the needs of a niche community (lovers of running, lovers of sci-fi, lovers of technology, lovers of gardening). In order to fulfill these needs a person must lead by tailoring a product or skill to the specific need being addressed. A person must become an artist.

Godin says, “An artist’s job can never be replaced, because there is no map for being an artist.” The steps an artist uses to create cannot be written down because it is an organic process. Of course, something an artist has created can be duplicated and mass produced, but this is not art. Godin used the example of a city in China where many of the great oil paintings from masters such as Vincent van Gogh are mass duplicated by hand. Godin declares, “These people are not artists!” They are copyists.

Perpetual Drinking Bird

During the presentation Godin deploringly described the apathy, lack of curiosity, and drive he believes Americans have had indoctrinated into them by the culture. He told a story of a workshop he led with a group of 12-year olds. He described how he showed the students a perpetual drinking-bird toy and how the discussion around how the toy worked unfolded. None of the students he spoke to took the initiative to ask questions or discover how the toy worked on their own. They waited for him to give the answers. In this new economy, people must take the initiative to be curious and discover, and they must do this without being prompted. “Stop waiting to get picked, pick yourself,” says Godin.

In closing Godin spoke of some of the fears a person might have in moving forward as an artist. He said that, “We are constantly looking for a reason not to do our art, to not put ourselves on the line.” And many of these reasons have to do with a fear of failure. Godin’s response to having a fear of failure was, “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.” In order to succeed we must do, and inevitably doing will sometimes lead to failure. But without doing, a person will also never succeed. We must do.

Godin’s last word of inspiration was, “Give your art away. Don’t walk around holding onto it until it rots. If you get home after work and answer ‘fine’ to the question, ‘how was your day,’ you are not creating art. You are not leading.”

About MS

God is Great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy... View all posts by MS

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