Seth Godin and My Friend Liam
About six weeks ago, Seth Godin (Tribes, Linchpin, Squidoo, The Icarus Deception, HugDug.com) ran an announcement on his blog. He invited 15 people to apply to spend a week with him this summer in a seminar for young artists and entrepreneurs. Tuition free.
My first thought when I read this was, “Wow, what a generous offer! Is Seth a great guy or what?”
My second thought was, “What a life-changer this could be for a young person who was ready to profit from the experience.”
A few days later I was talking to my young friend Liam Bowler. “Did you see that announcement on Seth Godin’s blog?” he said. “I just sent in my application.”
[Spoiler alert: the period for applications is over; Liam didn’t get in.]
I got to thinking about Seth’s seminar. Why did it sound so exciting to me? Why did I imagine it would be such a game-changer for the participants? Why was I rooting so hard for Liam to be chosen?
The content of the seminar, I knew, would be strictly secondary. It wouldn’t matter whether the group focused on marketing or creativity or whether the Rangers stood a chance against the Kings in the Stanley Cup finals. Seth could conduct the event in Mandarin Chinese and it would still be great.
What would count for the participants would be one thing only: that they would get to work with Seth.
That would be everything.
They’d get to see how Seth’s mind works, what kind of questions he asks, what his attitude is toward problems and toward opportunities; how he takes his tea, what he thinks is funny, how he steams noodles for lunch, what he does when he’s stuck.
This kind of in-person exposure is priceless.
Because it shows each participant, perhaps for the first time in his or her life, that there is such a thing as a person like Seth.
Yes, there is a guy who, when he has a great idea, runs with it without asking anyone’s permission but his own.
Yes, there is a guy who has terrible ideas and does the exact same thing.
(By definition, a terrible Seth-idea is a great idea seven years ahead of its time.)
Yes, there is someone who sees around corners. Who thinks in ways your Biz School profs never imagined. And yes, he’s just a normal human being like you and me.
Here are Seth’s primary principles, as I understand them:
1. Don’t wait to be picked. Pick yourself.
2. Go for the weird. Pursue what you love, no matter how marginal or seemingly uncommercial.
3. Be resourceful. Use every bit of leverage you can think of—people, ideas, funding sources.
4. Be brave. Seth has two phrases that he uses about ventures he’s about to launch: “This might not work” and “This might work.” These are the only possible outcomes. Why worry?
I consider Seth a friend, even though we’ve only spent a few hours together all told. You get it fast with Seth because he embodies the principles he teaches. That’s why watching him make a phone call is worth more than a semester at Harvard. You will never make a phone call the same way again.
But back to Liam.
Liam didn’t get picked. He will not be among the lucky fifteen this summer.
But wait, isn’t Seth’s first principle, “Don’t wait to be picked?”
Liam gets it. He is already talking about “the Big Seth in my mind.” In other words, everything that he (or anyone) might learn by being up close and personal with Seth, he already knows.
We don’t really need to attend Seth’s seminar, wonderful as it will be.
What we would have come away with, we can come away with on our own.
We all understand the stuff that Seth embodies. We know we have to be bold. We know we must embrace our own weirdness, that we have to think like professionals at the same time that we’re kicking down doors and taking names. We know we have to thrash and sweat, and we know we have to deliver.
All that’s in our wiring already.
What spending a week with Seth does is it gives us permission to be like Seth. To do the same stuff he does, only do it for ourselves.
“So why,” Liam says, “can’t I perform that process myself? No reason at all. I can.”
There it is. Liam has just applied in his own heart and been accepted.
Seth would approve.
P.S. Below is the text of Seth’s original May 28th announcement:
If you’re about to leap, working on something important and generous, perhaps it makes sense to come to my office for a week this summer.
I’m hosting a seminar for 15 people in late July. You can find out all the details right here.
It’s for people early in their career, people with a proven track record of standing up and picking themselves, of doing work that matters. Tuition is free.
Applications are due right away.
If you know someone who might benefit from this, please let them know.