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It’s not something that simply arrives

Here’s how to fall asleep:

Turn off digital devices, go for a walk, brush your teeth, put on some comfortable pajamas, find a dark room and a comfortable mattress, and then lie down and pretend to be asleep.

Prepare for it and then fake it

Once this becomes a habit, you’ll discover that soon after you feign sleep, it actually arrives.

Few people fall asleep for the night instantly and accidentally. It’s usually a choice.

And the same thing, it’s surprising to learn, is true for being passionate.

It couldn’t be any other way.

Being passionate leads to change, and earns connection and respect. Being passionate opens the door for the very thing we hoped would happen, the thing that if it happened, we could be passionate about. …

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Which means we can learn it

Try to find a definition of ‘good taste’ and you’ll likely fail. It seems to be something we’re supposed to innately understand. But given how important it is, it deserves a practical way to understand it. So, here goes:

Good taste is knowing what your audience will like just before they do.

Your audience might be people who are coming over for dinner, or it might be the million people who watch your next video online.

If you give them what they already know and understand, you’re demonstrating taste, you’re simply copying.

And if you show up with something that they reject, well, in their eyes, you have bad taste. …

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Not the other way around

It’s not complicated, but it’s surprising.

The work makes us who we are.

If you want to be a runner, go running. Go running every day and now you’re a runner.

And the same simple approach works for anyone who signs up to do work we call creative.

Do the work, ship the work, now you’re creative.

Not the other way around.

Don’t wait for it to be perfect.

Don’t wait to be inspired.

And don’t wait for someone to give you a badge or a diploma or a label.

Simply do the work.

Ship the work.


Of course, your early work won’t be the answer to whatever question you’re asking. That’s not the job of the early work. The job is to open the door for the next round of work. …

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Beware the amateurs

Some criticism comes from the well-meaning but misguided. They are afraid for you, and imagine that your life would be better if you weren’t rejected or even noticed. And so, they will express their fear by criticizing your dreams.

Some criticism comes from the broken-hearted. They are bitter about what happened to their dreams, and it’s easy (and perhaps a bit satisfying) to stomp on yours.

Some criticism comes from the ham-handed. They haven’t practiced the skill of criticism and even though they might have something to contribute, it’s not coming through.

and some criticism…

Some criticism is priceless. It comes from someone who understands the genre and has seen the dynamics at play. It is delivered by someone who feels the fear (for themselves and for you) but decides to show up regardless. It is offered with grace and care, preserving dignity without sparing the insight that you desperately need. …

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And the reverse is true as well

They are two sides of the same action.

Leadership is different than management. Leaders are exploring, going to new places. Managers are enforcing, using authority to improve results. Leaders have to invent what is possible.

That’s one definition of creative work. The generous human act of doing something that might not work. Solving an interesting problem.

If you feel like an impostor, it might be because you’re comparing yourself to a manager. We want managers and craftspeople to know precisely the steps that are involved in their work, and we want them to do it flawlessly.

Leaders, on the other hand, can never be qualified, because they’ve never done this before. …

(not management)

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Where will you take us?

Leadership is voluntary. It’s voluntary to lead and it’s voluntary to follow.

When you have power and authority, it’s tempting to manage instead. Managers get what they got yesterday, but faster and cheaper. Managers use authority to enforce behavior.

But leadership involves acting as if. Leaders paint a picture of the future and encourage us to go there with them.

Which is what anyone who makes change through creative work is doing.

You can’t be sure it’s going to work.

You can’t command us to follow.

And you’re here to make a change happen.

This creative work you’re engaging in, dancing on the edge of what is possible, is a generous act of leadership. …

What’s it for?

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Two simple questions open the door for creative work

Are you a professional? This is someone who offers expertise and impact and time and commitment — all the elements necessary to achieve results. And the professional does it on command, for hire, for an exchange of value.

While we might enjoy getting paid for our hobbies, hobbies rarely transfer into the professional world, because a professional isn’t simply an amateur who is now getting paid.

The professional’s promise is direct and clear: I will make a change happen.

And that puts you on the hook.

“I will do my work and you will be transformed.”

Perhaps that’s an offer to remove a tumor, or to entertain you (certainly not at the same time). It might be a promise to elevate, to connect or to make things better. …

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That’s the good news

We spend a lot of time on skills. Rithmetic, Reading, Riting, doing well on the test, raising our batting average, showing up at soccer practice… if it’s easy to measure it, we’re busy measuring it.

But when it comes time to make a decision about someone else, we focus on their attitudes first. We’d prefer to work with someone who is honest, resilient, engaging, positive, trustworthy, clear-thinking and creative.

We’re not born with these attitudes. We learn them.

Like all skills, they’re a choice.

Why do we let ourselves off the hook?

By creating a special category for attitudes, we treat them as a magical gift, one that somehow simply appears. But we know that this isn’t the case — that we expect other people to do the hard work of bringing a good attitude to their work, and that means we can do it as well. …

We can trust the process, but we can’t be sure of the outcome

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You don’t need to be sure

Trust is a form of belief. It doesn’t require proof, in fact, if there’s proof, there’s no reason for it.

And one form of proof is the make-believe attitude of certainty. The hubris of over-confidence. The statement, through word or action, that there’s no doubt in our minds that it’s going to be precisely the way we said it would.

We see this in sports all the time. Where an athlete guarantees an outcome. Of course, in most finite games, one side is going to lose, so guarantees are fairly flimsy.

What’s the alternative?

We don’t have to be sure. We can simply trust ourselves. We can trust the practice. We can acknowledge that future outcomes are uncertain, but remind ourselves that our process is all we’ve got. …


Seth Godin

Founder of altMBA and Akimbo. Daily blogger, teacher, speaker, 20 bestsellers as well...

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