How to Make What You Want For A Living
What does it sound like when you change your mind?
That’s the name of Seth Godin’s next book. He only printed 5,500 copies. And he’s not printing anymore.
He doesn’t view a book as just pages surrounded by two covers. He makes a 3-dimensional object that’s beautiful to look at and read.
“It’s not new,” he said on my podcast. “It’s the best of the last four years of my work. And it’s illustrated with hundreds of photos by Thomas Hawk, who’s the most prolific and talented internet photographer.”
The book weighs 18 pounds. And it’s 800 pages long.
I asked him about art and marketing… and he told me about life.
A) START FROM THE BEGINNING
“No business, no project, no novel ever started big,” Seth said.
It started with fear, uncertainty, excitement, possibility. Tons of “what if’s” that lead to real action. And real action halts the what if’s. The what if’s turn to what is.
Seth said, “Instead of saying, ‘I need to leap to the middle,’ say, ‘I’m going to start with people who want to engage with me.’”
All successes start with one person. That’s it. One person, then two, then three.
Success is a curve. We all know it. Don’t try to cheat the curve.
B) KNOW YOUR WORLD
I asked Seth, “How do you know what the world wants to hear?”
“Well, first of all, never the whole world,” he said. “You pick your world.”
Where do you hurt? Where you do you feel a knot? Can you loosen it up and ease the pressure?
Can you create something for the people (or person) who want to love what you want to love?
C) WHAT DO YOU CARE ENOUGH TO SAY?
We talked about Facebook. And the Lays Potato Chip guy who re-designed the bag. His job was to make it sound crunchier.
Kids had slamming competitions. Who could slam a soda the fastest? So Coke-A-Cola created a bottle with a mouthpiece meant to maximize chugging efficiency.
They sold product. But it’s the message that matters.
I always say: message over money.
Invention happens at the edges. Between heart and lungs, breath and vocal chords is the message. It’s the thing you want to say. The thing you’re afraid to say.
“What really matters isn’t what time you posted on Facebook,” Seth said. “What matters is, what did you care enough to say?
D) ANYONE CAN LEAD…
“’Purple Cow‘ says, ‘How do I sit in my office and make a thing that people talk about?’”
“What ‘Tribes‘ says is ‘Now that anyone can stand up and lead (because anyone can have a media channel… because anyone can make connection) will you choose to lead? And if you’re going to lead, who will you lead? How will you connect the people you’re leading? That is marketing, but it’s also life.”
E) CULTURE BEATS EVERYTHING
“No one has a Suzuki tattoo,” Seth said.
“What’s a Suzuki tattoo?” I asked.
Then I got it. Harley Davidson makes half their revenue licensing their brand. T-shirts, jackets, etc.
“If you’re in the Harley tribe, you can’t show up on a Suzuki,” he said.
“Tribes aren’t about the alpha to the omega. Leaders always go away. The alpha person dies or moves on. But the tribe doesn’t. The tribe persists. Because culture beats everything. Scenes have a culture. Tribes have a culture. It’s culture that determines how an organization make its choices, how a nation will evolve.”
I’ve said this before. It doesn’t matter who the president is. What matters is who you surround yourself with. Who’s in your tribe? Who’s in your heart?
And if they’re toxic to your creativity or well-being, detox now.
“The Beatles didn’t invent teenagers. I’m not saying we invent our tribe. We just show up to lead them.”
I didn’t invent the choose yourself community. The cubicle job did.
I’ll never say what other people should do. I just say what I like to do. I say what gets me past just getting by.
F) SHOW UP
“Half my blog posts are below average,” Seth said.
I asked if he feels bad.
Intellectually, I understand failure. But it still hurts. It can turn your life upside down. I lost everything more than once. And maybe you’re reading this because you have to… or you’re afraid of losing everything.
“I’m talking about [creating] generous work with good intent… that didn’t work.” That’s the failure we need to show up for.
“I show up,” Seth said.
G) DON’T WRESTLE WITH INFINITY
I didn’t know what that meant.
“I am almost done wrestling with infinity,” he said.
We had half an hour left in the interview. I didn’t interrupt.
I was captivated. My mind expands when I’m seconds away from hearing someone’s genius. My vision slows and the inside of my ears soften. It’s like my body is creating room.
“I made the book I wanted.”
“I only printed 5,500 copies of the book. And there’s not going to be a second printing. That’s all there is.”
He doesn’t have to chase. He already broke even and the best part is he chose himself.
“Now there’s not an infinity of upside.”
He didn’t need approval from publishers, his boss, a network… He didn’t write for a bestseller list. He was compelled. And he created.
He made what he wanted to make.
“Here’s my definition of art,” he said. “Art is when a human being does something that might not work…”
And my whole body nodded.
He went on… changing my mind.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Doing What You Love
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated.