In Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?, Seth Godin cites the late Steve Jobs of Apple (a definite “linchpin”) as saying “Real artists ship,” and that “shipping” (or getting things done) is difficult, because of the “resistance.” This blog posting will explore further Godin’s analysis of Creatives’ “resistance” and how it works. Again, his arguments defy easy cataloging, so I summarize here with examples familiar to you. The “lizard brain” is the reason you’re nervous or afraid, why you don’t do the best art you can do, and why you don’t “ship” when you can.
Our “resistance” to our own creative, risky work, Godin writes, is predictable and understandable. After all, society pushes artists to “be” geniuses (e.g. “American Idol,” reality TV shows, and pre-school “education” for babies of ambitious parents). To be seen to be a genius is society’s concern and is opposed to the alternative of encouraging artists “to allow the genius within to flourish” (107).
Godin says that we have to think differently about failure as Creatives, and not let the risk of losing feed the “resistance,” to the point that you think “that you don’t deserve to win” and so that giving up begins to look attractive (115). The truth is that each of us does and will always fail at something, and “the key is not to let that wound you out of working.” If we discipline ourselves to write bad ideas daily, we’ll “eventually find that some good ones slip through” (117). But the “temptation to sabotage the new thing [idea or plan] is huge, precisely because it might work” (122).
Godin argues that “resistance” is a default reaction to cowering in fear. Yet people mistakenly tell themselves that they’re showing maturity and realism when they are out of touch with the reality of the need to “ship” and get on with work. And with cynics, Godin writes, the “resistance” won out years ago.
In this high-tech, hyper-fast world, “[w]hat’s left is to take that resistance (the very same that we embraced and rewarded for decades)” in factories and manufacturing plants “and destroy it” (123). And while fear of that is self-fulfilling, so is confidence. Godin argues that if we can identify our fears as manifestations of “resistance,” then we can be confident in our interactions and increase our chances of succeeding.
In fact, he adds that the paradox is that the more we hide and squelch our artistic capacities for safety, the riskier our “resistance” becomes: “the less commotion you cause, the more likely you’ll fail, be ignored, expose yourself to failure,” and fail outright.
He cites classic quotations of the “resistance:” “I don’t know what to do,” “I don’t have any good ideas,” “I didn’t graduate from [insert Ivy League school here],” “My boss won’t let me,” “[M]y gender/race/health/religion/nationality/handicap/shoe size/DNA don’t make it easy” (129).
How can we oppose this “resistance?” Godin says that “When you feel the resistance, the stall, the fear, and the pull, you know you’re onto something. Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that’s the way to head—directly into the resistance” (131).
I find Godin’s arguments a powerful antidote to anxieties one can have about prospecting or about submitting “final” work to clients. A lot of Copywriters would be “linchpins,” but are too perfectionistic to get there.
As I expressed in part one of this series on Linchpin, in our efforts to stamp out our “resistance” we mustn’t try to be too perfect for our associations or organizations. Because the fallacy of perfection only feeds the “resistance.” “Perfect,” Godin says, “is bad, because you can’t top perfect. The solution lies in seeking out something that is neither good nor perfect. You want something remarkable, nonlinear, game changing and artistic” (70).
And here’s one of his best injunctions to close on—“Tolerate no rational or irrational reason to hold back . . . on your art. The only solution is to start today, to start now, and to ship” (149).
Do you want to share how you’ve identified and overcome “resistance” in your association? Please leave me a comment. I hope you’ll use Godin’s insights to draw your own road-map to success. And good luck with “shipping” your current project!