I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin. Author. Marketer. Ruckus-Maker.
Seth is an author of 18 books. His most recent, This is Marketing, launched as a WSJ and NYT bestseller. His blog consistently ranks as one of the most visited on the internet. In fact, Google “Seth,” and he’ll pop up at number 1.
Much of Godin’s work is centered around the idea of “picking yourself.” Yet we live amid a culture where the opposite story – waiting to get picked – runs deep.
“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority, and safety that come from a publisher or a talk-show host or even a blogger who says “I pick you.”
Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you — that Prince Charming has chosen another house in his search for Cinderella — then you can actually get to work.
The myth that the CEO is going to discover you and nurture you and ask you to join her for lunch is just that, a Hollywood myth.
Once you understand that there are problems waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.
The opportunity is not to have your résumé picked from the pile but to make the pile irrelevant by leading without having to be asked.
When we take responsibility and eagerly give credit, doors open. When we grab a microphone and speak up, we’re a step closer to doing the work we’re able to do.
Most of all, when we buckle down, confront the lizard brain, and ship our best work, we’re becoming the artists we’re capable of becoming.
No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself”
Inspiring words. But what does “picking yourself” look like in practice? How Seth became Seth offers a clue.
After spending several years launching books, businesses, and other projects, Seth served a five-year stint as a Fast Company columnist in the 90s when it was just a physical magazine. How Seth came to write for Fast Company is the most telling. Seth shares the story in his podcast, Akimbo:
“I decided Fast Company was the greatest magazine ever published. I also decided that my life dream was to be a columnist for Fast Company magazine. I figured I had something to say, and I figured that was the place to say it.”
Seth fired off a pitch to the Fast Company founders, Alan and Bill. He offered to write for free. They told Seth thanks, but no thanks: “We’d love to, except, we don’t run columns.”
This is where most people give up. Not Seth.
“Well that didn’t deter me, so I started writing a column for Fast Company. Every week, I sent Alan and Bill a new column.”
Seth “picked himself” to write and send articles. This takes gumption. Fast Company didn’t reject Seth because his writing wasn’t good enough or they didn’t have space for any more columnists. They did not have columns, period.
Alan and Bill didn’t pick Seth…until they did.
“By the time, I got to, I guess, the eighth or ninth week, their ad sales had started to go up and they realized they needed more editorial to sit next to all of those ads. So they said, “Sure, Seth. If you want to write for us, if you want to write thousands and thousands of words for us, for free, we’d be delighted to run your column.”
Stories like these are solid gold for anyone starting out with barely more than an idea or a dream. No audience. No connections. Few skills.
You can pick yourself and begin it now.
Will Fast Company eventually pick you? Maybe. Maybe not.
Picking yourself is like planting seeds. Some seeds spout quickly, some slowly, others not at all. Here’s the catch: you won’t know which. Your job is to show up and plant the seeds. Keep picking yourself. Keep planting.
If picking yourself is a muscle, I’m still working mine out. The instinct to wait to be picked still runs deep in me. I still hope, want, wish that people will bang down my door to pay me generously for all of the dreams running around my head. Whenever I catch myself waiting…I try to remind myself I can pick myself and begin it now.
My latest endeavor to pick myself is London Writers’ Salon.
I’ve long dreamt of creating a home for successful writers to share their lessons to help budding writers become better writers, build a writing career, and navigate the evolving publishing landscape.
I pitched the idea to my friend Parul, a freelance editor formerly with Penguin Random House. We spitballed some ideas together, and in January, we launched our first London Writers’ Salon event. Once a month since, we’ve hosted a meetup for writers – part expert interview, part masterclass, part accountability (and therapy) for writers.
We dream of interviewing the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, Tim Ferriss, and possibly the man himself, Seth Godin.
Harboring big dreams keeps life juicy with purpose and adventure. But it needs to be followed equally by bold steps in the here and now. Like Thoreau says:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Today and always: pick yourself and begin it now.