Leap First Book Summary

leap-first

Leap First by Seth Godin
Creating Work That Matters

My Thoughts

This is my first reading of a Seth Godin book, enjoyed in very much. It has insights on a variety of topics. His thoughts on the decision between better and safer was a significant ah-ha moment for me. Understanding that most people are looking for safer and not better is an important mental model I have incorporated into my thinking.

My Favorite Quotes

  • If your art isn’t working, make better art.
  • Being the best in the world at what you do is really underrated.
  • If you are a boss that wants employees to be better and they are looking for safer, it doesn’t work.
  • Our work is to make change happen.
  • The way you get to the top is by becoming meaningful.
  • Don’t focus your energy on people that don’t get it. Focus on everyone that does.
  • The change we want to make is only caused by passion.
  • If you have enough bad ideas, you will have absolutely no trouble having enough good ideas.
  • The person who fails the most wins.
  • Anyone that spends an hour a day watching television has demonstrated that they have an hour of their time that they could spend creating art for free.
  • It feels arrogant to say “I see something, I know something, I care about something enough that I want to change you.”
    This is very scarce. We are not trained to do this.
    We love it when someone cares enough to want to make a positive change.
  • Remember your goal is not to change everyone; your goal is to change someone.
  • Reassurance is never sufficient. There will never be enough reassurance.
    If you need reassurance you are in trouble.

Key Questions

  • Why spend our time doing something just because we get paid?
  • Why don’t we consider spending our time doing something we love even if we don’t get paid?
  • Can I create value and do something worth getting paid for?
  • Is your goal to be better or to be safer?
  • Where do you get all of your good ideas?
    This is a bad question. The right question is where do you get all of your bad ideas?
  • Why does that work?
  • Why is this done that way?
  • Why did that happen?

Chapter 1

Put aside your fears and figure out what is actually happening.
Economics
First and foremost, money is a story.
Money follows rules of physics.
One of the rules: debt grows and savings grow slower.
Why spend our time doing something just because we get paid?
Why don’t we consider spending our time doing something we love even if we don’t get paid?
Separate the idea of creating something (art for example) or making change in exchange for money. Can I create value and do something worth getting paid for? We can choose to treat our work as art, we can also choose to treat our art as art.
If we feed the network often enough, the network turns around and feeds us back. By asking for more art.
Anyone that spends an hour a day watching television has demonstrated that they have an hour of their time that they could spend creating art for free.
Stop telling ourselves a story that money equals value, worth or approval.
Money is a means of exchange.
The work we do in the long run will make us happier and enable us to do more work, if we stop telling ourselves that story about money.

The evolution of value creation.
Rent -> Manufacturing -> Banking -> Restaurants -> Connection Economy

Manhattan Aster Place
The economic mode of paying rent.
John Jacob Aster
Manufacturing
Banking (Goldman Sachs)
Restaurants (makes connection)
This is the evolution of value creation.
We are leaving the industrial economy and entering the connection economy.

Rules of a connection economy.

First fork: is your goal to be better or to be safer?
If you are a boss that wants employees to be better and they are looking for safer, it doesn’t work.

In the connection economy safety is getting harder and harder to find.
Better means potential failure, which means risk, which means change.
Better means you are going to be judged.
Many people will chose safer which means:
They don’t want to be in charge.
They don’t want to be creative.
They don’t want to instigate.
They don’t want to be responsible.
Most of all, they don’t want to be free.
What did we trade in for that?
Emotional labor is the labor of the connection economy.
All of the above.
The old industrial model was that competence is important. If you are going to be competent you have to follow instructions.
Competence
In the industry you are in, is competence scarce?
Is it valuable?
Is competence the core of your business?
There are very few categories where that is what we pick. Competence is not enough.
Is the world you are living in changing?
If it is changing, what happens to competence in a world that changes?
When the world changes you are no longer good enough.
Art is not painting. Art is anything we do as a human where we bring emotional labor to the table to make a connection.
We cannot become competent at it because it is nothing but change.
Meaningful means to change something for the better.
The only people who know how to make change are people who are comfortable and eager to make art.
Book Reference from Michael Schrage. “Great companies make change for a living.”
Apple changes a group of people into people who have good taste about digital goods.
What does it mean to matter?
To take advantage of the fact that there is a scarcity in the world of people who care.
Would we miss you if you were gone?
The way you get to the top is by becoming meaningful.
Meaningful means someone would miss you.
If it can’t fail it doesn’t count.
We succeed by doing things that might fail.

Making Things

Attending maker fairs.
The common school was created to train factory workers.
The normal school was created to train teachers.
Schools taught people just to follow steps.
If we just follow the steps we cannot succeed.
Daniel Ellsberg, Ellsberg paradox. He is famous for the pentagon papers.
No plane has ever crashed because of turbulence.
Your feelings are irrelevant, do the work.
Motivation is for amateurs.
Three ways to avoid making art:

  1. Have a false agenda. (Example, I am going to fix all the problems in my country, etc)
  2. Hide out.
  3. Not being able to see the world as it is.

What is Hiding out:
To not start.
To not believe you are worthy.
To wait until you are in the mood.
To wait until you are entitled.
To wait until you have enough education.
To look for shortcuts.
If your art isn’t working, make better art.
Being the best in the world at what you do is really underrated.
Quote from The Dip by Seth Godin

Why people don’t become the best in the world:

  1. People run out of time. (Then they quit)
  2. People run out of money. (Then they quit)
  3. People get scared and hold back. (Then they quit)
  4. Not being serious about it. (Then they quit)
  5. They lose interest or enthusiasm, or settle for being mediocre. (Then they quit)
  6. They focus on the short term instead of the long term. Because the short term is more fun. When the long term shows up and it gets too hard, they quit.
  7. They pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world at. Either because they define the world as being too big or don’t have what it takes to be the best in the world in that field. Example professional basketball.
Storytelling

No one is buying from a spec sheet. They are buying from the story they choose to believe.
Don’t just live with tension. Enhance and embrace tension.
The tension the creator feels is not something we seek to get over with. It’s something we seek to extend and amplify.
Tension between “this might work” and “this might not work.”
Most of us respond to tension by doing nothing at all.

Hope and Expectation

Without hope we will never be able to accomplish anything.
Expectation is the killer of joy.
Hope in abundance but renounce expectation.
Learn to say “Here, I made this.”

Dancing with No

Realize that “no” is not about us. [great examples of this in Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang]
Learning from a $5 bill.
Try offering to sell a $5 bill for $1 at a train station. [Even try giving it away. See rejection proof book]
Isaac Asimov published 400 books in his lifetime. Every morning he got up at dawn and wrote until noon.
He did what a professional does.
Our work (making art) is bringing emotional labor to the table.
If you want to write, set a time, set a limit and just do it.
Our work is to make change happen.

Ira Glass, This American Life
He uses a $2,000 lavalier microphone for his guests.
If you are fooling yourself into thinking you need really nice tools to make your art, you are just hiding.
You do not need tools to make your art, you just need to care.

Don’t focus your energy on people that don’t get it. Focus on everyone that does.
The goal is not to convert the non-believers in your art, the goal is to ignore them.
Make better art for everyone else.

Figure out a way to lighten up and say “this might work” instead of “this better work.”

Chapter 2

Don’t eat the marshmallow.
Kids that don’t eat the marshmallow are more successful in every measure.
Why?
It’s about tolerating two ideas at the same time. I want this marshmallow and I want two marshmallows.
In the same way we need to be comfortable with “this might work” and “this might not work” at the same time.

We need to learn to write, see and think.

Why write first, before see and think?
Saying the sentence changes your brain. “It is to the left of the blue wall.” Example experiment trying to remember where a biscuit was put in a room with a blue wall. Tested on rats and people.

The change we want to make is only caused by passion. Passion is never popular, easy or proven. If we want to make change we have to develop swagger. The swagger only artists have.

The Miles Davis X/Y Axis
Juxtaposition of four things.
Horizon axis has timid on one side and reckless on the other.
Vertical tight and loose.
Timid = never put pen to paper or try anything.
Reckless = creates a pattern of nothing but failure because they haven’t understood what they needed to do.
Tight = doing it with competence, doing it over and over again, doing it in a way that you are sure to win.
Loose = winging it every time without preparation.
Miles Davis was right in between all four, not timid or reckless, not tight or loose.

We need to see the world as it is.
Find our spot on these axes.
Where we are doing work important enough to have meaning but not so audacious that we need to hide.
Avoid the false promise and the big promise.

Where do you get all of your good ideas?
This is a bad question. The right question is where do you get all of your bad ideas?
If you have enough bad ideas, you will have absolutely no trouble having enough good ideas.
What people who create do is they let the ideas out. They sit and do the work and the ideas come. Your job is to just produce. After you produce you can curate, select and sensor.
The goal is to have bad ideas, lots and lots of bad ideas.
Once you have the best thing in the moment, ship it. Then interact with the market, engage and see what happens.
Rule: the person who fails the most wins.
In order to keep failing you have to be good enough to keep playing.
You will learn the difference between a good idea and a bad idea.

It is almost impossible to create work that is wholly original. Defined as never been done before.
Things that work, things that change people, are never wholly original. They are slightly original. They take a bunch of things that already work, and change one element.
When we want to make change in the world, we have to be clear with ourselves about which part we will copy and which part will represent a leap.

Do something that is scarce.
Be an instigator.
When we lean in and ship our best work, we are doing it to change someone else, that is an arrogant act.
It feels arrogant to say “I see something, I know something, I care about something enough that I want to change you.”
This is very scarce. We are not trained to do this.
We love it when someone cares enough to want to make a positive change.
This is about causing change to happen.

Games

Most games in an economy are finite games.
An infinite game is a game we don’t play to win, we play to play. (Example of playing catch)
When we engage in a relationship, it ought to be seen as an infinite game.
Sometimes called “paying it forward.”
Network effect of being changed, helping others change, etc.

Prajna: the skill of seeing the world as it is.
One technique for attaining a level of prajna is to ask questions.
Why?
Why does that work?
Why is this done that way?
Why did that happen?
Write down your answer. It is very important that you write it down.
If you keep writing notes on your industry, you have to be precise.
Once you start doing it day after day, you will learn to see the clues. You won’t always be right but you will be better at predicting.

The trap of comparison.
Your work to someone else’s.
Your success to someone else’s.
Your method to someone else’s.
Someone is always better than you if you define better in a way that makes them better than you.
Alternatively you can compare yourself to people who have never shipped.
Better is to refuse to have a conversation about comparison.
Professionals do not care about comparison.
Remember your goal is not to change everyone; your goal is to change someone.
Look at how you have changed people. If you are not satisfied with who you have changed or how much they have changed, make better art.
There is no need to compare yourself to anyone else.

Who decides if your work failed?
The minute you let someone else make that decision, you have chosen to give up all the power you have over your work.
You have chosen to let someone else, who has different objectives than you, decide if you will leap the next time.

What does the word “just” mean?
Example “Just do it” versus “Do it.”
It means “only” do it.

Stories about money.
Try this.

  1. Think about undoing your story about money by becoming a philanthropist.
  2. If you are worried about credit, try releasing your work anonymously without credit.

Working meditation.
Based on walking meditation.
Add Shoma Morita’s philosophy, find the next thing that needs to be done and do it.
When something isn’t working, make better art.

Go to work to increase tension and expose yourself.

When we bargain with fear, we make the fear stronger.
Celebrate fear and use it to help you.
People who finish marathons are people who have figured out where to put the “tired.” They don’t deny the tired.
Being busy is safe.

Symptoms of resistance undermining your work:
Unable to finish projects
Unable to start projects
Always ready with an excuse
Sloppy
Perfectionist
Looking for bureaucratic deniability
Copying something (Charles Pollack)
Being a diva who always demands more
Aim too low
Aim too high
Looking for shortcuts
Dehumanize your work and just quote policy
Rigid and unwilling to change in the face of plenty of data
Unwilling to learn how to do better
Unwilling to see
Always at school learning instead of doing
Having a perfect narrative of excuses and failure

Anxiety is nothing but experiencing failure in advance.

Triggers and Avalanches
Example, your boss’s boss calling your cell phone.
Letting that be a trigger to a narrative cycle of bad stories.
Start by wiping out the bad triggers.
Illustration from Monte Python argument room skit. People paying to argue for a certain time and then the argument ends.

We are on a long journey, the goal is not to get to the end.
Reassurance is never sufficient. There will never be enough reassurance.
If you need reassurance you are in trouble.
You don’t get credibility first.
Contribute first then the credibility comes.
Neil Gaiman forces himself to be bored so he wants to write.
Yak shaving story. (Don’t shave the yak)
Fear is safe; leaping is risky.
Seek a generous skeptic.
People who want us to dance with fear but push us on tactics.
Book Reference: Understanding Comics
Live a life where your habit is that you ship work, where your habit is to be generous.
You are not your career.
You have the ability to contribute, go do it!

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 9th book read in my 2019 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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