Learn To Say “It’s Not For You”

|

This post originally appeared on ToddHenry.com

The work you do is a gift to the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

Last week I was privileged to take part in the 99u Conference in New York. While I’ve observed the conference from afar over the past several years, and have contributed both to 99u.com and to their book project Managing Your Day To Day, I wasn’t prepared for how amazing it would be to gather with a thousand or so other like-minded people obsessed with making ideas happen. It was a little like drinking a double shot of espresso every hour on the hour for two straight days.

One of my favorite sessions – no surprise here – was the open Q&A with Seth Godin. (Every time I see Seth in a Q&A, he seems to pull an old, overlooked rock out of his pocket, rub it up a few times, and transform it into a diamond.) He said something in response to a question about making art that resonated deeply, and even set me off in a new direction with the book project I’m currently working on. I’d heard it before, but for some reason it really resonated this time:

“As soon as you’re willing to say ‘it’s not for you’, you’re freed up to make art.” – Seth Godin

Translation: not everything you make will be for everybody, nor should it be. Even more to the point, if you are trying to make something that’s for everybody, then you may be compromising your art, which means you are sacrificing possibility on the altar of pragmatism.

When you’re first sharing your work with the world, critique stings. You have very few data points by which to judge whether or not your work is reached and impacting its intended audience. However, as you share more broadly over long periods of time, you begin to see patterns emerging within groups of people who resonate with your work, those who don’t, and those who are indifferent. (As your voice becomes more refined, the indifferent crowd often grows smaller.) The key is to be willing to listen to critics and incorporate valuable feedback without allowing their comments to stall your progress and growth.

It’s easier to tear something down than to build something new. No one ever changed the conversation, a mind, an organization, or the world by lobbing critiques from the cheap seats. Tina Roth Eisenberg (SwissMiss) reminded us of a James Murphy quote at the conference:

“The best way to complain is to make things.” —James Murphy (via @SwissMiss)

In those areas where you  have discretion over the kind of value you create, have the courage to follow your instincts, to take risks, and to stand up for your work. If you want to see something change, then make something.

Most of all, when a critic arises have the courage to say “it’s not for you.”


Die EmptyOne of the best books of the year. Passionate, practical and powerful, Todd will help you do more and do it better, starting right now.”
Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception

Available now! Amazon.com – Barnes & Noble – IndieBound


Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

Be prolific, brilliant, and healthy.

Accidental Creative helps creative pros do the best work of their lives. Our workshopstools, and podcasts will help you have better ideas, collaborate seamlessly, and thrive under pressure.

THE PODCAST

Since 2005 we've served up weekly podcast episodes to help you stay prolific, brilliant, and healthy. Follow the show in your favorite app:

Get Our Weekly Email

3 Things, guaranteed to spark an idea or make you think, sent straight to your inbox every Sunday.

We will only send you things we believe will be useful, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

A FREE FOUR VIDEO COURSE

The Brainstorming Blueprint is a 4 video course where you’ll learn the ready-to-use techniques that can help you lead better, more effective ideation sessions.

Avoid The Pitfalls

The Brainstorming Blueprint is a 4 video course where you’ll learn the ready-to-use techniques that can help you lead better, more effective ideation sessions.

Escape Creative Ruts

Feeling “stuck” comes with the territory. Learn some tried-and-true approaches for guiding your team out of the ruts and into brilliance. 

Make Good Decisions

How do you decide which idea is the right idea?  Without a proper framework you risk setting your team up for failure.

Always Be Leading

Your everyday job is to manage the invisible forces that either cultivate or kill creativity, ideation, and innovation within your team.

Share This