Book Notes on Your Turn by Seth Godin [#WkofBks]

I love reading books, and but I know I can easily forget what I’ve read if I don’t document the ideas somewhere. Luckily, this blog helps with that. Some book blog posts I’ve done in the past include:

This week, I’ll be publishing a new blog post every single day. Each will share some of the big ideas of good books I’ve read recently. I’m calling it Week of Books (#WkofBks) and it’s part of a global one-week project on shipping called the Your Turn Challenge. The campaign tied to Seth Godin’s new book, Your Turn and led by Winnie Kao.

And since the object at the heart of all this is a book, what better way to kick off this series than with a look at Your Turn.

Your Turn Book Notes

angled-cover_largeThe Book in a Nutshell: There are so many opportunities today to stand up, start something, and make a difference. We no longer have to wait for others to pick us, we can pick ourselves at any time. And we owe it to ourselves and the world to give our gifts tot he world.

About the Author: Seth Godin is one of the smartest, most generous, and most expansive thinking business bloggers I’ve ever encountered. I’ve been reading his blog and books since 2006. Seth has written 17 best-selling books that have been translated into 35 languages, and founded two tech companies: Yoyodyne, sold to Yahoo, and Squidoo, sold to Hubpages.

[Each point leads with a paraphrased quote and some thoughts]

Point 1: After we fill our physical and material needs, what we do as human beings is we make art. Art something where you put yourself on the line and you show other people something can you stand behind it and you say that it’s yours.

I really liked the way Seth talks about how art isn’t something reserved just for people who went to art school, or who put their work in museums. A customer service rep who always tries to insert puns into their calls can be making art. The photo you post on Instagram can be art. It could be good, it could be not good. But as long as you are putting yourself on the line and doing something you care about that isn’t strictly necessary, you are doing art.

Point 2: All the rewards, all the satisfaction, all the interesting things that happen in life go to those who are willing to play in the unknown, who are willing to do things that may or may not work.

This is really the idea that risks and rewards are linked. If you create something really out of the ordinary, you increase the chances that people will ridicule or reject your work, but you also increase the chances that your work is massively celebrated. Entrepreneurs and other people who ship products to the world are usually very aware of the fact that their hard work may or may not have the impact they want. But the best ones don’t let that uncertainty water down their ambitions or scale back their designs to something they “know” will work. Of course we want what we do to be successful, but Seth’s point is that the only real way to be successful in the long run is to do things you’re not sure will be successful, over and over again.

Point 3: Even when you make your art – the world owes you nothing. Related: there’s nothing worse than going through life feeling like the world owes you something. They don’t. But you need to do what you do anyway.

After pushing us all to step into the unknown and offer up our gifts, Seth then gives us this not-particularly-encouraging line that no one owes us anything. “What? What the hell am I doing here then?” we might ask. And that’s when we have to return to the definition of art — the things we do after we fulfill our material needs. The point of art isn’t to make money, though making money in order to fulfill basic needs is important. The point of art is to express ourselves and change the world.

Point 4: Fear fools us into playing it safe when we in fact playing it safe is never very safe at all anymore.

Tim O’Reilly, creator of O’Reilly Media, once said “the problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” Doing the safe thing is a sure-fire way to make sure no one notices you. And if no one notices, you’ve failed. We live in an attention economy, where the starting point to a sale, a conversation, a new idea, anything, starts with capturing someone’s attention.

Point 5: The escalator is broken, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck. You just have to walk up yourself.

Seth references a famous commercial where two executives get “trapped” in an escalator that breaks down. He likens this to the way many of us have been trained to “wait our turn”, whether it’s for the bathroom, a sandwich at the deli, or our promotion at work. But the world has changed and the structures that used to propel us forward are now breaking down. But like the executives on the escalator, we have to see that we can move under our own power.

Point 6: Penthouse floors cost more even though when you are inside, you have no idea if there’s someone above you. People pay to know they’re on the top floor.

Living in New York, I can attest to the fact that being on “the penthouse suite” is dramatically more appealing and expensive than the next floor down. But Seth is right —there is no good reason for that from an experiential perspective. I think his point here is not to get caught up trying to reach the very top floor and not appreciate the great views on many of the other floors. You don’t have to be first to make a difference.

Point 7: All this talk about generosity and taking chance and making art is also about love. There are no guarantees. There are no promises that your love will be reciprocated. “Love is being generous at great expense”.

This was a great point to end the book. Like great art, great love is given freely, without expectation or contracts. You can’t be afraid to put yourself and your love and affection out there, even if it means risking embarrassment, humiliation, and rejection. Because it also might lead to receiving love back in return.

That’s it for Your Turn. Stay tuned tomorrow as I cover a book written by a finance guy on untangling the role of luck vs skill.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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  1. Thanks for the review! Implementing some of what this book talks about may be more easily said than done. I’m going to read this one.

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