Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seth Godin Interview

Interesting interview with Seth Godin.

On brewing up creativity:
"If I am listening to music, I'll spend half the time listening to music I like and half the time listening to music I've never heard before. If I'm driving in a town, I will put on a radio station where they're talking about stuff I don't agree with. And confronting these edges in our culture is bound to create sparks, and sparks turn into fires."
And how! I often say (though am seldom understood) that I like to be rubbed the wrong way. A big "yes" to confronting the edges (that's why yoga's great, by the way) and to delving into stuff you don't know/like/prefer. Creativity and conciliation are closely related; it's the opposite impulse of polarization and tribalism. One is the divine aspect of humanity, the other its animal aspect. We, as a society, swing cyclically between those poles (usually favoring, alas, the latter).

On choosing a career path:
"If you're going to put your heart and soul into it, it had better be something you're proud of. And that's why I always roll my eyes when I hear about the smokeless‑tobacco people suing the city of New York today because they banned grape‑flavored chewing tobacco. The people who are doing that, that's their job. They chose to do it. They don't have to do that. I don't know how you put your heart and soul into suing for the right to market grape tobacco to 12‑year‑olds."
While I strongly agree with that first sentence, I think Godin's chosen example overlooks the "dirty jobs" issue: society needs people filling certain functions. Not that luring twelve year olds to tobacco is my idea of a noble aim, but defending legal rights even for scoundrels surely is. And there's certainly pride to be felt in doing a dirty job well.

What really shocks and appalls me is someone who devotes his life to making cruddy pizza. The bane of humanity is not so much the wicked as the vapid.


Seth Godin said...

As usual, it took only a few words for you to nail it. The vapid indeed.

My take on dirty jobs is that someone has to do them, but why does it have to be you?

If you're going to be an undertaker, don't whine about it being a dirty job. Be an artist about it. Make an impact on people who desperately need your help in a time of need.

Thanks for setting the standard, as always Jim.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks, Seth.

Hey, we agree 100% on that. Timely, too, given the MLK quote I played last week:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

But your interview response seemed to imply that certain jobs are, a priori, somehow "lesser". If you DO put "your heart and soul into suing for the right to market grape tobacco to 12 year olds", as part of a higher commitment to defending ANYONE'S free rights, I'm not sure that's a bad thing (and I'm not sure you think so, either!). It's the heart and soul part that count. There are, of course, few jobs where one has the freedom to pick/choose every aspect of one's work to be sure it's all aligned with one's values. In fact, most people just need to feed their kids. So I don't fault job selection. But as for heart and soul? Yup. No vapid pizza, that's my rallying cry.....

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