By Seth Godin
This might not work.
I didn’t realize how tired I was until I started driving away from the Icarus launch event on Wednesday.
Since June, I’ve been working flat out on creating the four books that were part of the Kickstarter and the big launch that climaxed with an event here in New York. Along the way, I experienced what many people feel as they work on something new–I was spending part of my time (against my better judgment) exhausting myself trying to predict and then control what people would think about my work.
Will they get it? Will this chapter hit home? Am I too far out on a limb?
This might not work.
At some level, “this might not work” is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing. And it can paralyze us into inaction, into watering down our art and into failing to ship.
I do my best work when I practice what I write about, and this time, I decided it was important to go as far out on a limb as I could. The Icarus Deception argues that we’re playing it too safe, hence my need to go outside my (and your) comfort zone.
Changing the format, changing the way I interacted with some of my readers (using Kickstarter) and changing the timeframe of my work all combined to make this project the most complex one I’ve ever done. Lots of moving parts, of course, but more scary, lots of places to fail. All very self-referential in a series of books about failure and guts and flying closer to the sun, of course. That’s the entire point, right?
Of course, trying to control what other people think is a trap. At the same time that we can be thrilled by the possibility of flying without a net and of blazing a new trail, we have to avoid the temptation to become the audience, to will them into following us. Not only is it exhausting, it’s counterproductive. Sales (of concepts, of services, of goods) don’t get made because you’ve spent a sleepless night working on your telekenisis. They happen because you’ve made something worth buying, because you’ve outlined something worth believing in.
“This might not work” is either a curse, something that you labor under, or it’s a blessing, a chance to fly and do work you never thought possible.
As I slumped into my car, I turned on the radio. Stuck in the CD player, forgotten in the rush to get to the event, was the audio copy of Icarus.
I don’t usually listen to my books after I’ve made them, but the recording sessions had been so arduous that I didn’t even remember making the recording. So there it was in my car, left behind as a quick refresher before I went onstage to give my first public talk about the book.
It turns out that I don’t just write for you. I also write to remind myself of what I’m hoping to become as well. Hearing myself, months later, reading something I didn’t remember writing or reading, I shed a few tears. Yes, this is work worth doing. Yes, being out on a limb is exactly where I want to be.
That’s where we’re needed… out on a limb.