Book Summary: The Practice by Seth Godin | Shipping Creative Work
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
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Who's it for?
Creators of all kinds. Creators who want to sharpen their habits and routines. Creators who have become obsessed with outcomes but lost sight of 'The Practice'. For anyone who wants to contribute something to the world that will have a positive impact on the way people think, feel and behave.
What's it for?
To highlight that a focus on 'The Practice', the daily habits and routines, leads to better outcomes than just focusing on the outcome. In fact, Seth promotes the idea that regardless of the outcome, creatives should find joy in 'The Practice'. Even if we know an idea is going to fail, we should do it anyway and find joy in that.
What change does it hope to create?
Shift the focus of creators to 'The Practice' rather than the outcome. To improve the chances that more of what's created in the world will have a meaningful impact.
That creator will find more joy in doing the small things that have to be done daily. That creates will find joy in the consistency of their daily practice. That creator will find joy in the process even when the outcome is a failure.
2 Most Tweetable Quotes
Do what you love, is the mantra for amateurs. Love what you do, is the mantra for professionals.
The three foundations of art; curiosity, generosity, and connection.
Toby's Top Takeaways
The reason I read this book is to develop my own "Practice". I ultimately hope this will increase my contribution to helping people find joy and fulfilment within organisations.
Some examples of 'The Practice' in my own life:
Reading Daily and Writing these book summaries - I find joy in the process and it's a side benefit if other people get value too
Daily Exercise - I don't exercise to gain muscle, lose weight etc. I exercise for the joy of exercising. Anything else is a side benefit.
Daily Meditation - I don't seek to reduce stress etc. Instead, I find joy in the daily practice of meditation. In fact, the more I seek the outcomes, the more difficult the mediation becomes.
With this in mind my top takeaways are:
Focus on 'The Practice' not on the Outcome - I found this was interesting as it runs contrary to much discussion in the Product Development at present. Outcomes over Outputs. Seth is actually advocating a focus on the process over the outcome.
Before starting a project ask these three questions
At the start of any new project define enabling constraints. Its the most important thing to do for creative, complex work.
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Additional ideas and concepts from 'The Practice' by Seth Godin
What is 'The Practice'?
The practice is not the means to the outcome, the practice is the outcome. The practice is all we can control.
Seth shares a great personal example in the book that demonstrates 'The Practice'. He recounts a time he went fishing without a hook. If he went fishing with a hook he would be distracted by the outcome. How many fish could he catch? How could he catch more fish than his friends? Instead, fishing without a hook helped Seth focus on the 'The Practice', the art of fishing. His technique wads better than everyone's due to this. He wasn't distracted by the outcome. The wisdom in this story is to focus on your practice, not the outcome. You can't get the outcome without the practice.
Abbey Ryan is another great example of 'The Practice' in action. 10 years ago Abbie started creating an oil painting, every day. She decided to start recording her daily practice of painting. Then she started to teach others how to do it. Overtime her paintings got better and her reputation increased. As a result of 'The Practice' sales of her paintings skyrocketed from $100 to $800. Then Abbey was featured in Oprah Magazine and the rest is history. What this story shows is that by building a daily practice and letting people be part of it, remarkable outcomes are possible.
Steve Chapman is another example of the Practice. Much of his work is around using 'The Practice' to overcome our "inner critic". In particular, Steve focuses on the belief people hold that they cannot draw. The reality is that if we focus on 'The Practice', the daily act of drawing, over time you cannot fail to get better. To support this practice Steve realised the book 100 Crap Faces. Draw Crap Faces for 100 days and at least one of them is likely too good!
In a nutshell, 'The Practice', is the daily habits and routine that when done consistently over time can increase the chances of your creating a change in the world. But the key is not to overly focus on the outcome, instead aim to improve your practice daily. You may never create the change your hope for but without a 'Practice' you'll likely never succeed. Find Joy in the Practice, not in the outcome.
Practice with Intention
Work is ultimately for other people. We do the work to make a change happen. If you are not trying to create a change, then it's just a hobby.
Before creating anything ask these three questions:
Who is it for? You need to know who you are hoping to create a change in. What specific group of people do you want to serve. Find the smallest viable audience. You have to acknowledge it's not for everyone. Nothing important is for everyone.
What's it for? What problem are you seeking to solve? What opportunity do you want to make it possible?
What change will it create? After consuming the thing you have created, how will people act or feel different?
Seth cautions about getting too hung up with the intention or the outcome. By focusing on 'The Practice' it increases the chances of a good outcome but we must accept that the outcome we desire may never happen.
The Practice becomes your Identity
The way we act determines how we feel way more often than the way we feel determines how we act. The way you behave will inform your identity. If your practice is to go running every day, the more this practice is done consistently you will have a runners identity. We are what we do.
The Gift and Curse of Feedback
Not all feedback is equal. You need to focus on the feedback that helps improve your practice. Seth never reads his Amazon book reviews because they don't give him feedback that will help improve his practice. Instead seek out the people that can give you specific, actionable feedback that can help improve your practice. With the Alt MBA participants receive 500 bits of feedback within 8 weeks.
An example of the wrong feedback is being an opening act for a rock group. You're going to show up in front of the wrong people who are going to give you the wrong feedback. Instead, find the people who you are seeking to create a change for and get feedback that can help improve your practice.
Creators Create Magic
The colloquial understanding of magic is someone who does a coin trick. The coin disappears from one hand and is gone for just a moment. At that moment we feel the tension. How is that possible? Once we know how the trick is done the magic evaporates. This magic can be found in the things we create. Creators can make magic happen for the people they seek to help.
Part of 'The Practice' is shipping often. It is only through shipping will you learn and master your craft. Too many people focus on the outcome and fail to ship often enough. It's only through writing 100 blog posts will you improve your writing and as a result the chances of a positive outcome.
The Western mindset is "tell me if it's going to work and then I'll do it." This mentality of only doing what's needed if it gets me an A on the test holds back creators. The real breakthrough is doing work that is worth doing, even though you know it's not going to work.
Do Generous work
Seth has the principle that creative work should be generous. This doesn't mean giving everything away for free. What is means is being generous with your energy and emotional labour to help somebody else. Your focus should be creating a change in the world that creates impact for some person or people.
Seth's life revolves around generosity. He focuses on "Have I earned enough trust to do another generous project that I'm proud of. And if so, do it again." Ironically, those are the things that are most likely to work because other people aren't doing them either.
Be aware, it might be that the most generous thing to do is to disappoint someone in the short run.
Constraints Enable 'The Practice'
Enabling Constraints to help you make progress in your practice. Seth Godin has many constraints in his practice about how he chooses projects, who he works with and how. Having constraints allows you to succeed.
As an example the alt MBA. Seth built this in a two week period of time in the desert in Utah. He made seven constraints to limit his options. Without them, he could have built it in 100 different ways. What the length would be, what tools would be used, how people could subscribe and how could subscribe.
Seth has three questions he uses to define his constraints:
What resources are you willing to put into this?
Who do you want your customers to be? If you hate your customers, you're going to hate your business.
What do you want to get out of this?
Once you have those answers you have your puzzle which always have constraints and boundaries.
Human connection is exponential.