Book Review: The Practice — Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin

BY  Louis M. Morgner
May 23, 2021

The Practice is a book written by Seth Godin on how to ship creative work successfully in today’s world. The core insights are entered around the aspects that make creative work successful and what mindset is required to succeed in the shipping of creative work.

In this article, I will share the most important insights and takeaways that resonated most with me.

Who should read it?

Although I believe understanding more about creative work and what it takes to ship it successfully is hugely relevant today and in the years ahead for nearly everyone, the following people will benefit most from the lessons shared:

  • People who ship creative work for a living (Writers, entrepreneurs, designers, product people…)
  • People who aspire to ship creative work but did not find a way to make it work for them
  • People who want to provoke change through their work in any dimension

How did the book change me?

I’m passionate about making stuff. Whether it is designing websites, building apps, making music, or organizing events for people. I love to be active and turn ideas into reality. This book enabled me to view the work I do and love through a new perspective with a renewed feeling of clarity and purpose of what I want to accomplish with my work. Besides posing many interesting questions that enabled me to view my work differently, I found the concept of the practicefascinating. The practice describes the process of creative professionals and how they approach their work. I felt an increased sense of motivation for what I do and the lessons Seth Godin shares with us, helped me boost my motivation when it comes to my work. In the end, I am glad that I picked up the book because it has been transformational in terms of how I view my work.

Lesson #1: The magic of the creative process is that there is no magic

When we think about successful people that changed the world through their creative work, we often think that they have been born with super-human skills, talents, and abilities. We simply attribute their success to their genius and think everything they touch turns into success through magic. Turns out, this is not actually the case. The magic of the creative process of perhaps most people you look up to is that there is no magic. Often times, many previous failures have been involved in the learning process of those so-called “geniuses”.

“If you want to complain that you don’t have any good ideas, show me your bad ones first”

Instead of comparing ourselves to people that are far ahead of us in our professional journey and giving up too early, we need to bring our work into perspective. Instead of “it’s not working”, most likely “it’s not working, yet”. Focusing on outcomes exclusively limits us to banal, short-term choices and encourages us to give up too early. That’s why we need to develop trust in the practice and ourselves.

Lesson #2: Trust your self

Skill is not the same as talent. Rarely, professionals become professionals due to the bare existence of talent. Success requires the disciplined development of skill. And skill is what enables us to ultimately succeed. But the only way to develop your skill is to focus on the practice. The disciplined pursuit of doing the work and improving along the way. And for this to work, we cannot leave our work up to how we are feeling on a given day. Instead, we need to commit to actions in our practice which in turn change how we are feeling. Engaging in the practice daily combined with trust in your self are what lead to success in the long run.

“Writers write. Runners run. Establish your identity by doing your work.”

As touched upon earlier: decisions are good, even if outcomes aren’t. Focusing too much on the outcomes in the short-term is a proven path to failure so instead start focusing on the daily decisions you make by engaging in the practice.

Lesson #3: Intent is the foundation of your work, even if you don’t realize it, yet.

Why are you doing what you do? Ultimately with (creative) work, the thing we try to stimulate is change. Change is the ultimate why behind most actions. Intent is a foundational concept that sets the stage for everything you do. Reflect on this question for a minute:

What change do you seek to make?

This question can be broken down to sub-question that ultimately allow you to gain clarity in what you do:

  • Who are you trying to change?
  • What change are you trying to make?
  • How will you know if it worked?

It is useful to remind ourselves that everything has a function. By becoming clear on our intention, we can unlock an inner motivation that helps us see the place where we fit in this world. Intentional direction matters more than effective speed in your professional journey.

Lesson #4: It’s okay if most people don’t like your work

In our internet age today, no matter what work we ship to the public, some people dislike what we do. People that openly share what they dislike. People that try to bring you down. The world conspires to hold us back, but cannot do that without our permission. That’s why it’s so important to be clear about your intention. You need to make the right work, for the right people and stop caring what other people think of it. It’s okay to say “it’s not for you”.

“You don’t create a hit by trying to please everyone”

The ingredients for success are being clear on your intention, understanding who your work is for, and not giving a fuck about what other people think. Your goal is to make an impact on someone and not everyone. One person at a time. Engage in the “it’s not working yet” mindset. That’s how hits are created. But still, don’t get attached to the outcome, focus on the practice instead. Outcomes are most likely out of your control, focus on producing better work instead. Every day.

Closing thoughts

Those we’re just a few of the many takeaways I was able to get from the book The Practice — Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin. The world requires us to make our unique contribution. To stimulate change with the right intention. This is only possible by focusing on the practice and committing to the creative journey ahead. Attitude and skill are what differentiates a professional from an amateur. The magic of the creative process is that there is no magic. Embrace that and go change the world.

To anyone that wants to create stuff for a living, this book is a must-read so make sure to grab your copy.

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