Shun the Non-believers

In his podcast, Akimbo [https://www.akimbo.me/], Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

Reviews are everywhere. When we put something into the world and our name on it, we might get reviewed or even criticized. Some of us might censor our work or dumb it down before it hits the market because we are afraid of someone might not like it. By dumbing our work down or making it average, we make our work mediocre.

When someone hates our work, it means we have made it for someone else. All the great work we can do now is for someone specific. That is someone who believes in this dream of ours and wants to go where we wanted to go. This work is fundamentally different than the work this is going to appeal to the mass, where we better make something that everyone is going to like.

The problem with making something average is that there are very few slots left to make something that everyone is going to like. Pleasing everyone is a fool’s game. The alternative is to please someone specific, not just to please them but to delight them in an over-the-top way. The work we make will push them to the point where they are delighted we took them somewhere.

All of us did not wake up hoping to be inundated with negative feedback, bad reviews, and cutting criticism from anonymous people. To fend off the possibilities of those bad things happening to us, we run the danger of not exposing our emotional labor or our best work. Or we are tempted to dumb our work down to be average and set up ourselves for deniability. Unfortunately, the market does not need more average stuff for average people. Average stuff for average people blends in and becomes a commodity and invisible.

The alternative is to shun the non-believers by addressing the smallest viable audience. Viable means that, if it is not big enough or eager enough, it is not worth the journey. By delighting the audience, it forces us to focus obsessively on those people whom we want to serve.

Those people want to go where we are going. Those people want to do what we are doing and want to do it with us. If we make something for those people and they do not like it, we better listen to them and make our work even better. To the others who do not like it, well, thank you but it is not for you.

We live in this long-tail universe where the number of people who are pushing us to be magical for everyone is very small. It is mostly us. It is mostly a side effect of trying to fit in or not getting that negative review. The alternative is to do work we are proud of, the work that matters, and the work that some people would miss if we had not created it. The skeptics and the non-believers will always view our next project as a little bit of a ruckus. However, the smallest viable audience we seek to serve cannot wait for us to delight them, so make a ruckus.