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Posts Tagged ‘seth godin

No, Really: What does a Philosopher do?

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When Adjuncts Escape

Helen De Cruz has done a fascinating and very readable series of blog posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) tracking the migration of philosophical thinking from academia into the rest of life. As low-paid, temporary workers (that is, “contingent faculty” or “adjuncts”) take over more and more university teaching duties (50% of all faculty hold part-time appointments); smart, degreed people are also starting to find their way out of this system that rewards increasingly narrowed focus with low pay and a kick in the butt at the end of the semester.

Ms. De Cruz has a number of excellent interactions with her sample of former academics (at least one of whom left a tenured position!). I love that Ms. De Cruz named transferable skills. What would a philosophy Ph.D. bring to a start-up? Or a tech position? The answers she arrives at may surprise you.

Why the Nichols Station Apartments look different.

Why the Nichols Station Apartments look different.

I’ve always felt we carry our interests and passions and skills with us, from this class to that job to this project to that collaboration. And thus we form a life of work. Possibly we produce a body of work. We once called this a “career,” but that word has overtones of climbing some institutional ladder. I think we’re starting to see more willingness to make your own way—much like Seth Godin described his 30 years of projects.

The notion of “career” is very much in flux.

And that is a good thing.

Of particular interest to me was the discussion Ms. De Cruz had with Eric Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan found his way out of studying phenomenology (and philosophy of language with advisor John Searle!) at Columbia and UC Berkeley to writing television comedy (Letterman, Flight of the Conchords, and Big Bang Theory, among others). If you’ve watched any of these, it’s likely you’ve witnessed some of the things a philosophical bent does out loud: ask obvious questions and produce not-so-obvious answers. And that’s when the funny starts. It’s this hidden machinery that will drive the really interesting stuff in a number of industries.

Our colleges and universities are beginning to do an excellent job dispersing talent. That thoughtful diaspora will only grow as time pitches forward.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Cure for the Common Blahs (Millman + Godin)

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Take Two Books and Call Me In a Week

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception (NY: Penguin Books, 2012) and Debbie Millman’s How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer (NY: Allworth Press, 2007). Both books convey hope that work can look different—more personal and more meaningful—than any corporate recruiting brochure can ever let on.

@JamesVictore : "Although I used that word 'perfection.'"

@JamesVictore : “Although I used that word ‘perfection.'”

Mr. Godin’s message is consistent with his blog and other books: find a way to not submit to corporate overlords and their pre-packaged (wonderful) plan for your life. Make your own way. Along the way he hints that owning your work can happen in a variety of ways (even if working for the man). I’ve always appreciated Mr. Godin’s sense that art is about making connections and doing new things that spring from one’s brain/desire/compulsions/passions applied to a real-world problem. I would argue that kind of passionate living can happen in a big company or on your own—but we must all keep a sharp eye out for when life and work become rote ruts (which require re-routing).07082014-9781591846079_p0_v1_s260x420

Ms. Millman’s book is an absolute delight to read because it consists of 20 conversations with designers whose work has set them apart for years. People like Stefan Sagmeister, Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Emily Oberman, Bonnie Siegler, Paul Sahre, James Victore, Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser. The genius of 07082014-9781581154962_p0_v2_s260x420Ms. Millman’s book is two-fold: asking penetrating, questions (1) and then standing aside (2) to let each designer spool out their answers in the way they choose. I’m certain each question and answer was edited, but Ms. Millman’s book gives a sense of hearing the very crux of what drives each person’s creativity in their own words. Their answers provide lessons in the habits of artists, how to combat the woo of popularity and the lapses into isolation. Some of these designers have succeeded and failed and succeeded and failed—so look also for lessons in starting over from scratch.

I’m no graphic designer—maybe you aren’t either.

And I’m no artist (perhaps you are?), but Godin + Millman together provide a satisfying set of snapshots that keep anticipating the very personal work your problem-solving can accomplish. The advice and hope from each book make me want to look for problems to work on that take advantage of what I love doing.

Both books present forward-looking ways of relentlessly defining, redefining and doing your own work. And make no mistake: again and again it is the work itself that pulls these talented people deeper into their talent and continued relevance.

What is your work today?


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 8, 2014 at 9:41 am

Seth Godin: Six Habits for Artists

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Especially #6: Ship it.

I like Mr. Godin’s expansion of “artist” to include anyone trying to make a connection (full definition here). If you are trying to create, you’ll find these six habits useful.



Written by kirkistan

July 7, 2014 at 9:23 am

Wait–You May Be An Artist

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However: it takes courage to keep pushing forward



Written by kirkistan

June 9, 2014 at 5:00 am

Posted in curiosities, Dumb Sketch

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Anxiety is the experience of failure in advance–Seth Godin

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There is no better apologist for freelance than Seth Godin


If you find yourself asking “What is my work?” listen to this interview with Seth Godin:



Via Brainpicker

Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 22, 2014 at 8:35 am

“Do You Know Bob? You Should Meet Bob.”

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Listen when your friend says this.03282014-tumblr_n2mx8ozAml1qe0lqqo1_500

After your friend hears what you have to say and then responds with,

Hey—have you ever asked Judy about that? Because Judy talks constantly about that very thing.


And then go meet Judy. Or Bob.

Because a friend’s recommendation—after seeing a similarity or spark of sameness—can be telling. The connection your friend saw to make the recommendation implies you have something in common with this other person. Some way of thinking that will form a third-rail for communication.

And that is worth following up on.

I think Keith introduced me to Steve—likely through some offhand comment. Steve is a C-suite communication guy who also teaches and we talk about communication strategy, corporate life versus freelance life, life in agencies and the demands of teaching. I’ve had coffee with Steve a couple times and I honestly don’t think I could find more wisdom and excellent advice and weathered perspectives if I paid Seth Godin’s consulting fee for an hour of talk.

We have no clue what might happen with a connection. No idea where a conversation will go.

This remains amazing to me.

Image credit: Garry Winogrand via MPD

Written by kirkistan

March 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

I Don’t Have To Work. I Get To.

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On Seth Godin’s 5000th post

06052013-icn.seths.headSeth Godin is a sort of apostle of forward. His posts routinely help me rethink why I do what I do and why I don’t do what I could. He is a spreader of ideas and a harvester of pithy phrases and a stone-by-stone mover of mountains. Today’s post is typical and there is a joyous bit about blogging in the middle that bears repeating:

My biggest surprise? That more people aren’t doing this. Not just every college professor (particularly those in the humanities and business), but everyone hoping to shape opinions or spread ideas. Entrepreneurs. Senior VPs. People who work in non-profits. Frustrated poets and unknown musicians… Don’t do it because it’s your job, do it because you can.

Do it “because you can” is wonderful way to approach any day. It gives fuel for the work and shines light for colleagues. I recently heard our son repeat a phrase that is often voiced around the People’s Republic of Kirkistan: “I don’t have to work, I get to.” His career is taking off and it is great fun to witness.IDontHaveToWork-06042013-2.

To find joy in your work is no small thing. I consider such joy a gift from God.


Written by kirkistan

June 5, 2013 at 9:02 am

Posted in philosophy of work

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Writing for Pretty Not Petty

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Seth Godin: Designing Our Ideas to be Spread

tumblr_mlqhdipnzf1qe0lqqo2_r1_500-05012013I’ve always been utilitarian–not overly concerned with fashion. That’s not a boast, it’s a lament: I confess to being more preoccupied with ideas than the various forms atoms take. But I’m coming around. I’m starting to think more about what is sharable. Pretty things matter because pretty things move around in our culture: photos, design, elegantly packaged ideas. Unexpected videos. Things that are well-lit or unusual. Baubles attract and hold the attention of babies and today’s adults alike. Visual simplicity and elegance are part of what helps an idea stick.

This is sort of a big deal. It is something we know for others but not so much for ourselves. Because we think our own ideas are inherently interesting. Seth Godin talked about this in his post yesterday and the day before. He talked about doing the work whether or not you get picked for fame. And making things sharable. Those posts are worth reading.

If I have some message to deliver, just plopping out the linear logic on paper pulls in only the most interested and committed insiders. Everyone else keeps walking thinking “nothing to see here.” Old school marketing was all about setting features into bullets for the interested reader to scan. But the interested reader was buried in the local cemetery years ago: only distracted readers walk the earth today. I’ve said over and again that blocks of copy scare people away—even people who self-identify as readers. Too much to read. Too slow.

But an image…now that is sharable. An image intrigues in a very different way.

So—today’s writer must sort out how to engage with a visual generation. Sure, we’ve known this for forever and those who have taken it to heart for the messages they need to deliver are the ones being heard today. One of our daughters feels that getting rid of the ugly in the world is part of her life work. As a writer I’m thinking about adopting that stance—I’m becoming more intent on locating images and simple analogies to help me tell the deep story that I need to tell.


Image credit: Mel Karch via MPD

Written by kirkistan

May 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

What Thinking Together Looks Like

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Hint: Don’t picture a straightjacket for your brain or tongue

A few days back I quoted William Paul Young who said he wrote “to create and open space, not to reduce it.” Today Seth Godin posted practical, context-building questions that help move clients away from the “I’ll know it when I see it” notion that is anathema to any creative person.

I was reminded of a long, involved eleven-step process that lurked in a space between marketing and communication in a big medical device firm I worked for some time ago. The process was the Communication Director’s darling and had a lot going for it in the sense that it was orderly and helped set priorities. But the order and priority-setting locked all participants (of which where dozens) into endless recurring meetings and production of PowerPoint decks to present to each other. Again and again. The process helped us move forward at the beginning but eventually the process itself took over and became an end in itself. I observed that smart, competent and innovative people started clamming up in these process meetings because the process itself dictated what we could say and when we could say it.

Both Young and Godin rely on something like intuition as they give priority to human relationships to help create environs the invite us to think together. I believe this process of opening-up—all while keeping your eye on your goal—is what gives us space to do our best work.

And there is no formula for that.


Image Credit: via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

November 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

Memo To My People Updating My Facebook Page

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How about a few less quotes from old dead white guys?

Post-election, let’s have a little less constitution-driven stuff. I need to sound hip and with-it (You kids still say that?). Sprinkle a few Malcolm X quotes in there (Yes?) and maybe—I don’t know— Nietzsche (why not?). Our business partners and potential clients need to see we’re deep and edgy. But trustworthy—so, ok—maybe a few quotes from Jefferson, but way less than three a week.

Jenny: Put the business books and blogs down: Covey and Collins are sounding stale. Give me more of that pithy stuff like Seth G. puts out. In fact—give Godin’s people a call and tap into that well they are pulling from. I want to sound more like Godin. And Spike Lee.

Jerrold: Give me more comments on human interest stuff. I need to sound warm and supportive. Potential clients need to see the entire organization as approachable—so that starts with me. And do the same with Ivan in the St. Petersburg office. He needs to sound a lot less like Putin, that grandstanding old propagandist. Ivan needs to sound like New Russia—starting now.

Jamison: you gotta tune my Twitter feed. Post-election, work with Jenny on the Godin and Spike Lee stuff—get me solid tweets that pull in about a thousand more young managers. Skew young!

All of you—people tell me I should read beyond history books. Make me current! Wired. Salon. The New Yorker (within reason). Whatever.

Jenny–What’s that? Godin writes his own stuff? Which of his people said that?


Image credit: Sammy Slabbinck via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

November 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

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