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My journey of creating the MTB Practice Lab just got clearer
Hard work, then passion, and now seeking your enrollment
Nine months ago, I started working on the MTB Practice Lab.
But it wasn’t until I recently reread Seth Godin’s book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, that I realized creating MTB Practice Lab was reverberating in my bones in a way that surprised me.
Hard work comes before a passion
When I purchased his book over a year ago, I was at the point of not knowing if I had enough passion to get started and maintain what I wanted to create. But I copied a couple of paragraphs from his book and put them in my Frequently Read Quotes document, which I review monthly. Excerpt:
Who wants to commit to a journey before we know it’s what we were meant to do? The trap is this: only after we do the difficult work does it become our calling. Only after we trust the process does it become our passion. “Do what you love” is for amateurs. “Love what you do” is the mantra for professionals.
[See the complete quote in Footnote1 ]
So I needed to "do the hard work" first to know whether or not this would be my vocation, my calling.
Looking back, the hard work seemed to happen in waves:
Launch prep (May-June)
Soft launch (July-mid August)
Launch week (late August)
The Online Practice Jam (November-December)
The 5-Day Online Practice Strategies Challenge (January-February)
What sustained me?
A sense of responsibility
After the early waves, it wasn’t clear to me that I was at the point where I could honestly say, “I love what I do.” But my curiosity about what I was learning kept me going, as well as inspirational quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert, Martha Graham, Abraham Lincoln, and Vernon Jordan that I would read once per month. [See Footnote2 ]
I became increasingly aware of my responsibility to keep working on bringing this ‘thing’ into existence.
Doubts about the audience reception
And when I’d start entertaining doubts about whether or not the newsletter would find a receptive audience, I found inspiration from James Clear and Seth Godin, who reminded me that that’s out of my control. It might not work. Getting better at mastering a practice I’ve chosen to commit to is all I can control. [See Footnote3 ]
And that’s a relief.
Seth Godin defines art as the “act of doing something that might not work, simply because it’s a generous thing to do.”
But he also maintains that generous doesn’t necessarily mean free. He writes:
… the act of charging for the work creates a generous outcome, because our work is to effect change, not to make ourselves invisible and free… When we are generous with our work, we have the chance to earn trust and attention, and if we’re fortunate, we will find the people who are ready to go on our journey. Those people will eagerly pay, because what we offer them is scarce and precious... If you’re leading, you’re searching for enrollment. For people who say “I see you and trust you and want to go where you are going.” [See the complete quotes in Footnote4 ]
Three weeks ago, I quietly flipped the Substack switch enabling paid subscription to the MTB Practice Lab newsletter.
If you think what I'm offering is scarce, that you trust me, and want to go where I'm going, consider a paid subscription and join me for the next chapter.
More details on my About page.
Seth Godin, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work
One question comes up in my podcast the most often: where do I find my passion? And the corollary: if I’m not passionate about my work, what should I do? Once you decide to trust your self, you will have found your passion. You’re not born with it, and you don’t have just one passion. It’s not domain-specific: it’s a choice. Our passion is simply the work we’ve trusted ourselves to do.
This is worth deconstructing, because the strategy of “seeking your calling” gives you a marvelous place to hide. After all, who wants to do difficult work that doesn’t fulfill us? Who wants to commit to a journey before we know it’s what we were meant to do? The trap is this: only after we do the difficult work does it become our calling. Only after we trust the process does it become our passion. “Do what you love” is for amateurs. “Love what you do” is the mantra for professionals.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
Martha Graham: There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open
Abraham Lincoln: I am not bound to win but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
Vernon Jordan: You are where you are today because you stand on somebody's shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It's the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.
James Clear, 3-2-1 newsletter, May 6, 2021: We cannot predict the value our work will provide to the world. That’s fine. It is not our job to judge our own work. It is our job to create it, to pour ourselves into it, and to master our craft as best we can.
Seth Godin, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work: Creative effort comes with no guarantee. You’re on the frontier, imagining, inventing and dancing with what is possible. That’s the hard part. It belies our effort if we insist that it’s the same as the sort of work that can be the subject of a time and motion study. Yes, it has a purpose. Yes, there’s a difference between effective and ineffective effort. And yes, we need to do the reading, understand the genre and hone our skills. But no, you can’t control the outcome.
The product of our effort will either resonate or it won’t. It will either strike a chord or it will fade away. And we can’t know until we ship our art. That’s part of the deal. To be aware of the outcome we seek, but not to be trapped into trying to control the outcome. All we can control is our approach and our effort. The outcomes belong to those we seek to serve. We can learn as we go, but all the time and emotion we spend seeking to control those that encounter our creation is wasted.
Generous Doesn’t Mean Free
Seth Godin, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work: Too often, the market pushes creators to give away their work. And too often, we come to believe that giving it away, removing money from the interaction, is the most generous thing we can do. But that’s not the case. Money supports our commitment to the practice. Money permits us to turn professional, to focus our energy and our time on the work, creating more impact and more connection, not less. And more importantly, money is how our society signifies enrollment.
The person who has paid for your scarce time and scarce output is more likely to value it, to share it, and to take it seriously. Generous doesn’t require us to reduce friction by making things free. It requires us to bring bravery and passion and empathy to the people we seek to serve. And that often requires tension on the part of the audience. It’s tempting to hide by creating deniability. “What did you expect, it was free . . .” But often, the act of charging for the work creates a generous outcome, because our work is to effect change, not to make ourselves invisible and free.
In Search of Enrollment
Seth Godin, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work: In an economy based on connection instead of industry, most of what we seek isn’t actually scarce. People spend more than half their waking hours online now, in search of digital connection, entertainment, and access. So what’s worth charging for? And what do people pay for? If you’re leading, you’re searching for enrollment. For people who say “I see you and trust you and want to go where you are going.” This is not what happens in compulsory education. People are there because they have to be, not because they want to be. They’re there for an education (and a certificate), not for learning or passion or magic.
When we are generous with our work, we have the chance to earn trust and attention, and if we’re fortunate, we will find the people who are ready to go on our journey. Those people will eagerly pay, because what we offer them is scarce and precious.