Tag Archives: Seth Godin

Steve Jobs: “Real Artists Ship” – Here’s What He Meant

“Real artists ship.”
— Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, early years - courtesy of Bloomberg.com

Steve Jobs: ‘Real artists ship.’

According to the folklore at Apple, this was a favourite saying meaning you have to have the guts to actually deliver when it’s time to deliver.

In one instance in particular, Steve Jobs used the mantra to call the bluff of a reluctant engineer who didn’t think his code was ready.

Jobs laid down the law.

Seth Godin argues in his books that the real problem is fear.  It’s a lot safer to try to pretend that just a few more days will enable reaching perfection, but that’s just illusion. The real problem is fear.  And the solution is courage. That recalcitrant engineer, the argument runs, was simply prone to that overly-cautious lizard brain.

So in comes the ‘real artists ship’ mantra. It’s a call to arms, a suggestion that you should just fight back, suck it up, or ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,’ as one saying goes. Just do it. Give the send order. Hit the publish button. What the hell, go for it, even if the creative idea is only half-baked. The next adage you hear is that it’s okay to fail – in fact, fail early and fail often.

These just-do-it interpretations miss a key part of the quote – ‘real artists’ are first and foremost just that: real artists. And that means they actually do a few crucial things long before they ship.

If you focus on these other crucial things, you may find that the problem is not at all fear. It’s the absence of passion and purpose. It’s the absence of the drive and confidence that go hand in hand with passion and purpose.

So here’s another way to think about the ‘real artists ship’ mantra: Sure, you want to ship. You’re yearning to create what you’re yearning to create. But first ask if you’re doing what a ‘real artist’ does in the first place. The real artist does these three things:

Passion and Purpose Are the Drivers

Real Artists are first and foremost REALNotice that Jobs didn’t say ‘responsible companies ship on time.’ He wasn’t talking about mechanical operations. He was referring to how he and Apple had developed a purpose so clear it created an energy and drive that overpowered the stresses that come from doubt or fear. The lizard brain is puny compared to the power of purpose that forms in the higher parts of the brain.

Real Artists Collaborate

Even artists who appear to work alone collaborate in countless ways. Notice that Jobs himself in the example above was collaborating with the engineer. They both would have shipped nothing without that collaboration.

If you feel the tug of fear about finishing a creative project you’ve started, maybe the fear is a signal.  Maybe you need to first collaborate with a kindred spirit or colleague. Discuss it. Brainstorm. The encouraging words of a good mentor are in short supply these days, yet they’ve never been in greater demand.

Real Artists are True to Their Values, Calling

It’s hard to imagine Shakespeare feeling paralyzed by fear and saying to himself, ‘okay, Will, just feel the fear and do it anyway.’ He was pursuing what his heart called him to do. As he wrote in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” It was an expression of his own beliefs; like all writers, he placed his own ideas in the mouths of his characters.

So if you ever feel the tug of doubt about a creative project, maybe it’s a sign that the project is not aligned with your own values, your own true self. That’s okay, it may be a sign it’s the wrong project. It might be a sign to switch to that other project that really is in line with your true inner values and calling.

Seth Godin: Don’t Let Irrational Fear Block Your Creativity

A long line of research shows that deep in the middle of our brains is the part that’s been around since human beings began to have brains. It’s the limbic system, and since it’s so similar to the basic brain of a lizard, it’s sometimes called your ‘lizard brain.’

Lizard - courtesy of Wikipedia.org

We all have an inner brain that’s much like a lizard’s. 

It operates your bodily functions, and it also gives you your basic emotions like fear.

Fear can be a life-saving emotion, when it serves its purpose. But it can also be irrational.  If ever there was a source where negative thinking comes from, this is it. It’s the reason people fear change, get nervous, shun risk, and hate things.

According to author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, it might also be what right now is killing your creative powers and potential.

“When you were a kid, beautiful art – questions, curiosity, and spontaneity poured out of you,” Seth Godin writes in his bestseller, Lynchpin. But then the lizard brain got trained to obey rules, toe the line, and fit in. This ‘obedient’ lizard brain evolved into what Godin calls “the resistance.” And today, once the resistance takes over, “the art each of us is capable of creating is relentlessly whittled away.”

The resistance is more than just the usual notion of resistance to change. It’s your own internal resistance to change, the habits of conformity that started in school. In fact, “the resistance loves school,” Godin writes, “… if school is about obedience, then you can be soothed by thinking that more obedience is better works.”

Through your education’s “well-organized, but toxic rules at school, the resistance gained in strength,” he says. The rules may have created order but killed creativity: “Do you think it’s an accident that the powers that be wanted the disobedient and creative part of your brain to sit down and shut up?”

The resistance thus got trained, but unlike the resistance training you can do in a gym, this kind was not good for you. This training  builds up a person’s resistance to change, and it can kill creativity – your creativity.

The problem can also be the lizard brain of those around you. “You work with people who are totally at the mercy of the resistance,” Godin argues. This is why good, new ideas often get shot down so fast. “The resistance is so tenacious that it encourages you to speak up and drag down anyone around you with the temerity to dream.”

So how about you? What’s your lizard brain doing? Is it trying to drag down someone around you with the temerity to dream? Or are you that person with the temerity to dream, and is your own resistance standing in the way?