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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with: Cara Beverage
Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with: Cara Beverage ( @caraphernalia )

A Bit Of Optimism: This Might Not Work

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I'm a huge fan of both Simon Sinek and Seth Godin. They both operate from a place of empathy and human understanding. So, when they speak, I listen. And, it just so happens that they were recently speaking with each other on Episode 76 of the "A Bit of Optimism" podcast: Down A Rabbit Hole with Seth Godin. In that episode, Seth said something that resonated deeply with how I approach product development. I don't often hear this articulated; so, I wanted to amplify what the two of them discussed.

Here's my manual transcription of the segment:

Seth Godin: Saying "No" and failing, I think, are two of my best skills.

Simon Sinek: I'm not going to ask you how you learned to fail, I'm assuming that that's natural (laughter ensues).

Seth Godin: No - learning to fail was an intentional act, actually.

Simon Sinek: Go on.

Seth Godin: This is more interesting, I think, than the "No" part - the learning to fail. The expression, "This might not work", makes some people very uncomfortable. I made a bunch of tee-shirts for a dozen people who spent some time in my office years ago and it had a picture of Humpty Dumpty and it said, "This might not work." And, I wear that shirt all the time.

A lot of people have trouble wearing that shirt. Because, just saying it makes people really uncomfortable. So, what I learned when I was 12, probably 13 - I decided to get joy out of anything that was generous — not selfish, but generous — where I could add, "and this might not work" to it.

At first, I didn't get joy out of it. But then, I did it enough times that I could find the joy.

Simon Sinek: Do you know what I find genius about that: is that it's an expectation setter. We're so afraid of failing and we're so afraid that our self-worth comes from our success and if we have any kind of failure people will judge us. And, to say, "This might not work", puts the possibility of failure on the table. And so, all you have to do is enjoy it.

To get joy out of anything that is generous, even if it may not work. This is how I want to be for my customers. To give without fear or judgement. To give because that act itself is an expression of love and love is permission enough to try.

I am reminded of the poet, Jalal al-Din Rumi, who said:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

The next time I want to do something for my customers and I feel fear / uncertainty / doubt (FUD), I have to remind myself that these are nothing but barriers holding me back.

Reader Comments



It's so hard to not get married to the result. But, it gets easier the more I try to do something (and it fails). Slowly, I'm getting there.

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I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel