Gig Blog 1: The End of Permission in The Era of Doing Your Life's Work
This morning you were stuck.
As your caffeine-induced anxiety was reaching its pinnacle you considered not producing any work today. How could you possibly be worth paying attention to in the era of infinite good work? You scream internally, WORLD, I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, SOMETHING TO GIVE! So-bloody-what, the world replies.
Great work is like a virus; it gets into the body of another human being and it mutates; subtleties and interpretations change and it flows back into the world as something entirely different. In fact, a virus relies on its transmission from one host to the next. It sows its seeds in the ether the same way an idea does.
And then Seth Godin's morning email came through...
"March it down the road. Not because you’re pushing anyone, or because anyone is pushing you....Simply because it matters."- Seth Godin
You’re immediately transported to a different state of mind. It's hard to believe you're in the same head when your view of the world changed so rapidly and radically but, presumably, you are.
You realize, almost as if by epiphany, that great work matters. You feel in your Marrow that you no longer need permission to bring true value to your customer. There has always been a template you’ve been expected to fit neatly into as if a human being is suited to be a check-list. Someone who’s worked labor his whole life can't possibly be a sensitive businessman; ‘you need to be tough and take what’s yours’. A legacy business can’t possibly pivot and have continued success; ‘stay in your lane’. A young, smart woman can’t possibly be a strong but fair executive; ‘you’re being bossy.’
Here’s something they don’t want you to know: you can choose YOURSELF. You can give YOURSELF permission. You always could.
Find something you love more than yourself and create true value around that thing. Find your customer and make their lives better by giving yourself permission. Now is not the time to ship something mediocre. Now is not the time for just ok. Now is the time to do your life’s work.
Godin, among other classic creators, gives us a pathway forward; people like us, do things like this. What he is referring to is equal parts hard work and equal parts calm recognition of who you are. If you’re producing great work today than you know that people like us do the work that needs doing. People like us want to enter into a relationship with their customers who would miss you if you were gone and who calmly say ‘Sorry, but this isn’t for you,’ to those who would not. People like us reserve the right to change and grow as the seasons dictate. People like us know that great work matters. People like us need to create because the thing we’re creating has to be made; it has to be put into the world. People like us don't need permission to create, we do it merely because it matters. People like us will form a community of generous, ambitious creators who know who the work is for. When you know who you are and what you do, then you know who the work is for. This is a super-power.
When you decide who you are and what you do, you give yourself permission to be that person and do that thing.
Does this mean you can’t pivot? Absolutely not.
We’ve become quick to tell creators to stay in their lane. You do that, keep doing that, because you don't do this. Here’s an easy trick: start with people like us, do things like this and write down all of the things that people like you do. Are you generous? Are you protective of your time? Do you think relationship and network are the most important human needs? Do you listen? If you listen, you have made an agreement with the world. You’ve agreed to produce great work and hear what comes back. You’ve told the world ‘Here I am, I am ready to show up; I am ready for you to see me.’
How do you do this?
1. Decide who you are and what people like you do; now you know who the work is for.
2. Give yourself permission to produce great work today; it matters.
3. Listen to what comes back; your customer will tell you what they need.
4. Pivot; you are exactly who you are meant to be at the moment you make the choice to produce great work.
5. Return to step 2; celebrate work that has no end.
There has never been a time when there have been so many producers and that means the obvious; that there has never been this much great work. But it also means the non-obvious; that there has never been this much mediocre work. Indeed the non-obvious facts of life are often the most interesting and the most valuable. We need to know how to decipher what is what in the producer era if we are to break through to the era of true value.
Because that's what great content is about! It's ALWAYS BEEN what it's about!
Produce great work today, because it matters.
This post originally appeared as On Giving Yourself Permission on the great & powerful Marrow Matters blog.