Seth Godin and a Gospel Life

Seth Godin is understandably one of the most popular and compelling writers and thinkers today. He’s been pretty influential in my circles, and I’ve definitely internalized some of his thoughts. I’ve seen him speak a couple times, and read 2 or 3 of his books.

All in all, it’s good stuff.

However, I’ve had on- and off-again tensions with some of the concepts, especially as they are confronted by, well, the gospel.

(Let me just say that I am “owning” that this is probably just my own baggage; I’m merely throwing these thoughts out there because they’ve been on my mind lately.)

Most recently, I’ve had to come to terms with how the desire to be “extraordinary” and a “linchpin” (some of Seth’s key concepts) intersect in my soul to do some not-very-good things…

You see, for someone who struggles with pride and arrogance, hearing the call to make your world all about doing “something amazing”, or “living your strengths”, etc., etc., can be a little like trying to control a modest outdoor fire in your backyard by pouring kerosene on it.

Even understanding that the point of “being extraordinary” is to serve people, or an organization or mission, feels remote.

For a narcissist (struggling or otherwise), the world ALWAYS revolves around them. They are ALWAYS seeking to be extraordinary, to be noticed, to be the smartest/cutest/strongest/most talented person in the room. It’s a normal (though pathological) state of mind.

For me, I need to balance “linchpin” thinking with the constant realization that I am sick. Recognition and accolades (that often come with being extraordinary) feed my false self, this scared, insecure child that needs to be reminded how special he is.

To counteract linchpin thinking, I need, to stare into the void, to quiet the obsessive and compulsive thoughts of my false self, and to return to the smaller, quieter voice of God that says, “You are enough.”

To learn humility.

To learn to serve.

To learn to focus on others.

To learn that being a linchpin is NOT all there is to life.

(Even though sometimes it’s fun.)

I still love Seth; and I will continue to read his books and wrestle with this stuff, but I just thought I’d put these out there.



Actually, Cover Bands DO Change the World…

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

One of the great slogans in the Seth Godin/Linchpin world (which I actually enjoy poking around in) is, “Cover bands don’t change the world.”

It’s a call to be unique to seek to strike out to do something bold and new in the world, to be disruptive, to reach for something that’s never been done.

It’s also obviously a bit of a slap in the face to anyone who may be a feeling slightly more conservative or iterative. Folks who are not as “disruptive.”

(It’s also an insult to cover bands, but who’s counting?)

As usual, the truth behind the slogan is a bit more cloudy, because in a sense cover bands have changed the world, and actually continue to do so, primarily because many of the most iconic and world-changing bands in rock history started out as cover bands.

Beatles? Cover band.

Stones? Covered blues.

The Who? They called their versions of Motown songs they covered, “Maximum R&B”.

The Band? Started out playing rockabilly covers in honkey tonks all over the midwest.

James Brown? yup.

(Now, I get that these artists are all “old guy” bands, but I’m taking the approach that the verdict is still out on how much Arcade Fire, The National, Coldplay, etc. are going to change rock and roll. That being said, I know the Black Keys at least know blues really deeply, and I’ve heard at least a couple covers from them.)

Now,I get what Seth is saying: you really do need to find your own unique voice. But here’s the deal: all these artists who later changed the world were cover artists for a significant and formative time in their career.

So what’s the point? Well, I’m not just being contrarian. Being in a cover band has its advantages, and in fact provides critical experience for working your craft.

Because when you’re in a cover band, you get to learn

You get to learn what makes a great song…

You get to learn how to work in a group with others…

You get to learn how to work a crowd…

What gear works in a bar, versus in your bedroom…

What outfit looks ridiculous on you…

Don’t get me wrong: aspiring to something great is absolutely critical and something to be encouraged.

But before you change the world you might want to be good at your craft. Lots of bands start out wanting to change the world, but their ambition greatly (and almost tragically) outstrips their ability.

So maybe you’re in a “cover band” right now…

… Maybe the organization you’re in isn’t as wildly creative as you’d like;

… Maybe the position you’re in isn’t the perfect fit;

… Maybe your platform isn’t in front of the “right people” yet.

If this is the case, than here’s what you do:

  • You get better. 
  • You dig in and learn. 
  • You figure out how to with others (particularly a drummer who doesn’t keep time well and a singer who doesn’t always sing on pitch).
  • You learn what “excellence” looks and feels (tastes and sounds?) like. 

Your “cover band moments” are not wasted. They can be the crucible, the workshop that helps you develop and hone your craft for the moment when the world comes calling, and needs you to give something to it.

… Now go practice.