An Interview with Seth Godin on Art, Humility and Habits of successful people

Fly closer to the Sun.

Photo: Parris Whittingham

2005 was a year of big change for me.

I had just moved to a new city.

The move was not planned, I just decided to stay back and work in the city I was travelling to.

Life away from home and family was different and I learnt a lot living alone.

I was learning and exploring like crazy. Serendipity was way of life.

I moved fast, embraced new and untested and started making art. The kind which Seth Godin shares in The Icarus Deception.

This art making was inspired a good deal by Seth Godin’s earlier works – his 1999 book “Permission Marketing“, The Bootstrapper’s Bible, and his ever popular “Unleashing the Idea Virus” (PDF that you can read). It changed how I see the world of business forever.

The train that started there continued to move ahead.

In 2011. I found myself creating ruckus as part of the global street team at The Domino Project (TDP) a new publishing imprint that Seth launched. The high point of Domino Project’s global street team collaboration was No Idling eBook.

Cut to 2012 – never one to rest on his laurel, Seth launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign to launch his new book.

The book that campaign launched is The Icarus Deception – it just came out on Amazon and other book stores.

To get you a glimpse inside the head of the man I admire and to discuss the ideas behind and inside Icarus, I asked Seth few questions.

In this Q and A Seth shares his worldview about things that matter and also about  Icarus.

[For those who do not know Seth or his work, you can learn more about him here.]

Photo via Goodreads

Photo via Goodreads

Mohit Pawar (M) : Hello Seth. Welcome to You say an artist takes it personally – what does it mean?

Seth Godin: If you’re a cog in an industrial system, nothing that happens is actually your fault. You are following the manual, so it’s the manual’s fault, right? The artist has no manual, writes her own manual, owns what happens…

M: Who should read “The Icarus deception”? (or Who will benefit the most by reading?)

SG: It’s a rant and a manifesto, and it urges people to confront something that’s holding them back — as it pushes you to take advantage of this revolution and this moment in time.

If that sounds thrilling, it might be for you.

M: What will a world look like where everyone sees their work as art – even politicians, is that even possible?

SG: Not everyone will get to be an artist, but that doesn’t mean you should let someone else have all the fun.

M: How can an artist – a good one – transcend from the zone of abundance and competence to the zone of trust, connection and surprise.

SG: I think a big part of it is making big promises… and then keeping them. We have trouble with both, don’t we?

M: Someone who takes risks and a road less traveled creates chaos around. How to find peace and harmony at such times with – spouse, family, friends.

SG: I don’t think the ruckus you make in the world requires you to be a jerk. I think it’s possible (and productive) to take small financial but large emotional risks, and when things don’t work, you’re not homeless. Bringing your stress home is a choice, not a requirement.

M: Is humility overrated? Does this age reward self promoters? If yes, what is the right way to self promote?

SG: Careful! Lots of semantics here.

Hubris is unfairly criticized, but you can have hubris (a desire to be god-like) at the same time that you have humility about your weaknesses, your good fortune and your interactions with others. And “self promoter” is a dangerous trap, because it opens the door to become a selfish jerk. I think there’s a difference between saying, “here, I made this…” and yelling and screaming and hard selling…

M: Can fear be used as a positive force in our lives?

SG: Everything we do that we’re proud of, I think, is the result of overcoming fear. Breathing is nothing to be proud of. Helping someone in a risky situation is.

M: How can a teacher teach a student to see study as art? How can we teach kids to become risk takers and that there is value in being an artist?

SG: Kids are already risk takers. What we do is unteach them that!

M: Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything. Do you think it is true? If yes how can one explore enough and take risks to be able to make good art.

SG: Successful people say no to distractions and to things that give them a chance to hide. They don’t say no to frightening opportunities that match their mission.

M: How to “Make Good Art”?

SG: Make bad art.
See what happens.

Thank you Seth for your time and insights.


Earlier in the day I wrote about a surprise and a chance to get your hands on a copy of the Icarus Deception and for one lucky winner a copy of V is for Vulnerable.


The winner get this. Photo by

To win free copy as shared above.

1. Tweet this “I love this Seth Godin interview by @mohitpawar.” Click to Tweet.

[Only tweet if you really mean it] or else you can participate by commenting below.

The reader with highest number of retweets, will get a free copy of The Icarus Deception.

2. If you are not active on Twitter – you can comment – to complete this sentence.

I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by……………………

Complete the above sentence – by filling the blank via your comment.

The best answer (comment) will win a a free copy of The Icarus Deception + an author signed copy of V is for Vulnerable. The 2nd best answer will win a a free copy of The Icarus Deception.

All 3 winners will get their copy delivered at their door step – anywhere in the world.

The contest closes Jan 15th, 2013. [Update: Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and spreading the word. I will contact those who won a free copy via email/Twitter by Jan 25th. Wish all your dreams are fulfilled.] If you want to connect for anything, write here.

Keep sharing your thoughts in comments – no end date for that 🙂