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 🙂


  1. Tushar Gargava

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by writing the literature that I’ve always wanted to write. If people start believing in themselves, everything will automatically be more beautiful.
    This article has changed a man today, who now hopes to change a few himself!


  2. sheila

    Loved this interview Mohit! Great questions and valuable insight from Seth.

    It really resonated with me. For a long time I’ve been delving into that soulful streamy space (where ideas connect in random ways) as a form of exploration and trying to peer past the borders of my existence. I think that this is what Seth is referring to as the zone of connection in terms of ideas and creativity.

    Of course, putting “art” out there is scary (it’s taken me 10 years to put the rainbow framework out into the world) but I’m moving past the fear and unknown.

    I have also noticed that kids are free flowing and more connected with their soul/creativity/true self before they are socialized, distracted and become aware of fear. So the trick is to slip in and out of that pre socialized state.

    I will improve my life and make the world a better place in 2013 by continuing to step into being a creative evolutionary (a rainbow framework term). A creative evolutionary uses creativity and conscious awareness to evolve their individual lives and the collective lives of humanity.

    Happy New Year!


  3. Mohit Pawar

    Happy that it resonated with you Sheila.

    Wish you are able to ship more meaning stuff in 2013, and move towards your goal of being a “creative evolutionary”.

    Thanks so much for your wishes! and for sharing your thoughts.

    – mohit

  4. Ranjan Jha

    It might seem unusual, but no issues, I read this note three times.

    How I react (regarding this post) is my business/ my art, and I take it with humility as is my habit. So, here I am – an artist.

    The language and flow of this post is very impressive and the remarkable points which anyone can benefit (like me) –

    “1. learning and exploring like crazy
    2. serendipity – the way of life
    3. embraced new and untested and started making art”

    As I read till the end of this post, I found an interesting surprise – a chance to which win a copy of “The Icarus Deception” by Seth Godin i.e. God inside ;). I haven’t read the book yet, but definitely would like to read.
    Again the thing I have noticed which Seth gives as insights:

    1. an artist does not follow the manual
    2. why to let someone else have all the fun
    3. make big promises… and then keep them
    4. don’t take risks to become homeless
    5. take large emotional risks
    6. and the most important point – make bad art and see ???
    These are the points that are definitely enticing (like Seth said – “here, I made this…” not yelling”) me to read this book in order to improve my own art.

    Here is how I am going to complete the sentence:

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by unfolding the secrets (facts) of digital marketing for myself and for others.

    Why let Seth to have all the fun ?

    Much appreciated post.

  5. Jigyasa

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by…………………… taking actions more often than I do now, strengthening my faith and taking even more risks exactly the way it is explained – make bad art>>see what happens>>Repeat it!!!

    I would try & indulge more into writing, a bit more reading and with a plus for leisure. I loved the way SETH said, bringing the work stress to your home is not a requirement but a choice. And moreover by exploring art, sharing it in all ways I could.

    Thanks Mohit for bringing good things to life ~ so many lives!

  6. Amber

    “The artist has no manual, writes her own manual, owns what happens…” <–This is so true! I think it's also what holds many of us back!

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by studying Japanese better so I can communicate with the people I'm now living amongst. Also, I'm working to communicate better, and help myself and others make a connection with people around us and around the world.

  7. Arjit Verma

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by trying to build up strong relations with the people around me or anywhere (friends, family, clients everyone. In 2012 i was really bad at this). Also try to patch up things with those who are not with me right now.

    Keep myself motivated may be by meeting new people,reading or any other way.

    Follow proper planning and time management techniques to have stability between the personal and professional life (For the last eight months I am in my office 24×7, need to get rid of this habit and have some time for myself).

    Learn Something New

    and yes EXERCISE!!!!!

  8. Vijeet Rathi

    Some great nuggets of wisdom there from Seth.

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by starting to do more than I talk. Be it professionally or otherwise, we all need to talk less and do more. A recent experience upheld that.

    Though I haven’t been selfish I haven’t even been selfless either. Want to do that and see.

  9. Vivek Yadav

    I will improve MY LIFE (and make world a better place) in 2013 by indulging myself in all the kinds of sports activities on regular basis which will keep me fit & make me feel confident. I will give around 30-45 minutes to physical exercise after my work & would ask all my friends, colleagues to do that.
    In today’s life working environment don’t forget yourself, be fit, look good, wake up-go for a jog, do sports which you like but have not done from several years.
    Live life healthy.

    1. Mohit Pawar

      Thanks Vivek!
      Health is wealth.
      Encouraging friends to do what is right – is even better. Not all will agree – but sure you can make a difference.
      You said it. I couldn’t have said it any better.
      To a healthy and good looking 🙂 You.

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