Linchpin – Seth Godin (Chapter 6: The Resistance)

In order to be an artist, you have to ship. The only point of starting something is to eventually finish it; as Godin puts it: “Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world.” (103)

“Thrashing” – brainstorming and adjusting; amateurs do this near the end of a project, professionals do it early. Have the discipline to get your thrashing done early and then be stubborn near the end when it’s time to ship.

Our creativity, what the Greeks called the Daemon and the Romans called “the genius”, stems from the neocortex – the newest part of the brain.

The part of us that just wants to survive, even at the expense of our art, is our lizard brain.

The lizard brain is newer and stronger than our neocortex; when both are fully activated and pitted against each other, the lizard brain usually wins.

“The challenge, then, is to create an environment where the lizard snoozes. You can’t beat it, so you must seduce it. One part of your brain worries about survival and anger and lust. The rest of it creates civilization.” (109)

“If we go down the list of behaviors that are highly valued because of their scarcity, almost all of them are related to bringing a conscious and generous mind to the work, instead of indulging our lizard brain’s reflexes of fear, revenge, and conquest.” (112)

(After explaining how even just simple eye contact can cause gorillas to go crazy at the zoo) “Eye contact, all by itself, is enough to throw your lizard brain into a tizzy. Imagine how scary it must be to set out to do something that will get you noticed, or perhaps even criticized.”

The lizard brain loves school – he can postpone putting himself on the line in the real world, and he’s fine obeying authority figures as long as they help him survive.

“A well-defined backup plan is sabotage waiting to happen. Why push through the dip, why take the risk, why blow it all when there’s the comfortable alternative instead? The people who break through usually have nothing to lose, and they almost never have a backup plan.” (116)

In order to be creative and come up with good ideas, you need to be willing to have terrible, and even dangerously bad ideas.

Your lizard brain hates the prospect of coming up with an idea so bad that others will laugh at it. But realize that this is an inevitable part of the idea-generating process, and that this process is the only way that you can ever come up with brilliant ideas.

A sub-title Godin uses in Chapter 6: “You Don’t Need More Genius. You Need Less Resistance.”

Your resistance is always comfortable with low expectations.

The less freedom you have in a given field, the less resistance you face. This is why it’s feels so natural to do a job where all you have to do is follow instructions.

“Our economy has reached a logical conclusion. The race to make average stuff for average people in huge quantities is almost over. We’re hitting an asymptote, a natural ceiling for how cheaply and how fast we can deliver uninspired work.” (123)

As a society, we’ve tried to establish an entire economic system where one can go through the motions, give in to their resistance (by doing menial jobs), and still be supported – but it’s just not working anymore.

“Don’t listen to the cynics. They’re cynics for a reason. For them, the resistance won a long time ago.” (126)

The resistance/the lizard brain exists “to make you safe, which means invisible and unchanged.” (127)

Signs that the lizard brain is at work:
-Procrastination
-You excessively criticize the work of your peers, thus unrealistically raising the bar for your work
-You criticize anyone who is doing something differently. If they succeed, it means you’ll have to do something differently too.
-Having an emotional attachment to the status quo
-Inventing anxiety about the side effects of a new approach
-Believing that it’s about gifts and talents, not skill
-Announcing that you have neither
 

A great tactic to combat resistance is to announce it out loud: “I’m doing this because of the resistance.” The lizard brain will retreat in shame.

 
“The difference between a successful artist and a failed one happens after the idea is hatched. The difference is the race to completion. Did you finish?” (136)

Anxiety is just a pointless form of fear, it’s fear about fear. The resistance is really anxiety; real fear is a response to actual threats and it’s a perfectly healthy response.

Reality is the best antidote for anxiety.

“You can’t make a useful map when you’re busy exaggerating the downside of every option.” (139)
 

The best way to overcome your fear of creativity, brainstorming, intelligent risk-taking, or navigating a tricky situation might be to sprint. When we sprint, all the internal dialogue falls away and we focus on going as fast as we possibly can.

You can’t sprint forever. That’s what makes it sprinting. The brevity of the event is a key part of why it works. (143-144)

 
It’s easier to work downhill than uphill. So take the time to build a better platform for you to launch your ideas from – this seperates the hard work of preparation from the sometimes scary work of creativity.

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