Book Review — The Practice

I just finished Seth Godin’s latest book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. Seth is one of my favorite bloggers and I recommend subscribing to his blog.

The main thing I got out of The Practice is validation, one more respected thought leader’s voice reiterating that great work comes from one’s own practice of consistently doing the work, whatever that work might be, and letting outcomes manifest as a result.

What constitutes a “creative” is also expanded to a real-world view in the book when Godin points out that virtually all our endeavors in life have creative aspects. We are all, in essence, creatives.

So much self-help material focuses on goals and objectives. They seek to help us solidify the target in the future while often not helping us much with determining how to get there. Godin takes an alternate approach.

Think of the writer who writes every day, the artist who paints or sculpts every day, the tech startup CEO who sets aside uninterrupted time for nothing but idea generation, the retail clerk who engages in self-reflection every day to further improve their service, or the knitting craftsperson who watches an instructional video every day to improve what they do.

There is no pursuit, professional or otherwise, that does not benefit from having a personal practice that pushes one through the ups and downs of engaging deeply and meaningfully in an interest.

I see a personal practice as establishing some sort of routine, a habit even, by which you dedicate a certain amount of time or chunk of your life to pursuing one (or more) things that are important to you. It might be your day job career, or it might be another way you offer your unique gifts to the world.

As an example from my own life, I often dedicate a certain amount of time each day to two specific pursuits, reading and writing. That’s my practice. Your practice might look entirely different. My practice might look different over time. It’s having a practice in place that matters.

Godin’s point that he emphasizes over and over in the book is that most people do not reach a desired objective by willing it so or simply pointing themselves in that direction. Only dedication to a practice, a personal strategy for learning and creating, making mistakes and correcting them, then learning and creating some more, ad infinitum, brings about the success most of us seek. The process never ends. The practice continues day in and day out with hopefully some wonderful outcomes that manifest along the way. But the outcomes are not the focus, the practice is what serves as the foundation for those eventual outcomes.

Not only might you engage in a consistent personal practice of some sort to move your pursuits into more successful territory, but what you create should be offered to your consuming public (assuming you create for others) in the spirit of generosity, in the hope of making one or more person’s lives better as a result of your gift. At the same time, your audience of those people you are trying to reach need not be everyone. In fact, no one can appeal to everyone. Your audience need not be huge, just fully engaged with what it is you do and create.

Godin uses art as the metaphor throughout the book because he sees art in most of what we do. One does not need to be an artist in the traditional sense to be an artist in the practical sense.

Keeping with the art metaphor, Godin provides a summary of his viewpoint.

“The path forward is about curiosity, generosity, and connection. These are the three foundations of art. Art is a tool that gives us the ability to make things better and to create something new on behalf of those who will use it to create the next thing.”

Check out the book. Godin’s advice tends to be good no matter what he is talking about and this is no exception.

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