I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to them when I walk to work, when I’m going for a run, waiting in line or riding in a train or plane. I’m constantly adding to my collection and love trying out new ones (see the end of this post for my pod-roll). One of my favorites is The Tim Ferriss Show, where he interviews people “at the top of their mental and physical game” and asks them to deconstruct their day, food preferences, exercise habits and world view. Recently Tim interviewed one of my long time mentors, Seth Godin. It was a fantastic interview – check it out here.
Seth Godin, in case you haven’t heard of him, is a marketing and brand guru, but also an educator, a blogger, and an expert at making artisanal chocolate among many other things. Seth’s blog is a big reason I started blogging 5-6 years ago. He’s a strong believer in the discipline of writing and sharing something meaningful with the world. He writes every day, sometimes multiple times, but posts only his best idea. Apparently, a lot of the world listens to him. If you Google the word “Seth” his blog shows up as the first item in your search: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
Tim Ferriss asked Seth during his interview about time management. Seth is often asked to do projects and speaking gigs, and Tim asked him how says no to projects that come his way. Seth laid out his philosophy. “The phone rings and lots of people want a thing, and if it doesn’t align with the thing that is your mission, and you say yes, now it’s their mission. There is nothing wrong with being a wandering generality instead of a meaningful specific, but don’t expect to make the change you seek to make, if that’s what you do.”
Then Seth referenced another one of Tim’s interviews. This is when I started to pay attention, and stopped in my tracks. “Derek Sivers talks about offense vs. defense… Most people spend most of their life in defense, in reactive mode, in playing the cards they got, instead of moving to a different table with different cards. Instead of seeking to change other people, they are willing to be changed. Part of the arc of what I’m trying to teach is… everyone who can hear this has more power than they think they do. The question is, what are you going to do with that power, because it comes with responsibility.”
The offense vs. defense analogy was really helpful for me, because 1) I know just enough about sports to know that both tactics are important, and 2) I play defense more often than I probably should. I think for most of us, playing defense is automatic pilot. Playing offense requires a lot of thinking and plotting and usually comes with more risk. But, when I’m really in offensive mode – scheming on the next new project or thinking about a new idea – I feel more empowered, more engaged, more in control. So how can we turn on our “offensive game” more often?
Seth swears by daily blogging and I obviously agree with him. Regular writing (even if it’s not daily) is a great way to force your brain to process what it has learned and then respond in a thoughtful, proactive way (not just react). Many people swear by private journals or diaries for the same reason. You could also try going for a walk or a run – just the process of moving your body forward is kind of an offensive gesture which gets your brain thinking in that mode. Many people meditate or do yoga to get out of reactive mode and focus on the present.
The thing is, and Seth makes this point also in his interview, is that the world needs more offensive players. There are lots of people who will be obedient and do what is asked of them. The world needs more people who are willing to lead, to take risks, to think differently. The world needs us to play offense more often. There are real problems out there – environmental concerns, health issues, poverty, war, racism, children who are not getting an education – and we can help if we take a more active, more proactive role. This means carving out time to think, to plan, to organize our lives in a different way. So the next time someone asks you to do something, make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the really important, super awesome mission you have for yourself. Because that comes first.
“You are more powerful than you think you are. Act accordingly.” – Seth Godin
My current pod-roll (please share if you have other favorites!):