Thursday, February 25, 2021

My Biggest Lesson


Audio only.

Script below...

On the day that Seth Godin fired me, he told me one of the most important things I've ever learned—and gave me some very good advice. Apparently, Woody Allen once said that “showing up is 80 percent of life." (The quote was attributed to Allen by Annie Hal co-writer Marshall Brickman in The New York Times.)

In the year 2005, I helped launch a business with Seth called Squidoo. It was an online content development platform that sat somewhere between social media and blogging, and I was intrigued by the possibilities it offered people who might not be naturally drawn to social media or blogging—but who still had something they knew that they could share online. It kind of became a white hat SEO platform and later ran with curated Web directories like Guy Kawasaki’s AllTop and Jason Calacanis’s Mahalo. Squidoo was bought by HubPages well after I left, in 2014.

In any event, for a year, I worked almost every day within 10-20 feet of Seth, in an old industrial building on the shore of the Hudson River. And at the end of one year, almost to the day, he fired me—and what he said to me that day changed my life and has informed and affected my career ever since. Now, to be fair, it's a little overly dramatic to say that Seth fired me but it does make a better story. Regardless, our arrangement had been for a year, and at the end of that year, we decided to part ways. We sat on a bench, after lunch, outside along the Hudson River near River Road and Main Street by the Irvington train station. And we talked about how I’d been showing up, and how that demonstrated my commitment to and interest in our collective efforts. Or my lack thereof.

If you're going to get involved in a startup, make sure that you are all in. Be 100 percent committed. Don't aim for a safety net or hedge your next steps or your bets. It does you, your partners, and the startup a disservice. Take full advantage of your opportunities and access to the people, resources, and ideas around you.

Looking back, even though I worked with Seth for a year I squandered the opportunity. At the time, I told myself I had reasons: a bad breakup leaving Fast Company, my son had just been born, I was flying back and forth to California every four to six weeks, and the commute from Brooklyn was just too dang long. But if I’d been more present, invested, and engaged, I'd be a different man perhaps. Though I quite like the man I’ve become, I'll not get that opportunity again. Some ships sail once.

Because Seth was right. Woody Allen was right. Showing up is 80% of life. You have to go where you need to be when you're invited to be there to take full advantage of situations, opportunities, and relationships.

I'd like you to take a moment today to think of one area in your life in which you're not currently fully committed, invested, or involved—and commit to changing that. Think of at least one thing you can do to become more involved in an area of your life.

You're not going to win the lottery if you don't buy a lottery ticket. You're not going to win the race if you choose not to even run. And 15 years later I still wish that I'd approached the opportunity to work with Seth differently.

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