When Will You Sacrifice Good for Great? Cover

When Will You Sacrifice Good for Great?

“It took a long time to blog like me.” I’ll never forget that sentence.

By the time Seth Godin dropped it in a 2016 interview, the man had written over 6,000 blog posts, publishing daily for nearly 20 years. Every time I hear him speak, I question why I do what I do.

I love writing. I want to be great at it. But I also want to ensure I can keep doing it, even if that means not doing it some of the time. And so I hedge. I diversify. I put my hands in more and more honey pots until one of them is stuck. Stuck in an average project, stuck in a new income stream, stuck trying to squeeze out another 10% gain. Of course, I’d need that hand to master the next 1% of writing. But it’s stuck so I can’t — until I let go.

When will you sacrifice good for great? That is the question.

It’s easy to think you’re committed. Easy to think you’re doing everything you can. But are you really? Seth thinks, most of the time, we don’t. We just tell ourselves a story.

Most of the people who are watching this — and you, and I — in many of the things that we endeavor to do — we’re just not that good at it. It’s a mistake to fool yourself into thinking you’re as good at songwriting as Bob Dylan, or you’re as good at rapping as Macklemore.

How many songs have you written? How many words? How focused were you on writing each one? Did you do it with intention? As a side gig? Sitting on the toilet while listening to a podcast? Should we really engage with what you made? Is it actually for us? Or just a byproduct that fell out of your money-making machine?

I get emails all the time from people who say, “Look at this work I do, it’s awesome, why aren’t I more popular?”

Well, number one, we haven’t understood what it’s for and why you want to be more popular, but, number two, because you’re not that good.

You could be good, but you haven’t put in the 10,000 hours, the 1,000 hours, or the blood and the sweat and the tears to actually be good at it.

Not all creative time is equal. There’s routine, and then there’s innovation. Are you churning out the same product again and again like a souvenir shot glass manufacturer? Or are you making art? Are you actually experimenting?

“It took a long time to blog like me.”

We are living in the most crowded creative universe in history. There aren’t three TV networks, there’s a billion. There aren’t ten record labels, there’s a billion. So you’re not entitled to any attention. You’re not entitled to any leverage. But if you dig ever deeper in the stuff that truly matters, you may earn some attention.

At some point, to keep digging deeper, to keep pushing right into the heart of what matters — whether it’s the future of podcasting, muffin recipes, or how to feed people in need — you’ll have to sacrifice good for great. You’ll have to abandon all the 10% jumps; the quick speaking gig at your friend’s company, the new marketing platform you totally have to try, and, yes, even the side hustle that might allow you to keep writing if your main gig collapses.

Why? Because greatness demands focus. Dedication. Commitment. Sacrifice. Not “wishes for.” Not “ideally.” Demands. If your sacrifice doesn’t hurt, it’s not a sacrifice. It’s a compromise, and it’s not working. Because the one thing greatness demands not, nay, forbids, is compromise.

“It took a long time to blog like me.”

If you go back to my blog posts from 10 years ago, more than half of them are way below average. But a lot of people blog six times and they say, “Why don’t I have a million followers?”

If you don’t have a million followers, it’s because your work is unfit to help a million people. You’re just not that good at it. You could be good, and I hope you will be. But don’t point anywhere except the mirror until you get there.

When will you sacrifice good for great? I’ll never forget that question.