Live from TED2014

Everything I’ve learned I learned from clarinet practice: Seth Godin at TED2014

Seth Godin. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Seth Godin. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

As a child, Seth Godin played the clarinet. Or — he tried .. sort of. At TED2014, he explains how he trudged through lessons, never trying hard enough to produce a note that sounded like the ones he heard from “real” clarinetists. “I took lessons,” he says, “but I’m not sure I actually played the clarinet.”

“I didn’t care enough to put myself into it in a way that touched another person,” he says. “Part of it is the world in which we’re growing up … No one sat me down and said, ‘None of this matters if you can’t play a single note that people actually want to hear.’”

This world, he says, is full of people who put the bar a little higher than the point they actually expect one to reach. “You learn at the age of four that teachers and coaches and bosses would ask for a little bit more,” Godin says, “so you knew you could hold a little bit back .. It’’s safer to hold back, to care just a little bit less. ”

But, Godin says, the reward of putting your full self into even just one thing — whether that is hacking, learning, dancing, leaping — outweighs the safety of only coasting by, putting a pinch of effort into a mountain of things to save yourself the risk of not meeting expectations. “We’re so eager to put another thing on the pile because it’s safer,” he says. “It gives us a way to protect ourselves. We make the menu longer instead of making one dish people are willing to drive across town to buy.”

“We need to care enough to connect, care enough to put ourselves at emotional risk to touch other people and play one note that’s worth hearing,” Godin says.  “We’re probably going to succeed — that’s a given,” he says. “… The question is not that, but will you choose to matter? Will you choose to actually make music?” Godin wants you to remember this, because as he’s learned, the music is worth it.