How Seth Godin can make a 2 question Application Transformative

Seth Godin @ MIT

I recently got an email from Seth Godin about an opportunity to attend a private 80 person workshop in Hastings, NY.

The application was a simple Google form asking two questions:

  • Why do you want to attend this workshop?
  • What product or contribution are you most proud of and why?

You can see my answers to these questions below, but first I wanted to highlight three reasons why this simple form was effective and inspiring.

First, by having to critically think through the answers to these questions the applicants are essentially selling themselves on why they want to go to the conference. My friend Patrick Bell and his wife Holly use a similar tactic when when selling their ESL Software at different Christian School conferences around the world. They run a contest during these conferences where they giveaway free software to one or two luck schools. To enter, the school representative or director simply has to fill out a form with all pertinent contact info and give three reasons why their school needs this software and how they will benefit form winning it. The 99% who don’t win the free software have basically made themselves even more qualified leads for Pat and Holly – convincing themselves further that the software is a value add to their current curriculum. Both the Bell’s and Seth’s approaches speak to the power of questions.

Second, the workshop application questions were powerful to answer, even if I did not get an invite (which I did by the way). To have to think critically and creatively and get to the root of Why would I want to attend a 2.5 day workshop that averages about $1500 per day? To flesh out what I’m most proud of was equally wonderful. Too often we wallow in discontent about our current circumstances and how we haven’t gotten ‘there’ yet; instead of pausing and evaluating what has gone well, what we have made and contributed, what we are proud of, what we have shipped. It is nice – and all too often rare – to measure backwards, recognizing the value we have created, the connections and impact we have made, and the fruit that has budded.

Third, the moment after I read Seth’s email invite that went out to his hundreds of thousands of followers, I thought: “That would be awesome.” Immediately, the lizard brain kicked in. Immediately, I began having self-defeating thoughts of why I was unworthy of getting picked. Immediately, I began thinking of excuses about why I shouldn’t apply. Immediately, I began telling myself why I wouldn’t get in, why I don’t have what it takes, why my answers to his questions were fake and laughable and stupid.

For Seth and his team, making people applying adds another step of vetting to the process of curating who attends. The applicant pool is now full of people willing to dance with fear and ignore – if not just momentarily – the resistance. And I’m proud to say I danced. I was like Pat Swayze in Dirty Dancing. I applied. (And I did in fact get picked – but that’s not the point.)

Now I haven’t decided if I am able to attend (it’s like four grand!).  While I’m sure it will be great, I’ve already gained so much from just applying. Is anyone surprised that Seth made a simple two question application transformative and inspiring? I’m not. This is how it should be. Thank you Seth.

Here’s my responses:

Why do you want to attend this workshop?

Since moving to a small mountain town in the Dominican Republic, the last three years have been what Seth describes as the ‘Thrash’. In many ways I am getting a masters in “failing forward.” This thrashing in pursuit of matterful & meaningful work has taken me from a sanitized corporate life in the Midwest to the mess of relationship-building and economic development work in the West Indies.
This messy-yet-beautiful tension has left me in a place where I’ve needed to look beyond myself and re-learn the value of asking for help. Through this workshop I would like to grow in my discernment of when to push through the dip and when to cut bait and run. To discern when fear is worth dancing with and when its a healthy response to a destructive situation.
Seth has been one of my literary mentors for several years and I am confident the other Ruckus Makers in attendance will be of one mind and heart. I want to attend this workshop because I am eager to cultivate new relationships that matter, and gain clarity with regard to the dip, thrash, and dance associated with my specific work.
Above all, I am hoping that my input and voice will be as valuable as that which I receive when I attend this workshop.

What project or contribution are you most proud of and why?

I am particularly proud of the Business Accelerator Program I have built to serve the developing community in which I live. The process has pressed and stretched me in ways I could not have imaged. It has pushed me to think critically about how to teach business basics to micro-entrpreneurs from a foundation of dignity, honesty, and integrity (elements often lacking in our business communities).
Though the program may only help a few people (time will tell), the value of having to set a direction, create something, press through the dip, and ship has been invaluable. While I’m extremely proud of the program, the emotional fitness and grit gained from pursuing something matterful is what I am even more proud of.
This process of battling the lizard brain, punching perfectionism in the throat, pushing through, and shipping has set me on an impact trajectory far and above staying in my comfortable cushy corporate consulting role may not have.
Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman

Right > Riches

Are we willing to do what is right, even at the expense of our business?

It seems to be in vogue to treat your employees with dignity and empower them to create, contribute, and collaborate. And this empowerment will result in a more flourishing business.

The economist would say to treat people and the planet right the extent to which you get a return and it puts money on your bottomline.

The karmic capitalist says that when we treat our people and planet right, profit will follow. And it often does.

But what about doing the right thing, for the mere sake of doing the right thing?

What if we slowed down to discern the ‘most right’ thing, and shifted our framework of making decisions to be about something other than ourselves/businesses/bank accounts?

Many times, doing the right thing works.

The way the triune God designed business, works. Designed to be an engine of redemption and restoration – to be an engine of “expression, connection, freedom and purpose” as Jonathan Fields puts it.

We’re seeing that it works. Look at the Warbys the Zapposes and the Joi de Vivres of the world and you see it working. Do right = company prospers.

But what about when it doesn’t ‘work’? 

What if doing the right things – the hard things – fails*?

What if the right things do NOT result in the abundant riches and worldly successes we hope for? What then?

It’s messy I know. There’s shareholders, and co-founders, and mother-in-laws, and a billion other constituents that share a stake in the successes and failures of businesses. There may not be a clear answer, but there is a clear call to action:

We (The Church, God’s People) must be prepared to support the leaders / the owners / the entrepreneurs / and the artists who choose to do the right things the right way and are rewarded with mockery, layoff, and ruin.

We as a community must position and ready ourselves to gives the decision-makers the freedom to choose right and know we’ve got their back – emotionally, spiritually, FINANCIALLY.

From a community perspective – pray we are ready. There are many great business leaders/owners who need to know that we support them to do the hard work of being Jesus to the business world.

And as change-makers, artists, and entrepreneurs – pray we are like Daniel and his cronies. Ready to seek the peace and prosperity of the land in which we are exiled, yet be completely unwavering in our commitment and devotion to the Lord. Whether that brings promotion and riches (like it did Daniel) or bring flame and teeth (also like it didDaniel and his buds).


*”Failure,” that is, by the world’s standards.