Henry Crown fellow Anand Giridharadas delivers his keynote address, “The Thriving World, The Wilting World, & You,” at the 2015 Aspen Action Forum.
I’m thrilled that almost everyone I meet has no idea who I am and what I do. Because I don’t want lots of people showing up and saying, “I read this, I read this, I read this. Can I have your autograph?” That’s not the point. The point is, will someone come up to me and say, based on what I learned from you I taught 10 other people to do this, and we made something that mattered.
.. Whereas, the other way to think about it is, how few people can I influence and still be able to do this tomorrow? Because if we can influence just enough people to keep getting the privilege to do it, then tomorrow there’ll be even more people. Because we’re doing something genuine that connects, as opposed to doing something fake that’s entertainment.
.. Oprah Winfrey problem, which is that every writer who wanted to make an impact 15 years ago dreamed that Oprah would pick them.
In a media-saturated world, we want to get picked. Like you, every day people show up to me and say, “pick me, put me on your blog.” If you would just talk about me, then my art will reach everyone I want to reach. But if we distinguish that from Darwin, the first lizard that crawled out of the mud and started walking on legs didn’t say to the media, “please pick me so that more for walking lizards could come along.” That’s not the way it worked; it’s bottom-up. So what I say to people is, I’m not in charge of what’s good. I don’t get to pick what’s a purple cow, what’s remarkable — anything. The world is, the bottom is, everybody, I’m on the bottom too, everyone is. So tell 10 people. There are 10 people who trust you enough to listen. And if you tell your thing to 10 people, if you send your e-book to 10 people, if you do your sermon to 10 people, or show your product to 10 people and none of them want to tell their friends, and none of them are changed — then you failed. You didn’t really understand what was good. But if some of them tell their friends, then they’ll tell their friends, and that’s how ideas spread. It’s this 10 at a time — 10 by 10 by 10. How do you put an idea in the world that resonates enough with people if they trust you enough to hear it. Then it can go to the next step and the next step.
.. I don’t have employees, so that way I don’t have meetings. I don’t spend time on Facebook and Twitter because that would be a huge suck of my time, and I could deny that I was wasting time, because everyone does it. The challenge for me with technology is this leveraging me in a way that makes me uncomfortable — that puts me in a spot where I have to dig deeper to do the work that I’ll be proud of. If that’s what it does, that’s what I want.
MS. TIPPETT: So your answer, if it’s harder, what did you say? If it’s challenging…
MR. GODIN: Right. If the leverage makes it harder for me to do that thing I’m defining as art, then I want to do it. The Kickstarter project I did — I did it because it was interesting, not because it was a financially important thing.
MS. TIPPETT: To raise the money for The Icarus Deception?
MR. GODIN: Right. But it wasn’t to raise money; it was to raise a tribe, to get 4,500 people to say, “we haven’t read it yet, but we trust you, go write it.”
.. Now those are pretty high stakes. And it meant I didn’t have any excuses left. I couldn’t say, well my editor wouldn’t let me do it, or my publisher wouldn’t let me do it because they weren’t a factor. It meant that these people trusted me and gave me a tool that could bring it straight to them. That raises the stakes.
.. the opportunity for each of us to be artists is that it’s precisely when you are doing something that no one has done before that you are not going to get the loudest applause, that you will not get picked. And that then requires us to develop some different kinds of internal resources. Right? I mean, how do we internally have faith in what we care about?
I was first introduced to this quote in Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s book The Way of Tenderness and was reminded of it after listening to Krista’s conversation with Eula Biss on whiteness, which we are re-airing this week. In the episode, Eula Biss helpfully articulates a truth about the silence around this topic: “If you can’t talk about something, you can’t think about something.”
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Today, in a wide-ranging, personal conversation with the anthropologist/explorer of the science of love, sex, and marriage, Helen Fisher. She’s well known for her TED talks and her research for Match.com, where she’s chief science advisor. When we fall in love, it turns out, it’s dopamine that makes us feel obsessed with the object of our desire, while chemicals released during sex activate a profound sense of bonding.
MS. TIPPETT: Another thing from your science that I was applying to that is you talked about how casual sex doesn’t really remain casual.
MS. FISHER: It’s not casual. Unless you’re so drunk you can’t remember.
MS. TIPPETT: And why? And why? I mean, how you can explain it, it’s because of what is set off in your brain and your body conspires to make you start feeling attached to this person.
MS. FISHER: Or in love, or both.
MS. TIPPETT: Or in love. Yeah.
MS. FISHER: Right. And, when you have orgasm, you get a real flood of oxytocin and vasopressin. And these are the basic bodily and brain systems for attachment.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. It’s like what mother’s get when they love their babies. It’s a primal…
MS. FISHER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, don’t have sex with somebody you don’t want to feel something for. I mean, people can do what they want to do. I’m not in the “should” business. But the bottom line is, if you don’t want to get attached to somebody, it’s easier to not sleep with them. [laughs]
MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.
MS. FISHER: Because you might end up being attached to somebody who really does not fit into your life.
MS. TIPPETT: And I think as — again, in this new world — I mean, I grew up in a very conservative, strict, Southern Baptist — you know, small town where you were saving yourself for marriage, like, and this was just an absolute. And now I kind of look back on that and see it as helpful in a way. Like it provided boundaries that were good so that you didn’t — I mean, I actually see these rules at a point.
MS. FISHER: Right. Human animal needs boundaries. And here we are in a society now where we don’t have any rules. Nobody knows what to do.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. And even in very religious cultures like that, where people are kind of crafting their path towards marriage with these religious rules, I still think all the messages that are coming at them about who you marry, and about the romance of that are coming from movies with happy endings, and all the love songs that we just — that we’re awash in at that age.
MS. FISHER: I remember…
MS. TIPPETT: And I wanted to ask you about that because I guess one of my kind of deeper concerns here with this subject is that somehow — I love your idea that this knowledge is power. And somehow our brains take us through these several, very powerful stages to getting to the point of being with other people. But somehow we need to figure out how to be intelligent and caring in this matter of long-term love and it seems like we have almost — it seems like our brains don’t do that for us.