Don’t Hold Back! (And Other Lessons from Seth Godin)

This week, I had an opportunity to attend a lecture given by great mind (and marketer), Seth Godin. The talk was in support of Seth’s new book, The Icarus Deception, where he encourages readers to buck the old rules of economy – like “play it safe” and “don’t fly too close to the sun” – and instead get with the new truth: “it’s better to be sorry than safe and you need to fly higher than ever.”

Here are a few highlights from the talk:

Don’t Hold Back 

Seth asked the audience to “follow my instructions and raise your right hand as high as you can.” Accordingly, everyone’s right hand goes up.

One second later…”now raise it a little higher.” Everyone’s right hand goes up a little higher (including mine) as Seth says, “Hmm…what’s that about?” 

Then he said simply: We hold back so we don’t get stuck.

The Lesson: Don’t be afraid of getting stuck, it’s just another fear your mind has constructed to hold you back. What you are doing might not work, but don’t let that stop you from trying.

Don’t Obsess About Ducks


The front of the stage was neatly lined with yellow rubber duckies, all in a row (I honestly didn’t even notice this army of ducks on the stage at first because Seth’s presence and slide presentation were so compelling). Towards the end of the lecture, Seth picks up a duck and shares a gem from one of his books:

We’re surrounded by people who are busy getting their ducks in a row, waiting for just the right moment…Getting your ducks in a row is a fine thing to do. But deciding what you are you going to do with that duck is a far more important issue.tly didn’t evennotice this army of ducks on the stage at first because Seth’s presence and slide presentation were so compelling). Towards the end of the lecture, Seth picks up a duck and shares a gem from one of his books:

The Lesson: Act now. Don’t wait. What you’re trying might not work, but at least you’ve taken action.

Don’t Buy Farmville for Dummies 

Did you know there is a “Farmville for Dummies” book to teach users how to play the popular Facebook game? Seth’s reaction: “It’s invisible sheep! Just play it until you figure it out!”

The Lesson: Don’t be so risk-averse that you become dependent on aids, e-guides, how-tos or other people’s experiences. Take a chance. What you’re doing might not work, but it probably won’t ruin you.

Be OK with the Idea that “This might not work”

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the overall theme of Seth’s talk was “This might not work.” Plain and not-so-simply, this phrase is the reason many people fail to act. Their fear of this reality overcomes them and they are rendered stagnant. As you know, if you don’t act, you can’t change the world.

Seth proposes to think of this reality instead as a blessing, “a chance to fly and do work you never thought possible.”

How will you take Seth’s lessons and apply them to your business and life?  

Nidhi Thapar helps small businesses and solopreneurs make money and do good. Please head to her website to learn how incorporating a social mission into your brand makes a better business. 


  1. Great post!

    I agree with Seth wholeheartedly!! For many years I allowed not being able to get my ducks in a row to keep me from pursuing my dream…. then one day a friend urged me to start where I was.  I’m so glad I took the advice.  While I am still slow-going… at least I’m finally going!

    Thank you so much for sharing this, totally made my day :-)

  2. Seth Godin is always provocative and this is great advice —  I am learning that from someone who definitely didn’t hold back — Emma Gatewood.  I’ve spent the last two years working on a multi-part project about her life (Wait, you don’t know who she is? — Emma was the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67 after raising 11 children and surviving domestic abuse!).  I’m learning from Emma that following a dream (no matter how crazy it seems) can let you reach new heights (in her case — LITERAL new heights!).  And Seth is so right — you’ll never get there if you wait ’til all those ducks are ready!  (you can find out more about my project an Emma at: and watch our documentary trailer at: )

    My ducks and are going — hope you do, too!

  3. Dear Nidhi,

    Thanks so much for the reminders and encouragement.  In developing my consulting practice I am stepping out way past my comfort zone in so many ways.  I have a commitment to write, and have signed up for 5 blogs.  I am now writing a book that I will likely self-publish, all while I work toward completing my doctoral dissertation! 

    You (and Seth) said it right:  risking=learning.  Who cares if you fail or make a mistake?  Failure and mistakes are the best education.  My first attempt at having a website is now filling in.  You can check it out at Research Responsive School (  I’d love your feedback and the feedback of other Eve’s.  Happy New Year!

  4. I’m guilty of wanting to get all my ducks in a row before embarking on bigger things.  I also think that not every new venture: business, personal, etc. has to be “big.” It’s okay to have a business or an opportunity that isn’t famous or marketed 24/7/365, even in today’s world. That’s especially important when managing home and family + other things.

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