Seth Godin and My Guest Post with Michael Hyatt

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First things first. Before you do anything else, click here to check out my guest post today at www.MichaelHyatt.com on “5 Ways to Keep Moving Forward When You Hit a Wall.”

It’s a privilege to have my post appear on Michael’s site today, especially so close to the release of his outstanding new book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Don’t buy it yet — as he will be the first to tell you. Buy it next week and you’ll get a wealth of extra growth tools.

For those of you visiting my site from the Seth Godin live “Pick Yourself” event that we just experienced in NYC, Michael’s new book promises to be the new bible for being loud. Seth would be proud. In fact, Seth’s last words to me Wednesday were “First, be loud.” Read my post. Leave a comment. Buy Michael’s book next week. And grow.

Next a reminder to subscribe to my site before midnight tonight, Friday, May 18, to be eligible for one of ten free copies of my latest project with Hugh Hewitt. The Study Guide Edition of In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and a Desire to Influence the World will hit the shelves the same day as Michael’s book — next Tuesday, May 22.

I was privileged to partner with my friend Hugh to take what was already an excellent, life-transforming work and make it even more accessible for small groups and personal use. I crafted both a study guide and downloadable free Leader’s Guide based on a decade of teaching its principles. Both books come from the great people at Thomas Nelson

So don’t delay: enter your e-mail in the upper right and you’re in. I don’t do the spam thing. In fact, I try to leave you alone although I welcome any conversation you want to have about life and faith. Plus subscribers get fresh alerts of new blog posts and the link when my blog shifts to the leading religious thought portal Patheos.com next week. And if you are not following Hugh regularly for current cultural and political perspectives, you simply must at HughHewitt.com.

Now, about Seth Godin.

As you can tell from my tagline, connecting real life with real faith is pretty important to me. So on my recent day in NYC with Seth Godin and other creative Triiibes members, I asked a question of him that had been puzzzling me.

In his book Tribes: We Neeed You to Lead Us, Seth discusses the difference between faith and religion. He says that faith is belief. Religion is the organization of rules that follows behind it. They are not the same thing. He is right, of course. He calls for “heretics” who are willing to challenge established religion based on what they believe. Think Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Dell in business, etc.

I am experiencing a good example of this distinction even as I type these words in the Newark Liberty Airport. When the Wright brothers launched on a beach in Kitty Hawk, they were heretics. Safety was not in their top ten concerns. They believed man could fly. Now, the religion of flight safety has been built in an attempt to preserve the fulfillment of that belief for all – or almost all. Some terrorists just can’t get on. In this air safety religion, there are cultural norms, rules, rituals, and regulations that govern the many agencies and bureaucracies charged with preserving the sacred belief. Anyone who suggests that there may be a better way to meet the same end is today often decried as a heretic. Look at any institutional church or denomination and you’ll see similar efforts to preserve religion over rethinking and advancing the core beliefs that empowered the organization at its outset.

My question to Seth was essentially this: For beliefs to take hold and spread, don’t they need to be scalable to have any chance of long-term success? And doesn’t scalability require religion – an organizational structure or system of thinking, however loosely defined, that gives boundaries and support to the belief? I understand that the most urgent need is often for a heretic to simply overcome his or her fears and speak out, but what happens after that will determine the difference between long-term success and flash-in-the-pan novelty. Seth himself has not only spoken out but taken intentional action to provide structure for a tribe organized around the belief that we should all question everything and take disruptive action to nudge us toward change. A loose, self-censoring religion exists even evident at the NYC event the other day.

So does faith inevitably result in religion? And is that necessarily a bad thing? If it is bad, where does that leave us? Do we live then simply to challenge the next religion? How do we avoid the vanity of worshipping at the church of “the new” with our slogan being “the next heresy must be better”?

When I followed up with Seth briefly after the event, he did acknowledge that eventually some systems will need to be put in place by the heretic or others to ensure the heresy is scalable and true to it’s intended impact. He stressed that the first step is to First: Be Loud! Understood. Certainly that’s where most people fail. But it would seem that religion can and should be faith’s friend rather than it’s enemy since they will be inevitably and inexorably connected.

Is the key then to figure out how best to keep a vibrant connection between the faith and the religion that follows?

Any thoughts? I welcome all comments on this topic here and on the other post at Michael’s site today. Would love to hear from fellow Seth Godin “Pick Yourself” event attendees with their thoughts, too.

12 Responses to “Seth Godin and My Guest Post with Michael Hyatt”

  1. Jeff Goins May 18, 2012 at 8:52 AM #

    Wow. Are you that tall, or is Seth that short?

  2. BillintheBlank May 18, 2012 at 9:23 AM #

    Both. I’m 6’4″ so you can do the math from there. And that’s the most pithy insight you have on this topic?? LOL

  3. Donnie Scearce May 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM #

    Many groups (organizations, churches, clubs, etc.) pass through the stages of:
    - Man (or woman as founder or reluctant leader)
    - Movement (as the vision spreads and takes hold)
    - Machine (as it looses it organizes, gets bigger, it looses it’s edge)
    - Monument (it dies)

    Such is the all but inevitable path of most enterprises, unless they can find cyclical renewal through painful courageous choices often led by the “heretic” or revolutionary or rebel as they will be labeled by those around them. Only later generations of the “normal” may ackowledge their positive impact.

    • BillintheBlank May 18, 2012 at 10:32 AM #

      Thanks, Donnie. But how to do that? What steps are best to take to find the “cyclical renewal” and avoid falling into the all but inevitable path?

      What can the heretic do to encourage the religion that comes behind keeps the faith alive? Or is that where more faith comes in?

  4. Brett May 18, 2012 at 9:35 AM #

    I recently listened to as many of Peter Drucker’s 15 CD ‘Management’ before the library demanded it back from me.  The two streams he kept affirming were (and I might have the terms wrong) management and entrepreneurship. Each organization has to manage and guide and lead and operate but can’t lose an entrepreneurial spirit. 

    The heretic might be the entrepreneur (see also Martin Luther vis-a-vis the Catholic Church), bu then an organization (religion, Protestantism, Lutheran denomination) develops to support and proliferate it.

    The org doesn’t have to change its belief, but it has to continue to be entrepreneurial. The danger is when an org rests in the glow of current success and doesn’t build in systematic forward thinking.

    • BillintheBlank May 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM #

      Exactly, Brett. Often the two require different personalities and skill sets. So is the heretic the best person to put the organization in place behind the idea? I’m thinking of Steve Jobs and now his successor at Apple. Some say the company is now on better footing.

      My concern is that maintaining the status quo always seems to lead to a loss of the belief eventually. The intent of religion is to continually stir up the belief. But if it loses sight of the core belief, is that when the problems arise and another heretic is needed?

      • Brett May 21, 2012 at 5:47 AM #

        It’s tough using the ‘heretic’ term in relation to religion because we’re not talking about coming up w/ new belief to grow an organization, but stirring it up–like you said. I think about North Point Church down here in Atlanta. Stanley is great at keeping the message biblical yet relevant. But I’m pretty sure there’s a ‘Tim Cook’ somewhere in the organization that keeps the joint moving along efficiently. In the church world, it seems that the ‘heretic’ is always some church planter or fiery prophetic type preacher to encourage new perspective (Giglio, Chan, Platt). But I’m trying to type this while my 3 yr old twins are asking me 20 questions. But I’ll still hit ‘send.’

  5. Jerryrm2k May 19, 2012 at 6:45 PM #

    The human condition controls even the best of intentions. It is inevitable that beliefs, widely enough held, will become religion. The vision of sharing beliefs and the common sense desire to do that with increasing effectiveness and efficiency, journeys naturally to religion. The power struggles within the organization determines the direction and speed. Once plateaued for a sufficient time, the culture becomes cemented and the religion validated. Too cynical? I have been observing this in many organizations over many years and would like to think this is really off base, but . . . 

    • BillintheBlank May 20, 2012 at 1:36 PM #

      Jerry,

      I agree that is almost — maybe always? — the reality of what happens. Then a heretic is needed to challenge the accepted religion. It  may be a minister in a churhc setting, a competitor in a busines setting, or a fresh voice in the community/political setting.

      Is suspect that there is a way if for no other reason than Jesus seemed to think it was possible though it would be difficult. What I get from his teaching is that it can only happen with some mneans of continual and authentic reenaggement with the core beliefs. Isn’t that where regularly convening with other “believers” becomes critical to long-term success?

      We see this more easily in the network-marketing industry where weekly, monthly, and special meetings are critical to any chance at multiplication and momentum.

      I think the original culture of the organization must be committed to continuous improvement from the outset as one of its core beliefs. Then the leaders must act with integrity to that core value since everything rises and falls on leadership.

      • Jerryrm2k May 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM #

        Most organizations, including (especially) religious ones, seem to have their unique personalities. Unless deceptively marketed, which many (most?) are, they will attract compatible personalities of people. This generally overcomes original intent and values in the long run. That is why so many die such a slow death. Participants peel away as they lose sense of creditable purpose.

        Your last paragraph would speak to a solution–the only one that makes sense to me; however, our humanity will eventually infiltrate through generations of leadership and the process must start all over again.

        This perspective has helped me to take the measure of idealistic approaches of organizations with which I participate and try to influence them with sustainability strategies of the legacy values we too often assume.

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