Seth Godin on the Importance of Consistency and the 4 Elements that Make You an Artist
The Difference Between Authenticity and Consistency
One of the element I find particularly interesting is that Godin makes a key distinction between authenticity and consistency. Authenticity is a world that has been trending in the last few years, and is often used to say that one’s actions are coming from a place that is so pure and real that this is the way.
And here is what Godin has to say about it:
And where we get upset with people is when they are inconsistent, when they change their story, grab some low hanging fruit, when they pander to the thing in the moment.
“I think there is a difference between authenticity and consistency. No one has been authentic since they were lying in their diapers covered in poop, because everything after that is a cultural response. And we make choices about who we are, and what we believe is based on what we think will work at some level. And where we get upset with people is when they are inconsistent, when they change their story, grab some low hanging fruit, when they pander to the thing in the moment.
The reason I want to push on this is because it lets people hide in the following way:
If you think that you were born to paint in oils, or you were born to speak the Truth about income inequality, it’s just not true. If Vincent Van Gogh was born today, he would not work in oils, if Steve Jobs was born 500 years ago, he would have done something else. So what is the authentic version of Vincent Van Gogh? There isn’t one. What there is, is someone who sought out a series of emotions that he could create for himself and gift that he could gift to other people with his work. What I’m getting at is, yes we need to be consistent in honoring the truth of what we came to say, but I also know that if I had been born one block away from where I was born, to different parents, if I had been born in Yugoslavia, the fact that I’m here talking to you would have never occurred. This is not the authentic of my DNA.”
This is a very powerful idea to me. It can sound a bit unnerving to think that whatever you have picked as your calling card is really a choice you made out of the choices available to you depending of your country, gender, and our Time.
But it also says that whatever you’ve picked, what will make a difference is your attitude toward it. It’s going at it and deciding to do it again, and again, and again until you’ve built up skills, until you’ve connected with peers, until you’ve made it your own.
Godin takes it further, explaining why calculations are crucial, and what that means for artists:
The Importance of Consistency
You need to be consistent in order to be able to keep doing your work in a way that other people will appreciate.Because if you’re a wandering generality, we don’t know when to listen to you, because who are you trying to please today?
“We always make calculations. There is just different flavors of calculations that we put in different pockets to permit us to function. If we were all skewing whatever felt authentic to us, we would all have no followers, we would be walking on the street dressed in whatever we decided to dress that morning without regard of what other people thought. None of it works.
What society puts on top us every morning is a whole set of calculation. So now we say, if we’re going to calculate, let’s calculate this way:
Number one, you need to be consistent in order to be able to keep doing your work in a way that other people will appreciate. Because if you’re a wandering generality, we don’t know when to listen to you, because who are you trying to please today? So that’s a calculation: there are certain choices that I’m going to make about what I’m going to do and I’m going to be consistent in them.
But then we say: but what does it mean to be an artist? And for me, being an artist means: you’re doing human, generous work, that might not work, that changes someone else for the better. Those are the four elements. There is no question we all have the capacity to do that. Everyone listening to this toddler’s joke when they were three, doing something interesting with watercolors when they were five, who told someone the truth when they were seven, somewhere along the way, everyone has made something that meet those four criteria. And then we decide that society doesn’t want us to keep doing that.”
The Four Elements that Make You an Artist
So Godin’s says, the four elements for being an artist are:
- Doing Human work
- Doing Generous work
- Doing work that Might Not Work
- Doing work that Changes Someone Else for the Better
And following all that Godin said before I would add:
- Doing work with consistency
as a FIFTH element. To me that’s when someone really goes from being a good human to being an artist.
What do you think about this distinction between consistency and authenticity?