[This is a post I wrote on the afternoon I received an acceptance email from Seth Godin to participate in his Summer 2013 internship. I didn’t publish at the time, but after finding it in my drafts folder today, it feels like a good time to share. You can read about my lessons from the project in this post.]
This post is ironic.
One of the core concepts Seth Godin refers to is the idea that being picked is overrated. Instead, we should strive to pick ourselves. We should start projects that are meaningful, fulfilling, and that create impact in the world. That message has influenced me ever since I read Linchpin in college, which was a transformative experience for me.
To take a step back for just a minute, Seth Godin is one of the most well known visionaries and marketers in the world, both online and off. He’s the bestselling author of 17 books, one of the most prolific bloggers in existence, creator of Squidoo, creator of The Domino Project, and on and on. Seth has served as a teacher and “mentor” of mine since I picked up that Linchpin book. I use the word “mentor” in that way because of the fact that we have had no direct relationship. We’ve exchanged a few emails, he allowed me to republish one of his posts on the Living for Monday blog, etc.
In mid May 2013, Seth announced his latest project, or should I say latest idea for a project. Seth posted on Squidoo that he was accepting applications to become a member of his fourth team of interns. I’ve kept track of the interns from past projects and their trajectories have been nothing short of incredible. The projects they’ve created and the growth they’ve shown has been positively inspiring to my life and my work. When I saw the opportunity pop up, I only thought about it for a couple hours before deciding to apply.
I put my best foot forward as I completed my application, but I went out of my way to remain authentically me. I didn’t script anything, and I didn’t push the boundaries of the truth to up the value of my application. I was me. My assessment of my skills and value-adds for the project was honest. My video was authentically me and I demonstrated what I know to be true about myself in as succinct a manner as possible. Once I was sure I had completed the application as I wanted, I hit submit and went about my business.
My logic was simple. I had just submitted an application that would almost certainly go into a queue against thousands. I was waiting to be picked, and that’s never anything to bet on. In addition, Seth made it clear in his posting that not being picked would have nothing to do with lack of ability or potential, but rather lack of space for infinite interns.
My attitude was simpler. I had done my best. I was authentic. If I was a good fit and it was meant to happen, it would happen. I left it at that. I didn’t let the thoughts consume me as I waited to hear back. I didn’t set any big expectations. I was at peace with whatever happened. Based on the posting, I fully expected not to hear back until June 15th. Apps were due May 31, 2013, and I assumed that meant Seth would need some time to sift through…
…Until I received an email today at 4:49pm from Seth. “Yep, you’re in,” he said. I read those words and then reread the email several times to make sure I hadn’t missed something or wasn’t the subject of some cruel joke. When I realized it was the real deal and the opportunity I had in front of me, I felt one of the strongest waves of emotion I have ever experienced in my life. I ‘ve heard the term “overwhelmed with emotion” on multiple occasions, but I’ve only even come close to that feeling on a couple of occasions. One was when my Poppy (grandfather) died. Another was when I got a job as a college orientation leader. This was the third, and by far the most overwhelming of all.
What all three experiences had in common were the unexpected nature of the news. When my grandfather died, we knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. I was also young enough that it hit me like a ton of bricks, but I don’t think I realized the magnitude to which a lost grandfather would affect my future thoughts and desires. The second was surprising, but I knew exactly when I would hear back with results.
This experience, however, was so unexpected that I didn’t know what to do. Tears of joy swelled into my eyes, I stood up and I did the Rocky pose with my hands in the air, looking out the window of my girlfriend’s house. I let the tears fall, even though I usually don’t. It was too great of an occasion to restrain my true feelings. My emotions were accentuated by a long week of hard work and small wins, not enough sleep, and the accumulation of the grind over the last (almost) two years. This seemed to finally be a breakthrough for me. A real win. Something to hang my hat on.
I told many of the people I care about most and asked them to withhold the news or any kind of public congratulations out of respect for the process and Seth’s official announcement (plus an ongoing, but decreasing fear that some mistake had been made). I let it all sink it as I talked to a few people on the phone and walked them through what it was that had just happened.
As I sat down and the adrenaline began to fade away, I felt a different feeling. It was the lizard brain, immediately poking out and testing the waters. I felt the fear of not being able to deliver. I felt the fear of not being able to meet the expectations. I felt the pressure and responsibility that comes with this kind of news.
But, as I always do, I bopped the lizard on the head and shoved it back in its hole. Today is no day for lizard brain thinking. Today is the beginning of yet another new journey. I quickly realized that, yes, perhaps being picked was an accomplishment, and one to be proud of at that. But being picked is really just a door being opened to seize the real opportunity, which comes next.
Now we get to do the real work of building relationships amongst a high-performing team. But perhaps more importantly, now the journey begins to create something of truly lasting value that ignites our sense of purpose, pushes us to fulfill our greatest potential, and makes a lasting impact in the world. That’s why I considered the opportunity to begin with. Not to be picked, but to change the world.
And so, in the closing words of Seth’s email, “Here we go.”
Here we go.