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Making a Ruckus

Seth Godin Ruckusmakers Seminar
Photo 5S4A4099 by squid11 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’ve been a big fan of Seth Godin’s for several years. His insights into the world, which he generously shares in his daily blog
, often strike me as being quite brilliant and I wonder how it is that he can see things so clearly.

I regularly feel, when reading his blog, that he’s speaking directly to me, as if he knows exactly what I need to hear at a given moment. I’ve heard others voice the same feeling.

On a cold January day not long ago, everyone on Seth’s email list (which, I imagine, must number in the tens or hundreds of thousands) received an invitation to apply for a workshop Seth would be conducting in his village of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York in early March.

This was not the first time such an invitation had been extended. He holds similar events relatively regularly, and each time an invitation lands in my inbox, I give it a look, thinking how inspiring it must be to interact one-on-one with him. Typically, my daydream lasts a few minutes and I move on to what feels like more pressing matters—meetings, emails. You know the drill.

Seth Godin Ruckusmakers SeminarPhoto 5S4A3999 by squid11 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When the latest invitation arrived this past January, it felt like one of those times he was reaching out directly to me, somehow knowing what I needed to hear at that exact moment.

I clicked the link and read the description like I always do. Only this time, I was compelled to apply. I don’t know why, exactly. It was completely spontaneous. But something in me needed exactly that at exactly that moment, so I completed the short application, hit submit, and went on about my day.

I thought that would be the end of it. Given the thousands of subscribers to his blog, it seemed ludicrous that my application would even be noticed, and, besides, I was probably too late. They were only accepting 200 applications, after all, and of those, only 80 would receive invitations. 

Twenty-four hours later, I received an email letting me know my application had been accepted and I had less than 24 hours to accept. Say what?!

I knew, of course, that I had to accept one way or another. The goal of the Ruckusmakers workshop was, in Seth’s own words, “to create a posture of forward motion, a platform you can use to elevate your work, your company and your team.” I knew this could be a turning point for me, personally, and for Far Reach.

I presented the opportunity to my four fellow partners and received unequivocal support. They all felt, as I did, this was an opportunity not to be missed. They even suggested someone else attend with me and, with that, we decided Chris should also go. Boom. Done.

Fast-forward six weeks. After a very “planes, trains, and automobiles” kind of trip to New York, Chris and I arrived in Manhattan in the wee hours of the morning the day the workshop was to begin. We were scared, excited, apprehensive, and exhilarated all at the same time. These feelings stayed with me throughout the weekend, but would ultimately be overpowered by a true sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Chris Rouw at Meet and Greet
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The first evening was a kind of meet-and-greet, breaking the ice so we could begin digging right into the meat of the workshop the following morning. Participants came to this quaint little village from all over the world—Australia, Dublin, Paris, Alaska, California, Georgia, New York, Canada, Maryland, Kansas City, and on and on. On the train back to the city that night, it became exceedingly clear to me we were sharing company with a phenomenal group of people who would no doubt inspire, push, question, challenge, and give of themselves freely over the next two days.

Food At Ruckusmakers Workshop
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The event itself was put together and run by Seth’s staff and a group of pretty awesome volunteers. Everything, down to the food and refreshments, had been planned purposefully to support the theme of the workshop—identifying the change you want to make in the world and giving you the tools to actually ship your work.

Seth set up the weekend by letting us know that a willingness to be vulnerable would be required of each of us. We were to “get naked” if we expected to get what we needed from our time together. I don’t know about you, but being emotionally naked in front of a group of strangers is, for me, at least as terrifying as being physically so. Anyone who has read even a fraction of Seth’s work had to know this coming in, though. He has revisited the theme of quieting the lizard brain, doing the hard work, and creating your art in the face of real and perceived challenges over and over again. Doing this requires vulnerability—a lot of it.

Seth Godin Ruckusmaker Seminar
Photo 5S4A4082 by squid11 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Through small-group collaboration and an astounding amount of energy and generosity from Seth himself (who, by the way, thinks himself no different from anyone else, humility virtually pouring out of him), he led us down a path toward actually doing what we all knew we needed to do. He asked questions, answered them, challenged them, and through it all, inspired us to persevere past our Local Max, through the Dip, and on to our Big Max

He showed us that putting our fear aside and doing the work—despite not knowing the end when we begin and confronting the very real risk of failure all along the way—is essential to doing really great work, creating art, and changing the world. Doing the hard work involves identifying the change you wish to make in the world, deciding who your tribe is and how you’re going to connect with them, and delivering on your promise to them.

Listening to Seth Godin
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“People like
us do things like this” was a common mantra throughout the weekend. It’s a powerful statement because it describes why a tribe exists. If you know why your tribe exists, you know how to communicate with them. This is your path to change.

Chris and I came out of our time with Seth and the Ruckusmakers with an almost overwhelming amount of information and inspiration and have spent the weeks since processing it all. The lessons learned that weekend were many. Ultimately, I think, we understand much better where we are, where we need to go, and best of all, we have a plan to lead us there.

I can’t thank Seth, his staff, and all the truly remarkable people we met there enough for their generosity, vulnerability, engagement, and friendship. We’re truly honored to be a part of their tribe.