September 4

It’s Not for You

The criticisms that others levy upon you can obsess your thinking, espe- cially when negative feedback hits close to your insecurities. A particular critique targets an area that you’re already unsure about, and before you know it, you are adapting your work to make it more palatable to people who probably don’t care all that much anyway. At least they don’t really care about you or about the work you do as much as they care about making their own opinions heard.

I was speaking at a conference a few years ago, and one of the other speakers, Seth Godin, said from the stage, “The moment you are willing to say ‘it’s not for you,’ you are freed up to make art.” What he meant is that not everything you make is for everyone who experiences it. You need to deeply understand who you are making things for and be unashamed about crafting your work with that person in mind. And if other people simply don’t get it, it’s fine. You can say “it’s not for you.”

To be clear, that means your work might not bring you commercial success. But most of the work that becomes culturally defining began with a specific point of view and an audience for whom it was crafted.

Not everything you make is for everyone. Become comfortable saying “it’s not for you.”


Are you shaping your work around the opinions of people who don’t even care about what you’re really doing?

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