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The law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to gratitude

It’s not every day you have the opportunity to meet someone like Seth Godin. His work has influenced my perspective on work, bravery, and art in a profound way.

Books and the internet have created this funny situation where you can tell someone honestly they’ve made a big difference in your life the first time you meet them. That kind of power is intense.

As someone who writes and creates things (my podcast and newsletter), I feel like I can relate to Seth in some ways, and not at all in others.

I’m writing this under the assumption you know who Seth Godin is. Here’s a refresher.

Why do we create?

There’s no shortage of reasons. Some feel called, some want money, some just love it, some feel all three and a hundred other reasons combined. It’s a deep, challenging question. The answer to any question starting with why tends to be difficult to define. But at the core of all our work is the desire to matter. This pursuit is the most difficult to attain, because internal expectations tend to never be met.

But when you look at someone whose work matters to you and many others, you can’t help but wonder what it would be like. What happens when you get there? After you’ve made it, when the money is no longer an issue, when your work matters to people, when they seek you out, what then?

I think I found out in a 10 second conversation.

Seth spoke at a conference in Indianapolis and my company was exhibiting. With that came the opportunity to attend a breakfast reception and see him speak. Our leadership team let me attend, and I was pumped. The talk was great, but the most poignant moment for me was the 10 seconds I spoke to him during the book signing after.

When you meet someone you look up to, you can’t help but feel like an idiot in the moments leading up to it. What do I say? How do I say something in these 10 seconds that will help me stand out? I don’t want to be just another person in this long line. It’s almost always a futile effort.

But as I was standing in line, I got thinking about what I would want to hear if someone was in line to meet me. It’s difficult to imagine the scenario, but if people stood in line to meet me because of what I’d created, what would I appreciate?

I went through probably five or 10 different scripts in my head as I moved through the line.

In the end I shook Seth’s hand and said thank you. Linchpin was the first of Seth’s work I read during college, and to this day it’s one of my favorite books, so I let him know.

He put his hand over his heart, nodded to me, and said thank you so much.

That hit me. It was earnest, and I realized some things change and some things don’t as you continue your journey as a creator.

The money doesn’t mean as much as you acquire more, the fame may not be what its cracked up to be, but thank you never gets old.

The emails and feedback I’ve received from my work are far and away my biggest highlights. Hearing that someone was positively affected by something you made brings the highest level of satisfaction. It’s hard to describe.

I realized that feeling doesn’t go away. There’s no question Godin has had thousands of people tell him thank you, and that his work matters to them. But his reaction tells me that feeling doesn’t go away. The law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to gratitude. 

If saying thank you still matters to someone who has heard it thousands of times, then think about what it means to someone who hasn’t. I think about all the people whose work I follow and have enjoyed, whether they are national bestsellers or personal bloggers, Hollywood film directors or YouTubers. It doesn’t have to change your life, but if it brought you joy, or taught you something, then it’s worth letting them know.

So here is a short list of some people whose work has meant something to me. I hope you’ll shoot a quick note to whoever is on your list.

Thank you Seth, Justin, Fizzle, Casey, Derek, and more.