9 Unforgettable Lessons from Seth Godin’s Summer Seminar of Impresarios

I am back from the New York City Summer Seminar event with Seth Godin and the 20 other remarkable students.

Simply put: working together with Seth and all the students was nothing short of a life-changing experience. It was three days long, but those three days alone will attribute to a lot of my future success. This I know.

I’m changed. Different. I can’t go back to my old ways because I know better. Going back to my old ways would be the lizard brain at work. During this seminar, all the students pushed through their comfort zone — no, they shattered it. In short, we were Spartans.

This post will be a bit long (2500 words) because I will try to encompass all the invaluable lessons I learned throughout this journey, as well as give you an idea of what this event was like.

1. Becoming an impresario

The italian term, Impresario, simply means to be a connector. In the 18th century, an impresario was responsible for hiring a composer, gathering costumes, musicians, etc.

So here is an empty theatre. An impresario sees an opportunity to connect a composer — so they can deliver their art — with a space that needs to be filled. Voila!

Were there risks? Absolutely. It wouldn’t be art if there weren’t any risks involved.

In this seminar, we learned to become an impresario. A connector. We had to find an empty space that needed to be filled, while also being responsible for filling it. Sounds crazy, right? Who are we to be responsible for connecting two ideas or people together to create a greater good? The lizard brain would say, “No, not you. Go back to being comfortable.” An impresario would just go and do it, regardless of any variables.

Here’s what I have written down in my notebook:

Be an impresario ————> Whether you fail or succeed: do it again.

Try this: Start practicing the traits of an impresario, today. Connect two people or ideas together and start something. It may be the start to something revolutionary. It may be something that will fail, but guess what? You will learn more by starting something rather than doing nothing.

2. The Lizard Brain

Steven Pressfield immortalized the term Resistance to describe the lizard brain, or the amygdala.

In this seminar, Seth deconstructed the lizard brain and how it plays a part in our lives. I’ll attempt to do the same.

The lizard brain is the amygdala. It’s two little almond-shaped pieces in the back of your head. It’s responsible for fear, anger, revenge, arousal, reproduction, fight or flight, and survival. When there is an emergency, a wild animal in your presence, or a plate being thrown at you, the lizard brain takes over and protects us.

It also stops us from creating art that can change the world.

When a writer puts away a book that they’ve been working on for years, when someone is dead-scared of asking the other person out on a date, when an entrepreneur thinks of a fantastic idea but immediately makes up excuses as to why they can’t do it, that is the lizard brain at work. We cannot surgically remove the amygdala or beat in a fist fight. We can condition it to quiet down. We can develop better habits that help us break through that comfort zone.

Picture this: Kid climbs up diving board. Once he gets to the top, he realizes he doesn’t want to jump. But he can’t climb down — no way. After multiple hours of contemplating, the kid finally jumps.

Moral of the story: He gets out of the water and does it again, immediately.

I dare you: You can be that kid again. You can ignore the voice of the lizard brain. You can shatter the walls of your comfort zone to experience that “first time” feeling. You can jump, experience something that shakes your core, and do it all over again with a smile on your face. You can condition yourself to use that fear as a trigger, not an excuse.

3. Vulnerability

I’ve read and watched all of Brené Brown’s work. I read the Gifts of Imperfections and devoured the knowledge; I love her cause and everything she stands for. But the thing is, I never put vulnerability into practice. I would with a few friends here and there, but never in a setting like this.

I’ll be candid: If it weren’t for every individual being vulnerable, this experience wouldn’t have been what it was. The fact that everyone exposed their flaws and willingly opened themselves up, only then were we able to connect with one another on an authentic level. That connection became the mortar and bricks to relationships that I will cherish for life.

I was shocked. I didn’t think I was able to be so vulnerable with people I just met, but I did it. And it was empowering. It was freeing. I didn’t have to wear a mask and become something I’m not. I could share my struggles, passions, and ideas with everyone, while receiving feedback and brainstorming better ideas. The only words that come to my mind to express myself: enchanting.

Never forget: There are relationships that are built on the real you, and there’s everything else. Start with being you and see where that takes you. You may not kick it off immediately, but give it some time. Be the first person to open up. Whether you believe in magic or not, building relationships on a foundation of vulnerability can build castles in the sky.

4. Listening

You probably think your ideas are amazing. You probably want to express how passionate you are about so-and-so.

Well, we are the same. I am eternally interested in me … but in a situation where you’re in a room with like-minded allies, and the maestro’s time is limited, one of your best skills is to listen.

Listen wholeheartedly. Pay attention to body language. Don’t listen to what you think they’re saying — listen to what they are actually saying. Ask questions. Connect ideas. Let the person finish.

During our breaks, we had a moment to discuss with one another. It happened naturally — the room sounded like a high school cafeteria. The level of engagement was surreal. The ideas, the suggestions, the breaking-down of things — all breathtaking.

And when it came time for me to speak, everyone reciprocated and offered life-changing insight and affirmation. It was simply divine. An honor to be in that space, at that moment, and with all the right people.

Always, always: Listen to the other person’s ideas, passions, and desires. You can speak about yourself for days — now isn’t the time. It’s time to listen to others and help them connect ideas that they couldn’t reach on their own. Listen wholeheartedly.

5. Having a sense of direction

Every student was required to pitch an idea, for five minutes, about ways they can be an impresario.

In this exercise, Seth critiqued our pitches — what needs improvement, what’s missing, what’s unclear, etc. The next day, we had to come in with our marketing strategies. How will we ship? What will it take to make this a success?

A few key important questions came up, and I believe they are questions we should always be asking ourselves in regards to our work and our life:

  • What is the goal, the mission? (As specific as possible.)
  • Who’s responsible for shipping? What day will this project ship? (Date and time.)
  • What does perfect look like? What does good enough look like? What does failure look like?
  • Who will help you? Who are your allies? Who are your competitors?

The idea is to have a clear idea of what it is you are trying to accomplish. It’s about setting measurable goals, identify the steps that need to be taken, and accomplishing them. I received similar advice a few years ago and it changed my life.

Draw the line: Clearly identify what it is you want and how you’re going to get there. Identify perfect, good enough, and failure. Identify the steps that need to be taken, teammates that will support you the whole way, and the day you plan on shipping your idea or project. What are you afraid of? (Be real with yourself.)

6. Community

What I was a part of — 20 students, Seth, the brainstorming, discussions, bouncing ideas off one another — it was majestic.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been in an environment like that. My vulnerability was being exercised, everything I learned the past few years being put into practice (I read a book a week), the thoughts that surfaced, the ideas that were shattered than reconstructed, the smiles, the laughs, the stories — it’s a feeling where words cannot do justice.

I am already feeling the symptoms of nostalgia; I caught myself telling a friend that I can spend hours upon hours in an environment like that. But really, what’s stopping me? What’s stopping me from getting a few students from my school, and creating a community of like-minded individuals? What’s stopping you from doing the same in your community with the resources and access that you have around you?

I believe that everyone longs to be in a community — not a place to fit in but rather a place to be accepted because you’re different.

Here’s the challenge: Create a place (or just go into a room) where you can meet up with like-minded individuals. Share your story, ideas, passion, goals, and struggles. How can you help one another? How can you be an impresario?

7. Building relationships

I personally despise the word “networking,” like handing out your business card and trying to shake everyone’s hand. I don’t do favors for my friends — I just do it because I know they would help me when I need them. So your network isn’t there only when you need an endorsement or a damn tweet. They should be there because of the relationships you built on the foundation of authenticity and transparency. With that in mind, they will help you because they believe in your cause — not because you exchanged business cards.

I was focused on building long-lasting relationships. And I believe I accomplished just that. Reasons how? Clear communication and vulnerability. Those are your two most important assets. Bring those two assets with you and watch a flower grow in the crevices of concrete.

Focus on: building relationships. Focus on getting to know the person — their desires, goals, struggles, ideas, etc. Focus on ways you can help them. Share ideas. Show them doors they are unaware of. Start with being vulnerable and let the rest unfold.

8. Asking questions

Asking questions was the lifeblood for the conversations to lead from one idea to the next. If there are no questions asked (which was never the case), then the conversation can’t go anywhere. Nothing would be discussed, challenged, and brought into the world.

I need to thank Sarah Clarke who gave me incredible insight through the newsletter I sent out before I left for NYC. She said, “ASK QUESTIONS! That’s the most important thing! Prepare them ahead of time. Write them down.”

If it weren’t for that simple piece of advice, I would have forgotten; if I didn’t ask my tribe, I would have never received that info. Having my questions written down ahead of time, I was able to engage with Seth on subjects where I needed insight. If it weren’t for preparing, I would have went into that room empty handed — and no one likes the person who comes to the party empty handed.

Never forget: Ask questions. Ask your teammates. Ask your friends. Ask your professor or mentor or boss. Don’t let uncertainty dwell in your mind. Ask the question so those clouds can clear up. This, in turn, will lead to more discussions, ideas, and insight. You can’t find what you’re looking for just by sitting there: you have to ask questions!

9. Gift, Attitude, or Skill

Seth asked us what kind of traits would we want in a potential employee? From there, we had to separate all the traits and place them in a category: gift, attitude, or skill.

So as a group we shouted them out one by one: looks, vulnerable, socially aware, problem solver, passionate, honest, outgoing, responsible, kind, generous, teamwork, etc., etc.

Certain traits like looks and passion were considered to be gifts. But traits like vulnerable, problem solver, responsible, kind, and honest? Many of them were either attitudes or skills. As the list narrowed down, it was hard to differentiate what was a skill and what was an attitude.

What we learned was that the two cannot exist without the other. Attitude is built by the consistent practice of the skill, so therefore, the skill must be practiced in order to develop that attitude. You cannot have the attitude of being honest if you don’t practice it. You can’t effortlessly be vulnerable with strangers if you don’t practice it.

Practice, practice: Seth is a no-excuses kinda guy. Honestly, that is probably the first time I ever described anyone like that. In order to develop the attitude, you must practice the skill. So if you want to your attitude to reflect courage, vulnerability, honesty, etc., then you must practice it daily. I aspire to be a no-excuses kinda guy. Guess what I have to do? Stop making excuses.

Inspired

I came back a changed man. My mindset feels different. The voices in my head changed the conversation. The lizard brain is at bay, fishing, and quiet, while I am out flying closer to the sun.

It seems as though the seminar worked as intended.

To all my impresarios: I am eternally grateful to have met you. Thank you for sharing your story, exposing your true colors, while also listening to what I had to say. Thank you for being you, for being vulnerable, for being a champion. Each and every one of you inspired me in ways I simply cannot express. Each and every one of you will be a part of my life from now till the end. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I will always have your back.

To Seth: What you did those 3 days was simply fascinating. You are a true role model, a linchpin, a person who fundamentally changed me as a person. You conditioned me to identify and seduce the lizard brain. You taught me how to become an impresario. You challenged and pushed me in ways I have never felt. It was an honor to be under your wing for those three memorable days.

And finally, to you, the reader: Please read over the lessons I have learned so you can absorb them. I hit the vein and the words came spilling out; this is what I experienced, learned, and felt. Take action. Practice the traits of an impresario. Practice vulnerability. Build relationships that fortify your network. Always ask questions. Listen first. Find or create the community you long to be a part of. Fail often and learn more.

There’s always two possible endings to a story: success or failure. Both can be used as an incentive: to do it again. Success doesn’t mean you’re finished — it means to start something else. Failure means to learn from it, adapt, and try again. I can’t see any other way — simply because there isn’t.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. The next post will be focused on HOW I prepared for an event like this (Here’s the post.).

You could read other student’s perspectives here: How a Stranger Changed My Life, Creatively Independent, and Sam King’s.

Any thoughts? Stories to share? Ideas? Please, share them in the comments below. Your voice matters.

89 Comments 9 Unforgettable Lessons from Seth Godin’s Summer Seminar of Impresarios

  1. Anne Jaconette

    Like living all the joy and passion and fear all over again! A beautiful reminder to keep creating and improving our art. No excuses! :)

    Reply
  2. Arthur Wei

    Excellent post. Your blog is very inspiring, and I hope that one day I can build up my measly blog to something half as great. Don’t be surprised if I shoot you a message asking for some tips in the near future.

    Reply
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  4. Laura Rupp

    I am so happy to hear about your experience! When I read what Seth was doing I was thrilled because young people need this kind of encouragement, to think for themselves and create their own opportunities. So glad to get your feedback about the experience so others can learn and I can pass it on to students and inspire them also. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  5. John C Wilson

    Thanks Paul! I love your discussion of Impresarios. Clearly Seth’s seminar had a huge impact upon you.

    In recent years I’ve been directing and producing plays — starting from nothing, I’ve been taking the risks of creating fully-staged productions. While I’ve been proud of these accomplishments, I’ve not thought of myself as an impresario. I like the term — and find it empowering. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving me a new perspective.

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      I love the term impresario as well! It’s amazing what changing your perspective (a little bit) can do. Let me know how your plays go. Best of luck. And congrats on starting something … on being an impresario ;)

      Reply
  6. Jonathan Van

    Bro!!! Great post. Finally found the time to read it. Thanks for taking the time to write out the lessons we took away from Seth’s 3 day seminar.

    I have his voice in my head now!

    Reply
  7. Jen

    Thanks for your feedback about the seminar, Paul. When I read about the upcoming opportunity, I wished I had still been a college student so I could attend! What I would like to know from your perspective is why Seth is such an influential person. How specifically does he inspire people like you to change? I’d appreciate any insight about the qualities he possesses that inspire you to action so that I can learn from that.

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      Hey Jen, I love the questions and I’ll answer them as best as I can.

      As a writer, Seth inspired me because of his accomplishments as a writer, blogger, and speaker. His ideas are just mind-blowing. His attitude is contagious. His way of breaking ideas down, focusing on the things that matter, and executing them is just simple yet genius. His work overall inspires people to be artists, leaders, connectors, and starters — something that the world needs more of.

      My favorite books of his are Linchpin, Poke the Box, Ideavirus, and Stop Stealing Dreams. Also watch his talks, you can Google them. He has a few on TEDTalk, too.

      Reply
  8. Tahlia Meredith

    Fantastic post, there’s a lot of really useful information here. I particularly identified with your comment on doing favours for friends – my attitude too. Thank you!

    Reply
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  11. Zebulon

    Great article! – Thanks for giving Seth’s readers an update on that session we all heard was about to happen. Since becoming a director of a non-profit a few years ago I started to read Seth’s blog after being referred to him in a marketing seminar and his teaching have given me the strength to continue with my crazy, hair brained ideas in a field where I am always the most young and inexperienced.

    I love innovating, am inspired by your post, and its great to see that you and Seth are working so hard to encourage other young people to not be afraid to create the world they want.

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      Zebulon, good for you for becoming an impresario. Doesn’t matter if you’re the youngest of least experienced. Keep doing what you’re doing and you will make a difference.

      Reply
  12. @meditatecreate

    Thanks for sharing Paul, I could feel the transformation breathing through your words….
    What an amazing priviledge..
    Good luck with your future projects, no doubt this has fuelled them intensely..
    if you’re ever in australia stop by melbourne and say hi

    Reply
  13. jam

    Hi Paul!

    i’m jam from the Philippines. great post you have there! you’re so lucky to have that 3 days with seth. he’s one of my inspiration. i’ll be honor to share this article to my colleagues. rock on! :)

    Reply
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  17. tom allebach

    Well written, Paul. Appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable; such a freeing state. Your “about” reminded me to read Marcus Aurelius again. Keep shipping!

    Reply
  18. Akshay Kapur

    Paul,

    It’s not a surprise that Seth’s blog led me to your post. Impresarios linking to other impresarios.

    I especially liked your comment about attitudes and skills. If I were to pick a attitude that mattered to me most in a colleague, employee, employer, it would be curiosity. And I’ve struggled explaining to others that curiosity is in fact a skill and not just an attitude. It takes work and practice to take one step further and open that door and see what’s behind it.

    What are some things you are doing now as a result of your time with Seth? I’d love to learn more about the projects you have planned and share ideas.

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      A fisherman can spot another fisherman from afar. ;)

      I love your take on curiosity. Never thought of it that way. Awesome. I think that goes hand-in-hand with playing, like the way a chid plays. At fist they’re curious. Fear isn’t even a factor. They just go and explore and learn on the way. That’s something we slowly unlearn as we get older, but it’s a skill so valuable that it can, as you said, open doors.

      My next project in my next eBook. I’m currently writing it at the moment, and plan on shipping by the end of the year — all for free.

      Thanks for your insight Akshay

      Reply
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  21. Peggy

    Paul – Thank you for the in depth review of what you learned. The story poured out of you and almost gave me the feeling I was there (which is a goal of mine to study under the remarkable Seth Godin). I’ve read and re-read your post and am doing my best to let it sink in and stir my soul the way that it has yours. You are a true impresario for I feel connected to you and haven’t even had the opportunity to speak with you. Thanks for being part of the tribe that is trying to change our world for the better, by beginning with ourselves! Thank you for the inspiration, knowledge and motivation to keep on keeping on!

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      Wow Peggy. What an honor. I couldn’t stop smiling while reading the whole post. Comments like this (and everyone else’s) inspire me to continue doing my work.

      I truly appreciate your feedback and I’m glad my writing spoke to you. It’s amazing what comes out when one writes from the heart — something I will be practicing more of.

      Reply
  22. Linda G.

    Big Congratulations Paul – on getting to the seminar in the first place, participating so wholeheartedly, and then sharing your experience so openly and articulately. I was wishing I could be a fly on the wall there! Your article brought it home…
    Wonderful that you let yourself be touched deeply and took away so much from the opportunity. I’m proud of you — and feel I can say that as a member of the community of us brought together by Seth. Thank you for sharing…

    Reply
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  27. Suyash Dubey

    Hey Paul,
    thanks for the article learnt a lot and yes jealous for not being there with you guys. Hopefully I will be able to tame my lizard brain after this. Incase I do I will keep you posted.

    Reply
  28. Michael Cavitt

    Thanks for summarizing you experience. I have found the information spot on for me at this time.

    Keep on trunkin’

    Michael

    Reply
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  30. Jamie Wyatt

    My initial reaction was jealousy. I would love to have been there! My next response is: I’ll create my own group! Can’t wait!

    Reply
  31. Ben

    Thanks Paul for sharing us a part of the skills you learned from Seth during this seminar. You’ve done the impresario as well as you spread Seth’s lesson as far away as France!!! Nice to met you Paul. Ben

    Reply
  32. Parris Whittingham

    Hey Paul,

    I appreciate you for making the time to share this experience. This was a beautiful read. You have artfully put into words the story of relationship. Be awesome to hear an update 30, 60, 90 days out. Safe travels.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      This article is love in action, I am inspired and am crying tears of relief and sheer emotion. Thank you Paul, for your generosity and your incredibly valuable insights..

      Reply
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  39. Matt

    Just what I needed to hear. Pressfield and Ferriss are my current heros and I’m in the process of relegating my lizard brain. Good work fellow traveler!

    Reply
  40. Rod

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my
    blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your theme.
    With thanks

    Reply
  41. Matthew Palka

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I took a class in college called Seminar in Human Potential and this reminded me of the discussion my class had on the lizard brain and “flipping the lid.” I’m so grateful that I found this blog!

    Your thoughts also reminded me of a personal growth and leadership development experience that I had with the National FFA in 2009. I have been involved in youth leadership in NY with FCCLA for over five years and love to discover sites with healthy self-leadership lessons and advice. I’m going to focus on these each week with my room whiteboard, especially asking good questions.

    Reply
    1. Paul Jun

      Wow, thank you Mathew. Its good to see someone taking classes as insightful and highly relevant as the ones you’ve mentioned. I love seeing someone with such a strong desire to better themselves. Big congrats to you.

      Reply
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  45. Thomas Joe

    WOW…so much value from a single post!

    I will read this one again probably for the next few days!

    Thanks for sharing!

    One Life / One Legacy
    Thomas Joe

    Reply
  46. Renee

    Thank you for sharing this information! I love to see a blog post that’s nice, neat, to the point, and filled with real emotion. Has my mind flowing a bit… impresario… hmmm.

    Blessings!

    Renee

    Reply
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