How Ideas Spread

Every day I get new books, manuscripts, DVDs, CDs, and web links from all over the world, many by people I don’t know all of them asking if I’ll help them get a book published, review their work on my blog, or at least post a link somewhere. Unfortunately I get way more of this stuff sent to me than I can possibly process. t try to at least steal a glance at each one to see if there is anything Father is wanting me to do with them, but even that has grown so overwhelming that I can’t do justice to any of them.

So my stack of books just grow and grow so does my sorrow that I simply can’t get to everything sent to me and I don’t have the opportunity to encourage those people that have something wonderful to say into the world. That’s probably why I enjoyed this interview so much. My friend, Kent, pointed me to an interview between Seth Godin, author and Internet marketing guru, and Krista Tippett on her radio show, On Being about The Art of Noticing and Then Creating. There is a lot of good stuff in that interview especially for people who want to bring their art and craft before the world and see if it can find a hearing.

But I especially liked this part, because he also gets tons of books and manuscripts sent his way hoping he will mention it to his audience. Here was his response:

In a media-saturated world, we want to get picked. So like you, every day people show up to me and say, pick me, put me on your blog. If you would just talk about me, then my art will reach everyone I want to reach… That’s not the way (this) works; it’s bottom-up.

So what I say to people is, I’m not in charge of what’s good. I don’t get to pick what’s a purple cow, what’s remarkable — anything. That the world is, the bottom is, everybody, I’m on the bottom too, everyone is. So tell 10 people — there are 10 people who trust you enough to listen. And if you tell your thing to 10 people — if you send your e-book to 10 people — if you do your sermon to 10 people or show your product to 10 people and none of them want to tell their friends, and none of them are changed — then you failed. That you didn’t really understand what was good. But if some of them tell their friends, then they’ll tell their friends, and that’s how ideas spread. So it’s this 10 at a time — 10 by 10 by 10.

How do you put an idea in the world that resonates enough with people if they trust you enough to hear it? That then it can go to the next step and the next step.

I understand people who think that if they can just find the right promoter or platform, who will push their writing/art/songs/thoughts out onto the stage they would have the success they crave. But that’s not how it has ever worked with me. No one ever promoted my stuff that didn’t also want to turn me into a commodity for their own success and financial return. God has been gracious to not let that happen for me, and my books and podcasts have simply found their way into the world because other people enjoyed them and talked about it with their friends.

I have lots of people want me to “pick them” and their project, thinking that I can promote it into the space they desire. But I’ve never sought to promote anything, including my own stuff. My desire has been to make things available that impact me and let God do with it what he will from there. But I have felt the pressure to “be in charge of what’s good,” even though I haven’t had the time or perspective to do it. These words really spoke freedom to me. I’m not the one who can decide after all! Yeah! I actually knew that. Some books I have recommended have found a huge reading audience. Others, I have recommended similarly have not. And it isn’t always the better books that resonated with the larger audience. In this age of diffused media no one gets to choose what’s good. Advertising and endorsements are not near as effective as simple word-of-mouth.

The one departure I have from Seth’s approach above, is that if ten people don’t get as excited about your project as you are, you’ve failed. I don’t think all things worthy in our culture find the largest audience. And those that do find the largest audience almost always get twisted in the acclaim. If you can simply do what God asked you to do, simply make it available as he asks you to make it available, then you can trust him with how far it goes in the culture. And if our God puts wildflowers in the hidden places of the mountains that no one can see but himself, does he not delight in our writing, or art, or thoughts even if he is the audience of one that enjoys them? And the creativity on our part does wonder for us.

The world doesn’t value what God values. When we get attached to the outcome, our art gets twisted, our relationships will get twisted, and in the end we’ll get twisted. God’s way of putting things in the world is far more organic than the way the world lusts after success. So if you have something to share, share it. Worry less about getting it to someone famous to be your champion, and simply share it with ten friends who trust you enough to give it a chance. If it’s going to catch on, it will from there. If not, you may want to rework it or simply realize this was a gift to God.

And by all means, when you read something, hear something, view something that has touched your life, pass it on in whatever way you can. Tell people about it, recommend it in a blog or in social media. I know hundreds of people who have done that with some of my things, not as a favor to me, but because they were genuinely touched with something they wanted to share it with others.

That’s how ideas spread. Don’t wait to be discovered. Don’t be self-promoting, it’s obnoxious. Simply share freely in the space you’re already in let it grow from there.

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22 Comments
  1. Rolf D Paschen January 31, 2013 at 10:42 am

    All what I am thinking, feeling, writing, doing is working in me — for my good. I am blessed in all my works even when failing God can show me the right way so I am happy moving further on. I do this for 20 years starting in Christian 12 Step Recovery groups and today I witness all the blessings I got from God is shown in all these things … in good and bad results leaving the credit to Him, so I can live in His Freedom, Grace, Love and Peace one day one step in His Will and Time. Amen & Praise the Lord!

  2. Kevin January 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Some things the world just doesn’t understand. I would add this to Wayne’s comments.

    Michael Hyatt has created a nice niche business around this idea of platform. Many of us are clamoring for an audience, for a place on the stage. We think what we have would help or bless others. We think we are meaningful contributors.

    I think too often the mind rationalizes the idea of creating a platform and getting noticed to help others, when in reality it is about self-validation. We simply are not comfortable in our own skin. We cry out for significance because we have yet to learn to rest as the beloved in the affection of the Creator.

    We’ve all heard the idea, live for an audience of one. It’s much easier said than done.

  3. Michele January 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Wayne, I have found it true in my own life. My husband and I moved into this neighborhood 9 years ago. I was teaching one of my own children to swim. While I was in the pool, another mom said, “While you’re in there, would you give my daughter a few tips.” Then other mom’s that watched me teach those children to swim started offering to pay me if I’d teach their children. By the next summer, the word had already spread and I was getting calls from mom’s that other mom’s had told. Then I would teach the siblings of the kids I had taught before. Now, every spring, because of word of mouth, I begin getting calls to teach swim lessons and it’s not just in my neighborhood anymore, it’s spread into the surrounding town. I have never advertised. In fact, there are several teens that are certified swim instructors that post flyers and offer swim lessons in my neighborhood. Last summer, in one month, I taught 95 swim lessons.

    The same thing happened with my decorating. My husband and I bought one of the first houses in the 2nd phase of our neighborhood. When others began to move in, I’d offer to help them arrange their furniture… It was never my plan to start a business, only to help my neighbors and get to know them. But neighbors told other neighbors that I helped them and then I began getting calls from people I didn’t even know asking me to help them. They said, “I like what you did with so-and-so’s house. I’ll pay you if you’ll come over and give me some ideas.” We were in the midst of our second adoption and had been praying about coming up with the money for it, so I decided on an hourly rate and made some business cards. Nine years later, I have a pretty steady stream of clients and have never once advertised. It’s all been word of mouth. My greatest passion is being a wife, mother, and homemaker. That’s all I’ve ever dreamed of being. These jobs have not only allowed me to be able to continue to put those things first, but have also been wonderful ways God has provided for us along the way while also creating opportunities for me to love my neighbors!!!

  4. David William Edwards January 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    “Purple Cow” is a great book by Seth and I second the comment on Michael Hyatt’s “Platform.” The best person to promote your story is you…

  5. Rolf D Paschen January 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    All what I am thinking, feeling, writing, doing is working in me — for my good. I am blessed in all my works even when failing God can show me the right way so I am happy moving further on. I do this for 20 years starting in Christian 12 Step Recovery groups and today I witness all the blessings I got from God is shown in all these things … in good and bad results leaving the credit to Him, so I can live in His Freedom, Grace, Love and Peace one day one step in His Will and Time. Amen & Praise the Lord!

  6. Penny Dugan January 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    speaking of stories, it is hard to believe I was contacted 4 years ago, and next week the writers are coming to “see where it all happened”, staying with Glen and Elaine (the hosts with the mosts), then moving through 3 days in St. Louis, to KC and meeting Kelli and Tim and family and then to Wichita! It is moving rather fast. I will join them in St. Louis. i also would like to add it is up the “the father”… he can spreadthe word in His timing. Let’s chat sometime :). Penny I wanted to come to LA so I could visit you guys .

  7. Kevin January 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Some things the world just doesn’t understand. I would add this to Wayne’s comments.

    Michael Hyatt has created a nice niche business around this idea of platform. Many of us are clamoring for an audience, for a place on the stage. We think what we have would help or bless others. We think we are meaningful contributors.

    I think too often the mind rationalizes the idea of creating a platform and getting noticed to help others, when in reality it is about self-validation. We simply are not comfortable in our own skin. We cry out for significance because we have yet to learn to rest as the beloved in the affection of the Creator.

    We’ve all heard the idea, live for an audience of one. It’s much easier said than done.

  8. Michele January 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Wayne, I have found it true in my own life. My husband and I moved into this neighborhood 9 years ago. I was teaching one of my own children to swim. While I was in the pool, another mom said, “While you’re in there, would you give my daughter a few tips.” Then other mom’s that watched me teach those children to swim started offering to pay me if I’d teach their children. By the next summer, the word had already spread and I was getting calls from mom’s that other mom’s had told. Then I would teach the siblings of the kids I had taught before. Now, every spring, because of word of mouth, I begin getting calls to teach swim lessons and it’s not just in my neighborhood anymore, it’s spread into the surrounding town. I have never advertised. In fact, there are several teens that are certified swim instructors that post flyers and offer swim lessons in my neighborhood. Last summer, in one month, I taught 95 swim lessons.

    The same thing happened with my decorating. My husband and I bought one of the first houses in the 2nd phase of our neighborhood. When others began to move in, I’d offer to help them arrange their furniture… It was never my plan to start a business, only to help my neighbors and get to know them. But neighbors told other neighbors that I helped them and then I began getting calls from people I didn’t even know asking me to help them. They said, “I like what you did with so-and-so’s house. I’ll pay you if you’ll come over and give me some ideas.” We were in the midst of our second adoption and had been praying about coming up with the money for it, so I decided on an hourly rate and made some business cards. Nine years later, I have a pretty steady stream of clients and have never once advertised. It’s all been word of mouth. My greatest passion is being a wife, mother, and homemaker. That’s all I’ve ever dreamed of being. These jobs have not only allowed me to be able to continue to put those things first, but have also been wonderful ways God has provided for us along the way while also creating opportunities for me to love my neighbors!!!

  9. David William Edwards January 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    “Purple Cow” is a great book by Seth and I second the comment on Michael Hyatt’s “Platform.” The best person to promote your story is you…

  10. Penny Dugan January 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    speaking of stories, it is hard to believe I was contacted 4 years ago, and next week the writers are coming to “see where it all happened”, staying with Glen and Elaine (the hosts with the mosts), then moving through 3 days in St. Louis, to KC and meeting Kelli and Tim and family and then to Wichita! It is moving rather fast. I will join them in St. Louis. i also would like to add it is up the “the father”… he can spreadthe word in His timing. Let’s chat sometime :). Penny I wanted to come to LA so I could visit you guys .

  11. Tim A. Setliff January 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for this blog – I’m enjoying that fact that God will promote us and our ministry. I’ve just recently come into the truth that I’m already righteous in Christ. Being from a fundamentalist background, I’ve struggled for 30 years trying to measure up. No matter how much I witnessed, read my Bible or prayed, it was never enough. Praise God that I’m free from the law. In Christ, I measure up perfectly. I’ve stopped trying and have found that I’m living it. If God chooses to use me to touch others, I am ready. If He chooses to allow me to wait, I will enjoy Him and seek Him and that will be sufficient.

  12. Tim A. Setliff January 31, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you for this blog – I’m enjoying that fact that God will promote us and our ministry. I’ve just recently come into the truth that I’m already righteous in Christ. Being from a fundamentalist background, I’ve struggled for 30 years trying to measure up. No matter how much I witnessed, read my Bible or prayed, it was never enough. Praise God that I’m free from the law. In Christ, I measure up perfectly. I’ve stopped trying and have found that I’m living it. If God chooses to use me to touch others, I am ready. If He chooses to allow me to wait, I will enjoy Him and seek Him and that will be sufficient.

  13. Wayne February 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Penny, you didn’t invite me to come meet them? I would have, you know! I pray you’ll have wisdom about these people telling your story in film!

    Love your heart, Tim. Wouldn’t it be great for all us to find freedom not to be used by God at all. I’ve come to find that term distasteful. God doesn’t use us. Doesn’t want to use. He wants to share with his what he does in the world and let us be part of it. That’s way different than being used. He has good works he prepared in advance for us to be part of, but in no way is that using us. It is simply demonstrating his glory through us, and the heart he has cultivated in you, Steve, is how he does that. I think it’s awesome!

  14. Tim A. Setliff February 1, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Wayne – thanks for the clarification. I’m sharing with others what God has done for me and for them. He is flowing through me. At my Church, several people have come to me and have noticed the new joy, new confidence (Him in me), new countenance, and even a new smile. The part about “using” me – I love to teach and am a good teacher. I would love an opportunity to teach what I’m learning in a class, etc. I also know that if I live the life, I will have many people to share with. So, I’m not going to seek to teach. I’m going to seek Him.

  15. Wayne February 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Penny, you didn’t invite me to come meet them? I would have, you know! I pray you’ll have wisdom about these people telling your story in film!

    Love your heart, Tim. Wouldn’t it be great for all us to find freedom not to be used by God at all. I’ve come to find that term distasteful. God doesn’t use us. Doesn’t want to use. He wants to share with his what he does in the world and let us be part of it. That’s way different than being used. He has good works he prepared in advance for us to be part of, but in no way is that using us. It is simply demonstrating his glory through us, and the heart he has cultivated in you, Steve, is how he does that. I think it’s awesome!

  16. Tim A. Setliff February 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Wayne – thanks for the clarification. I’m sharing with others what God has done for me and for them. He is flowing through me. At my Church, several people have come to me and have noticed the new joy, new confidence (Him in me), new countenance, and even a new smile. The part about “using” me – I love to teach and am a good teacher. I would love an opportunity to teach what I’m learning in a class, etc. I also know that if I live the life, I will have many people to share with. So, I’m not going to seek to teach. I’m going to seek Him.

  17. Moses Opondo February 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I think the major driving force behind self promotion is the desire for financial rewards and to be held in high esteem by the society.
    If such rewards were not available i guess few would bother to put in so much effort to promote their work.

  18. Moses Opondo February 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I think the major driving force behind self promotion is the desire for financial rewards and to be held in high esteem by the society.
    If such rewards were not available i guess few would bother to put in so much effort to promote their work.

  19. Pamela February 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Wayne, I love the visualization that God creates beauty where only He can see and enjoy. It should make us feel special and Loved, but in our fallen humanity we seem to take it the opposite way that if its not enjoyed or seen worthy by other humans it must not be any good. If we enjoy something even if we don’t get “approval or validation” from others we can know that our Father enjoys it with us. I have to tell you I Love listening to your audio series The Transition. I can listen to it over and over and not get bored listening to it. And each time my heart either learns something new or is reminded of something I already knew in my heart. Is there a way we can share this post/article via Facebook? I only see sharing through email or printing.

    Thanks and blessings to you!

  20. Pamela February 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Oops after posting my comment I see that I can Like it through FB. Didn’t see that till after commenting.

  21. Pamela February 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Wayne, I love the visualization that God creates beauty where only He can see and enjoy. It should make us feel special and Loved, but in our fallen humanity we seem to take it the opposite way that if its not enjoyed or seen worthy by other humans it must not be any good. If we enjoy something even if we don’t get “approval or validation” from others we can know that our Father enjoys it with us. I have to tell you I Love listening to your audio series The Transition. I can listen to it over and over and not get bored listening to it. And each time my heart either learns something new or is reminded of something I already knew in my heart. Is there a way we can share this post/article via Facebook? I only see sharing through email or printing.

    Thanks and blessings to you!

  22. Pamela February 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Oops after posting my comment I see that I can Like it through FB. Didn’t see that till after commenting.

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