The world’s leading marketing guru shares a valuable lesson on homelessness

godin

I was reading a summary of Seth Godin‘s 2014 HOW conference interview and he shared an anecdote that stood out to me:

If you read Patti Smith’s book about her and Robert [Mapplethorpe] called Just Kids … she was homeless for years — HOMELESS! — living on bread from the garbage can, sleeping in the park, to make her art. And what’s fascinating about the first third of the book is never once does she say, “I’m a homeless person.” She says, “I’m an artist who hasn’t found her muse yet.” She’s on her way to being an artist and the homelessness is a temporary moment…

This may be the last time I share a quote from a marketing guru, nonetheless talk about something as lofty as being an artist. But the main point about “a temporary moment” rings true no matter what our occupation is.

Homelessness doesn’t have to be a defining characteristic of a person. It can be temporary. It can be the moment that precedes stability or success.

The inverse is also true. If we define ourselves as well-off, that too may only be temporary. A few bad breaks and we might find ourselves in a position of homelessness.

Compassion and possibility happen when we rise above the temptation to let temporary moments be the definition of a person. It helps us to frame the world in a way that’s more about shared humanity than artificial permanence.