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altmba

SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

alt.mba

altMBA

An intensive, 4-week online workshop designed to accelerate leaders to become change agents for the future. Designed by Seth Godin, for you.

ONLINE:

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:


THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Member since 08/2003

Chump (Don't get played)

How did Bernie Madoff do it? How did he steal twenty billion dollars from people who should have known better? It doesn't matter if you went to university or not--you can still be played as a chump.

To pull off a significant deception, you generally need two things: A deceiver and a crowd of people open to being deceived.

Once those are present, the deceiver brings out the big lie.

For lots of reasons, people are open to looking for shortcuts and a new reality, even if no shortcuts are available. They may have been mistreated, might be struggling, or they may merely be greedy, looking to outdo the other guy. In the case of Madoff, he was even able to take in charities, with boards that meant well but were in a hurry to scale.

Frustration in the face of the way things are makes us open to the big lie. Frustration and fear and anger can suspend our ability to ask difficult questions, to listen to thoughtful critics, to do our homework.

And the big lie is always present when we get played. To be a chump (not merely the victim) is to be open to the big lie. Not merely open to it, eager to buy into it.

Numbers make it easy to tell a big lie. People hate numbers, and they seem so real.

Anti-intellectualism, disregard for the scientific method and conspiracy theories also set the stage for a big lie.

And demonizing the other, the one who is already held in low esteem or feared by the chump, this is usually part of the big lie as well.

In retrospect, the warning signs around Madoff were obvious. Just about any skeptical, thoughtful investor could have seen through the big lie if he wasn't so busy being a chump.

When a population gets played, the responsibility lies with the liar, with the con man, with the person so craven that they'll trade trust and productivity and a bit of civilization for some power and authority.

But the chump also has to take responsibility. Responsibility for looking for the shortcut, giving into the fear and for eagerly believing the big lie, ignoring the clues that are all around.

Chumps aren't restricted by nationality, by education, by income. Chump is an attitude and a choice.

We're not chumps. Not if we don't choose to be.

A dollar more (vs. a dollar less)

Consider a race to the top.

How can Lyft possibly compete with Uber? Scale is often the secret to a commodity business, and if Lyft races to be ever cheaper than Uber, the only possible outcome doesn’t look good. It's a cutthroat corner-cutting race.

But what happens if Lyft (or your project) decides to race to the top instead?

What if they say, “we’re always a dollar more than Uber”?

And then they spend that dollar, all of it, on the drivers...

What kind of person buys the cheap ride, the ride with the stressed-out angry drivers?

So instead of drivers abandoning fares they accept (they’re under so much pressure to make ends meet, Uber drivers do this all the time--it happened to me four times in one weekend), you end up with drivers that were good enough to be able to charge an extra dollar…

Uber becomes the bottom fisher, and Lyft (or whatever it is you do) is the place you go once you've proven yourself...

And what would happen if your fast food place said, “we’re the place that charges you a dollar extra at lunch,” and they spent all that dollar in paying their employees and their suppliers a living wage?

Some people will always want the cheapest, regardless of what it actually ends up costing them. But in market after market, the list goes on. Projects and organizations that proudly charge a dollar more.

Not merely a dollar more.

A dollar more, and worth it.

The benefit of the doubt

Doubt is corrosive.

Someone faced with doubt rarely brings her best self to the table. Doubt undermines confidence, it casts aspersions, it assumes untruths.

Yes, of course you need to qualify your leads. And yes, we know that you need to protect against risk and to not waste your time.

But... if you're going to spend five minutes or five hours with someone, what happens if you begin with, "the benefit of confidence" instead? What if you begin by believing, by seeking to understand, by rooting for the other person to share their best stories, their vision and their hopes?

Perhaps you can manipulate someone by scowling, by negging, by putting on airs. But if you do that, you end up with people who have been manipulated, who are wounded and not ready to soar.

The problem with qualifying leads is that all the obvious ones are already taken.

The challenge with assuming that someone is completely imperfect is that you'll almost certainly be right. 

There's plenty of room for doubt later, isn't there?

Don't tug on capes, share them

Shannon Weber decided that there wasn't enough love, recognition or connection in her world, so she did something about it. When she finds an unsung (don't say 'ordinary' hero) she makes them a cape.

Caping people, catching them doing something right, shining a light on a familiar hero. 

It turns out that this is way more difficult than being cynical, or ironic, or bitter. Being closed is a lot easier than being connected. It takes guts.

What kind of impact does one act of kindness make? It can last for years.

Go, cape someone.

Uninformed dissent

"I'm not sure what it is, but I'm against it."

It's a mistake to believe that people know all the facts before they decide.

In fact, most of the time, we decide and then figure out if we need to get some facts to justify our instinct.

There are two common causes of uninformed dissent:

The first is a person who fears change, or is quite happy with the status quo. He doesn't have to read your report or do the math or listen to the experts, because the question is, "change" and his answer is, "no."

The second (quite common in a political situation), is the tribal imperative that people like us do things like this. No need to do the science, or understand the consequences or ask hard questions. Instead, focus on the emotional/cultural elements and think about the facts later .

Not enough 'if' or not enough 'then'?

All change involves an if/then promise.

"If you want a delicious dinner, then try this new restaurant."

"If you want to be seen as a hunk, drive this Ferrari."

"If you want to avoid being dead, have this surgery."

If people aren't taking you up on your offer, there are two possible reasons:

  1. Not enough if. Maybe the person doesn't want the thing you're promising as much as you need them to. Maybe they don't care enough, won't pay enough, just don't want that sort of change.
  2. Not enough then. More common is that we want the if, but we don't believe your then. It's easy to claim you're going to deliver the then, but that doesn't mean you have credibility.

When in doubt, add more if.

And definitely more then.

The problem with complaining about the system

...is that the system can't hear you. Only people can.

And the problem is that people in the system are too often swayed to believe that they have no power over the system, that they are merely victims of it, pawns, cogs in a machine bigger than themselves.

Alas, when the system can't hear you, and those who can believe they have no power, nothing improves.

Systems don't mistreat us, misrepresent us, waste our resources, govern poorly, support an unfair status quo and generally screw things up--people do.

If we care enough, we can make it change.

Taking notes vs. taking belief

Is there anything easier than listening to a lecture or reading a book and taking notes?

And is there anything more difficult than setting aside our preconceptions and the resistance and acting 'as if', being open to belief, at least for a moment?

If taking notes is making it easier for you to postpone (or avoid) the possibility of belief, better to put down the pencil and focus.

Facts are easy to come by. Finding a new way to think and a new confidence in our choices is difficult indeed.

Bigger for?

Is bigger better for the investor or is it better for the customer?

At a huge hotel in Nashville (more than 1,000 rooms), there's always a long line at the check in desk, the gym is full at 5 in the morning and the staff has no clue who any guest is.

It's clear that doubling the size of the hotel helped the owner make more money (for now). But it's worth taking a moment to think about whether bigger is the point.

Maybe better is?

"So busy doing my job, I can't get any work done"

Your job is an historical artifact. It's a list of tasks, procedures, alliances, responsibilities, to-dos, meetings (mostly meetings) that were layered in, one at a time, day after day, for years.

And your job is a great place to hide.

Because, after all, if you're doing your job, how can you fail? Get in trouble? Make a giant error?

The work, on the other hand, is the thing you do that creates value. This value you create, the thing you do like no one else can do, is the real reason we need you to be here, with us.

When you discover that the job is in the way of the work, consider changing your job enough that you can go back to creating value.

Anything less is hiding.

You can't ask customers what they want

... not if your goal is to find a breakthrough. Because your customers have trouble imagining a breakthrough.

You ought to know what their problems are, what they believe, what stories they tell themselves. But it rarely pays to ask your customers to do your design work for you.

So, if you can't ask, you can assert. You can look for clues, you can treat different people differently, and you can make a leap. You can say, "assuming you're the kind of person I made this for, here's what I made."

The risk here is that many times, you'll be wrong.

But if you're not okay with that, you're never going to create a breakthrough.

The saying/doing gap

At first, it seems as though the things you declare, espouse and promise matter a lot. And they do. For a while.

But in the end, we will judge you on what you do. When the gap between what you say and what you do gets big enough, people stop listening.

The compromises we make, the clients we take on, the things we do when we think no one is watching... this is how people measure us.

It seems as though the amount of time it takes for the gap to catch up with marketers/leaders/humans is getting shorter and shorter.

"The way we do things"

There are two pitfalls you can encounter in dealing with focus and process:

  1. In moments of weakness, you take on a project or client that's outside your focus zone. After all, you need the work.
  2. In moments of blindness, you fail to expand what you do, relying on the fading glory of yesterday instead of realizing that you are perfectly positioned to go forward.

In 1994, I ignored the web, defining our business as being email pioneers, not, more broadly, pioneering digital interactions. It took three years to catch up from that error.

On the other hand, we raced to do business with online services from Apple and Microsoft. Not because they were in our focus, but because we could. 

The easiest way to see these errors is in hindsight, which does you no good at all.

The best way to avoid these two errors is to regularly decide (in a moment of quiet, not panic) what you do and where you do it. With intention.

Stretching without support

One of the fundamental equations of our self-narrative is: If I only had more support, I could accomplish even more.

Part of this is true. With more education, a stronger foundation, better cultural expectations, each of us is likely to contribute even more, to level up, to make a difference.

The part that's not true: "If only."

It turns out that every day, some people shatter our expectations. They build more than they have any right to, show up despite a lack of lucky breaks or a cheering section. Every day, some people stretch further.

You might not be able to do much about the support, but you can definitely do something about the stretching. It's under your control, not someone else's.

And practicing helps.

 

[Sunday is the last day to sign up for the summer session of the altMBA. We are only running two sessions through the rest of the year, and we'd love it if you would consider joining us in our quest to help people like you contribute more than they thought possible.

We do this by giving you a safe space to stretch. 

We do this by raising expectations at the same time we give you access to tools and to a group of fellow travelers eager to make a difference.

We can't possibly give you all the support you need (no one can). But we can help you imagine the stretch.]

The ruby slippers problem

Most of what we're chasing is that which we've had all along.

In our culture, the getting is ever more important than the having.

There's nothing wrong with getting, of course, as long as the process is in sync with the life you want to lead.

It's not a race

Some things are races, but not many.

A race is a competition in which the point is to win. You're not supposed to enjoy the ride, learn anything or make your community better. You're supposed to win. 

At the end of a race, people congratulate the winner, and point out how well she did by winning. The rest of the field, the losers, well, hey, you tried.

Once you see it that clearly, so many things are clearly not races. And when we treat life that way, we cheat our customers, the people we seek to serve, as well as ourselves.

We sometimes abbreviate, "he won a particular race," to, "he's a winner." They're not the same thing.

 

[PS Here's a free e-copy of Steven Pressfield's new book. No strings attached, just a chance to share it early. And Do The Work is worth seeking out.]

"Things have gotten a little quiet..."

In the old economy, social connection was done to us.

"There's nothing to do around here." "I'm bored." "Nothing's happening in this place."

You could whine about the fact that your college didn't have enough activities, or that the bar was 'dead'.

Today, though, the obligation is on us to make our own magic. To find two sticks and turn them into a game. To organize our own conversations, find our own connections... most of all, to bring generosity and energy to communities that don't have enough of either one.

Freedom and leverage is great, but it comes with responsibility. We're all curators/concierges/impresarios now.

If the association or the chat room or the street corner isn't what you need it to be, why not make it into the thing we're hoping for?

Raising the average

Great organizations are filled with people who are eagerly seeking to recruit people better than they are. Not just employees, but vendors, coaches and even competitors.

Most organizations seek to hire, "people like us." The rationale is that someone too good might not take the job, might get frustrated, might be easily lured away. 

A few aim for, "so good she scares me." A few aim for, "it'll raise our game."

This takes guts.

It takes guts for an employee or a group member to aggressively try to persuade people more passionate, more skilled or smarter to join in, because by raising the average, they also expose themselves to the fact that they're not as good as they used to be (relatively).

Can we take it a little further? What happens if we read a book we not quite sure we'll understand, or ski down a slope that's a little too hard or sign up for a project we're not certain we can easily do?

What happens if we go to a school where we think everyone is smarter than we are?

We are each the average of the people we hang out with and the experiences we choose.

The best way to end up mediocre is via tiny compromises.

Shields up

Do not tell your friends about your nascent idea, your notion, the area you hope to explore next.

Do not seek reassurance from them.

Do not become vulnerable about your tiny new sprout of an inkling.

It will be extinguished by people who mean well. They are trying to protect you from heartache.

There is a very, very tiny group of fellow travelers who can amplify your inkling. For the rest, keep it quiet. Trot out a make-believe idea instead, a pretend Potemkin Village of a project, let them dump all over that one instead.

Keep the other one in the incubator for now. There will be plenty of time for sharing later.

"But where's the money?"

A colleague was talking to the CEO of a fast-growing small business about a partnership opportunity.

The CEO said, "well, this is something we believe in, something we want to have happen," and then he continued, "in fact, it's something my partners and I want to be able to support in our personal and our corporate lives." 

But he declined, because, times are tough, the company is small, they need all their resources, etc.

If you aren't willing to live your values now, when will you start?

A company that begins with its priorities straight--about how it will keep promises, treat its workers, support causes it believes in--will rarely have trouble becoming the kind of company that does this at scale.

But if you put it in a folder marked "later," it may never happen.

[A marketing PS: It turns out that small organizations that stand for something and act that way usually have a better shot at earning our attention, our trust and our commerce. So yes, doing the thing that you believe in will get you better employees, better customers and more growth. I love it when things happen for the right reason, don't you?]

The marketing we deserve

We say we want sustainable packaging...   

    but end up buying the one in fancy packaging instead.

We say we want handmade, local goods...

    but end up buying the cheap one, because it's 'just as good.'

We say we want the truth...

    but end up buying hype.

We say we want to hire for diversity (of thought, culture and background)...

    but end up hiring people who share our point of view in most things.

We say we want to be treated with respect...

    but end up buying from manipulative, selfish, short-term profit-seekers instead.

We say we don't want to be hustled...

    but we wait for the last-minute, the going-out-of-business rush or the high pressure push.

It actually starts with us. 

Here's the thing. It also starts with anyone with the leverage and power and authority to make something.

    Because even if it's the marketing we deserve, it's also the marketing they create.

Your job vs. your project

Jobs are finite, specified and something we 'get'. Doing a job makes us defensive, it limits our thinking. The goal is to do just enough, not get in trouble, meet spec. When in doubt, seek deniability.

Projects are open-ended, chosen and ours. Working on a project opens the door to possibility. Projects are about better, about new frontiers, about making change happen. When in doubt, dare.

Jobs demand meetings and the key word is 'later'. Projects encourage 'now.'

You can get paid for a job (or a project). Or not. The pay isn't the point, the approach is.

Some people don't have a project, only a job. That's a choice, and it's a shame. Some people work to turn their project into a job, getting them the worst of both. If all you've ever had is jobs (a habit that's encouraged starting in first grade), it's difficult to see just how easy it is to transform your work into a project.

Welcome to projectworld.

"Um" and "like" and being heard

You can fix your "um" and you probably should.

Each of us now owns a media channel and a brand, and sooner or later, as your work gains traction, we'll hear your voice. Either in a job interview or on a podcast or in a video.

For a million years, people have been judging each other based on voice. Not just on what we say, but on how we say it.

I heard a Pulitzer-prize winning author interviewed on a local radio show. The tension of the interview caused an "um" eruption—your words and your approach sell your ideas, and at least on this interview, nothing much got sold.

Or consider the recent college grad who uses thirty or forty "likes" a minute. Hard to see through to the real you when it's so hard to hear you.

Alas, you can't remove this verbal tic merely by willing it away.

Here's what you can do: Persuade yourself that the person you're talking to will give you the floor, that he won't jump in the moment you hesitate. You actually don't have to keep making sounds in order to keep your turn as the speaker. The fastest speaker is not the speaker who is heard best or even most.

Next step: First on your own, eventually practicing with friends, replace the "um" with nothing. With silence.

Talk as slowly as you need to. Every time you want to insert a podium-holding stall-for-time word, say nothing instead. Merely pause.

You can do this into a tape recorder, you can try it in a meeting. It works. 

You're not teaching yourself to get rid of "um." You're replacing the um with silence. You're going slow enough that this isn't an issue.

Then you can slowly speed up.

The best part: Our default assumption is that people who choose their words carefully are quite smart. Like you.

Try better

'Try harder' is something we hear a lot. After a while, though, we run out of energy for 'harder.' 

You can harangue people about trying harder all you like, but sooner or later, they come up empty.

Perhaps it's worth trying better instead.

Try the path you've been afraid of.

Spend the time to learn a whole new approach.

Better, not harder.

On knowing it can be done

Can you imagine how difficult the crossword puzzle would be if any given answer might be, "there is no such word"?

The reason puzzles work at all is that we know we should keep working on them until we figure them out. Giving up is not a valid strategy, because none-of-the-above is not a valid answer.

The same thing happened with the 4 minute mile. It was impossible, until it was done. Once Bannister ran his mile, the floodgates opened. 

Knowing it was possible was the hard part.

And that's how software leaps forward as well. Almost no one seriously attempts something, until someone figures out that with a lot of work, it can be done. Then the shortcuts begin to appear, and suddenly, it's easy.

What's possible?

As soon as we stop denying the possible, we're able to focus our effort on making it happen.

[PS Tomorrow is the first priority application deadline for the next session of the altMBA.]

A ten-year plan is absurd

Impossible, not particularly worth wasting time on.

On the other hand, a ten-year commitment is precisely what's required if you want to be sure to make an impact.

Neophilia and ennui

These are two sides of the same coin.

Neophilia pushes us forward with wonder, eager for the next frontier.

And ennui is the exhaustion we feel when we fall too in love with what might (should?) be next and ignore the wonder that's already here and available right now.

Add engines until airborne

That's certainly one way to get through a thorny problem.

The most direct way to get a jet to fly is to add bigger engines. And the easiest way to gain attention is to run more ads, or yell more loudly.

Horsepower is an expensive but often effective solution.

The challenge is that power is expensive. And that power is inelegant. And that power often leaves behind a trail of destruction.

When in doubt, try wings.

Wings use finesse more than sheer force. Wings work with the surrounding environment, not against it. Wings are elegant, not brutal.

All mirrors are broken

It's impossible to see yourself as others do.

Not merely because the medium is imperfect, but, when it comes to ourselves, we process what we see differently than everyone else in the world does. 

We make this mistake with physical mirrors as well as the now ubiquitous mirror of what people are saying about us behind our back on social media. We misunderstand how we look on that video or how we come across in that note.

When we see a group photo, we instantly look at ourselves first. When we pass a mirror on the wall, we check to see if there's parsley stuck on our teeth, yet fail to notice how horrible that camel's hair jacket we love actually looks on us. When someone posts a review of something we've built, or responds/reacts to something we've written online, we dissect it, looking for the germ of truth that will finally help us see ourselves as others do.

No one understands your self-narrative, no one cares that much about you, no one truly gets what it's like to be you. That germ of truth you're seeking isn't there, no matter how hard you look in the mirror.

You're not as bad (or as good) as you think you are. 

Read more blogs

Other than writing a daily blog (a practice that's free, and priceless), reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what's going on. The last great online bargain. 

Good blogs aren't focused on the vapid race for clicks that other forms of social media encourage. Instead, they patiently inform and challenge, using your time with respect.

Here's the thing: Google doesn't want you to read blogs. They shut down their RSS reader and they're dumping many blog subscriptions into the gmail promo folder, where they languish unread.

And Facebook doesn't want you to read blogs either. They have cut back the organic sharing some blogs benefitted from so that those bloggers will pay to 'boost' their traffic to what it used to be.

BUT!

RSS still works. It's still free. It's still unfiltered, uncensored and spam-free.

follow us in feedly

Here's how to get into the RSS game. Go ahead and click the green button above. It will take you to Feedly, where you can add this blog. You can then add blogs on food, life, business and even chocolate. I read more than fifty blogs every day. Worth it.

If you're a desktop user, go ahead and bookmark the Feedly page after you set up an account, add some more blogs (they have more than a million to choose from) and visit the page every day. You can easily keep up to date in less time than it takes you to watch a lousy TV show.

If you're on mobile, go ahead and sign up and then download the Feedly app.

AND!

For those of you that have been engaging with this blog for months or years, please share this post with ten friends you care about. We don't have to sit idly by while powerful choke points push us toward ad-filled noisy media.

Thanks.

Wasting our technology surplus

When someone handed you a calculator for the first time, it meant that long division was never going to be required of you ever again. A huge savings in time, a decrease in the cognitive load of decision making.

Now what?

You can use that surplus to play video games and hang out.

Or you can use that surplus to go learn how to do something that can't be done by someone merely because she has a calculator.

Either way, your career as a long-divisionator was over.

Entire professions and industries are disrupted by the free work and shortcuts that are produced by the connection economy, by access to information, by robots. Significant parts of your job are almost certainly among them.

Now that we can get what you used to do really quickly and cheaply from someone else, you can either insist that you still get to do that for us at the same fee you used to charge, or you can move up the ladder and do something we can't do without you.