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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

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

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meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

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permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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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.

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purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

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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.

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

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the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

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the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

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the.dip

The Dip

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

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the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

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

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tribes

Tribes

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

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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.

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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.

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

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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.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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While you were out... (news from late August)

Two pieces of good news you might have missed while you were away:

a. I posted an opening for one or two paid internships. You still have a week to share this with a friend.

b. Thanks to my wonderful readers and my colleague Bernadette Jiwa, we were able to raise more than our goal of $200,000 for charity: water. Thanks to everyone who pitched in.

We missed you. Welcome back.

The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy

"Sorry, you didn't make the team. We did the cuts today."

"We did play auditions all day yesterday, and so many people turned out, there just wasn't a role for you. We picked people who were more talented."

"You're on the bench until your skills improve. We want to win."

Ask the well-meaning coaches and teachers running the tryouts and choosing who gets to play, ask them who gets on stage and who gets fast tracked, and they'll explain that life is a meritocracy, and it's essential to teach kids that they're about to enter a world where people get picked based on performance.

Or, they might point out that their job is to win, to put on a great show, to entertain the parents with the best performance they can create.

This, all of this, is sort of dangerous, unhelpful and nonsensical.

As millions head back for another year of school, I'm hoping that parents (and students) can call this out.

When you're six years old and you try out for the hockey team, only two things are going to get you picked ahead of the others: either you're older (it's true, check this out) or you were born with size or speed or some other advantage that wasn't your choice.

And the junior high musical? It's pretty clear that kids are chosen based on appearance or natural singing talent, two things that weren't up to them.

Soccer and football exist in school not because there's a trophy shortage, not because the school benefits from winning. They exist, I think, to create a learning experience. But when we bench people because they're not naturally good, what's the lesson?

If you get ahead for years and years because you got dealt good cards, it's not particularly likely that you will learn that in the real world, achievement is based as much on attitude and effort as it is on natural advantages. In the real world, Nobel prizes and Broadway roles and the senior VP job go to people who have figured out how to care, how to show up, how to be open to new experiences. Our culture is built around connection and charisma and learning and the ability to not quit in precisely the right moments. 

But that's not easy to sort for in school, so we take a shortcut and resort to trivial measures instead.

What if we celebrated the students who regularly try the hardest, help each other the most and lead? What if we fast tracked those students, and made it clear to anyone else willing to adopt those attitudes that they could be celebrated too?

What if you got cast, tracked or made the cut because you were resilient, hard working and willing to set yourself up for a cycle of continuous improvement? Isn't that more important than rewarding the kid who never passes but still scores a lot of goals?

Before you feature a trumpet prodigy at the jazz band concert, perhaps you could feature the kid who just won't quit. No need to tell him he's a great trumpet player--the fact is, none of these kids are Maynard Ferguson--just tell him the truth. Tell him that every single person who has made a career of playing the trumpet (every single one of them) did it with effort and passion, not with lips that naturally vibrate.

We're not spending nearly enough time asking each other: What is School For?

Since I first published Stop Stealing Dreams to the web, it's been shared millions of times. My hope is that as we go back to school, you'll forward this video and this manifesto (screen edition) to every parent and teacher you know. (Here's a printable edition if you want to print it out and hand copies out).

Let's talk about school and figure out what we're trying to create.

Forgive yourself

Forgive yourself for not being the richest, the thinnest, the tallest, the one with the best hair. Forgive yourself for not being the most successful, the cutest or the one with the fastest time. Forgive yourself for not winning every round.

Forgive yourself for being afraid.

But don't let yourself off the hook, never forgive yourself, for not caring or not trying.

It's a great book, it has no typos!

And you really have to check out this hotel, it's dark in your room at night. And quiet, too.

Quality is now a given. Quality alone is not remarkable.

Surprise and delight and connection are remarkable.

Turning passion on its head

Instead of, "do what you love," perhaps the more effective mantra for the entrepreneur, the linchpin and maker of change might be, "love what you do."

If we can fall in love with serving people, creating value, solving problems, building valuable connections and doing work that matters, it makes it far more likely we're going to do important work.

Why don't authors compete?

There's an apocryphal story of a guy who went for his final interview for a senior post at Coca-Cola. At dinner, he ordered a Pepsi. He didn't get the job.

And most packaged goods companies would kill to be the only product on the shelf, to own the category in a given store.

Yet, not only do authors get along, they spend time and energy blurbing each other's books. Authors don't try to eliminate others from the shelf, in fact, they seek out the most crowded shelves they can find to place their books. They eagerly pay to read what everyone else is writing...

Can you imagine Tim Cook at Apple giving a generous, positive blurb to an Android phone?

And yet authors do it all the time.

It's one of the things I've always liked best about being a professional writer. The universal recognition that there's plenty of room for more authors, and that more reading is better than less reading, even if what's getting read isn't ours.

It's not a zero-sum game. It's an infinite game, one where we each seek to help ideas spread and lives change.

It turns out that in most industries in the connection economy, that's precisely what works. People happily tweet each other's handles to their followers and give references to others that are looking for jobs. When a business that's comfortable not having 100% market share happily recommends a competitor, they're sending a signal about trust and confidence and most of all, about feeding the community first.

The competition isn't the person next to you on the web, or the store. The competition is none-of-the-above.

Along those lines: Here's an End-of-summer book roundup

The best thriller of the summer, juicy all the way through, is Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. I'm relishing the audio version, forcing myself to go slowly, a chapter at a time...

Brian and Dharmesh are back with a new edition of their classic on Inbound Marketing.

David Meerman Scott delivers with a book that challenges a whole new industry: selling.

Shane Snow does a regression analysis to find out how some organizations (and people) manage to breakthrough in less time and make a big ruckus. He calls them Smartcuts.

As always, Sam Harris will make you think hard, about thinking.

Jenny Rosenstrach is back with more on creating a family dinner for those who don't believe they can. And my cookbook of the summer is from Oleana in Boston...

Steve Almond's football book will make fans angry. The question is: can you listen to an argument when you don't like where it's leading? And here's one about famous colleges.

Michael Schrage has written a book about innovation via 5x5, one that people will be referring to a decade now. Recommended for urgent pre-order.

Announcing a fall internship

I'm hiring one or two paid interns. It's a great opportunity to learn, to experiment and to get some hands on experience.

Find all the details right here. If you know someone who might be interested, I'd appreciate it if you would forward this to them.

The end of everyone

I'm not sure if it was ever possible to say, "everyone loves ___," "everyone respects ___" or even, "everyone really doesn't like ___", but there's no doubt at all that this isn't true any more.

There is no more everyone. Instead, there are many pockets of someones.

"I made it my mission..."

These are the people you want to hire, the people who will become linchpins, the people who will change your organization for the better. Not people who merely accept a mission, or grudgingly grind through a mission, but people who voluntarily choose to make something important their mission.

This post from Scott on iOS battery life is what I'm talking about.

Mission-driven beats compliant, every time.

The best lesson from Fantasy Football's success

When people say, "my team," they mean it.

In the top-down world of industrial marketing, the San Francisco 49ers say, "we built this team, buy a ticket if you want to come."

Then, a few years later, it broadened to, "you should buy a jersey so you can be part of it."

In the sideways, modern world of peer-to-peer connection, people say, "my team has this player, that player and this defense." It belongs to them, because they built it. Everyone has their own team.

In neither case is the fan on the field, getting concussed or making the big decisions. It doesn't matter. What matters is that our feeling of ownership, of us-ness, is shifting. We want celebrities and brands and teams that do more than merely put on a show. In addition to the show, people want to believe that they own part of it.

The idea is not the (only) hard part

In 1989, I created and launched a new idea: videotapes of people playing video games. It was ridiculed by the hipsters of the day, and my publisher later admitted that they hadn't even bothered to bring it to market beyond a few stores. A copycat product went on to sell a few million copies.

Today, Amazon paid a billion dollars for Twitch, which is precisely the same idea, used by millions of people every day. More than a billion hours have been spent/wasted on Twitch to date, I'm guessing.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a commission check.

No, the hard part isn't merely thinking of an idea. Yes, it's hard to sit with a bunch of pre-teens while they record the underlying video, and hard to get it made and hard to get the first one published, the first time.

But the truly hard part is, 25 years later, sticking with it long enough for it to actually work.

You could wreck this (if you want to)

Which is more satisfying: Breaking something or watching someone else break it?

When we sense a job is going wrong, it's easy to act out and make things worse... in the moment, it might feel like it's better to get fired for something we did than to get laid off.

When a partnership hits some bumps, it might be tempting to keep score, push back on everything and get ready to fight... actually causing the change that you fear.

A challenging project, employee or situation sometimes is easier to avoid than it is to work on.

Leaning in is really difficult when you sense that there's nothing to catch you, nothing to work toward. It's a lot easier to act out, sabotage and take control of something that feels out of our control.

Agency is precious, the feeling that we're in control. Where agency backfires is when we get caught in the death spiral of bad actions leading to negative reactions, which cause us to take more bad actions.

Sure, it might break. Anything might. But that doesn't mean you have to be the one to break it.

Why drafting works

The other day, a speedster on a bike passed me as I rode along the bike path. For the next ten minutes, I rode right behind him, drafting his progress.

Sure, there's an aerodynamic reason that this works--there's less wind resistance when you ride closely.

But the real reason is mental, not based on physics. Drafting works because, right in front of you is proof that you can go faster.

Without knowing it, you do this at work every day. We set our pace based on what competitors or co-workers are doing. One secret to making more of an impact, then, is figuring out who you intend to follow. Don't 'pace yourself,' instead, find someone to unknowningly pace you.

The shortlist

Lots of industries have one. You're sitting around the table with your editor discussing a book jacket and someone says, "Maybe we can get Chip Kidd to design it?"

Or the ad agency and the client are discussing the new campaign, and inevitably, someone says, "Maybe Tina Fey could be our spokesperson..."

And Ben Zander to conduct, Bill Cosby to endorse, Fred Wilson to invest, you get the idea. The shortlist are the esteemed, obvious choices, the folks who are seen as making it all come together.

How to get on the shortlist?

After all, once you're on the shortlist, not only do your fees double, but the amount of work increases to the point where you can't possibly do it all.

It's easy to seduce yourself into thinking it's a straight up meritocracy. The funniest comedians, the most gifted graphic designers, the most impactful speakers--these folks are chosen for the shortlist because they deserve it.

Except that's not correct.

Yes, of course, you need a minimum amount of talent to make the shortlist. It might even help to be a genius. But plenty of people with talent (and plenty of geniuses) aren't there, aren't thought of by industry outsiders and those looking for a straightforward way to bring on someone they can trust.

No, the shortlist requires more than that. Luck, sure, but also the persistence of doing the work in the right place in the right way for a very long time. Not an overnight success, but one that took a decade or three. 

The secret of getting on the shortlist is doing your best work fearlessly for a long time before you get on the list, and (especially) doing it even if you're not on the list. 

If you choose to be in the dog food business...

Be delighted to eat dog food.

It makes no sense to disdain the choices your customers make. If you can't figure out how to empathize and eagerly embrace the things they embrace, you are letting everyone down with your choice. Sure, someone needs to make this, but it doesn't have to be you.

If you treat the work as nothing but an obligation, you will soon be overwhelmed by competition that sees it as a privilege and a calling.

Tone deaf

Great marketers have empathy.

They're able to imagine what it might be like to have a mustache or wear pantyhose. They work hard to imagine life in someone else's shoes.

Bullies are tone deaf. They don't always set out to be brutal and selfish, but their near-total lack of empathy amplifies their self involvement.

"What's it like to be you?" is an impossible question to answer. But people who aren't tone deaf manage to ask it.

Totally and completely out of my control

Gravity, for example.

I can't do a thing about gravity. Even if I wanted to move to Jupiter or the moon for a change in gravity, it's inconceivable that I could.

On the other hand, there are lots of things I can do to control my reaction to gravity. I can take Alexander classes or get in better shape. I can avoid situations where gravity makes me uncomfortable (the trapeze, for example). I can choose to not whine about gravity and its effects.

There are countless forces in our lives that are out of our control. That doesn't mean we can't do anything about how they influence our work and our life...

Squidthanks

Nine years ago last month, a few of us sat down in my office and started working on Squidoo. Since then, there have been billions of visits to our site, and many of you have clicked, written, and contributed to what we've built. We've been able to pay people from around the world for great content and donate to dozens of charities.

Thanks.

Squidoo was launched before Pinterest, Twitter and Medium were the platforms of the day. It arrived just in time to remind people that in fact they could share what they cared about with people who were interested in hearing about it.

Last week, we announced that HubPages is acquiring the key assets of Squidoo and HugDug, creating the largest site of its kind. Like most projects, this one is coming to a close, and we hope that the combined platform that we're giving to our users will allow them to do more than ever before. HubPages has built a platform that gives user content even more prominence online. I'm excited about where they're going.

I want to point you to the team that built (and even more arduously, improved) Squidoo for all of these years. Many of them are off to start new projects, and some are looking to join teams that are doing important work--people with this much talent don't find themselves in between projects for long. I can't say enough good things about the Squids--each and every one of them is a generous, talented and hardworking expert at what they do.

Thanks to those of you who were part of what we built. I can't wait to see what (all of us) build next.

Slacktivism

This is far from a new phenomenon. Hundreds of years ago there were holier-than-thou people standing in the village square, wringing their hands, ringing their bells and talking about how urgent a problem was. They did little more than wring their hands, even then.

In our connected world, though, there are two sides to social media's power in spreading the word about a charitable cause.

According to recent data about the ice bucket challenge making the rounds, more than 90% of the people mentioning it (posting themselves being doused or passing on the word) didn't make a donation to support actual research on an actual disease. Sounds sad, no?

But I think these slacktivists have accomplished two important things at scale, things that slacktivists have worked to do through the ages:

  1. They've spread the word. The fact is that most charities have no chance at all to reach the typical citizen, and if their fundraising strategy is small donations from many people, this message barrier is a real issue. Peer-to-peer messaging, even if largely ego-driven, is far better than nothing. In a sideways media world, the only way to reach big numbers is for a large number of people to click a few times, probably in response to a request from a friend.
  2. Even more important, I think, is that they normalize charitable behavior. It's easy to find glowing stories and infinite media impressions about people who win sporting events, become famous or make a lot of money. The more often our peers talk about a different kind of heroism, one that's based on caring about people we don't know, the more likely we are to see this as the sort of thing that people like us do as a matter of course.

Spreading the word and normalizing the behavior. Bravo.

The paradox? As this media strategy becomes more effective and more common (as it becomes a strategy, not just something that occurs from the ground up as it did in this case), two things are likely to happen, both of which we need to guard against:

  1. Good causes in need of support are going to focus on adding the sizzle and ego and zing that gets an idea to spread, instead of focusing on the work. One thing we know about online virality is that what worked yesterday rarely works tomorrow. A new arms race begins, and in this case, it's not one that benefits many. We end up developing, "an unprecedented website with a video walkthrough and internationally recognized infographics..." (actual email pitch I got while writing this post).
  2. We might, instead of normalizing the actual effective giving of grants and donations, normalize slacktivism. It could easily turn out that we start to emotionally associate a click or a like or a mention as an actual form of causing change, not merely a way of amplifying a message that might lead to that action happening.

The best model I've seen for a cause that's figured out how to walk this line between awareness and action is charity: water. My friend Bernadette and I are thrilled to be supporting their latest campaign. It would be great if you'd contribute or even better, start a similar one.

I think the goal needs to be that activism and action are not merely the right thing to do, but the expected, normal thing to do.

Who named the colors?

We did.

It's not a silly question. It has a lot to do with culture and crowds and the way we decide, as a group, what's right and what's not.

A quick look at some colors confirms that there is no algorithm, no accepted pattern for color names. They range from short and obscure (puce) to long and obvious references, like cotton candy.

No color has a name until a significant group accepts that name. You can start calling the sky, "gluten," but it's not going to be useful until others do as well.

That's what mass, cultural-shifting marketing does. It creates an idea or a label or a habit or a discussion and enables it to become a building block of our culture.

No one who invents a name for a color is applauded or instantly successful. It never works right away. And then, person by person, it starts to stick. The first person leaps, and leaps again, and persists, inventing something we sooner or later all decided we needed all along.

Escalators, elevators and the ferry

Escalators make people happy. They're ready when you are, there is almost never a line, and you can see progress happening the entire time.

Elevators are faster, particularly for long distances, but we get frustrated when we just miss one, and we often wonder when the next one is coming, even after a few seconds. (That's why lobbies have mirrors, to give you something to do when you're waiting).

The ferry schedule, invented by Cornelius Vanderbilt, is a third way to deal with transport. Instead of having each boat turn around the minute it arrived, he guaranteed when it would leave. We can build our day around a schedule...

[Or you could point them to the stairs.]

What do you offer your clients?

Skinny, sad and pale

On the first 100 pages of the new, thick issue of Vanity Fair, there are about 95 full page ads. Those ads feature, best I can count, 108 people. Of these, 24 of the people are some combination of not-sad and not-ghostly and not-skinny. The other 84 send precisely the same signal: Brands like ours feature people like this.

Here's the thing: green lights aren't green because there's something inherently go-ful about the color green. A long time ago, green got assigned to go, red to stop, and that's the semiotics of traffic.

The same is true for this class of luxury goods. There's nothing about too thin, too pale and really sad that implies that people will want to buy an expensive good, and in fact, there is probably data that shows that happy people actually lead to more sales. But these ads are about labeling and fitting in and sending a coherent signal. "Brands like ours advertise in places like this with ads like this."

In the tech world, ads featuring fonts like Myriad Pro and Helvetica send a similar signal. Creative people fall into the trap/use this shortcut of fitting in all the time, because so many other elements of their work feel risky, they choose to do what feels safe when the committee starts making ads.

And we make the same risk-averse decisions when we decide which trade shows to show our wares, what sort of stock photos to put on our website and alas, what sort of entrepreneurs we invest in. Culturally driven choices, not based on fresh analysis or actual impact.

We confuse the size of a diamond with how big a commitment of love the groom is making. We assume that movie characters that smoke cigarettes are more heroic or brooding. Or that how famous a college is has something to do with the future potential of those that attend. Executives assert that office size and inaccessibility are actually correlated with power...

Part of the art of making change happen is seeing which cultural tropes are past their prime and having the guts to invent new ones. 

Your arms race

If you're engaging in a neck and neck battle for supremacy, it's entirely possible you've lost track of the purpose of the work you set out to do in the first place.

Consider recent stats about college sports:

  • A coach who makes $6.9 million dollars a year
  • A weight training coach who makes more than $6,000 a week
  • A dozen non-profit universities spending more than $100,000,000 a year (each) on their athletic programs

What's it for? If winning is the point, and winning can be purchased with money that's available, then I guess it makes sense. 

But often, winning is a proxy for something else. I think it makes sense to figure out what that is before you spend a nickel. Does spending ten times as much give you ten times as much of what you set out to create in the first place? Is bigger the goal? Is first place the only way to get to where you're going?

"You have to continue to move forward. The moment you decide to stand still, the rest of the industry goes by you very quickly." The industry in discussion is college sports, and that's one athletic director's take.

Not just college, not just sports. When in doubt, try not to turn your mission into an industry. It's distracting. What are you giving up in order to win a game you didn't sign up for in an industry you don't need to dominate?

Better to do the work that's worth doing.

Doing the best I can

...is actually not the same as, "doing everything I can."

When we tell people we're doing the best we can, we're actually saying, "I'm doing the best I'm comfortable doing."

As you've probably discovered, great work makes us uncomfortable.

Just leave me to do my work!

I need a sales rep (or ten) to do the selling so I can do my work.

And investors to put up the money so I can do my work.

And an accounting staff so I won't have to think about inflows and outflows so I can do my work.

And an admin to process and answer all my email and my paperwork...

And employees who already know what to do so they won't ask me...

And an organization that not only doesn't make me go to meetings, but also instantly understands and adopts my best ideas...

And a coffee boy to bring me an espresso, a police escort so I don't get stuck in traffic and a publicist so every media outlet in the world communicates what I'm working on.

By now, you've probably realized:

This isn't going to happen. Not as completely or as flawlessly as we'd like to hope. We need the leverage that comes from working with other people, but that leverage also means that we're responsible. People who do great work also embrace the fact that this is their work too. It's not merely an interruption or a distraction, it's part of what they do. There are no monasteries reserved for productive, successful artists who regularly ship inspiring work. Our culture responds to instigators and impresarios who figure out how to make a ruckus in a complicated world.

Years ago, you had to work with a quill or a manual typewriter. You needed to wait for the post office and you had no free and highly-leveraged outlet for your work to be seen by others. You had no access to a huge, instant and free library of the work that has come before... and yet, despite all of those missing elements, great work was created.

My guess is that the few people who find themselves isolated with nothing to do but what they believe is their work find a way to distract themselves with something anyway. And people who have too many distractions to actually do any real work are in that bind because they haven't invested enough time, effort or risk in their organization and their process. Yes, there's a sweet spot. As you obtain leverage, that leverage becomes part of what your work becomes.

We are leaving you to do your work. Go!