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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




Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

How to be heard

Do your homework.

Show up with contributions and connections long before you bring your opinion.

Save the snark for later.

Pay your dues.

Speak up about shared truths, shared principles and shared goals.

Don't blame the ref only when the call is against you.

Reflect back what you believe the other person is trying to say before you disagree with it.

If you want to persuade on the merits, avoid joining the threatening mob.

Convert six people before you try to convert sixty.

Tell true stories.

How long is now?

Yes, that dog is moving, but not that tree. Plants don't move.

Well, yes, they actually do. Trees grow and then they decay. It's just that we can't see it happening now. It happens over a longer span. Which means it is happening now, just not in a way that matches our frame.

Getting our time scale right is essential. It affects how we perceive the growth of our organization, or the changes in our planet. It changes the way we invest in education and how we react or respond to the news media.

Do we need a sweep second hand on our wrist watch or merely a page-a-day calendar to mark the passage of time?

Alan Burdick's new book goes into the history of how we think about now (as compared to before and after) and one particular example stuck with me: What would happen if we were creatures that lived for only 28 days? Or for 300,000 days? And if our attention span compressed or expanded along with that outcome?

Often, people who are happier or more effective than we are are merely seeing things in a different (and more appropriate) time window.

And one last example, I'll call it Dash's Twitch: It turns out that the insanely stressful ticker that the New York Times had on their home page on election night, the one that kept flicking back and forth, taunting everyone who saw it, was actually using "real-time" data that only updated a few times a minute. 

Which means that the twitch was faked. Yes, the data was moving over time, but it wasn't moving now.

If our now gets short enough, everything is a twitch.

And twitches, while engaging, aren't particularly useful or productive.

Economics is messy

We still teach a lot of myths in the intro to economics course, myths that spill over to conventional wisdom. 

Human beings make rational decisions in our considered long-term best interest.

Actually, behavioral economics shows us that people almost never do this. Our decision-making systems are unpredictable, buggy and often wrong. We are easily distracted, and even more easily conned.

Every time we assume that people are profit-seeking, independent, rational actors, we've made a mistake.

The free market is free.

The free market only works because it has boundaries, rules and methods of enforcement. Value is created by increasing information flow and working to have as many contributing citizens as possible. 

Profit is a good way to demonstrate the creation of value.

In fact, it's a pretty lousy method. The local water company clearly creates more value (in the sense that we can't live without it) than the handbag store down the street, and yet the handbag store has a much higher profit margin. That's not because of value, but because of mismatches in supply and demand, or less relevant inputs like brand, market power and corporate structure.

Profit is often a measure of short-term imbalances or pricing power, not value.

I hope we can agree that a caring nurse in the pediatric oncology ward adds more value than a well-paid cosmetic plastic surgeon doing augmentations. People with more money might pay more, but that doesn't equate to value.

The best way to measure value created is to measure value, not profit.

The purpose of society is to maximize profit

Well, since profit isn't a good measure of value created, this isn't at all consistent. More important, things like a living wage, sustainability, fairness and the creation of meaning matter even more. When we consider how to advance our culture, "will it hurt profits?" ought not to be the first (or even the fifth) question we ask.

The price of a stock represents the value of the company.

It turns out that the price of a stock merely reflects what a few people decided to trade it for today. Tomorrow, it will certainly be different, even if nothing about the company itself changes.

There's very little correlation with how the traders come to value a company in the market and how much value a company actually creates.

The only purpose of a company is to maximize long-term shareholder value.

Says who? Is the only purpose of your career to maximize lifetime income? If a company is the collective work of humans, we ought to measure the value that those humans seek to create.

Just because there's a number (a number that's easy to read, easy to game, easy to keep track of) doesn't mean it's relevant.

... and it bends toward justice

The arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward access.

Twelve years ago, Acumen made a modest investment in Water Health International, a start-up that builds water purification hubs in small villages in India. Today, and every single day, 7,000,000 people have clean water as a result.

... and it bends toward dignity.

Sixty years ago, it was still against the law for blacks and whites to get married in parts of the USA. And just five years ago, the same was true for gay couples

... and it bends toward healing.

Catherine Hoke's team at Defy brings hope and high expectations to the incarcerated and those recently released. As a result, the rate of recidivism falls more dramatically than anyone expects.

... and it bends toward community.

Jim Ziolkowski could have stayed in his secure job at General Electric. But instead, he went to Malawi and then Chicago and then to high schools in towns like yours. His work at BuildOn has transformed tens of thousands of students, executives and communities.

... and it bends toward helping the dispossessed.

Lexi Shereshewsky saw the Syrian refugee crisis firsthand. And so she started the Syria Fund, which, while still small in scale, is mighty in impact.

... and it bends toward diversity.

Willie Jackson couldn't find a magazine that spoke to him and to his generation. So he started one.

... and it bends toward responsibility.

We're not pawns if we choose not to be. This is not the work for someone else. No one else is doing it for us. With us, perhaps, and as an example for what we can do, but we're not off the hook.

History doesn't bend itself. But we can bend it.

It's taken us 100,000 years to figure out that we are only as well off as the weakest ones in our tribe, and that connection and community and respect lead to a world that benefits everyone.

The irony of Dr. King's holiday is that he surely believed that anyone could take on this calling, that anyone could organize, speak up and stand for justice.

We can connect, we can publish, we can lead. Anyone reading this has the ability to care, and to do something about it. We have more power than we dare imagine.

And so it bends.

Pavlov's in your pocket

Why do people buy lottery tickets?

It's certainly not based on any rational analysis of financial risk or reward.

So, why do something that almost never seems to work?

Because it actually works every single time.

What it does is release a hit of dopamine, first when you think about buying one, then again when you decide to buy one, and then a third time when you actually transact. For regular players, these three moments of hope and joy demolish the sadness that comes from actually losing.

It's a hope rush, for cheap.

Well, the same thing is true for the billion people carrying around a Pavlovian box in their pocket. The smart phone (so called in honor of the profit-seeking companies who were smart enough to make them) is an optimized, tested and polished call-and-response machine. So far, Apple's made a trillion dollars by ringing our bell.

Every time it pulses, we get a hit.

Every time we realize we haven't checked it in two minutes, we get a hit.

Hit, hit, hit.

And again and again.

The box vibrates, we feel hope and fear and our loneliness subsides, then we check, and we lose (again).

But we are hooked, so we put the phone in our pocket and wait for it to happen again.

Ring a bell?

How to make a sign

There it is, at every entrance to the terminal at LaGuardia, one of the busiest airports in the world: 

TERMINAL CLOSED
FOR MAINTENANCE

between 12:00 a.m.
and 4:00 a.m.
until further notice.

Ticketed Passengers &
Employees ONLY
will have access 
to Terminal.

A few questions on our way to fixing this:

Who is it for?

What impact will it have on everyone else?

To the sign maker: Are you angry? Frustrated? Trying to teach people a lesson?

What does it sound like when you read it aloud?

and... is it clear?

When I look at this sign, I wonder why it needs to say, "until further notice." After all, aren't all rules in place until further notice?

And why say 12:00 a.m. when midnight is so much more clear?

Do we really need to alert employees to this rule every day? 

Mostly, though, the headline is confusing (every person reading this sign for the first time is sure the terminal is closed right this minute, until they read the next line).

Perhaps, then, it might be a better sign if it said:

Hi. To keep this terminal clean, it's closed
to visitors from midnight until 4 a.m. every night.
Ticketed passengers are always welcome.

Thank you. 

More on this from Dan Pink.

Showing vs. telling

All the promises, explanations and asides in the world pale in comparison with what you do.

Too often, we forget that jargon and narrative exist to help shape our actions, not to replace them.

Words keep getting cheaper, which makes action more valuable than ever.

But where did the algorithm come from?

Imagine if the owner of the local bookstore hid books from various authors or publishers. They're on the shelf, sure, but misfiled, or hidden behind other books. Most of us would find this offensive, and I for one like the freedom I have (for now) to choose a new store, one that connects me to what I need.

The airline tickets I purchased last week are missing. Oh, here they are, in my spam folder. Gmail blames an algorithm, as if it wrote itself. 

That person who just got stopped on her way to an airplane—the woman who gets stopped every time she flies—the TSA says it's the algorithm doing it. But someone wrote that code.

And as AI gets ever better at machine learning, we'll hear over and over that the output isn't anyone's responsibility, because, hey, the algorithm wrote the code.

We need to speak up.

You have policies and algorithms in place where you work, passed down from person to person. Decision-making approaches that help you find good customers, or lead to negative redlining... What they have in common is that they are largely unexamined.

Google's search results and news are the work of human beings. Businesses thrive or suffer because of active choices made by programmers and the people they work for. They have conflicting goals, but the lack of transparency leads to hiding behind the algorithm.

The priority of which Facebook news come up is the work of a team of people. The defense of, "the results just follow the algorithm," is a weak one, because there's more than one valid algorithm, more than one set of choices that can be made, more than one set of priorities.

The culture (our politics, our standards, our awareness of what's happening around us) is being aggressively rewired by what we see, and what we see comes via an algorithm, one that was written by people.

Just because it makes the stockholders happy in the short run doesn't mean it's the right choice for the people who trust you.

Fixing the buffet line

Here's the obvious way: Watch people waiting to go through the line. Find the spot where the line slows down, where there's a gap between one person and the next. That's the spot that needs attention. Add a few spoons, pre-portion the item, remove a step.

Here's another way: Schedule how people enter the line. By managing the flow, you'll relax the participants and eliminate rush times.

Here's a better way: Pull the table away from the wall so people can walk on either side, thus giving your throughput a chance to practically double.

If you work on an assembly line, it's likely that someone has already thought about this.

But many of us are soloists, or do dozens of tasks a day. It's not as easy to notice where the bottlenecks are, so we have to look for them.

Have you considered the high cost of task switching? It probably takes you a little while to stop doing one thing and start doing another with efficiency. What happens when you switch less often?

Also: Consider the sprint test. If there's a task that comes up often, challenge yourself and your team to, just this once, organize and prepare to set a world record at actually completing this task. Get all the materials and processes set in advance. Now, with focus, seek out your most efficient flow.

Obviously, you can't do this every single time, but what did you learn? Steal the best parts and add them to your daily practice.

Is there someone who is more productive at a given task than you are? Watch and model. Even the way you hold the scoop, reach across the table or move the mouse is sufficient to change everything.

One last thought: Inspections are essential to maintain quality, but re-inspection is duplicative and slows things down. Where is the best place to be sure you've done the work properly? Do it there and then, and not again, and not five times. Organizing to build quality into the process, with steps that check themselves, is far more productive than constant task switching and over-inspection.

Entitlement is optional

It's not forced on us, it's something we choose.

And we rarely benefit from that choice.

That emergency surgery, the one that saved your life, when the ruptured appendix was removed—the doctor left a scar.

We can choose to be grateful for our next breath.

Or we can find a way to be enraged, to point out that given how much it costs and how much training the doctor had, that scar really ought to be a lot smaller. And on top of that, he wasn't very nice. We're entitled to a nice doctor!

Or we can choose to be grateful.

Marketers have spent trillions of dollars persuading us that we can have it all, that we deserve it, and that right around the corner is something even better.

Politicians have told us that they'll handle everything, that our pain is real and that an even better world is imminent.

And we believe it. We buy into our privilege as well as the expectation that our privilege entitles us to even more. It's not based on status or reality. It's a cultural choice.

And you're entitled to your entitlement if you want it.

But why would you?

Entitlement gets us nothing but heartache. It blinds us to what's possible. It insulates us from the magic of gratitude. And most of all, it lets us off the hook, pushing us away from taking responsibility (and action) and toward apportioning blame and anger instead.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is just as valid a choice. Except that gratitude makes us open to possibility. It brings us closer to others. And it makes us happier.

There's a simple hack at work here: We're not grateful because we're happy. We're happy because we're grateful.

Everything could be better.

Not because we deserve it (we don't, not really).

But because if we work at it, invest in it and connect with others around it, we can make it better. It's on us.

It's difficult work, counter-instinctual work that never ends.

But we keep trying. Because it's worth it.

More and less

More creating

    Less consuming

More leading

    Less following

More contributing

    Less taking

More patience

    Less intolerance

More connecting

    Less isolating

More writing

    Less watching

More optimism

    Less false realism

Maps and globes

If someone needs directions, don't give them a globe. It'll merely waste their time.

But if someone needs to understand the way things are, don't give them a map. They don't need directions, they need to see the big picture.

Good taste

When you appeal to the better nature of a specific group, you're doing something with good taste. Just barely ahead of the status quo, in sync but leaning forward.

The key understandings are:

It is never universal. Good taste is tribal, not widespread.

It's momentary. The definition changes over time.

And it's aspirational. When we encounter good taste, it makes us feel as though we can and will be better.

Because it's not universal, being seen as having good taste is not up to you. It's up to the recipient. You can't insist you're right.

Good taste is an incredibly valuable skill, and you can acquire it with practice.

Levelling up in 2017

You might have noticed that the gym was a little less crowded this morning.

It's only four days into the new year and most well-intentioned resolutions have already faded.

Of course they have. You can't change an ingrained habit with just a few days of willpower.

We stay where we are, finding a level and a routine and protecting it. Change isn't easy or everyone would do it. Finding more responsibility, making a bigger difference, following a new path--we need help and time to change those patterns.

That's why the altMBA takes thirty days. Every day, several hours per day. That's why we do it in small groups, with cohorts of just twenty people. And why we use live coaches, people who know your name. An online workshop that actually works.

I hope you'll sign up to have us send you some useful information about what we're doing. Every workshop we've run has been completely full, and we're accepting applications now for the spring session.

What will you create next?

Is kindness a luxury?

Luxury goods are only consumed when we've got enough. You shouldn't go shopping for a Birkin bag with your last dollar.

It's easy to believe that kindness is like that. We need more reserves, perhaps, before we can expend some of what we've got in this generous way.

You've had a hard day, it's raining out, the world is changing, your boss is mean to you, the checking account is overdrawn, you're on deadline...

But... Does every need have to be filled, every emotion in place before we're capable of being kind?

Do we have to have enough money, enough confidence about the future and enough of everything else we crave before we can find the space to offer someone else a hand?

It turns out that the opposite is true. That kindness is a foundation for the rest. That investing time and resources in extending ourselves shifts the rest of our needs in precisely the right direction, not only putting us closer to satisfying those other needs, but enjoying the journey as well.

Kindness rewards the giver as well.

The candy diet

The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury's Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.

Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the "L" stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the "History" stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.

And of course, newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for telling us things we didn't want to hear. We've responded by not buying newspapers any more.

The decline of thoughtful media has been discussed for a century. This is not new. What is new: A fundamental shift not just in the profit-seeking gatekeepers, but in the culture as a whole.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."*

[*Ironically, this isn't what Einstein actually said. It was this, "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience." Alas, I've been seduced into believing that the shorter one now works better.]

Is it possible we've made things simpler than they ought to be, and established non-curiosity as the new standard?

We are certainly guilty of being active participants in a media landscape that breaks Einstein's simplicity law every day. And having gotten away with it so far, we're now considering removing the law from our memory.

The economics seem to be that the only way to make a living is to reach a lot of people and the only way to reach a lot of people is to race to the bottom, seek out quick clicks, make it easy to swallow, reinforce existing beliefs, keep it short, make it sort of fun, or prurient, or urgent, and most of all, dumb it down.

And that's the true danger of anti-intellectualism. While it's foolish to choose to be stupid, it's cultural suicide to decide that insights, theories and truth don't actually matter. If we don't care to learn more, we won't spend time or resources on knowledge.

We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that's left is candy.

Give your kid a tablet, a game, and some chicken fingers for dinner. It's easier than talking to him.

Read the short articles, the ones with pictures, it's simpler than digging deep.

Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.

The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It's bait, after all.

The good news: We don't need many people to demand more from the media before the media responds. The Beverly Hillbillies were a popular show, but that didn't stop Star Trek from having a shot at improving the culture.

The media has always bounced between pandering to make a buck and upping the intellectual ante of what they present. Now that this balance has been ceded to an algorithm, we're on the edge of a breakneck race to the bottom, with no brakes and no break in sight.

Vote with your clicks, with your sponsorship, with your bookstore dollars. Vote with your conversations, with your letters to the editor, by changing the channel...

Even if only a few people use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions, it still forces those around them to catch up. It's easy to imagine a slippery slope down, but there's also the cultural ratchet, a positive function in which people race to learn more and understand more so they can keep up with those around them.

Turn the ratchet. We can lead our way back to curiosity, inquiry and discovery if we (just a few for now) measure the right things and refuse the easy option in favor of insisting on better.

Crossing the awareness threshold

The blockchain, game theory, float tanks, turmeric, Justin Trudeau, Joi Ito, dal fry, thermite, the Corbomite Maneuver... these are all notions (people, ideas, technologies, foods) that you may or may not be aware of or have engaged with.

There's a path:

  • Unaware
  • Aware
  • Categorized
  • Have an opinion
  • Experienced
  • Have a new opinion
  • Have shared that opinion and are thus locked in

It's pretty clear that most the world is unaware of you and your work.

Once someone becomes aware of it, they'll probably leave it at that. "Oh." Because we're busy. And afraid of the new, because it often causes us to change our minds, which is frightening and difficult.

But sometimes, the culture or our work gives us no choice but to engage. We begin by putting this new thing into a category, so we know what to do with it, how to store the concept. Often, that's immediately followed by forming an opinion.

It's a huge leap, then, to go from, "Yuck, they make protein bars out of crickets," to, "I am going to try one."

After an experience, it's possible for a new opinion to be formed. But we like to be right, so that first opinion often sticks around.

And finally, seven steps in, it's possible that the word will spread, that awareness will be shared, that we'll tell someone else. And so the awareness barrier is crossed again, and the idea spreads, and opinions are truly locked in.

Some of these stages happen in clumps. Sometimes they take months or years to occur. How much time passed between the day you became aware that hockey was a spectator sport and the first time you went to a game?

We benefit when we're aware of how our idea will work its way through all seven stages, and cognizant that the process is different depending on the category, the culture and the people we're engaging with. Do it on purpose.

Wondering—past and future

Wondering about your past, about what might have happened, about bad decisions made and roads not taken... this is a recipe for not much more than regret.

But wondering about your future?

When we wonder about the future, we get a chance to begin again, to set new goals and envision bold plans.

No more chances to do yesterday over, sorry. But infinite chances for tomorrow.

If you could do tomorrow over again, would you?

The choice

Attitude is the most important choice any of us will make. We made it yesterday and we get another choice to make it today. And then again tomorrow.

The choice to participate.

To be optimistic.

To intentionally bring out the best in other people.

We make the choice to inquire, to be curious, to challenge the status quo.

To give people the benefit of the doubt.

To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty.

Of course these are attitudes. What else could they be?

And of course, they are a choice. No one does these things to us. We choose them and do the work (and find the benefits) that come with them.

After your first job

It's easy to remember our first job, or even our first 7 jobs. Cleaning the grease off the hot dog wheel at the fast food place. Caddying. Mowing lawns. Shlepping.

But how common is it to ask people about the first time they got a computer to do what they needed it to? Our first successful computer program, our first Excel macro, our first Zapier procedure?

Or, how widespread is it to compare our first sales experiences? The first time you sold something on your own? The first doorbell you rang, or the first time you persuaded someone to invest in an asset you were building?

There are millions of years of tradition involved in cleaning the grease off something. Programming and selling, on the other hand, are building blocks for a new kind of future.

When your phone uses you

Your smartphone has two jobs.

On one hand, it was hired by you to accomplish certain tasks. In the scheme of things, it's a screaming bargain and a miracle.

But most of the time, your phone works for corporations, assorted acquaintances and large social networks. They've hired it to put you to work for them. You're not the customer, you're the product. Your attention and your anxiety is getting sold, cheap.

When your phone grabs your attention, when it makes you feel inadequate, when it pushes you to catch up, to consume and to fret, it's not working for you, is it?

On demand doesn't mean you do things when the device demands.

Moving a conversation forward

That next thing you're going to say, what's it for?

Is it to advance the conversation, to get a client, to make them go away, to find intimacy, to share a truth, to ask for help, to offer help, to pass the time, to learn something, to teach something, to build trust...

Talking about the weather is a stall. Stalling has a function, but it's not the best we can do.

Intention opens the door to forward motion.

Shared reality, shared goals

The best way to persuade someone of your new approach is to begin with three agreements:

We agree on the goals. We both want the same outcomes, we're just trying different ways to get there.

We agree on reality. The world is not flat. Facts are actually in evidence. Statistics, repeatable experiments and clear evidence of causation are worth using as tools.

We agree on measurement. Because we've agreed on goals and reality, we agree on what success looks like as well.

All three allow us to enroll on the same journey, and to hold each other accountable for our work. Any other approach disrespects your partners and leaves you in a corner, without allies.

Today's a great day to dig in for next year

The week between Christmas and New Years is notoriously quiet. Your phone buzzes less often, there are no client meetings, no deadlines.

If you work for yourself, this might be the perfect week to take my freelancer course. Not merely watch it, but work through it. If you're willing to focus and challenge yourself, it could transform your business and the time you spend in it.

On sale only this week, until the end of the year. $29. Details are here.

Your mileage may vary

That's not true.

Your mileage will vary.

Of course it will. Of course everything won't be precisely as you imagined it, as it was described, as you deserve.

Sure, then what?

Will you react or respond? You could react in anger and fear. You could find people to blame, you could easily amplify your anger, you could dig deep for vitriol and snark and use your words and actions to drive a wedge between you and whoever didn't meet your imagined spec.

Or, perhaps you will respond by focusing on the opportunities the divergence presents. What a chance to celebrate what you've got and even better, find a way to build something even better.

The wrong side of history

Racist and sexist verbal attacks ('remarks' is too mild) never make sense.

Over time, people who judge others by their origin or chromosomes are always proved wrong, always shown to be afraid, not wise.

The fear that provokes these attacks takes many forms, it doesn't discriminate based on the bigot's age or income or even race or gender. But the fear is real, and when the fear pushes people to demean others, it's revealing itself.

Even though the fear is real, it's not an excuse. When we speak with respect and offer dignity and empathy, we're describing our future. 'Politically correct' is a cheap way of dismissing maturity, confidence and kindness. Calling angry words a joke, or a momentary slip can't hide them.

History shows us that attacking those that would bring hard work, generosity and insight to our lives is always a mistake. 

Is it a note worth playing?

Just published, a three-minute TED talk from 2014:

 

It follows on the ideas in this TEDx talk from a few years before: 

Have a happy holiday and a peaceful (and worthwhile) New Year.

When everyone is in favor...

It's almost certain that there's confusion about what's being decided.

No one knows anything

About twenty years ago, Permission Marketing was getting ready to go to the publisher. We sent a copy to Jack Trout, co-author of the classic book, Positioning.

Surprisingly, Jack replied with a long letter, letting us know that my book was based on a fundamentally flawed idea, that it would never work and we'd be better off not even publishing it. Not something most authors want to hear.

The good news was that the book went on to become a bestseller and, even better, it transformed the way many organizations engaged with email and with consumers. It led to a market that's now worth billions of dollars a year.

The lesson from Jack's note was simple: Since no one is sure, since no one can guarantee that it's going to work (or not), all we can do is our best work. All we can do is share our ideas with generosity, speak up and shine a light. 

Critics can share their experience and they can point out what doesn't match their expectations.

But it's up to you, the person on the hook, to choose to care enough to share your project and your vision of possibility, regardless.

Everyone has an opinion, but no one has a guarantee.

The last-minute, just-in-time, change-things gift solution: books

It took 500 years to figure out how to make something this magical, this permanent, this heartfelt... and get it delivered to you in time for the holidays, for just a few bucks. You may have heard of most of these, which makes them even more likely to be welcome gifts.

They are always the right size and they show you to be a person of good taste and generosity.

In the category of books I wish I'd read earlier in my career, I'd list: Do The Work, Persuadable, Anything You Want, Secrets of Closing the Sale, Start With Why, The Pursuit of Wow, New Rules, The Republic of Tea, Why David Sometimes Wins, The True Believer, The Red Queen, The MeshDon't Make Me Think, Software Project Survival Guide, Marketing Myopia, The Goal, Misbehaving, How to Design Cool StuffThe Shipwrecked MindBody of Work... (In a list)

Filed under thinking better: Getting Unstuck, Start Here Now, Book of est, Fail, Fail Again...

Worth listening to a thousand times on vinyl: Ella and LouisA Love Supreme, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock...

For a much needed laugh, not just a smile, but many laughs: Bizarro and The Far Side (jumbo paperback set)...

And if you want to help the people you care about catch up on my books...

The other day, someone came up to me on the subway and told me that Icarus had changed his life. That's a lot to get from a book that costs less than $20.

Avoiding bottlenecks

A simple algorithm for most endeavors:

Don't try to do things when everyone else is doing them.

Just about every system degrades under stress. It costs more, takes longer, gives poorer results.

The harder it is to resist the pressure to join the crowd, the more it's worth.

We are all biased

That airline is biased in favor of pilots with many hours of experience. 

Is it possible that a newbie pilot might be safer flying this jet than someone with twenty years of daily flying? Perhaps. But it's not worth the time, the money and the risk to find out. That's why you won't see a new pilot flying the 747 you're boarding. Young pilots have to put in a ton of hours because the airlines are biased.

Everyone has a bias, because that's the only way to survive in a world where we have insufficient information. 

Bank security guards are biased against people who walk into the bank wearing a ski mask. It might be because it's cold outside, but it helps them do their job to begin each interaction with this belief.

Engineers are biased for certain suppliers or technologies. Talent bookers are biased for certain skills and demeanors.

The problem kicks in when our bias works against our goals. When our bias keeps us from exploring options that will move us forward, it needs to be replaced. When our bias cripples a society we care about, when it gets in the way of fairness, it must be re-examined.

But it's worth understanding the nuance between the bias that enables us to be successful and the one that keeps us from that very same outcome.

The best professionals are biased. And smart enough to embrace only the biases that keep them successful.

"I don't know the first thing about this issue"

Actually, you do.

It's likely that you don't know the last thing. But the first?

You know enough to know you don't know everything.

You know enough to know that there might be a pitfall or a trap ahead, and that you need to tread carefully.

You know enough to reach out and ask for help.

That's three things, things that others less thoughtful than you don't know.

So, give yourself some credit and begin.