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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


All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



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.




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



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.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

Why be good?

Was Jackson Pollock a good painter? The critics at the time certainly didn't think so.

Twyla Tharp's London debut was panned.

The Prius was largely ignored by car magazines, mostly because it wasn't a very good car.

If we define 'good' as showing reasonable skill in the expected areas of performance, then good is not only useless, it's dangerous. Good authors rarely change minds. Good politicians rarely get elected.

The worst thing you can be given as a marketer is a good product to sell.

Expertise and passion

Should the person who runs the customer service operations at a ski school also be required to love skiing?

Can the CFO of a large church be an atheist?

Does the head of marketing at Kodak have to have a passion for chemicals?

It's true, "write what you know, write what you love." The commitment comes through. But does that mean that boring products shouldn't be marketed? Does it mean that the community theater must limit the list it considers for any job only to people who are 'in' the theater, who have paid their dues?

How many worthy causes have lousy operations teams? How many hobbies and sports are staffed by fans, not professionals?

I think if the work is important, it should be done with passion and skill and flair. But the work of balancing the books, or running Google adwords or making sure that customers are treated well at the ski school often has nothing to do with the product or service itself.

It's more important that you be passionate about what you do all day than it is to be passionate about the product that is being sold.

Give me someone with domain expertise and the passion to do great work any time. Belief in the mission matters (a lot!), but it doesn't replace skill.

Best of both worlds: someone who has passion (and skill and insight) about their task and passion about the mission. The latter can never replace the former. Organizations staffed with sports fans or true believers worry me, because they often use their passion as an excuse for poor performance. What worries me more are the employees who have neither expertise nor passion.

(All that said, I've never met a great marketer who wasn't passionate about what she sold. In the case of marketing, it's not just a nice combination, it's a requirement.)

10,000 hours

It's not surprising that Malcolm Gladwell's new book has made a splash. All his thought-provoking writing does and deserves to.

The argument of Outliers:

  • Where you're born and when you're born have an enormous amount to do with whether or not you're successful.
  • Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.
  • Both of the bullet points above are far more important than the magical talent myth.

Bill Gates, the Beatles, Beethoven, Bill Joy, Tiger Woods--do the math, 10,000 hours of work.

In some ways, this is a restatement of the Dip. Being the best in the world brings extraordinary benefits, but it's not easy to get there.

For me, though, some of the 10k analysis doesn't hold up. The Doors (or Devo or the Bee Gees) for example, didn't play together for 10,000 hours before they invented a new kind of rock*. If the Doors had encountered significantly more competition for their brand of music, it's not clear that they could have gotten away with succeeding as quickly as they did. Hey, Miley Cyrus wasn't even 10,000 hours awake before she became a hit.

Doc Searls and Scoble didn't blog for 10,000 hours before they became the best, most important bloggers in the world. Molly Katzen didn't work on her recipes for 10,000 hours before she wrote the Moosewood Cookbook either.

*(There were bar bands in Buffalo, where I grew up, that put in far more than 10,000 playing mediocre music... didn't help. Hard work may be necessary, but not sufficient).

Here's my take on it:
You win when you become the best in the world, however 'best' and 'world' are defined by your market. In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That's the only magic thing about 10k... it's a hard number to reach, so most people bail.

Yo Yo Ma isn't perfect... he's just better than everyone else. He pushed through the Dip that others chose not to. I'm guessing that there are endeavors (like being CEO of a Fortune 500 company or partner at a big law firm) where the rewards are so huge that the number is closer to 20,000 hours or more to get through the Dip.

But, ready for this? The Dip is much closer in niche areas, new areas, unexplored areas. You can get through the Dip in an online network or with a new kind of music because being seen as the best in that area is easier (at least for now). You can get through the Dip as a real estate broker in a new, growing town a lot quicker than someone in midtown Manhattan. The competition is thinner and probably less motivated.

Yes, it matters where and when you were born. It matters that you get lucky. And it matters most of all that you saw the Dip, realized how far away it was and chose to push through it.

Service worth paying for

Let's say you're stuck in the airport and you need to figure out if you can transfer your seat from your airline to another. Would you pay $20 to talk to a competent, empowered agent who answered on the first ring?

That's four calls an hour, $80 an hour for an agent that costs the airline a fraction of that. A new profit center, one that causes joy, not hassles.

Of course, no one would use the service if it wasn't worth paying for.

So, that's the interesting challenge. If you had to charge for service, what would the service be like?

Increasingly, the web makes pricing cutthroat. And service suffers, because it's expected for free. So charge. Or at least act like you could if you wanted to.

In search of competition

If your pipes break at 3 am, Roto Rooter is happy.

They're organized for emergencies like this, for moments when you have no choice but to do business with them. Since you're out of options, their high-priced service is your best shot.

They do far less well in the light of day, when you can take your time and compare plumbers and perhaps bargain a little.

Some businesses prefer to catch you when you have no choice. They use market conditions or even patents to ensure that they can be the bully. I'm not sure that there's anything wrong with this, but I'm certain that it is a deliberate choice.

Other businesses, like Amazon, do better when they have lots of competition. Amazon has made it easy for other vendors to use their technology platform and even to sell items on their site. Why? Because they understand that more competition brings more attention, more business, more commerce. And since they are organized for volume and are eager to compete, more competition helps them.

The only way to enjoy competition is to have something different, or better, or something that scales. You need to offer a community that increases in value as it scales, or a unique perspective or technology.

Compare Amazon to the folks that make the Invisible Fence® dog containment system. They hate competition. In my experience, they have really high prices, nasty policies and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. That's okay, as long as you really don't have a choice--you need a system like this, and they have it. If there were a transparent market for this product, they'd fail in a heartbeat.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, and competition does show up. Then what?

If you run your restaurant knowing that there are dozens of other restaurants on your block, things will be easier when in fact there are other restaurants down the block.

Which situation benefits your church or your political candidate or your store? Do you do better when you're the only choice, with all the power that this brings, or when there are many choices, with all the audience and excitement that this brings?

You can pretend that you are unique, that you have no competition and never will. Inevitably, this will create an attitude that, while fun for a while, will probably harm you later. The alternative is to acknowledge that the competition exists and in fact, to encourage it. I have never met an author who believes that her book is the only one in the world you can buy... and this realization changes the way books are written and marketed.

The internet turns just about every category of goods or service into a bookstore-like bazaar of competition. You can either fight that or encourage it. No one will be exactly like you, not if you work hard, but it's inevitable that there will be replacements just a click away.

A year's worth of popular posts

As chosen by clicks, biggest one last. Feel free to vote:


I just found this post, lost and forgotten, in the bottom of a folder I was backing up.

I meant to publish it in January, 2002, when I started this blog:

Predictions for 2008

I know it's six years away, but I've found that short-term predictions are too easy to make. So, here you go:

  • I predict that the number of blogs will explode, to more than a hundred times as many as we have now. If you're an opinion leader, you'll have one.
  • A virtually unknown politician, a black man who's father is from Africa, will be elected president, in a landslide. He'll take the office from George W. Bush, leaving with the lowest approval rating of any president in history.
  • Fidel Castro will step down.
  • People with AIDS will be living longer than ever before, but the disease won't be cured.
  • Americans will watch more video online than on TV.
  • An earthquake in Myanmar will kill more than 100,000 people and their government will do nothing.
  • The economy will be in the middle of a once in a century meltdown.
  • Apple will make a cell phone and dominate the MP3 market as well. And the music industry will be in tatters. Napster will fail.
  • Starbucks will sputter, but the quality and availability of dark chocolate will get better and better.
  • You will know who the governor of Alaska is.
  • After six years, Ingrid Betancourt will be rescued.
  • Britney Spears will have a hit record.
  • I'll have written some more books and will release a goofy action figure to raise money for Acumen.
  • China will become the fourth largest economy in the world, but they'll get in trouble for putting poison into milk and toothpaste.
  • Google will be the center of the Web.
  • Most newspapers will either be on the verge of bankruptcy or considering it.

Sorry to kid. But just think about how impossible it is for you to predict what your life is going to be like in four or six years... being ready for anything is the only rational strategy. So, why exactly are you planning on the future being just like it is now, but with better uniforms?

One Santa to rule them all


All Santas look the same. This is important to you if you're a marketer.

Lots of brands and markets splinter. We have markets with hundreds of different cell phone models, catalogs containing tens of thousands of different kinds of nuts and bolts. There are very few marketing examples of a natural monopoly.

The Bell phone system was a natural monopoly. Consumers benefitted from having one and only one phone system, so anyone could call anyone. The bigger it got, the better it worked.

Microsoft, for a long time, profitted from a natural monopoly on their operating system. Having the same system on every computer benefitted them as much as it benefitted the users. Google, of course, is now profiting from an ever more efficient and widespread operating system (the web).

But those are businesses, not marketing icons or brands. Santa, on the other hand, is the living logo of a holiday and an idea. And we don't want multiple versions. There are no real pretenders to the Nast/Coke Santa that show any sign of catching on, because the market benefits when there's just one icon to represent this idea--a key part of the appeal, even for rational skeptics, is that there's precisely one Santa and this is what he looks like.

Which is the lesson for marketers: If you set out to build an iconic brand/logo, your best opportunity is to find a story, a market and a process that works best when there's only one. They're easy to recognize when someone points them out to you: Harley, the Nobel Prize, the Super Bowl. Walter Cronkite, Oprah, Warren Buffet. Tiffany, Sand HIll Road, Heinz ketchup. These are brands we rely on not when we want to have an argument (Ford vs. Chevy) but when we want to know we got the right one, the only one, the best one.

Hard to build, a treasure to own. Don't forget to leave out some Tollhouse™ cookies.

Hubris vs. Humility

It's pretty easy for a successful marketer to be persuaded that his performance is directly related to his skill.

Same thing with investment managers. In the fiscal year just ended, Harvard paid its top five investment managers an average of more than $4 million. Each. Per year.

Of course, if you believe in the "you must be present to win" theory of management, in which being part of the right organization in the right moment of time is more important than who you are, this is totally outrageous. Surely there were managers just as good who could be hired for a paltry million dollars a year. Surely the high-paid Harvard team was taking no real personal risk. Surely they don't work much harder to earn 20% for the University than on the days when they might earn just 15%. No real connection between effort and results.

On the other hand, if you belong to the "great minds" school, then this team was underpaid, and if Harvard had just paid a little more, they would have ended up without such a loss on their hands. I think it's clear from current events that there was no correlation between talent and pay on Wall Street.

Back in 1999, every internet marketer was a genius. And well paid, too. A lot of those marketing geniuses brought hubris to their work. They acted big, spent big and never looked at or learned from their mistakes.

Others, just a few, approached their work with a sense of gratitude. They realized that the good times wouldn't last forever and they tried to develop skills and insights and connections for the future.

It's interesting--years later, very few of the arrogant guys have done much of anything. They never developed perspectives or attitudes that extended beyond, "hey, shut up, I'm here, we're winning," and so they failed once they left the mother ship.

This is why you should hesitate to hire a marketer or salesperson who comes from a successful big company marketer (like Apple or Microsoft). Sure, they 'contributed' to the growth of a great brand, but how much? What did they learn? What will they do when they don't have a one in a million brand and the wind at their back? Or in the case of P&G alum, what will they do when they don't have billions of dollars to spend on advertising?

Confidence is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, particularly in marketing or investing. Arrogance, on the other hand, is hard to reward. My favorite combination is the quiet confidence of knowledge, combined with the humility that comes from realizing that you're pretty lucky and that you have no idea at all what's guaranteed to work tomorrow.

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing is an idea that spreads--and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause.

Two kinds of viral marketing: The original classic sort in which the marketing is the product and which a self-amplifying cycle occurs. Hotmail, for example, or YouTube. The more people use them, the more people see them. The more people see them, the more people use them. The product or service must be something that improves once more people use it.

A second kind has evolved over the last few years, and that's a marketing campaign that spreads but isn't the product itself. Shepard Fairey's poster of Barack Obama was everywhere, because people chose to spread it. It was viral (it spread) and it was marketing (because it made an argument--a visual one--for a candidate.)

Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn't market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.

Marketers are obsessed with free media, and, as is often the case, we blow it in our rush to get our share. We create content that is hampered or selfish or boring. Or we create something completely viral that doesn't do any marketing at all.

I wrote the first mainstream book about viral marketing. It's free (still) eight years (and millions of downloads) later.

Download 2000Ideavirus.pdf

I haven't updated it or made it pretty, but I think the core ideas stand up pretty well. (I even talk about the Zipf's Law and the long tail, but didn't realize it at the time).

Here's how the book itself is an example of viral marketing:

1. I posted the PDF for free. Three thousand people downloaded it on day one.

2. The file is small enough to email to your friends. I encouraged people to do just that.

3. Some people mailed it to fifty or a hundred people. It spread.

4. That's just viral. The marketing part? I released a $40 souvenir hardcover edition. People knew the idea but didn't like the format or my design skills. So they paid a lot for a book they had already read. It went to #5 on Amazon (#4 in Japan). We sold the rights in dozens of languages. And the paperback rights. And it helped me get speaking gigs.

BUT! 5. That's not why I did it. If I had done it as a clever way to sell books, it would have failed. It would have failed because I would have somehow tried to track it, or added friction, or tried to profit in some way from the idea. I was way too dumb at the time to have done it right if my goal was to do it 'right'.

The critical element of viral marketing is this: it's built in. It was built into Hotmail and built into YouTube. The more people used the camera on their cell phones, the more the idea spread, the more people wanted a camera.

If you want to do viral marketing, you can try to come up with a viral ad, but you'll probably fail. You're better off building the viral right into the product, creating a product that spreads because you designed it that way.

Viral marketing only works well when you plan for it, when you build it in, when you organize your offering to be spreadable, interesting and to work better for everyone involved when it spreads. If I don't benefit from spreading it, why should I spread it? I won't. If you don't benefit from your users spreading the idea, it might spread, but it won't help you much. So both elements have to be present.

The reason for this post is that viral marketing is getting a bad name, largely from clueless marketing agencies and clueless marketers. Here's what they do: they get a lame product, or a semi-lame product, and they don't have enough time or money to run a nationwide ad campaign. So, instead, they slap some goofy viral thing on top of it and wait for it to spread. And if it doesn't spread, they create a faux controversy or engage a PR firm or some bloggers and then it still doesn't work.

Being viral isn't the hard part. The hard part is making that viral element actually produce something of value, not just entertainment for the client or your boss.

If you could meet one person...

Think about this for a moment. If a trusted friend could arrange a meeting between you and anyone of your choosing, who would you choose?

Not for entertainment or curiosity or bragging rights, but to help your business. Who could help? Someone who could actually aid your marketing or development...

Years ago, I went to the AOL partner's conference. I'm no runner (unless someone is chasing me) yet I signed up for the early morning run because I knew Steve Case, CEO of AOL, would be running. I ran with him for twenty minutes, almost killed myself. Didn't help. (But I'm glad I met him).

If you're an author, can Jeff Bezos at Amazon help you more than a motivated promotions manager far down the ladder? It's unlikely.

People in charge can rarely help you, because they are rarely (truly) in charge. Billionaires can't help you, either, because they have their defense force fields on full strength during meetings like this. In fact, the person who can help you the most is almost always someone who doesn't appear that powerful on the surface.

Remember, it's not just that they can help you. It's that they want to help you. Famous people qualify in neither category.

So, who is it? Hint, it's not the Wizard of Oz or the Pope or Barack Obama. It's someone not famous, someone who actually makes things happen and someone who actually cares. Think hard... Got it?

Great. Go meet them.

Two ways to deal with "no"

You could contact the organization that turned you down and explain that they had made a terrible mistake, the wrong choice and a grave error. You could criticize the vendor they actually selected, bring You could even question the judgment of the prospect and try to teach them to make better decisions in the future. And, while you're at it, challenge the fairness of the decision-making committee itself, and explain how a more fair process would have favored you at the same time it would have helped the organization that turned you down.


You could be more gracious than if you'd won the work. You could send a thank you note for the time invested, you could sing the praises of the vendor chosen in your stead and you could congratulate the buyer, "based on the criteria you set out, it's clear that you made exactly the right choice for your organization right now." That doesn't mean the criteria were right, it just means that you're not attacking the person for being an impulsive lunatic. You could even outline what you learned from the process and what you'll be changing in the future. And you can make it clear that you're in it for more than just a sale, and you'll be around if they ever need you.

Couple questions:

1. Which one will make you more likely to be invited back, or to be the backup if the first choice fails?


2. Which one will increase your word of mouth at the same time it improves your organization's feeling about itself?

It's a no-brainer, I think. So how come the first is so common?

Confusing activity with action

Thing is, most of the stuff you do online doesn't cost money.

In the old days, money added friction. Money made you choosy. Money ensured that you valued your marketing efforts appropriately, because if they didn't work, they cost you money.

Today, reading and posting and linking and networking and connecting and commenting and podcasting and linkblurbling and doseedoing online all feel like essential marketing tasks. They certainly keep you busy.

But is the activity getting in the way of action?

Is the online work you're doing actually leading you where you want to go, or merely keeping you busy?

Dmitri calls this "imitation of turbulent activity" or ИБД, Имитация Бурной Деятельности.

[Flipside: Vic sent me a stat that said that 57% of the online users surveyed hadn't read a blog in the last year. These people are incompetent and should be fired.]

Another way to look at this:

For big brands and marketers with significant budgets, the internet represents a loss of leverage. Money doesn't buy you as much attention, and you have to work much, much harder for every eyeball.

For individuals, the internet represents an increase in leverage. One person with a blog or a lot of followers or friends can reach more people, more quickly, than ever before.

These are colliding. Big brands on the way down, individuals on the way up.

Interesting new media charity efforts

Pistachio is putting her twitter followers to work ($2 a head)

Squidoo is giving away $30,000 via twitter.

Givelist is blog, clearinghouse and portal for a whole bunch of new thinking on this front.

Big donors always get the press, but there are a lot more little donors in the world. The act is often more important than the gift itself. May you have a grievance-free Festivus.

The best and the brightest

Here's a piece of (quite) good news:

The smartest and most motivated young people are no longer itching to become investment bankers and lawyers. We're always hearing about a shortage of engineers or nurses--but there never seems to be a shortage of people eager to work 90 hours a week helping to move money from one pile to another.

Applications to work on the Obama team are over 300,000 (up from about 44,000 at this point in the Bush administration). Students are deciding to become fellows at Acumen or to set up innovative small businesses or volunteer their time or bootstrap a music career. Perhaps we're on the verge at getting much better at making useful things, spreading ideas that matter and helping people, and not quite so good at leveraging capital for financial institutions. Imagine what would happen if 5,000 investment bankers or 500 M & A lawyers put their talents to work doing something else...

As I look through all the notes and applications I received for the program I'm running next year, I'm not just optimistic. I'm thrilled. There must be hundreds of thousands of movers and shakers out there, people of all ages who are smart and get things done. And more and more, they're being motivated by the quest, or the outcome, or the people they work with, not just the cash payout. It's exciting beyond words. The ten people I've chosen are just astonishing, each and every one of them.

If you can't find people like these, you're not looking in the right places. And if you can't figure out how to work with them, you're missing out.

Best free subscription of the week

Kevin Kelly is syndicating his classic book, the book that changed everything, over RSS. Free and mind-changing, at the same time.

Brands, social, clutter and the sundae

The Times reports that traditional brand advertising on Facebook is a total failure. If you've been doing this for a while, this is no real surprise.

Mark Drapeau asks whether brands belong on Twitter [I apologize to Mark for initially misunderstanding his post. My fault.]. Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That's nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn't mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

There are two key problems here.

First, these big companies are asking precisely the wrong question. They are asking, "how can we use these new tools to leverage our existing businesses?" They want to use the thing they have (money) to get the thing they need (attention) and are basically trying to force ads onto a medium that just doesn't want them. Do people really want to follow P&G on Twitter so they can learn about the history of the soap operas they sponsored? Why? There are millions of people to friend or follow or interact with... why oh why are you going to spend time with Dunkin Donuts unless there is something in it for you?

Traditional advertising is inherently selfish. It interrupts in order to generate money (part of which pays for more interruptions). That approach doesn't work at a cocktail party, or at a funeral or in a social network.

This is the meatball sundae. Asking what the medium can do for you instead of what you can do for the medium.

The second problem is a lot more subtle. It's the clutter of the impersonal. Yes, you want an alert from a friend when it's really a friend and really an alert. But what happens when it's an ad that pretends to be an alert? Or what if it's not an ad, but not really a totally personal tweet either?

It's too late for the social sites to go back to descriptions of what you had for lunch. There will be a line drawn, and right now it seems to be at the point where marketers discover that they are wasting their money.

The clutter is going to get a lot worse. Marketers and free media are drawn to each other, even if the results aren't always very good. Until marketers get off the greed train, though, it's going to be a long time between pots of gold.

The power of smart copywriting

Coffee Consider this riff from a professionaly printed freestanding sign in front of a Peet's in San Jose:

"Unlike Any Coffee You've Ever Tasted Before."

Wait. Why the capitals?

"Unlike any coffee you've ever tasted before."

"Before" is redundant.

"Unlike any coffee you've ever tasted."

Too negative. And why is "unlike" a positive trait? I mean, boiled leech guts is also unlike any coffee I've ever tasted, that doesn't mean I want to drink it. How about:

"The best coffee you've ever tasted."

Well, the thing is, the only coffee that matters is coffee I've tasted, right, so we could get shorter still:

"The best coffee."

The problem with that is that it's nothing but bragging. Of course you think it's the best coffee. So what? You're lying. And even if you're not lying, how do you know it's the best? Compared to what?

This is where the smart copywriter becomes a marketer.

"Better than Starbucks."

Well, it's still bragging. This is the moment where the marketer becomes a smart marketer and realizes that changing the offer or the product is more important than changing the hype.

Are we better than Starbucks?"

Invest $20 in espresso in little cups, and maybe, just maybe, your sign will make some magic.

Selling ideas to a big company

I have been selling ideas for a long time, and decided to become a book packager (which I did before doing what I do now) solely because it's an industry that makes it possible to sell ideas.

One project took more than five years (selling Stanley Kaplan on creating a line of test prep books, finding a publisher and then creating them and launching the series) and one book took a day to invent, a day to sell and three days to write. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way--I got 900 rejection letters my first year and sold exactly one project.

Two things have to happen before a big company buys your idea:

1. They have to be in the business of buying ideas.

The book business buys ideas. The toy industry does, but only through a tiny number of agents. The car industry... hardly ever. Apple doesn't buy ideas, but they don't mind stealing them.

A company that likes buying ideas has a process. They make it relatively straightforward and they have no upside in stealing from you. A company that isn't in that business puts up barriers. They troll around trade shows looking for ideas to take (and there's nothing legally or morally wrong with that, imho).

Years ago, I invented the first fax board for the Mac. Our plan was to build a prototype and then sell the rights to one of the many Mac peripheral companies. The experience was eye opening. We talked with more than a dozen companies and had meetings with more than six. Some companies were clearly professionals at this, others were just fumbling in the dark.

I also invented a version of the wireless music player (sort of a precessor of the Sonos). We spent a lot of money and built a prototype and brought it to various hi-fi companies to license. One of the first stops was Polk Audio, a leading speaker company with direct mail experience looking for growth. It seemed a perfect fit.

We had a nice meeting, but I was sure we were out of luck before it started. To get to their offices, we had to walk through the factory. Polk is basically a furniture company that makes speakers. The entire culture was focused on cutting wood and shaping it into speakers. They had no experience or desire to make an electronic device off shore and market it.

Short summary: if you have an idea for a company that doesn't know how to buy it, move on. And if you want to be in the business of selling ideas, find an industry that has experience buying those ideas.

2. They have to trust you

This is far bigger than it sounds. Venture capitalists, for example, appear to be in the business of buying ideas. They're not. Far from it. They are in the business of funding entrepreneurs. The ideas are secondary, easy to find, not so important. The entrepreneurs, the ones you can trust to stick it out, to push through the Dip, to tell you the truth, to hire and lead and inspire... that is the scarce resource.

The reason that big companies don't want to hear from you is that they don't trust you. They don't trust you to understand their industry, or to understand implementation. They don't trust your judgment about whether it's a good idea. They don't trust you won't flake out, or sue them, or sell your ideas to multiple parties.

You may be tempted to seek out a middleman, someone they do trust, an idea scout. While I'm sure there are a few reputable people out there, in most industries, they're just scam artists looking to take your money. Again, in the book business it's different, there are reputable agents, they never charge their authors and they all charge about the same commission. But in my experience, there are very few analogues to this in other industries.

So... if you want to be in the business of selling ideas to industry (as opposed to getting that once-in-a-lifetime idea off your chest and cashing out), the thing to do is find an industry, one where you are likely to be trusted, one where you have a sense that they understand how to buy ideas. Invest in that industry, spend time, speak at trade shows, earn your right to credibility. Then, over time, day by day, you'll have the ability to bring them profitable ideas.

Side note: the more complicated your idea is, the better off you are patenting it. Dean Kamen made his fortune patenting wheelchairs and other devices that you and I could never hope to build. On the other hand, if your idea is simple enough to dream up in a week, the only way you're going to protect it is to build it, fast and well.

Set the agenda by showing up first

If you want to win an Academy Award, it's clear that you need to release your movie at the end of the year. Early movies don't get remembered, don't get nominated, don't win.

But for most marketers (and job seekers) most of the time, being first is an advantage.

First competent mover advantage is real. The first person with a great product or story that matches the market establishes the narrative, sets the bar and forces followers to conform to her specs. If you've got the good stuff, going first means you've set a standard... the consumer now has to abandon you to choose someone else, which means pain and admitting an error. People hate to do that. (Evidence: Pownce).

Sure, there's the advantage of sniping in an auction situation. Last bidder in an auction always wins, right? But there's no reason that an impressive marketing effort can't lead to an implied topping privilege. If they like you, they can always bring you their final best offer for you to consider.

Applying for a job, or to college, or visiting a client to pitch a project--in each case, going first is a significant advantage. Why, then, do so many people wait until the last minute? Why do we insist that this is a strategy, not a mistake?

Fear, of course. Procrastination. It's easier to wait. The impending deadline gives us the energy to overcome our sales call resistance, forces the committee to get its act together, pushes the project up the priority list. Those are all fine reasons to wait. But don't pretend it's good marketing, because it's not.

When you notice it, it's news

I just read a post that said that some musicians were reporting that their perfect pitch (the ability to know exactly what a perfect A sounds like) is fading away. What could be causing this?

I don't think anything is causing it.

Out of every 10,000 musicians, it's not hard to imagine that throughout history, a few (2, 5, 10?) have had their pitch fade away. But in the old days, we never heard about it. Word didn't spread. Perhaps you told your husband or the ensemble, but that was the end of it.

As word (about your product or your brand or your career or anything) is amplified and spread, it bumps into other news and becomes a trend.

This is a subtle but huge change in the way we think about the world. The connection of customers and employees and users and citizens and good guys and bad actors and everyone... it means that the way we see and understand information is changed forever.

I would take two things away from this:

1. Just because you heard about something happening for the first time doesn't mean it's the first time. It may just mean that it's the first time it's been widely reported. Sort of like what happens after you get a digital thermometer in your house--everyone suddenly gets a fever.

2. Be prepared for everything to be widely reported.

Dewey defeats Truman

Headlines matter now more than they ever did.

Headlines provoke and introduce. They cajole and they position.

No headline, no communication.

This spreadsheet you just sent me... what does it say? What does it mean? It has no headline. Trashed.

That person you met at a conference: What's his headline? Are you actually going to spend ten minutes with him before you determine whether or not he's interesting enough to talk with? Of course not. No headline, no communication.

You can have sub-headlines
The great direct mail copywriter Joe Sugarman taught me this. Every ad had a headline, and so did every paragraph. If the paragraph didn't warrant a headline, it didn't go in the ad.

This might be a shame
I'm not saying that headline-world is the place we want to or should live in. I'm merely saying that we do live there, and if you want to communicate (your resume, your trustworthiness, your graciousness) you need to be sure your headline is compelling, accurate and a viable foundation to the message you're ultimately trying to send. (That last one is very important. Just because it gets you newsstand sales doesn't mean it's a headline you want to live with.)

Headlines don't always look like headlines, of course. That outfit you wore to work today is quite a headline, bub. Headlines may not look like they belong in a newspaper, but they always work that way. Now or never.

You're not going to win a Pulitzer Prize

... and neither am I. Nor will any blogger, including those far more deserving.

The Pulitzer folks, stewards of one of the most influential and important awards in any field, have just announced their new rules. You can win a Pulitzer for commentary online now, but only if the place you post your commentary is a significant news gathering site. You know, sites like MinnPost and Voice of San Diego. So, Tom Friedman can win a well-deserved prize for writing what is essentially a blog for the NY Times, but if he goes off on his own, he's out.

What a shame.

As newspapers melt all around us, faster and faster, the people in the newspaper business persist in believing that the important element of a news-paper is the paper part.

What an opportunity (for someone) to start taking advantage of the huge pool of talent and passion that is moving online, and to work to raise the bar. We don't need more gossip sites from celebrity magazine editors. We need to identify and reward voices that push hard against the status quo, that report eagerly and accurately and that speak truth to power.

Here's what we're going to miss, and quite soon: the cost of having a printing press and the money to run one meant that there were newspapers with gravitas. Newspapers that invested for the long haul, that stood for something, that spoke up. When you can launch a blog for nothing and disappear quite easily if it doesn't work, the gravitas is a lot more difficult to find. When the newspapers are gone (and it's happening a lot faster than the people in the industry are able to admit) that's what we're going to miss the most.

The opportunity, then, is to organize and network and identify and reward that activity when it happens online. Not because the site is owned by a paper or because the founder has connections to the old media. No, because they're doing work that matters.

If I ran the Pulitzers, I'd hand out a dozen more every year to people working exclusively online.

What to do with your ideas for other people

Steve wrote me a note pointing out that as a marketer, he's always coming up with groundbreaking ideas that can help large companies or other marketers. Should he just let them go? Try to sell them? Submit them to the company?

Another reader wrote in complaining about Apple's insistence that they don't want to know about your great ideas. They refuse to read them.

You've probably been asked to sign a formal NDA document--someone wants to tell you a big secret and you're not allowed to tell anyone, at least not during this century.

It's frustrating. You've got this great idea, but no one wants it, or they're going to steal it.

Here's the essential distinction: Selling ideas is a fundamentally different business than having ideas.

It's like being a really fast runner but being unwilling to take a hit or unable to block. You may be fast, but you can't play football. Two different skills are involved, and having one is insufficient. Remember, the selling is a business onto itself, not something that you do after you get a great idea.

If you want to sell ideas to organizations, you need to invest heavily in the skills and status to do that. The quality of ideas is not a factor in whether or not you will be in a position to have a chance to sell those ideas. (That sentence is shocking but true, so reread it).

If you're unable to be in that position, my best advice is that you blog the ideas. At least you'll get them out of your system and get bragging rights if anything ever happens.


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Warning: The internet is almost full

Due to the extraordinary explosion in video, blogs, news feeds and social network postings, the internet is dangerously close to running out of room.

Nothing can grow forever, and exponential growth is always short lived. We're running out of disk space, so if you have something left to say, better hurry. Once it's full, it's full.

Of course, the decentralized nature of the net means that it will never be physically full. As long as we can keep making hard drives, we won't run out of space to store those inane videos of your Aunt Sally. What is full is our attention.

Ten years ago, you had a shot of at least being aware of everything that mattered. Five years ago, you had to be really selective about what you took in, but at least it was possible to know what you didn't know. Today, it's impossible. Today, you can't even read every article on a thin slice of a thin topic.

You can't keep up with the status of your friends on the social networks. No way. You can't read every important blog... you can't even read all the blogs that tell you what the important blogs are saying.

Used to be, you could finish reading your email, hit "check email" and nothing new would show up. Now, of course, the new mail is probably a longer list than the mail you just finished processing.

The internet isn't full, but we are.

Lesson learned from my biggest business mistake

My biggest mistake (at least in terms of income avoided) was not believing in the world wide web in 1994.

It's not like I didn't know about it. I had written a book called "Best of the Net". I'd even written the cover story for some now-defunct magazine on how to surf the internet. But in those days, the Net referred to Archie and Veronica and the online services... there was no real browser, no search engines to speak of, just a bunch of conferences and some guys in the Valley.

Not only did I ignore it, I actively ignored it. I didn't register hundreds of domain names or build out the website for Yoyodyne beyond much of a placeholder. Instead of expanding my online game show/promotions company into the web, we focused on Microsoft's Chicago service and Apple's eWorld. Sigh.

Instead of building a search engine, I wrote a book called The Smiley Dictionary. Earnings to date: $10,000 or so.

I'm going into all this painful detail to let you know what an idiot I was. How many clues were just sitting there, how much access I had, how deliberate I was in ignoring them.


I think the answer is simple: Because the rules of this new business didn't match the rules of my existing business.

Businesses live in ecosystems. A series of rules and assumptions that, taken together, make a thriving mechanism

Example: The oil ecosystem involves prospecting, drilling, transporting, refining, etc. If you don't understand the role of automobiles or plastics in the oil industry, then you don't understand the industry. You don't 'get it.' On the other hand, if you understand the ecosystem of automobiles and of oil, then the ecosystem of windmills on homes and hydrogen in cars may be just too weird to grasp.

The ecosystem of the worldwide web was just being filled in. It had some assumptions clearly laid out (no money to view the content) and some waiting to be sketched in (can attention turn into cash?). But for someone in the business of selling books and internet content, this seemed impossible. Different rules, rules I didn't understand and couldn't accept.

And that's where we get stuck. We get stuck because we believe that the rules of our ecosystem are permanent and transferable. In fact, they are almost always temporary and rarely transferable.

My approach now is simple: take a look at the rules of the new ecosystem. Do they make sense? Is it possible they'll come to pass? If they do, what happens to you?

Pre-steal this book

This is a long, rambling story with a useful punchline. I posted it on a weekend so you could skip it without feeling guilty. Thanks to my friend Michael for reminding me.

Twenty five years ago, I led the creation of a line of computer adventure games in conjunction with major science fiction and mystery authors. Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Erle Stanley Gardner's estate, etc.

One night, I took Harry Harrison out drinking (he drank, I drove). After a few tequilas, Harry announced, "I don't speak to Crichton!" Intrigued, I asked why not. I thought he was a perfectly nice guy.

"Well," Harry said, "I actually have never met him, but if I did meet him, I'd shun him."

It turns out that Harry had spent six months writing a science fiction novel about a virus that comes from space and wipes out a small town. As he was finishing it, The Andromeda Strain came out and was a mammoth bestseller. Harrison had to throw his manuscript in the trash. He said he was angry that even though Crichton had never heard of or seen his work, he had pre-stolen it. It's entirely possible that Crichton had spent time imagining what Harry and authors like him would have written next... and then written it.

So, what's keeping you from pre-stealing my next book, or Malcolm's? Why not pre-steal the next great innovation from Kevin Kelly or someone else you admire?

The market rarely rewards off-the-charts creativity that comes from another solar system. It's more likely that a successful innovation is already in the works somewhere. Just think like them but be bolder and faster.

Building an albatross

I spent hours watching the albatross in the Galapagos hang out. The first thing you notice is that they have a terribly difficult time taking off. In the water, an albatross will have to spend hours waiting for the right wind to come along. On land, they're ungainly, but when they find the right conditions... they take off. And fly and fly and fly. An albatross can fly for days or weeks, with a heart rate similar to its resting heart rate. Possibly the best bird ever invented.

3years2 Albatross businesses are great to have but not easy to launch. Rather than the excitement of the big time launch and then the constant promotion and high expense of a typical business, an albatross business mucks around for a while, but since it's designed for effortless long flight, it gains steam and then keeps going.

Today is the third anniversary of the launch of Squidoo into alpha. We certainly had a slow take off, then a bump in the wind 18 months ago with spammers and the search engines, but we've reached a glide path. Note two things about this chart:

1. It takes three years to be an overnight success, sometimes more.

That means you need to either raise enough money from patient investors to stick it out... or, as in our case, be so lean and efficient that the cost of lasting long enough to make it profitable is one you can handle.

2. It's possible to organize a company around the idea that success breeds success.

Traditional businesses don't do that... if you're a wedding photographer or a restaurant, you're not going to have an albatross business. These businesses need ongoing promotion which leads to ongoing business, and around and around. There's clearly a benefit to reputation and word of mouth, but you're rarely going to see the hockey stick that is the goal of most internet businesses.

The two secrets, I think, are:

1. Plan for the long slow ramp up. That means super low overhead and patience and not trying to launch with a huge splash because you're impatient.

2. Architecture matters. If you intend to build an albatross, you'll want to design a business where each customer brings you new customers, where the more it gets used, the better it works.

We have a  l o n g  way to go before Squidoo hits the stride we're seeking, but on our third anniversary, it seemed like a worthwhile time to take a look of how close we are getting to our flight path. An albatross can achieve a 22:1 glide path--22 meters out for every meter down or up. That's the goal, leverage.

PS if you've never seen the albatross mating ritual, you really should. Time consuming, a lot of noise, very little action.

The noise

It's noisy and getting noisier.

If you looked at web activity, you could rightfully assume that the web consists largely of porn, gossip, Britney Spears searches, trolls, trivia, anger, complaints, flirting and self-absorption.

If you look at the logs of who is calling your toll free number, you could rightfully come to the conclusion that 92% of your customers are mad at you and the other 8% are merely stupid.

If you look at the ads in the magazines you get, you could understandably come to the conclusion that all people buy is cars, pills and shoes.

The thing is, not all data is equal, and measuring the truth based on volume is almost certain to get you in trouble.

Most voters don't have a blog. Most of your customers don't picket your offices. Most people who take Motrin have no idea what Twitter is.

I'm not encouraging you to ignore the noisy edges. Far from it. The noise makes it far easier than it has ever been before to hear the thunder in the distance, to get early indications of what the fringes of the market are about to spread to the rest.

It's easier than ever to amplify the noise of the edges, to bring it close, make it vivid and immerse yourself in it. You could spend all day watching your name or your brand morph among the loud people online. Just because it's easy, though, doesn't mean you have to do it at full blast.

What I'm encouraging you to do is to constantly readjust your balance. Figure out the difference between early warnings and selfish noise. Figure out what's loud merely because it's angry and personal, and what's loud because it's important.

And most of all, get straight on who you are trying to please, and why.

The making chasm

Great caption for a cartoon in this week's New Yorker:

There's a lot I want to experience, but not a lot I want to actually do.

In my exposure to companies big and small, this is probably the single biggest gulf. Lots of people there for the ride, not so many actually doing.

Doing appears risky, because it exposes you to criticism and perhaps failure. Experiencing is hot right now, being part of the social network, helping maintain that online tribe you belong to.

Getting your ducks in a row is not nearly as powerful as actually doing something with your duck.

The high cost of now

The closer you get to the source and moment of information, the more it costs.

If you wanted to be the first person to see Nokia's new phone, you could have flown to Berlin, as Robert Scoble did. Or you could have been the second person by obsessively hitting refresh on his posts. Or you could have been the tenth person by having it show up in your feed later in the day. Or you could wait a week and see it everywhere. Or in a year, get one on eBay for $5...

If you want to know how the stock market did in 2006, you can spend ten seconds and find it in Wikipedia. If you want to know about today, you'll need to invest a few clicks and you'll get the delayed results. Or you could pay a lot of money for a stock market terminal and get the current prices. Or you could even risk prison and get some inside information about what's going to happen before it happens.

More than ever, there's a clear relationship between how new something is and how much it costs to discover that news.

You can check your email twice a day pretty easily. Once every fifteen minutes has a disruption cost. Pinging it with your pocketphone every sixty seconds is an extremely expensive lifestyle/productivity choice.

Sure, go ahead, stay hyper-current, but realize it's not free.

Zara, the European clothing chain, deliberately invests more than the competition in getting close to the 'now' of unit sales by store. As a result of this investment, they are far more agile (and more profitable) than most other stores.

The interesting questions:

Are you getting what you're paying for in your quest for now?

Is it worth it?

Sometimes, in our quest for the new, we overpay. Most of the time, moving down the curve will decrease your costs dramatically, without hurting your ability to make smart decisions. Alternatively, when you choose to spend the time (or money), leverage it like crazy.

I bet you are overspending on now. Not everywhere, just in the wrong areas. Worth an audit, probably.

Interviews (radio, irony and a bonus)

Mark and I talk about radio.

Archie and I pretend to talk about action figures.

And a church interview with Milan.

Making vs. Taking

Consider two cereals:

Honey Bunches of Oats, a category creator, a big brand with spin offs and profits and growth.

Fruit Harvest, a generically named cereal that leverages the marketing department's ability to run coupons, grab shelf space and take share.

That's the choice most of us make when we launch a product or service. We can make a market or we can take share from a market.

"This is just like the Gillette razor, but cheaper."

"This has a touch screen, too, but you can get it from Verizon."

"I'm a shiatsu massage therapist, the only one on this block."

Those are 'taking' statements. They break a larger market into smaller bits. Compare to:

"This is a sugared cereal for adults."

"Our software enables you to find data and trends that no one else can find."

"By combining protein and chocolate, we've developed a new food that's both dessert and dinner."

These are 'making' statements. Riskier, sure, but they stand for something, they don't just steal share. The Dummies guides made a market, the Idiot's guides took from that market.

You need to be clear with yourself and your team about which one you're after, because they bring different costs, different benefits and different time frames.

The seed, the pit and the cherry

Here's a ten minute video presentation I did for Acumen. I hope you'll discover that the idea of forming a nucleus applies to what you're working on as well.

Gravity is just a theory

Are you marketing gravity or evolution?

Newton gets all kinds of credit. They call it the Law of Gravity. They put his picture on pages that profile geniuses. They say he discovered gravity. Nonsense. He just named it.

Everyone 'believes' in gravity. And yet, we know virtually nothing about it. We don't know how gravity waves (if there are any) are transmitted. We can't block them (anti gravity boots!) and we can't amplify them and we have no idea how fast they travel. There are very few people doing serious gravity research and development, either. But it's apparently a law.

Evolution (and one's confidence or lack of belief thereof), on the other hand, is enough to sway a school board election or get you nominated for federal office. I've never met an informed person who doubted the general facts about evolution unless they had an alternative view of the origin of species that they felt emotionally connected to. There are evolution skeptics who would prefer a different story, but no gravity skeptics, even though there's a lot less science there.

What's up with that?

There are two reasons that gravity has had so much better marketing than evolution, and both may impact the way you market your product or service as well.

1. If the story of your marketing requires the prospect to abandon a previously believed story, you have a lot of work to do.

Nobody had a seriously described theory of gravity before Newton named it. No one walks around saying that they have a story about why we stick to the earth better than the gravity story. As a result, there was no existing story or worldview to overthrow. Naming something that people already believe in is very smart marketing.

2. If the timeframe of the message of your marketing is longer than the attention span (or lifetime) of the person you are marketing to, you have your work cut out for you as well.

Evolution is really slow. Hard to demonstrate it in real time during a school board meeting. Gravity is instantaneous. Baseball players use it every day.

Five years ago, if you wanted to persuade people to buy real estate as an investment it was pretty easy.

1. The existing worldview was that real estate was a pretty good investment.
2. You could see, in the course of weeks or months, the price of homes going up.

Magic. Who's in? Bid, bid, bid.

In 2002, persuading a newspaper to go all in and invest big in online media was a problem.

1. The existing worldview disagreed with this. The web could support a paper, but not replace it. "Didn't you see what happened during the bubble?"
2. Not only couldn't you watch the web replace existing media in real time, but it was actually retreating (according to Wall Street.)

Tough story, bad timing.

The iPhone is gravity marketing. New name and brand for something so many people had already decided they wanted. And you could see it work from across the room, you didn't have to wait months for the joy to happen.

Persuading someone to start a blog is evolution marketing. Lots of people have been brainwashed that they have nothing to say, or can't say it, or aren't allowed to say it. And you rarely see someone become an overnight blogging success.

Real estate, of course, has a long row to hoe now. While there may be a long-term story to sell, it's in conflict to a painfully learned new worldview, and it's happening slowly. Perhaps there's a better story to tell.

The Atkins Diet countered the prevailing story (it said that steak and butter were good diet choices) but it burned off weight so quickly the diet was able to overcome the resistance that was due to inertia. Getting people to quit smoking, on the other hand, is a multi-generational problem because the story (spread by ads and movies) is really powerful and the results of quitting take decades to measure.

Acupuncture is an interesting case. It's possible to market acupuncture as, "Western medicine is wrong, this works." The problem, of course, is that any time you market a product with, "You were wrong," you have a lot of work to do. It can also be marketed as "This is a great way to supplement your ordinary medical treatments."

Tactic 1: Try to tell a story that complements an existing story rather than calling it out as false.

Tactic 2: Try to make the 'proof' as vivid and immediate as possible. Like an apple falling on your head.

Big ideas often demand a marketing strategy that is a lot more difficult than marketing gravity. Sometimes results do take a long time. Sometimes the consumer has been wrong all along. Sometimes you do need to replace an existing story. I hope you will. But this takes time and patience and resources.

When in doubt, market gravity.

If you could change your life

...would you?

Getting into Stanford Business School changed my life. In college, I trained to be a mediocre engineer (I didn't set out to be mediocre at it, but I sure was). I was on track to become Dilbert.

Getting into Stanford meant jumping the track. Going from one path to another in one fell swoop.

I didn't learn much of substance at business school, but that's fine, because the school allowed me to make a graceful transition. I had permission to reinvent and a platform to do it.

Which leads to this post, this track and this opportunity. (Please read all the details at this link before jumping up and down).

I'm offering an apprenticeship/not-internship/graduate school/charm school track-changing opportunity to a few people this winter. It's free, it's fairly audacious and I hope you'll check it out. It might not be for you (in fact, it probably isn't) but I have no doubt that you know people who might be interested.

I'm convinced that there are people out there who--given the right teaching, encouragement and opportunity--can change the world. I'm hoping you can prove me right. You don't have much time and there are only a few slots, so if you're even flirting with this idea, check out the lens here.

Two years at business school is a lot of time (and money) to spend to change paths these days. Most people over 20 can't afford either. I think six months might be a lot more do-able.

The beautiful conceit of Stanford during its heyday was that they recruited people who were really quite good at something, even though it might not be business. Or people who were at one level in an organization but strived to jump ahead several notches. I had a pro golfer and a teacher in my section, for example. As far as I can tell, most MBA programs have become finishing schools for commercial bankers hoping to become consultants and investment bankers (at least until recent events occurred). The creative achievers need a new, faster way to jump the track. For a few, this might be it.

This is a huge commitment for the people who sign up, of course, and a big shift for me as well. So, I'm leaving myself this escape hatch: if I can't find enough truly amazing people to take advantage of the opportunity, I'll quietly move on and won't do it (this time). I'm not prepared to settle, and you shouldn't either. But, if I'm right about the caliber of restless people reading this, I'm figuring that there will be plenty of amazing people out there passionate enough to take a leap.

So, if you think you'd like to find a new track, here's your chance. If you think you might be able to turbocharge your impact on the world, let me know. Sort of my way of repaying the admissions officer at Stanford who was crazy enough to let me in all those years ago.

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