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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

« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

Random rules for ideas worth spreading

If you've got an idea worth spreading, I hope you'll consider this random assortment of rules. Like all rules, some are made to be broken, but still...

  • You can name your idea anything you like, but a google-friendly name is always better than one that isn't.
  • Don't plan on appearing on a reality show as the best way to launch your idea.
  • Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying that you're stalling. You don't wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.
  • Don't poll your friends. It's your art, not an election.
  • Never pay a non-lawyer who promises to get you a patent.
  • Avoid powerful people. Great ideas aren't anointed, they spread through a groundswell of support.
  • Spamming strangers doesn't work. Spamming friends doesn't work so well either, but it's certainly better than spamming strangers.
  • The hard part is finishing, so enjoy the starting part.
  • Powerful organizations adore the status quo, so expect no help from them if your idea challenges the very thing they adore.
  • Figure out how long your idea will take to spread, and multiply by 4.
  • Be prepared for the Dip.
  • Seek out apostles, not partners. People who benefit from spreading your idea, not people who need to own it.
  • Keep your overhead low and don't quit your day job until your idea can absorb your time.
  • Think big. Bigger than that.
  • Are you a serial idea-starting person? If so, what can you change to end that cycle? The goal is to be an idea-shipping person.
  • Try not to confuse confidence with delusion.
  • Prefer dry, useful but dull ideas to consumer-friendly 'I would buy that' sort of things. A lot less competition and a lot more upside in the long run.
  • Pick a budget. Pick a ship date. Honor both. Don't ignore either. No slippage, no overruns.
  • Surround yourself with encouraging voices and incisive critics. It's okay if they're not the same people. Ignore both camps on occasion.
  • Be grateful.
  • Rise up to the opportunity, and do the idea justice.

Upcoming events

I'm thrilled to invite you to a killer evening with the brilliant Steven Pressfield (and me, it's a tag team) at Borders Columbus Circle in New York on Monday, February 8th at 7 pm. It's free but space is pretty limited. First come, first served.

I'll be in Orange County on February 11th.

Utah on February 12th. No head shaving this trip, I promise.

I'll also be in Toronto on March 2nd. Say hi if you can.

Chicago, March 24th.

I'll be in Belgium on April 1st. I don't get to Belgium ever, so here's your big chance.

Ogori (and generosity)

PSFK writes about a cafe in Japan with a simple rule: you get what the person before you ordered (and paid for), and the next person gets what you ordered.

Take a few moments to think about that.

Would you go?

What would you order?

Is this an opportunity to give or an opportunity to take...

I think we have Ogori opportunities daily.

Strangers, Critics, Friends or Fans

The work you do when you spread the word or run an ad or invent a policy is likely aimed at one of these four groups.

  • Strangers are customers to be, but not yet
  • Critics are those that would speak ill of you, or need to be converted
  • Friends are those that might have given permission, or even buy now and then
  • Fans are members of your tribe, supporters and insiders

You already know the truth: can't please all these groups at once. And you also probably realize that each of us with an idea to spread has a knee jerk default, the one we lean to without thinking. Many marketers are evangelical, focused on strangers at all costs... they'd rather convert a new customer than revisit an old one. A cubicle worker, on the other hand, might focus on no one but the boss, at the expense of broadening her platform.

Before you launch anything, run down the list. How can you optimize for the group you truly care about? How much is that optimization worth? (Hint: a new true fan is worth a thousand times as much as a slightly mollified critic).

Finding people who make a difference

Many months ago, I asked my readers to send me pictures of people who mattered, who made a difference--people they couldn't live without. The result of that shout out is now published on the inside cover of my new book.

If you didn't get your picture in on time, you can post it, along with a description, links, guest books and more at Even better, post someone else. It's a nice thing to do for someone who matters to you.

Celebrate the linchpins. We need more of them.

Quieting the lizard brain

Lizard image linchpin istock How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior?

We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don't read that book the boss lent us.

The contradictions never end. When someone shows up and acts without contradiction, we're amazed. When an athlete just does the sport, or when a writer just writes the words, we can't help but watch, astonished at the purity of their actions. Why is it so difficult to do what we say we're going to do?

The lizard brain.

Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer's block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn't stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.

The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That's because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.

The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to.

Want to know why so many companies can't keep up with Apple? It's because they compromise, have meetings, work to fit in, fear the critics and generally work to appease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Late launches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others.

The amygdala isn't going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it. This is so important, I wanted to put it on the cover of my new book. We realized, though, that the lizard brain is freaked out by a picture of itself, and if you want to sell books to someone struggling with the resistance (that would be all of us) best to keep it a little more on the down low.

Now you've seen the icon and you know its name. What are you going to do about it?

The difference between a bonus and free

Free is something you get, no matter what.

A bonus is something you get as an add-on when you purchase something, or trade your attention.

The purpose of free is to spread the word, alert the universe and generate interest.

The purpose of a bonus is to reward immediate action and to sway the undecided.

Here are some free things we built for Linchpin:

  • Download an eight-page manifesto from Changethis. (My favorite one)
  • Find posters and riffs on Scribd.
  • See a brainstorming video on Vimeo.
  • Watch a video on shipping at Behance.

In each case, you don't have to do a thing to get started but you might decide you like it enough to spread the word. In the old days, gifts like these would cost money to create and be hard to share. Today, the opposite is true. The goal of something that's free is to spread the idea.

On the other hand, some bonus things we built for Linchpin:

Oh, wait, I can't show them to you because you have to buy something first.

Anyway, what we did was collect:

  • Zen Unicorn, an ebook of the last few years of this blog (it sells on the Kindle for $9)
  • Membership to the invite-only online Triiibe community that I started a while ago (limited supply of these)
  • Ten minutes of excerpts from the audio version of my book
  • Some other bonuses, below

To get them, you need to answer a simple question to demonstrate that you've ordered the new book. That's because they are bonuses, not free. And yes, you qualify even if you got the book as a gift or received it a month ago. The bonus material will only be available for a few weeks.

Blue We also did two special deals with 800 CEO READ (that's their phone number). If you hurry, you can get a bonus hardcover copy of The Blue Sweater with your purchase of two copies of LInchpin. Jacqueline's breakthrough is a brilliant book that will change the way you see the world.

Or, if you'd like one of the no-longer-sold boxed sets, there are a few left, available to anyone who buys a bulk box of 50 Linchpin copies from them.

KINDLE USERS! Also, if you have a Kindle, you'll automatically get a thirty-page original essay when you buy the Kindle edition at Amazon. It magically shows up on your Kindle, you don't even have to click. This is the only place you can get it. The free bonus will only be available for the next five weeks.

The best bonuses are valuable and scarce, worthy of your attention. I hope we succeeded.

Whatever you sell, whatever idea you want to spread, it's now possible to create both freebies and bonuses. One spreads, the other induces.

PS for audio listeners, Linchpin is now available on iTunes.

Jumping the gun

4293966039_0c400a5213 There's going to be a lot of hoopla this week, some of it on this very blog (three posts already today!).

I want to be the very first author to announce a new project for Apple's tablet.

Apple is announcing the device tomorrow (I wish they had waited a week), but I thought I'd let you know early that I've licensed Vook the rights to Unleashing the Ideavirus so they can convert it into a multimedia app. It should be finished before the tablet ships, so we intend to be ready when they are.

Steve Jobs will probably never speak to me again for announcing before his launch. That's okay, he never speaks to me anyway.

The 2.0 media tour

[I'll be updating this post all day, just fyi, click through to see the latest update]

You know by now that I haven't gone to any traditional media for the launch of my new book - no pitches to newspapers, magazines, or television. Instead, I went directly to my readers and the many intelligent voices online. I sent review copies by request to my readers - who were generous and creative in their reviews, and now we'll hear from the bloggers and other online denizens. This is the short head of the new long tail, the group of professional and semi-pro writers and journalists that are increasing in influence daily.

I spoke to over 40 different people from various industries and blogs about Linchpin. I was given a warm reception by artists, business blogs, marketing sites, brand innovation sites, and creative blogs. It was a blast. My interaction with them reminds me that the online world is quickly becoming even more human and connected everyday. The page summarizing all of the links is right here.

There are a lot of people on this list, and I respect every single one of them, for their insights, their generosity and for plugging away at a medium that's just getting started.

Here's what we talked about, organized by general theme and topic. There are some overlaps, but I figured rather than talking about my book on this blog, I'd let them lead the conversation.

Thanks to each of these big thinkers for sharing some time with me, and thanks to you for reading! If you find a blog you like, don't forget to subscribe to it.

What is an Artist?

  • Michael Hyatt: Over the top generosity from the head of one of the largest book publishers in the world. Michael interviewed me about making a difference. Visit his site if you'd like to win a free copy of the book.
  • Tom Peters: A guest post on the blog of one of my role models and heroes. I take on the idea of 'excellence' and what it means now.
  • Good Experience: Mark practically invented the science of simplified web design. I do a guest post about why artists break things.
  • Gaping Void: Your favorite cartoons-on-the-back-of-business-cards provocateur generously asks me ten (hard) questions, and I generously answer them.
  • Pilgrimage of the heart: Jeff and I talk about breaking rules, technology and art.
  • Art of Non-Conformity: Chris is at the forefront of rethinking work. We talk about the courage needed to do it. And plumbers. It keeps coming back to plumbers.

Shipping and The Resistance

  • Behance: I first launched the ideas in Linchpin at their conference last year, and here's a guest post about shipping.
  • Steve Pressfield: The godfather of the resistance, the five-star general in the war against fear, Steve takes on the ideas in Linchpin and asks me some hard questions about my personal creative habits and the idea of making a ruckus.
  • White Hot Truth: Danielle takes on the burning questions of pushing yourself to do art that matters.
  • Ruzuku -Another Step Forward Rick is leading a tribe of entrepreneurs. We talked about why I wrote the book and how entrepreneurs can use it. And I talk a little about golf.

Creativity and Art

  • Dan Pink: Dan's new book is really terrific, and he let me interview him about it. 
  • Derek Sivers: The man who re-invented music distribution for indie bands. We talk about good vs. great music and why there's already plenty of good.
  • Merlin Mann: Merlin is well-known for inventing inbox zero, and we did a podcast together about creativity.
  • Martha Beck: One of the most well-known coaches, Martha is a leading thinker on how individuals can make a difference. We talk about jazz and writing...
  • Jennifer Lindsay: What keeps one writing, a video conversation.
  • B.L. Ochman: I did an interview with BL about what keeps marketers (and people) from being creative.
  • Richard Pachter: Richard is a regular reader. He tracked me down and we did an interview about curiosity for the Herald.
  • Cool Hunting: A cutting edge site about the changes driving our culture. A podcast about my take on art.

Be a Linchpin, Be Indispensable

  • Duct Tape Marketing: John is the Peter Drucker of small business tactics. In this podcast, that's what we talk about (small business, not Peter Drucker).
  • The Happiness Project: Gretchen dives into how you can become indispensable (and whether it will make you happy).
  • WebInkNow: David Meerman Scott is the Charles Darwin of new media marketing, tirelessly chronicling how it works. In this video, we talked about becoming indispensable.
  • Where are the good things in life? That's what this site is about, and we talked about making change.
  • Fuel Your Creativity: On the intersection between digital arts, graphics and becoming someone they can't live without.
  • Marty Wilson: You can see a picture of me when I was 18. We talk in depth about learning to be a leader, canoeing and how you can choose to make a difference.
  • Crazy Engineers: Not so crazy, actually. Driven, but not crazy. This is an interview about how a cube-dweller can make a big impact.
  • IQ Partners is an executive search and retention firm. We talked about the new standard for people worth hiring.
  • Gail Goodwin: Gail writes about non-traditional thinking and opportunities. We talked about creativity and being remarkable.
  • Charlotte AMA: Some very sharp marketers in Charlotte. We get tactical on this podcast.

Entrepreneurs, Money, Art and Balance

  • Lee Stranahan: Lee often writes for Huffpo and we discussed (via podcast) the power a Linchpin has to change things. We all live in Detroit now.
  • Joi Ito: If you don't know Joi, you should. I interview this cutting-edge linchpin on his blog.
  • Personal MBA: Josh and I did an interview on entrepreneurship and stepping out of the status quo.
  • Writing on the Web: Patsi and I talked on this podcast about coaching and making a difference.
  • Ladies Who Launch: Shipping and marketing with the ladies who know how to do it.
  • Mongezi Mtati: This video interview wins the prize for longest-distance by Skype. Mongezi called in from South Africa to talk about the struggle between giving it away and making money.
  • Mixergy: A podcast with the always interesting Andrew Warner. (Transcript too)
  • Twist Image: Mitch is at the cutting edge of what it takes to succeed in new media. He lives it every day (in Canada even!). We talked about What Matters Now on this podcast.
  • Fearless Business: Mediocre obedience and being remarkable are covered in this video.
  • Be The Media: David and I use this podcast to talk about how innovative thinking impacts distributed media. And he has a great logo.
  • Self Brian interviews me on self improvement and becoming indispensable.
  • Untemplater: Jun and I talk about the value of an MBA and entrepreneurship.Hint: not so much. We do a video chat.
  • Careerealism: Because every job is temporary.
  • Site Visibility:  Kelvin and I talk on this podcast about remarkable products and their place in a world of SEO and clicks.
  • Neville Hobson: A podcast about innovation and marketing.
  • Mark Ramsey: Mark is a visionary about the future of radio. In this podcast, he's his usual insightful self, and I try to keep up. This is the new normal.

Connecting, Being Human, and why it matters

  • Anne Jackson understands the power of faith, regardless of religion. She's worth learning from--and she was kind enough to give me a guest post.
  • Sasha Dichter: Sasha works for Acumen Fund and writes a powerful blog about giving and philanthropy. We talked about whether there will be a surplus of linchpins and my early history in working for not much money.
  • Marketing Over Coffee: Just like it sounds, except I had tea. We use this podcast to talk about the death of the factory.
  • First Friday Book Review: Robert Morris, an inveterate Amazon reviewer and journalist, interviews me about the book.
  • John Moore: One of his classic (and very funny) video readings, this time of a little bit of Linchpin. Horrifying.

Education and Giving Gifts in the new economy

  • Personal Branding Blog: The power of applying linchpin thinking to your own brand. This is a PDF magazine for download.
  • ArtBeat of America: On Rick's podcost, he and I talk about artists who can't draw.
  • Rethinking Learning: Barbara asked some startling questions about whether higher education has a future.
  • Book Blade: Randy and I talked about education and the broken school system in this video interview.
  • Todd Sattersten: We talked about choosing words carefully.
  • Goose Educational Media: Chris Taylor interviews me on video about changing education and being remarkable.

Shenpa, Emotional Labor, and Fear

  • Pam Slim: Pam wants you to quit your job. I did a short guest post on her blog about why that might be hard for you and how to get started.
  • Communicatrix: More than communication, insights that turn things upside down. Colleen will make you think.
  • Innovate on Purpose: Jeff asked some hard questions about mediocre obedience and being a cog.
  • Church of Customer: Jackie and Ben pioneered the idea of the 1%, and in this interview we cover five questions that matter to marketers (and artists of all stripes).

Thanks to each of these big thinkers for sharing some time with me, and thanks to you for reading! If you find a blog you like on this list, don't forget to subscribe to it.

Bonus! A guest post on shipping for Leo on Zen Habits.

Why write a book?

If you've never written a non-fiction book, there are a lot of reasons why you might want to. It organizes your thoughts. It's a big project worthy of your attention.


But once you've written a book, it's not clear that it's a useful thing to publish one. After all, it takes a year. It involves a lot of people. You need to print a lot of copies, ship them everywhere, create a lot of hoopla and hope that people actually a) hear about it, b) decide it's worth the effort to track it down and c) read it and spread it. 

Wouldn't it be easier to just blog it? Or to post a PDF online and watch it spread?

Some of my books have been short... one was under a hundred pages long. It could certainly have a been a series of blog posts. And the posts might even have reached more people than the book ultimately did. If my blog posts were counted on the same metrics as bestselling books, every single one would be a New York Times bestseller. Yours too, most likely. Books don't sell that many copies.

The goal isn't always to spread an idea. Sometimes the goal is to make change happen. A book is a physical souvenir, a concrete instantiation of your ideas in a physical object, something that gives your ideas substance and allows them to travel.

Out of context, a 140 character tweet cannot change someone's life. A blog post might (I can think of a few that changed the way I think about business and even life). A movie can, but most big movies are inane entertainments designed to make a lot of money, not change people. But books?

The reason I wrote Linchpin: If you want to change people, you must create enough leverage to encourage the change to happen.

Books change lives every day. A book takes more than a few minutes to read. A book envelopes us, it is relentless in its voice and in its linearity. You start at the beginning and you either ride with the author to the end or you bail. And unlike just about any form of electronic media, you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.

I published a book today. My biggest and most important and most personal and most challenging book. A book that scared me.

It took me ten years to write this book. I'm hoping it changes a few people.


[Amazon, BN, independents, volunteer reviewers. Kindle too. I'll be posting details of a fascinating media tour in a few hours if you want to see what the book is actually about.] 

Making art

My definition of art contains three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording... but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.
By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we're doing when we do our best work.

The ubiquity of competition

Sure, there are playoffs in football, but competition is everywhere, we just forget to notice it.

There are three hundred photographers looking for work in a particular specialty. One puts a creative commons license on his shots in Flickr and they start showing up in many places, from presentations to brochures. Which of the 300 photographers has won the competition for attention? Which one of the three hundred has shared his ideas enough to be noticed?

There are twenty towns you can choose for your family's new home. One invests in its schools, has a focus on inquiry, AP courses and community, while the others are muddling through, arguing about their future. Which one commands a higher premium for its houses?

There are a hundred new kinds of snacks and energy bars at the checkout of the supermarket. One is a little bigger, a little more exciting and a little closer to eye level. Which one of the hundred wins the battle for your impulse buy?

There are fifty people applying for a job. Forty nine have great credentials and beautifully standard layouts on their resumes. One resume was hand delivered to the CEO by his best friend, together with a glowing recommendation about a project the applicant did for the friend's non-profit.  Who gets the interview?

There are ten great jobs for the superstar programmer who is looking for a new challenge. One offers offices not cubes, free lunch, great customer support and the freedom to work on interesting projects. Where does she choose to apply?

There are 30 places that sell bumper stickers. One shows up first in the Google ads when I do a search. Which one gets my business?

There are seventy houses for sale in town. One of them is represented by a broker who is a pillar of the community, a friend of many and a role model for the industry. Which one gets more people to its open house?

There are eighty million blogs to choose from. Thanks for picking mine to read today.

You don't have to like competition in order to understand that it exists. Your fair share isn't going to be yours unless you give the public a reason to pick you.

The false solace of vilification

File this one under basic human emotions that marketers need to be aware of.

When a global slowdown, national tragedy or random event hits, people look for someone to blame. If there's no one to blame, sometimes they look for someone to hate, even if it is ultimately self-destructive.

A novice computer user downloads viruses, interacts with spyware and encounters a system crash. He calls tech support for the word processor he uses and lets them have it with both barrels.

A flood hits a town and innocent people die and buildings are destroyed. The widows and bereaved families take it out on the insurance adjuster or government official who has come to help.

The economic downturn hits a town hard and some residents attack, quite personally, the hard-working school board members who had nothing to do with the bad news and in fact represent one of the best ways to ultimately recover.

In each case, the person being hated on is precisely the person who can do the most to help. And yet sometimes, we can't help ourselves. It takes significant emotional maturity to separate the event from the people in proximity to the event, and any marketer or organization that deals with the public needs to embrace the fact that just because you're close to where the bad thing happened doesn't mean it's your fault.

That software tech rep, the one who didn't cause your viruses, she's the very best person to calmly explain how to get rid of them.

That insurance adjuster might be able to get you some money to help you start to rebuild your life.

And the school board? Well if the only asset of value you still own is your house, destroying the school that gives your house its true value to a buyer seems like a version of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I've never once heard someone say, "things are really lousy, but I got a chance to really devastate someone today, deliver some choice barbs, some personal attacks, some baseless innuendo and ruin their day, perhaps even their career. Boy, I feel great."

People don't remember how you behave when everything is going great. They remember how you behave when you're under pressure, stressed out and at wits end.

Emotional maturity is underrated.

PS when confronted with misplaced rage, the proper response is not to point out the misplaced part. It's to acknowledge the rage part. One big reason that vilification occurs is that the angry person feels as though not enough attention or sympathy is being paid.

The long term solution for marketers (and those that believe in civil society) is to make it socially unacceptable to vent like this. Acknowledge the rage but cease to engage, whenever possible.

No, everything is not going to be okay

It's natural to seek reassurance. Most of us want to believe that the choices we make will work out, that everything will be okay.

Artists and those that launch the untested, the new and the emotional (and I'd put marketers into all of these categories) wrestle with this need all the time. How can we proceed knowing that there's a good chance that our actions will fail, that things might get worse, that everything won't end up okay? In search of solace, we seek reassurance.

So people lie to us. So we lie to ourselves.

No, everything is not going to be okay. It never is. It isn't okay now. Change, by definition, changes things. It makes some things better and some things worse. But everything is never okay.

Finding the bravery to shun faux reassurance is a critical step in producing important change. Once you free yourself from the need for perfect acceptance, it's a lot easier to launch work that matters.

Too much data leads to not enough belief

Business plans with too much detail, books with too much proof, politicians with too much granularity... it seems as though more data is a good thing, because data proves the case.

In my experience, data crowds out faith. And without faith, it's hard to believe in the data enough to make a leap. Big mergers, big VC investments, big political movements, large congregations... they don't usually turn out for a spreadsheet.

The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it's one the rest of us don't think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission--which is emotional connection.

In between frames

Scott McCloud's classic book on comics explains a lot more than comics.

A key part of his thesis is that comic books work because the action takes place between the frames. Our imagination fills in the gaps between what happened in that frame and this frame, which means that we're as much involved as the illustrator and author are in telling the story.

Marketing, it turns out, works precisely the same way.

Marketing is what happens in between the overt acts of the marketer. Yes you made a package and yes you designed a uniform and yes you ran an ad... but the consumer's take on what you did is driven by what happened out of the corner of her eye, in the dead spaces, in the moments when you let your guard down.

Marketing is what happens when you're not trying, when you're being transparent and when there's no script in place.

It's not marketing when everything goes right on the flight to Chicago. It's marketing when your people don't respond after losing the guitar that got checked.

It's not marketing when I use your product as intended. It's marketing when my friend and I are talking about how the thing we bought from you changed us.

It's not marketing when the smiling waitress appears with the soup. It's marketing when we hear two waiters muttering to each other behind the serving station.

Consumers are too smart for the frames. It's the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames.

Type tells a story

If you write it down, we're going to judge it.

Not just the words, we're going to judge you even before we read the words. The typography you use, whether it's a handwritten note or a glossy brochure, sends a message.

Some typefaces are judged in a similar way by most people you're addressing (Times Roman in a Word document or Helvetica on a street sign or Myriad Pro on a website) but even when you choose something as simple as a typeface, be prepared for people to misunderstand you.

If you send me a flyer with dated, cheesy or overused type, it's like showing up in a leisure suit for a first date. If your website looks like Geocities or some scammy info marketer, I won't even stay long enough to read it.

Like a wardrobe, I think a few simple guidelines can save amateurs like us a lot of time:

1. Invest some time and money up front to come up with a house style that actually looks the way you want it to, one that tells the story you want to tell. Hire a designer, put in some effort. A headline font, a body font, one or two extras. That's your outfit, just like the four suits you rotate through your closet.

2. "What does this remind you of?" No need to be a pioneer (unless that's the story you want me remember). Find a combination of typefaces that remind your chosen audience of the sort of organization you want to remind them of. Hint: italic wedding invitation fonts in the body of your email remind me of nothing except other people who have wasted my time...

3. Be consistent. Don't change it when you get bored. Don't change it when your staff gets bored. Change it when the accountant and marketing guys tell you it's not working any longer.

Bonus! Books from John McWade, Robin Williams, Adobe and Chuck Green


Find a calling and then deliver.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.         HT to Andy.

Unrealized projects

 When I was at MOMA last week, I saw a list of director and artist Tim Burton's projects. Here's the guy who's responsible for some of the most breathtaking movies of his generation, and the real surprise is this: almost every year over the last thirty, he worked on one or more exciting projects that were never green lighted and produced. Every year, he spent an enormous amount of time on failed projects.

A few: Catwoman, Conversations With Vincent, Dinosaurs Attack!, The Fall of the House of Usher, Geek Love, Go Baby Go, Hawkline Monster, Lost in Oz, Mai the Psychic Girl, Mary Reilly, Superman Lives, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.

One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.

The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don't make it. Not every time, anyway.

Tim got his ideas out the door, to the people who decided what to do with them. And more often than not, they shot down his ideas. That's okay. He shipped.


Multiple minds

Most people grow up with one and only one voice in our heads. It's the one that talks when we talk to ourselves. (If you have more than one voice, time to check in with a doctor). It's easy, then, to assume that this is the mind, that we have just one, one brain, one voice, one thing going on at a time.

We can demonstrate that this isn't actually true. There's the mind that gets nostalgic or excited at a photo or a smell or a sound. There's the mind that keeps us breathing. There's the mind that suddenly announces, "I'm hungry" after seeing a TV commercial. And most important to marketers and those that would change the status quo, there's the lizard brain, the mind that worries, particularly about survival, reproduction and rage.

When the plane lurches in turbulence, it's not your constantly running verbal mind that freaks out. It's the amygdala, the prehistoric brain stem (and the surrounding parts of the brain) that kick in. That kick leads the verbal mind to start a frightening monologue, but it was your brain stem that started it.

Marketing to just the rational mind makes no sense, because the rational mind almost never decides anything by itself. And managing your career or your day based on your irrational fears makes even less sense. Which part of your mind makes decisions about credit cards, personal security, relationships, job prospects and creativity?

As our jobs (and lives) get more cerebral and less physical, our misunderstandings about the mind (and the self-defeating miscalculations each of us make every day) become ever more important. Watch yourself for a day and start keeping store of 'who' is doing the talking and whether that part of the brain is working in your best interests or not.

Why you, why now?

That's really the only questions between you and a sale.

If someone is going to buy from you, is it because you're the cheapest? That's a hard thing to maintain. There better be a more sustainable reason than that.

If they're going to by from you today, is it because you're in proximity, the closest, the one source that can satisfy the itch they happen to have? It's a little like being a peanut vendor at the ball game. You need a big crowd and you have to give up a big share of your income in exchange for being in the right place at the right time.

The goal is to create an offering that can answer these two questions. Why from you and why right now...

Most businesses that struggle are unable to answer these two questions in a compelling fashion. They act as though they deserve that sale, or that they need to aggressively close so you'll buy today, instead of working to build in these very elements to the product itself.

What the industry wants

It's easy to get trapped wondering what consumers want, and then being frustrated when you can't get what you cook up in front of the people who want to buy it.

It's easy to forget what industry wants.

Supermarkets don't want unbranded fruits and vegetables, because handling is expensive and it's hard to differentiate and charge extra. On the other hand, they love nationally advertised packaged goods, because they bring in shoppers, they have promotional support, they come with shelf allowances (money for shelf space) and new skus can create excitement.

Fashion stores don't want sensible clothes that don't change from year to year. Hard to make a living doing that. They like zingy designer names and ever-changing fashion and fads. That's how they make a living.

Governments don't like buying at retail. They prefer custom stuff from high-touch organizations that can bring them the mountain, instead of the other way around. They'd rather pay 10x for an office supply that's customized just for them, instead of modifying what they want to match what the market sells. It gives them something to do. And all those salespeople! The trips, the bribes, the attention...

Doctors don't like prescribing lifestyle changes or natural cures, because many patients demand a scrip and it's easily defended and it comes with a sales rep.

If the industry can't make money selling what you're selling, why will they help you?

You can view these things as ridiculous peccadilloes. Or you can see them as parts of the system as permanent and as important as the gatekeepers who rely on them.

On the other hand, fall in love with the system and you might forget the end user. And we know how poorly that works.

Update on the early Linchpin citizen reviewers

Last month, I offered readers who wanted to review my new book a chance to get an early copy. It was a pretty big risk, because it meant ignoring the tried and true process of talking to big media and tailoring a message for critics and reviewers. What happens when you go to your best customers with a product that's untested?

Five weeks later and I couldn't be more pleased or more grateful. We sent out thousands of books (your donations raised more than $100,000 for charity) and so far, the book has been well received  (if you're still expecting one, please be patient, especially Canadians, it should arrive soon - the postal service works in mysterious ways).

The page collecting the blog posts and tweets is here, and the range and depth that people are contributing is really exciting. Some will appear on the end papers in the next printing of my book. Here are some twitter blurbs along with the people you might want to follow:

scott_allison: Just read a preview of Seth Godin's new career manifesto for the new world, Linchpin. Should be given to all school kids.  AronStevenson: Reading the preview of Seth Godin's upcoming book Linchpin - Seth once again delivers what he's promised! Bigbrightbulb: I wish I could tweet [the] hand-scrawled Venn diagrams, they are such a hoot...  jlottosen: Very inspirational - as always. Works on all job types - what do you want to be the great giver of? lantzhoward Loving Seth Godin's #Linchpin. Navigating a new trail in 2010. This is a book for everyone... bnlv  Yes yes yes yes yes!!!!! I'm not available at all until this book has been read. recordstyle  one of those books that you read from the inside out. More of a "find the (you) in between the lines" style, flow, and feel. BarbaraShantz: Reviewing Seth Godin's new book, Linchpin. Fantastic Common Sense like we've not heard before. DanBlank: I'm only on the table of contents, but I've already fallen in love with Seth Godin's new book 'Linchpin' rickysteele: Again, Seth Godin, has written a masterpiece. His newest book, Linchpin, will be one of this year's most important books. Life Changing! paul_shinn: Also read all of Linchpin in one sitting. A great book. Going to think about who I will give the book so they can read it too. mavenroger: Just got my prerelease copy of Godin's Linchpin! In short, it's about doers not talkers. Psyched...more to com. johnwaire found myself taking some extra time to warm up the car this i could squeeze in a few pages of linchpin .... You can find fresh ones here.

In addition, here are three or four blog reviews. The rest are here.

I can't imagine why any author given the chance to do this would hesitate. Bypassing professional critics and allowing real people to use the newly powerful platforms available to them is faster, more direct and gives you far more feedback on your work. Not for the faint of heart though. It's emotionally easier to just push things to retail and hope for the best. Thanks to all who have contributed so far. I'm really humbled by the response.


We often talk about speed when describing certain kinds of businesses. Some companies are bureaucratic, slow, dysfunctional... others are fast... fast to market, fast to ship you something.

Just like a car, though, there's an alternative to raw speed. Call it maneuverability. You might still take a long time to get up to perfect cruising speed, but you can initiate a turn on a dime. I'd put Ford in this category. Obviously, it's going to be a long time before a car company is fast. It can take a year or more to get a factory up and running... there are just too many resources to manage. But how fast can a leveraged person in the organization get a decision made? How much data needs to be collected, how much proof needs to be produced, how many meetings need to be held?

In my experience, the size of the company isn't always the driving factor in this metric. It's usually the guts of senior management that matters.

Brandon Smith took two hours to get this Haiti T-shirt to market. Obviously, t-shirts are very different than SUVs, but the concept is the same. You can choose to organize to make decisions quickly. Or you can have the market ignore you.

Amplifying complaints

Here's a common human trick: before you state your complaint, wind yourself up with a preface that makes your complaint even more plaintive and more vivid.

"Do you know who I am!"

"I saved up for four years for this vacation and paid your top of the line rate..."

"I've told you a million times that the most important feature was this, and in fact the only reason I bought your product was..."

"I've worked my butt off for him for years, showing up even on holidays, and now..."

You've heard it, and perhaps you've done it.

It's interesting to trick yourself by doing precisely the opposite.

"In this economy, I'm lucky to have this job, and it's almost perfect. It would be even better if..."


"I love owning this device, it lets me manage my life and contacts, and the one thing that would make it even better is..."

It's important to leave out the word "but."

The fascinating thing about this approach is that not only does it make you happier when you say it, it increases the chance that the person you're complaining to will actually do something to help you.

Career fairs...

are neither.

Of course they don't exist to help you plan or execute a career. Most of the organizations with booths are bottom fishing, looking for enough willing and able employees to fill established gaps in their companies. This is hiring on the hoof, wholesale filling of average jobs with people trying to be average. Planning a career at a career fair is a little like looking for a soulmate at a singles' bar.

And fair? Hardly. Because there are no average people, right? There are average jobs, certainly, average in that they require people to fit in, do what they're told and follow the manual. I'll grant you that those jobs need to get done, but I'm not sure they have to get done by you.

By the time a job opening hits the career fair, it's a job you don't want. And by the time a job seeker is walking down the aisles, standardized resume in hand, it might be too late for her to find a job that's worthy of her.

Here's to a new, better sort of career fair, one that's selective, interactive, long-term and both career and fair.

The lesson from two lemonade stands

Lemonade The first stand is run by two kids. They use Countrytime lemonade, paper cups and a bridge table. It's a decent lemonade stand, one in the long tradition of standard lemonade stands. It costs a dollar to buy a cup, which is a pretty good price, considering you get both the lemonade and the satisfaction of knowing you supported two kids.

The other stand is different. The lemonade is free, but there's a big tip jar. When you pull up, the owner of the stand beams as only a proud eleven year old girl can beam. She takes her time and reaches into a pail filled with ice and lemons. She pulls out a lemon. Slices it. Then she squeezes it with a clever little hand juicer.

The whole time that's she's squeezing, she's also talking to you, sharing her insights (and yes, her joy) about the power of lemonade to change your day. It's a beautiful day and she's in no real hurry. Lemonade doesn't hurry, she says. It gets made the right way or not at all. Then she urges you to take a bit less sugar, because it tastes better that way.

While you're talking, a dozen people who might have become customers drive on by because it appears to take too long. You don't mind, though, because you're engaged, almost entranced. A few people pull over and wait in line behind you.

Finally, once she's done, you put $5 in the jar, because your free lemonade was worth at least twice that. Well, maybe the lemonade itself was worth $3, but you'd happily pay again for the transaction. It touched you. In fact, it changed you.

Which entrepreneur do you think has a brighter future?

[PS a few hours after I posted this, Elizabeth sent in this photo of her daughter doing exactly what I imagined. She said, "she made a fortune."]

Neat resource of vintage ads

Type in a few search terms (like Babies and Airplanes) and out pops one of the millions of ads in this incredible database.

Certain to inspire, or possibly just give you fodder for a great presentation.

The future of the library

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?

They can't survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don't want to own (or for reference books we can't afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That's not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here's my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

The victim

Does your job happen to you?

If you're a willing cog in the vast machinery of work, it's entirely possible that the things that occur all day feel like they're being done to you.

The alternative is to create a job where you create forward motion, where you do things to the job, not the other way around.

Take a look at the language you use to describe what happened at work yesterday, that's your first clue. If you're not the one creating the change, perhaps it's time to start.

[SOLD OUT!] Last chance for January 15 talk in New York

In case you missed it over the holidays. There were a few tickets left, but now they're gone. Sorry. See you there!

Why ask why?

The secret to creativity is curiosity.

We often forget to teach kids to be curious. A student who has no perceived math ability, or illegible handwriting or the inability to sit still for five minutes gets immediate and escalating attention. The student with no curiosity, on the other hand, is no problem at all. Lumps are easily managed.

Same thing is true for most of the people we hire. We'd like them to follow instructions, not ask questions, not question the status quo.

Yet, without "why?" there can be no, "here's how to make it better."

What every mass marketer needs to learn from Groucho Marx

Perhaps the most plaintive complaint I hear from organizations goes something like this, "We worked really hard to get very good at xyz. We're well regarded, we're talented and now, all the market cares about is price. How can we get large groups of people to value our craft and buy from us again?"

Apparently, the bulk of your market no longer wants to buy your top of the line furniture, lawn care services, accounting services, tailoring services, consulting... all they want is the cheapest. The masses don't want a better PC laptop. They just want the one with the right specs at the right price. It's not because people are selfish (though they are) or shortsighted (though they are). It's because in this market, right now, they're not listening. They've been seduced into believing that all options are the same, and they're only seeing price. In terms of educating the masses to differentiate yourself, the market is broken.

Fixing this is almost always a losing battle. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean the market cares any longer.

The Marx Brothers were great at vaudeville. Live comedy in a theatre. And then the market for vaudeville was killed by the movies. Groucho didn't complain about this or argue that people should respect the hard work he and his brothers had put in. No, they went into the movies.

Then the market for movies like the Marx Brothers were making dried up. Groucho didn't start trying to fix the market. Instead, he saw a new medium and went there. His TV work was among his best (and certainly most lucrative).

It's extremely difficult to repair the market.

It's a lot easier to find a market that will respect and pay for the work you can do. Technology companies have been running this race for years. Now, all of us must.

If Wal-Mart or some cultural shift has turned what you do into a commodity, don't argue. Find a new place before the competition does. It's not easy or fair, but it's true. You bet your life.

[Please note that nothing I wrote above applies to niche businesses. In fact, exactly the opposite does. You can make a good living selling bespoke PC laptops or doing vaudeville today, even though the mass of the market couldn't care a bit. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know...]

Bullhorns are overrated

They cost too much and they don't work very well.

Most people ignore them, they don't last very long and they're undependable.

Anil Dash has discovered that having ten times as many Twitter followers generates approximately zero times as much value.

The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen. Don't need a bullhorn for that.

Now available as an iphone app

This blog can be easily read every day, for free, on a new app for your iPhone.

The nice guys who built it also offer an app that lets you build your own quick RSS apps and more. Save a bunch if you type my last name in as the coupon code.

Is there a fear shortage?

If so, I'm not seeing it.

When something is scarce, it's valuable and smart people try to make more of it. So, should we be trying to make more fear?

Looking around, it appears as though the government, various media players and lots of well-meaning people have come to a conclusion that there's a shortage of fear. So they're busy making more of it. Making more when we already have a surplus...

We're inundated about ways to avoid this pitfall or that risk.

If you see something, say something. Hmmm. Has that actually worked? Or x-raying shoes? When was the last time a bad guy was foiled because he couldn't use a good camera to take a picture of a tourist attraction? Why do the authorities at Grand Central Station in New York wear desert camouflage?

Not just fear of terror (which is another word for fear). Fear of failure. Reminding people that an idea will never work, that the market is in failure, that all hope is lost--does that work very often?

Fear mongering is a lousy profession, one that ought to be regulated, if not banned. I'm more in favor of hope mongering. 2010 is the year that the world will change. In fact, every year is that year, but this is the only time we'll get to change the world this time.

Without them

One of the most common things I hear is, "I'd like to do something remarkable like that, but my xyz won't let me." Where xyz = my boss, my publisher, my partner, my licensor, my franchisor, etc.

Well, you can fail by going along with that and not doing it, or you can do it, cause a ruckus and work things out later.

In my experience, once it's clear you're willing (not just willing, but itching, moving, and yes, implementing) without them, things start to happen. People are rarely willing to step up and stop you, and often just waiting to follow someone crazy enough to actually do something.

I'm going. Come along if you like.

Evolution of every medium

  1. Technicians who invented it, run it
  2. Technicians with taste, leverage it
  3. Artists take over from the technicians
  4. MBAs take over from the artists
  5. Bureaucrats drive the medium to banality

TV used to be driven by the guys who knew how to run cameras and transmitters. Then it got handed off to the Ernie Kovacs/Rod Serling types. Then the financial operators like ITT and Gulf + Western milked it. And finally it's just a job.

Same thing happened to oil painting and it'll happen to your favorite slice of the web as well.

Welcome to the frustration decade (and the decade of change)

Here are my picks for the two most important trends of the decade we're just starting:

  1. Change: The infrastructure of massive connection is now real. People around the world have cell phones. The first internet generation is old enough to spend money, go to work and build companies. Industries are being built every day (and old ones are fading). The revolution is in full swing, and an entire generation is eager to change everything because of it. Hint: it won't look like the last one with a few bells and whistles added.
  2. Frustration: Baby boomers are getting old. Dreams are fading, and so is health. Boomers love to whine and we love to imagine that we'll live forever and accomplish everything. This is the decade that reality kicks in. And, to top it off, savings are thin and resource availability isn't what it used to be. A lot of people ate their emergency rations during the last decade. Look for this frustration to be acted out in public, and often.
I think the coolest thing is that just about everyone gets to pick which one of these two alternatives they want to spend their time on. And being frustrated about change doesn't count as doing both.

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