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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


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



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

« January 2010 | Main | March 2010 »

Everyone's model of work is a job

That's the conclusion of a very long essay on startups by Paul Graham, and it's an insightful quote.

The reason you feel most comfortable with a job (unless, like me, you're in the minority--a job would destroy my psyche) is that you've been brainwashed by many years of school, socialization and practice. I pick the word brainwashed carefully, because it's more than training or acclimation. It's something that's been taught to you by people who needed you to believe it was the way things are supposed to be. [Download Brainwashed]

If you're a boss, you need applicants, lots of them, to keep the wages you have to pay nice and low. And so the more people who believe they need a job, the better it is for you.

I don't believe that everyone should be an entrepreneur or a freelancer, that everyone should quit their job and go work for themselves. I do believe this:

The less a project or task or opportunity at work feels like the sort of thing you would do if this is just a job, the more you should do it.

Genius is misunderstood as a bolt of lightning

Genius is the act of solving a problem in a way no one has solved it before. It has nothing to do with winning a Nobel prize in physics or certain levels of schooling. It's about using human insight and initiative to find original solutions that matter.

Genius is actually the eventual public recognition of dozens (or hundreds) of failed attempts at solving a problem. Sometimes we fail in public, often we fail in private, but people who are doing creative work are constantly failing.

When the lizard brain kicks in and the resistance slows you down, the only correct response is to push back again and again and again with one failure after another. Sooner or later, the lizard will get bored and give up.

It's easier to teach compliance than initiative

Compliance is simple to measure, simple to test for and simple to teach. Punish non-compliance, reward obedience and repeat.

Initiative is very difficult to teach to 28 students in a quiet classroom. It's difficult to brag about in a school board meeting. And it's a huge pain in the neck to do reliably.

Schools like teaching compliance. They're pretty good at it.

To top it off, until recently the customers of a school or training program (the companies that hire workers) were buying compliance by the bushel. Initiative was a red flag, not an asset.

Of course, now that's all changed. The economy has rewritten the rules, and smart organizations seek out intelligent problem solvers. Everything is different now. Except the part about how much easier it is to teach compliance.

Two quotes and two links for a snow day

Arianna Huffington: "Self expression is the new entertainment, We never used to question why people sit on the couch for seven hours a day watching bad TV. Nobody ever asked, 'Why are they doing that for free?' We need to celebrate [this desire to contribute for free] rather than question it."

Tim Cook at Apple: “This is the most focused company I know of, am aware of, or have any knowledge of... We say no to good ideas every day.” Cook then pointed out to analysts that every single product the company makes would fit on the single conference table in front of him. “And we had revenue last year of $40 billion."

Bonus audio interview: my hyperbolic rants and a few insights about the future of ebooks. Double last-minute bonus: an audio interview about linchpins and software and startups.

And a bonus simple productivity tip, which I've been accidentally doing for years.

Why are you apologizing?

I don't understand blog posts, emails and other messages that begin with an apology.

If you're sorry to interrupt me with that spam, don't send it.

If you know that yet another blog post on a topic that's not of interest to your readers will annoy them, don't post it.

If you're in HR and you know that no one in the office is going to read your office-wide spam about yet another inane meeting, don't bother us.

On the other hand, if it's important, if it needs to be said, if it benefits not just you but the recipient, then just send it. Instead of an apology, clearly label it so it's easy to ignore or discard. Even better, don't send everyone a message aimed at just a few people. It's easier than ever to focus on the people you need to focus on.

Just because it's more convenient for you to blast everyone in your address book doesn't mean it's smart.

Once in a lifetime

This is perhaps the greatest marketing strategy struggle of our time:

Should your product or service be very good, meet spec and be beyond reproach or...

    should it be a remarkable, memorable, over the top, a tell-your-friends event?

The answer isn't obvious, and many organizations are really conflicted about this.

Delta Airlines isn't trying to make your day. They're trying to get you from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, close to on time, less expensive the other guy and hopefully without hassle. That's a win for them.

On the other hand, when I was growing up, we used to stop in a diner in Deposit, New York to break up the long drive from Buffalo to New York City. This diner had a really engaged staff and always one practical joke or another subtly present. (I still remember the little notice on the bulletin board once, "Henway for sale, $45. Ask cashier.") It was enough reason to drive three miles out of our way, a few times a year. My guess is that a busy traveler wouldn't be happy with the extra six minutes it took to eat there.

Most of the consumer businesses (restaurants, services, etc.) and virtually all of the business to business ventures I encounter shoot for the first (meeting spec). They define spec and they work to achieve it. A few, from event organizers to investment advisors, work every single day to create over-the-top remarkable experiences. It's a lot of work, and it requires passion.

If you ran a spa at a ski resort, which would you shoot for?

Most of the people who come aren't regulars, and most of them just want a massage, a good one, one that makes the trip a little special. I don't think most people coming by expect anything more than that.

On the other hand, you could invest in staff and training and services that would be so connected to each other and the guests, so willing to engage and to change people that it might become the sort of transcendent experience that people talk about for months.

But you can't do both at the same time. That customer who came for the on-spec service isn't going to be happy with the over the top hoopla. And so you try to compromise and do both, to please everyone. Sorry, but you can't.

The doormat, the jerk and the lizard brain

The best reason to be a jerk at work is that of course no one will listen to you or support you or embrace your ideas--you're a jerk.

The best reason to be a doormat at work is that in your effort to get along, to be nice, and to go with the flow, of course you won't be expected to stand up and shout, "follow me" when your ideas might take you in a different direction.

Both extremes are the refuge of the lizard brain, the voice of the resistance. They reward the desire to fit in, not to stand out.

"It's not my job" is a comforting refrain when you'd like to hide out. So is, "they all hate me and won't do what I say."

Fear is the driver here, it's fear that pushes people in either of these two directions. That's because in between the two extremes lies responsibility and opportunity and the requirement that you actually do work that matters.

The hard part, the part that gets you rewarded, is understanding that sometimes it is best to use common sense and toe the line, while other times you are facing fear that must be overcome.

Linchpins might be afraid, but they know precisely what they're afraid of. And then they do something constructive about it.

Pennies and dollars

"Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."

I'm not sure this is true. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if you watch the dollars, you don't have to worry so much about pennies.

Big brands don't sweat the small expenses. They don't hassle about a return, or a little coupon fraud or the last penny per square foot on the rent in a prime location. In fact, they understand that there's a powerful honest signal sent when you don't worry about the tiny expenses. It shows confidence.

My first business was running a ski club from my high school to a nearby ski area. Most of the other clubs rented expensive coach buses. I rented school buses. That one shift saved thousands of dollars. As a result, I had plenty of money to spend on snacks for the bus, no hassles about refunds if you broke your leg... it was easy to be generous because I'd saved so much on the bus.

So many small businesspeople are crippled by their relationship with money. I know... I used to window shop at restaurants and then go home and eat Spaghetti-Os. The thing is, if you run out of money you lose the game. That's a given. But what's the best strategy for not running out of money?

I don't think the answer is to worry insanely about little expenses (saving $20 on your blogging expenses in exchange for distracting ads, for example.) In fact, too much worrying about cash is the work of the lizard brain, it's a symptom of someone self-sabotaging the work.

The thing to do is invest in scary innovations, large leaps, significant savings. Instead of renting a skimpy booth at the big trade show and scrimping on all the extras, why not rent a limo and drive the key buyers around town, or sponsor the awards luncheon? When you skimp all the time, you signal that you're struggling. 

Last chance for bonus prizes

There are a few bonus upsides available when you buy a copy of Linchpin. Everything ends sooner or later, and these bonuses will cease to be available after Wednesday February 24th.

Here they are. Thanks!

Your most vivid fears...

are almost certainly not the most important ones.

We pay attention to the loud and the urgent. This can lead us to ignore the important and achievable paths open to us--because we're so busy defending against the overwhelmingly dangerous (but unlikely) outcomes instead.

Moving the line (the power of a zealot)

Extremists move the middle.

Compromise is everywhere. Most of us can't possibly be pure extremists or true fundamentalists, so we draw the line somewhere in the middle.

Consider the choice of what you eat (or don't eat). It ranges from the omnivore at one end to the fruitarian at the other:

Cannibal... chimps... dogs... cats... cows... pigs... foie gras... chickens... fish... unfertilized eggs... honey... yeast... cherries... dust

My guess is that few people care so little about their role in the food chain that they're willing to eat humans (one end of the spectrum), and there are very few strict fruitarians out there (but I've never met someone who wouldn't eat yeast). Most of us draw a line somewhere between the extremes. That means we're already compromising, we just argue about how much.

Consider government:

Karl Marx... Maoist... socialist... progressive... fiscal conservative... libertarian... Ayn Rand

Again, I don't think that many people would be happy at all living at either end of the spectrum above, so we each draw a line. It's ad hoc, it's based on our community, but we pick it and then magically, we stick with it. Not just stick with our ad hoc line, but argue about it, defend it and get angry about it.

Private jet... fried baby seals... SUV...'organic' dry cleaning... Prius... bicycle... localvore... burlap sacks... No impact man

It's interesting to note that an enormous amount of apparently principled argument goes on about relatively tiny movements in where the line is being drawn. In most cases, to paraphrase an old joke, "we've already figured out what sort of girl you are, now we're just arguing about the price." It's not the principle, in fact, it's just the degree of compromise we're comfortable with and content to argue over.

And so it's left to the zealots. The people at either end have little hope of moving the masses all the way to their end of the argument. Instead, what they do is make it feel safer to change the boundaries, safer to recalibrate the compromise. Over time, as the edges feel more palatable, the masses are more likely to be willing to edge their way closer to one edge or another. Successful zealots don't argue to win. They argue to move the goalposts and to make it appear sane to do so.

Jacqueline Novogratz on recognizing a linchpin

Jacqueline Novogratz on how to recognize a linchpin.

more, More, MORE!

Some consumers are short-sighted, greedy and selfish.

Extend yourself a little and they'll want a lot.

Offer a free drink in the restaurant one night and they're angry that it's not there the next.

The nuts in first class weren't warm!

The challenge of winning more than your fair share of the market is that the best available strategy--providing remarkable service and an honest human connection--will be abused by a few people you work with.

You have three choices: put up with the whiners, write off everyone, or, deliberately exclude the ungrateful curs.

Firing the customers you can't possibly please gives you the bandwidth and resources to coddle the ones that truly deserve your attention and repay you with referrals, applause and loyalty.

The best reason for a big event...

is being big. Nah, HUGE. Ordinary big isn't good enough any more.

Big events, grand openings, national events that just can't be missed. These work (if they're big enough).

Big events, if they're truly big, change the rhythm and demand a different sort of attention and preparation. We can push through the dip, expend emotional labor and do things we never thought we'd be able to do if there's a charette and a deadline and an audience.

Human beings respond to emergencies and to hoopla. We like doing what others are doing, and we'll suspend social disbelief if we're being carried along by the pack (or the mob).

The challenge comes when we institutionalize the event and make it normal.

If you're going to have an event, better make it big. Or even bigger than that. It needs to be awe-inspiring, frightening, on deadline and worth losing sleep over.

No more big events

Here are things that you can now avoid:

  • The annual review
  • The annual sales conference
  • The big product launch
  • The grand opening of a new branch
  • Drop dead one-shot negotiation events

The reasons? Well, they don't work. They don't work because big events leave little room for iteration, for trial and error, for earning rapport. And the biggest reason: frequent cheap communication is easier than ever, and if you use it, you'll discover that the process creates far more gains than events ever can.

How to use clichés

I love this definition from Wikipedia:

In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase. The French word “cliché” comes from the sound made when the matrix is dropped into molten metal to make a printing plate.

To save time and money, then, printers took common phrases and re-used the type.

Along the way, they trained us to understand the image, the analogy, the story. Hear it often enough and you remember it. That training has a useful purpose. Now, you can say 'Festivus' or 'There is no I in team..." or "that took real courage" when describing a golf shot, and we immediately get it. Monty Python took a cliché about the Spanish Inquisition and made it funny by making it real. The comfy chair!

The effective way to use a cliché is to point to it and then do precisely the opposite. Juxtapose the cliché with the unexpected truth of what you have to offer. Apple does this all the time. They point out the cliché of a laptop or a desktop or an MP3 player and then they turn it upside down. Richard Branson takes the expected boredom of a CEO and turns it upside down by doing things you don't expect.

I often use the Encyclopedia of Clichés to find clichés that then inspire opposites. It's a secret weapon and it's all yours now. Have fun.

Viral growth trumps lots of faux followers

Viralgrowth Many brands and idea promoters are in a hurry to rack up as many Facebook fans and Twitter followers as they possibly can. Hundreds of thousands if possible.

A lot of these fans and followers are faux. Sunny day friends. In one experiment I did, 200,000 followers led to 25 clickthroughs. Ouch.

Check out the graph on the left. The curves represent different ideas and different starting points. If you start with 10,000 fans and have an idea that on average nets .8 new people per generation, that means that 10,000 people will pass it on to 8000 people, and then 6400 people, etc. That's yellow on the graph. Pretty soon, it dies out.

On the other hand, if you start with 100 people (99% less!) and the idea is twice as good (1.5 net passalong) it doesn't take long before you overtake the other plan.  (the green). That's not even including the compounding of new people getting you people.

But wait! If your idea is just a little more viral, a 1.7 passalong, wow, huge results. Infinity, here we come. That's the purple (of course.)

A slightly better idea defeats a much bigger but disconnected user base every time.

The lesson: spend your time coming up with better ideas, not with more (faux) followers.

Invent a holiday

Find an emotion that needs social approval in order to be easily expressed.

Hook it into something you sell or do.

Discover other organizations that would benefit from the holiday as much as you would.

Voila! Mother's Day/Valentine's Day/Festivus/New Year's. It doesn't have to be a national one, of course, just one for your tribe.

All the great religious holidays started as secular or pagan holidays first, because they filled an essential social need. Spring is here! It's dark out!

And if your project/product/cause isn't worthy of a holiday? Time to find a new one.

Phoning it in

This was sort of shocking, at least to me:

I was talking to a religious leader, someone who runs a congregation. She made it clear to me that on many days, it's just a job. A job like any other, you show up, you go through the motions, you get paid.

I guess we find this disturbing because spiritual work should be real, not faked.

But isn't your work spiritual?

I know doctors, lawyers, waiters and insurance brokers who are honestly and truly passionate about what they do. They view it as an art form, a calling, and an important (no, an essential) thing worth doing.

In fact, I don't think there's a relationship between what you do and how important you think the work is. I think there's a relationship between who you are and how important you think the work is.

Life's too short to phone it in.

Friday Linchpin Bonus Video: Sunny Bates on passion, fear and balance

Sunny Bates on Linchpins, Passion and Fear. Part of a series.

The brand, the package, the story and the worldview

Madecasse Madecasse has a lot going for it. It's delicious chocolate. It's made in Africa (the only imported chocolate made on the continent with local beans). The guys who make it are doing good work and are nice as well.

The question I asked them is, "does your packaging do its job?"

I don't think the job of packaging is to please your boss. I think you must please the retailer, but most of all, attract and delight and sell to the browsing, uncommitted new customer.

Let me take you through the reasoning, because I think it applies to your packaging as well.

We start with this: if I've already purchased and liked your product, the packaging isn't nearly as important. I'm talking here about packaging as a sales tool for converting browsers into buyers. (If you're already a buyer, all I need to do is remind you what we look like). If word of mouth or other factors are at work, your package matters a lot less. But for a company this size, in this market, the package matters a lot.

Now, among people who haven't bought, but might, understand that every one of them starts with a worldview. What are the beliefs and expectations and biases they have about the world?

In this case, it's about someone in the market for high end chocolate. If your worldview is, "Hershey's is the best, it reminds me of my childhood," then I'd argue that this $4 bar isn't for you no matter what they do with the package.

Perhaps you believe, "All that matters is how it tastes, and great chocolate looks a certain way,"

or perhaps, "I care about the origin of what I buy,"

or perhaps, "I want something out of the ordinary, unlike anything I've had before,"

or perhaps, "Chocolate is like wine. I am interested in vintages and varietals,"

or maybe, "Chocolate should be fun. Enough with the seriousness."

As you can see, no package can optimize for all of these people. You can compromise your packaging, try to appeal to everyone, muddy your brand promise and hide your story. I think that's sort of what the existing packaging does and I'm not sure it's smart.

Chocolate  The alternative is to focus not on ALL the people in the market, but just a few. Winning hands down with 25% is plenty in this market, and perhaps in your market too.

You could figure out how to tell the delicious story, by referencing (copying the style of) other products in other categories that are already seen as delicious, at least by this audience.

You could tell the snobby varietal handmade story, and that's been done many times as well.

Or you could tell a story that is yours and yours alone.

For example, the Madecasse story about made by Africans in Africa is very powerful, at least as powerful as fair trade, if not more (they keep four times as much money in Africa by selling a bar as they would if they just sold beans to other companies).

If that's true, then why not put your workers on the label? Big beautiful pictures that would be an amazing juxtaposition against all the other abstract stuff in the store. Tell me the story of the worker on the back. Make each one different and compelling. Packaging as baseball card. I wouldn't put a word on the front, just the picture.  Now I not only eat something that tastes good, but I feel good. You've made it personal. The story on the back is about a real person, living a better life because I took the time to buy her chocolate instead of someone else's. When I share the chocolate, I have something to say. What do you say when you give someone a chocolate bar? This package gives you something to say.

Or be fun and funny. Make the product itself almost a bumper sticker, something worth buying and talking about.

The two elements that must come together are:

  • The story you can confidently tell and
  • the worldview the buyer tells herself

When those align, you win. Happy Valentine's day on Sunday.

The hidden power of a gift

If I sell you something, we exchange items of value. You give me money, I give you stuff, or a service. The deal is done. We're even. Even steven, in fact.

That's fine, but it doesn't explain potlatch or the mystery of art or the power of a gift.

If I give you something, or way more than you paid for, an imbalance is created. That imbalance must be resolved.

Perhaps we resolve it, as the ancient Native Americans did, by acknowledging the power of the giver. In the Pacific Northwest a powerful chief would engage in potlatch, giving away everything he owned as a sign of his wealth and power. Since he had more to give away, and the power to get more, the gifts carried real power, and others had to accept his power in order to engage.

Or we resolve it by acknowledging the creativity and insight of the giver. Artists do this every time they put a painting in a museum or a song on the radio. We don't pay for the idea, but we acknowledge it. And then, if it's particularly powerful, it changes us enough that we become givers, contributing to someone else, passing it along.

Sometimes we resolve the imbalance by becoming closer to the brand or the provider. We like getting gifts, we like being close to people who have given us a gift and might do it again.

And sometimes, in the case of international aid, we resent the rich giver, the one with so much more power, and thus create a cycle of dependence that does neither side any good. This sort of gift isn't much of a gift at all.

When done properly, gifts work like nothing else. A gift gladly accepted changes everything. The imbalance creates motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection.

The key is that the gift must be freely and gladly accepted. Sending someone a gift over the transom isn't a gift, it's marketing. Gifts have to be truly given, not given in anticipation of a repayment. True gifts are part of being in a community (willingly paying taxes for a school you will never again send your grown kids to) and part of being an artist (because the giving motivates you to do ever better work).

Plus, giving a gift feels good.

When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it

Too many people, when asked for their opinion, dissemble. Instead of giving an opinion, they push back. They ask,

  • What do you think?
  • Did you do any research?
  • Can we do a focus group?
  • What did Will say?
  • There's a typo on page three
  • How long do we have to study this?
  • Can we form a committee?

This is the work of the resistance. This is your lizard brain, hiding. It feels safe. It's not.

You're an expert. If nothing else, you're an expert on life, on your opinion, on being a consumer. When I ask you for your opinion I'm not asking you for the right answer. I'm asking you for your opinion.


Can you factor this? X2-4x+4

If you're like most people, you get a little queasy at the thought. And when you were in tenth grade, you surely wondered why they were bothering you.

(the answer is (x-2) times (x-2), in case you were curious.)

It turns out that the real reason you needed to do this work was to be able to play with numbers in your head. Abstract numerical thought is an important skill among educated people.

Which brings us to TED, a conference held every year in Long Beach. It's going on right now.

Dinosaur001-thumb Watch a few TED videos and try to get ahead of the speaker. They have an's probably a conceptual tricky idea, one with a lot of moving parts. And there is a lot of shorthand and arm waving ... basically, it's similar to a quadratic equation. If you need the other person to slow down and explain every little bit, you've missed the point. The point is to do abstract conceptual thought. To get in practice taking the accepted status quo and questioning it, at least for a little while, at least this or that part of it.

I think this is a skill, a rare one. The ability to be facile in the manipulation of ideas, both theoretical and established, is a valuable one, and I think the TED videos and art of reading books (at least the first ten minutes of each) are two great ways to getting better at manipulation of ideas. It takes practice, and it's worth it.

I sat in a meeting last week with someone who was 100% tactical. She couldn't let go of the urgency of the moment long enough to envision a different future, even for five minutes. The abstract conceptual part was missing from her part of the conversation.

The trick is to be able to leap to, "if we did A and B, would that get us C? Would C be a good thing? Is it possible to do A and B if we really commit?" and then move on to the next one. And that takes practice. Why wouldn't it?

BONUS: Hugh MacLeod, artist, good friend and creator of the cartoon above, has created four cube grenades about being a linchpin. These are limited editions, first come first shipped. (You can sign up for his free cartoon of the day).

Frightened, clueless or uninformed?

In the face of significant change and opportunity, people are often one of the three. If you're going to be of assistance, it helps to know which one.

Uninformed people need information and insight in order to figure out what to do next. They are approaching the problem with optimism and calm, but they need to be taught. Uninformed is not a pejorative term, it's a temporary state.

Clueless people don't know what to do and they don't know that they don't know what to do. They don't know the right questions to ask. Giving them instructions is insufficient. First, they need to be sold on what the platform even looks like.

And frightened people will resist any help you can give them, and they will blame you for the stress the change is causing. Scared people like to shoot the messenger. Duck.

The worst kind of frightened person is one with power. Someone in a mob of other frightened people, someone with a gun, someone who is the CEO. When confronted with a scared CEO, time to run. Before someone can change, they have to learn, and before they learn, they have to cease being scared.

One reason so many big ideas come from small organizations is that there is far less fear of change at the top. One mistake board members and shareholders make is that they reward the scared but hyper-confident CEO, instead of calling him on the carpet as he rages at change.

When I first encountered surfing, I was scared of it. It looks cool, but an old guy like me can get hurt. A patient instructor allayed my fears until I was willing to get started. When you first start out, the things you think are important are actually irrelevant, and it's the stuff you don't know is important that gets you thrown into the ocean. Finally, and only then, was I smart enough to actually learn.

I'm bad at surfing now, but at least I know why.

Comfort the frightened, coach the clueless and teach the uninformed.

The least I could do

One way to think about running a successful business is to figure out what the least you can do is, and do that. That's actually what they spent most of my time at business school teaching me.

No sense putting more on that pizza, sending more staff to that event, answering the phone in fewer rings... what's the point? No sense being kind, looking people in the eye, being open or welcoming or grateful. Doing the least acceptable amount is the way to maximize short term profit.

Of course, there's a different strategy, a crazy alternative that seems to work: do the most you can do instead of the least.

Radically overdeliver.

Turns out that this is a cheap and effective marketing technique.

iPad app of my dreams: the digital talking pad

Here's the spec. If you build it and it's great, I'll use it and I'll blog it.

A while ago, I posted about the talking pad and a modern version of it.

I think there's a killer app version of this for the iPad, and I hope someone will build it. The talking pad is an interactive presentation tool for smart people.


It's a very simple concept: a collection of pages (slides, images, type, let's call them pages) that are easy to navigate in a non-linear way. Along with the standard zoom features, I'd like to be able to write on any of them in real time using my finger. I can also call up, on demand, a calculator or a blank drawing pad.


I can create the talking pad files on my Mac or on the iPad using a builder app, and sync both ways. The builder is really simple, just the ability to organize pages I create in other apps, with simple navigation, scale and type tools.


Instead of it being linear (like Powerpoint or Keynote), the pages are arranged in a grid or checkerboard. From any page, then, I can go back, forward, up or down, and the four diagonals as well. So depending on the conversation I'm having with my audience, my 'next' page can be any of 8.

In addition, the app supports an external monitor. When I'm hooked up to the projector or screen, I see twenty or thirty of my pages in thumbnails on my ipad screen, and I can click any of them to instantly bring that page up on the projector.

In essence, I want to be able to play a presentation the same way some people play jazz piano.

As a prompt, each corner and side of the page can have little keyword reminders, so I can easily remember, for example, that pressing the bottom left corner of the page about dogs will display the page about tigers.

So now, someone asks a question and I can just jump to the slide that answers that question. If I want to circle something or zoom in, I just put my finger on the screen and do that.


1. the ability to have one of the pages be a web browser with address already loaded, so if I want, without leaving the talking pad app, I can jump to this.

2. the ability to embed links within the pages, so I can actually have a page that points to other pages (this is currently built into keynote and powerpoint, but people don't use it because those programs are so linear). In essence, a page becomes a piano keyboard with each key pointing to another page.


The app can keep track of which pages I used the most, and for how long. This is useful in a corporate setting. Imagine that the sales manager dreams up a talking pad file and offers it to 100 salespeople. Every day, when they re-sync, we can see how often the pad was used and which slides got used the most often.

The Killer App

A killer app is a program that all by itself is good enough to justify the price of the hardware. The killer app for the PC was Lotus 1-2-3. The killer app for the iPod was iTunes. This is reason enough to pay $500, I think.

PS I've received so much interest in this I've started a wiki on this topic so you can find fellow travelers.

The relentless search for "tell me what to do"

If you've ever hired or managed or taught, you know the feeling.

People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: "If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I'm safe."

When asked, resist.

Linchpin videos (first in a series)

We're traveling around, finding interesting people and asking them to riff for a minute or two about what makes someone indispensable. Kicking off the weekly series is Gary Vee. Click the picture to view it. We'll do four for February and see how it goes.

Linchpin: GaryVee from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Shiny objects

If you're a hunter, are you wasting your gift chasing shiny but ultimately worthless objects?

And if you're a farmer, are you wasting your resources by planting and nurturing a crop that's fashionable but without real value?

It might be fun to win a Grammy or dominate your category in terms of market share, but what's it worth if it doesn't support the actual goal?

Marketing is more powerful than ever. We have more leverage than ever before. Which makes picking your milestones and your goals more critical than it has ever been.

What's expected vs. what's amazing

I visited a favorite restaurant last week, a place that, alas, I hadn't been to in months. The waiter remembered that I don't like cilantro. Unasked, she brought it up. Incredible. This was uncalled for, unnecessary and totally delightful.

Scott Adams writes about the cyborg tool that is coming momentarily, a device that will remember names, find connections, bring all sorts of external data to us the moment we meet someone. "Oh, Bob, sure, that's the guy who's friends with Tracy... and Tim just tweeted about him a few minutes ago."

The first time someone does this to you in conversation (no matter how subtly), you're going to be blown away and flabbergasted. The tenth time, it'll be ordinary, and the 20th, boring.

Hotels used to get a lot of mileage out of remembering what you liked, but it was merely a database trick, not emotional labor on the part of the staff.

Today, if you go to an important meeting and the other people haven't bothered to Google you and your company, it's practically an offense. We're about to spend an hour together and you couldn't be bothered to look me up? It's expected, no longer amazing.

Dolores711 On the other hand, consider Dolores, a clerk with kidney problems at a 7 Eleven, who broke all sorts of coffee sales records because she remembered the name of every customer who came in every morning. Unexpected and amazing.

You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it's getting raised regardless.

[Irrelevant aside: Linchpin made the New York Times bestseller list yesterday. The list is hand tweaked, unreliable and often wrong, but it's still a great thing to have happen the first week a book is out. Thank you to each of you who pitched in and spread the word. Unexpected and amazing, both.]

Hunters and Farmers

10,000 years ago, civilization forked. Farming was invented and the way many people spent their time was changed forever.

Clearly, farming is a very different activity from hunting. Farmers spend time sweating the details, worrying about the weather, making smart choices about seeds and breeding and working hard to avoid a bad crop. Hunters, on the other hand, have long periods of distracted noticing interrupted by brief moments of frenzied panic.

It's not crazy to imagine that some people are better at one activity than another. There might even be a gulf between people who are good at each of the two skills. Thom Hartmann has written extensively on this. He points out that medicating kids who might be better at hunting so that they can sit quietly in a school designed to teach farming doesn't make a lot of sense. 

A kid who has innate hunting skills is easily distracted, because noticing small movements in the brush is exactly what you'd need to do if you were hunting. Scan and scan and pounce. That same kid is able to drop everything and focus like a laser--for a while--if it's urgent. The farming kid, on the other hand, is particularly good at tilling the fields of endless homework problems, each a bit like the other. Just don't ask him to change gears instantly.

Marketers confuse the two groups. Are you selling a product that helps farmers... and hoping that hunters will buy it? How do you expect that people will discover your product, or believe that it will help them? The woman who reads each issue of Vogue, hurrying through the pages then clicking over to Zappos to overnight order the latest styles--she's hunting. Contrast this to the CTO who spends six months issuing RFPs to buy a PBX that was last updated three years ago... she's farming.

Both groups are worthy, both groups are profitable. But each group is very different from the other, and I think we need to consider teaching, hiring and marketing to these groups in completely different ways. I'm not sure if there's a genetic component or if this is merely a convenient grouping of people's personas. All I know is that it often explains a lot about behavior (including mine).

Some ways to think about this:

  • George Clooney (in  Up in the Air) and James Bond are both fictional hunters. Give them a desk job and they freak out.
  • Farmers don't dislike technology. They dislike failure. Technology that works is a boon.
  • Hunters are in sync with Google, a hunting site, farmers like Facebook.
  • When you promote a first-rate hunting salesperson to internal sales management, be prepared for failure.
  • Farmers prefer productive meetings, hunters want to simply try stuff and see what happens.
  • Warren Buffet is a farmer. So is Bill Gates. Mark Cuban is a hunter.
  • Hunters want a high-stakes mission, farmers want to avoid epic failure.
  • Trade shows are designed to entrance hunters, yet all too often, the booths are staffed with farmers.
  • The last hundred years of our economy favored smart farmers. It seems as though the next hundred are going to belong to the persistent hunters able to stick with it for the long haul.
  • A hunter will often buy something merely because it is difficult to acquire.
  • One of the paradoxes of venture capital is that it takes a hunter to get the investment and a farmer to patiently make the business work.
  • A farmer often relies on other farmers in her peer group to be sure a purchase is riskless.
Who are you hiring? Competing against? Teaching?

Free inspiration and insight

The Lemonade movie is so professional, engaging and inspiring that you've probably already seen it. If not, here it is.

Todd Sattersten has written a free ebook about pricing that's well worth the time it takes to review. It will change the way you think about pricing.

And if you can, take a look at this poetry video from Gabrielle Bouliane. She left us a very powerful message before she left. It might change your life. (Thanks Paul).

Who will save us?

Who will save book publishing?

What will save the newspapers?

What means 'save'?

If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It's over.

If by save you mean, "who will keep the jobs of the pressmen and the delivery guys and the squadrons of accountants and box makers and transshippers and bookstore buyers and assistant editors and coffee boys," then the answer is still nothing will. Not the Kindle, not the iPad, not an act of Congress.

We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.

If you want to know who will save the joy of reading something funny, or the leverage of acting on fresh news or the importance of allowing yourself to be changed by something in a book, then don't worry. It doesn't need saving. In fact, this is the moment when we can figure out how to increase those benefits by a factor of ten, precisely because we don't have to spend a lot of resources on the saving part.

Every revolution destroys the average middle first and most savagely.

Modern procrastination

The lizard brain adores a deadline that slips, an item that doesn't ship and most of all, busywork.

These represent safety, because if you don't challenge the status quo, you can't be made fun of, can't fail, can't be laughed at. And so the resistance looks for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything.

I'd like to posit that for idea workers, misusing Twitter, Facebook and various forms of digital networking are the ultimate expression of procrastination. You can be busy, very busy, forever. The more you do, the longer the queue gets. The bigger your circle, the more connections are available.

Laziness in a white collar job has nothing to do with avoiding hard physical labor. “Who wants to help me move this box!” Instead, it has to do with avoiding difficult (and apparently risky) intellectual labor.

"Honey, how was your day?"

"Oh, I was busy, incredibly busy."

"I get that you were busy. But did you do anything important?"

Busy does not equal important. Measured doesn't mean mattered.

When the resistance pushes you to do the quick reaction, the instant message, the 'ping-are-you-still-there', perhaps it pays to push in precisely the opposite direction. Perhaps it's time for the blank sheet of paper, the cancellation of a long-time money loser, the difficult conversation, the creative breakthrough...

Or you could check your email.

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