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Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

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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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« February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »


If you read a book that tries to change you for the better and it fails or doesn't resonate, then it's a self-help book.

If you read a book that actually succeeds in changing you for the better, then the label changes from self-help book to great book.

We don't like books that fail, because they waste our time, they offend us, they speak a different language or they make us feel out of sorts. Self-help books are a bane.

On the other hand, a book that resonates with us, whether it's Catcher in the Rye, The War of Art or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance earns a place of trust and we revere it and tell others.

A store clerk who tries to sell you something and fails is a high-pressure salesperson.

If she succeeds in selling you something, she's helpful.

The difference between the two categories isn't one of intent. They're all ultimately trying for the same thing. The difference is in success. So, go ahead and denigrate self-help books and salespeople and the rest. Just be clear with yourself that what you're unhappy with are the ones that fail.

By the way, the only real help is self-help. Anything else is just designed to get you to the point where you can help yourself.

Maybe you need new friends

Real world friends are hard to find and hard to change.

But virtual friends?

If your online friends aren't egging you on...

If your online friends don't spread the word about the work you're doing...

If your online friends aren't respectfully challenging your deeply held beliefs...

If your online friends don't demand the best from you...

Then perhaps you need new online friends.

The reality of digital content (lose the cookie, lose the fortune?)

A magazine with a million subscribers might spend more than a million dollars to deliver a single issue to its subscribers. A million dollars spent on postage, printing, subscription sales, fulfillment, ad sales, sub rights and more. I wouldn't be surprised if the freelance budget for the writers and photographers (the real reason people read the magazine) is less than 15% of the cost, perhaps a lot less.

The economics of this business are interesting. Millions spent, millions earned, and almost all of it goes to pay for the paper and the friction it brings.

Now, we fast forward to a world, our world, where the cost of delivery is zero and so we've removed 95% of the costs.

What happens to the writers and photographers? Where do they get their money now?

Without fortune cookies, are there fortunes?

See, Gourmet magazine or the frontlist at a midlist publisher were mostly wrapper. They were 95% fluff and overhead and only a sliver spent for the actual content. And now the wrapper, the cookie is gone.

The bad news: Conde Nast and Simon & Schuster and the other usual suspects are no longer going to pay decent wages to average writers. And average photographers aren't going to make a living shooting weddings when the guests can do almost as well and all the photos are going on flickr anyway.

The good news: There's a new job, but this job hasn't been filled yet. It's not stable enough for a publisher type to grab it. It's not boring enough for a bureaucrat. Instead, it's a job for someone with a writer's sensibility and awareness, but it requires entrepreneurship and organization.

What happens when the people with great ideas start organizing for themselves, start leading online tribes, start creating micro products and seminars and interactions that people are actually willing to pay for? It's possible that someone like (nsfw) writer Susie Bright is never again going to make a good living just writing. Instead, she could make a great living coordinating, organizing, introducing and leading a thousand or ten thousand true fans. Each of them will gladly pay for the privilege, because the connections and insights and benefits she brings are worth it. She didn't wake up this morning thinking of herself as a coach or a tour leader or a concierge or a leader, but that's the niche available to her.

The Grateful Dead spent thirty years without a record label that understood them, thirty years being their own boss, leading their own tribe, connecting people who wanted to be there instead of shilling for their tiny share of record sales.

If you want to write the fortunes for the cookies that don't exist any more, you may need to make your own organization, lead your own tribe and hire yourself.

Publishing books to make money...

is a little like hanging out in a singles bar if you want to get married.

It might work, but there are way better ways to accomplish your goal.

If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you've got. Just don't plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living.

The only people who should plan on making money from writing a book are people who made money on their last book. Everyone else should either be in it for passion, trust, referrals, speaking, consulting, change-making, tenure, connections or joy.

[Speaking of free, we made a small change to the interview dates on the upcoming nano-mba 11-person session for employees at corporations and orgs that make the world a little better.]

What teachers make

Perhaps the most forwarded poem ever, from a full time poet no less. You can buy his book, too. (Thanks, Rod, for the link). [Video includes a coarse but common gesture, in case you need the alert].

Linchpin teachers engage in the act of pushing people to have the sort of breakthroughs Taylor talks about. They're scarce, and precious.

Finding your brand essence

I got an email from someone who had hired a consulting firm to help his company find their true brand selves. They failed. He failed. He asked me if I could recommend a better one.

My answer:

The problem isn't the consultant, it's the fact that if you have to search for a brand essence, you're unlikely to find one.
Standing for something means giving up a lot of other things, and opening yourself to criticism. Most people in the financial services industry (or any industry, actually) aren't willing to do that, which is why there are so few Charles Schwabs in the world.
First, decide it's okay to fail and to make a ruckus while failing. THEN go searching for the way to capture that energy and share it with the world.

Clothes don't make the man, the man makes the man. Clothes (and the brand) just amplify that.

Fear of philanthropy (avert your eyes)

Peter Singer is famous for posing a stunningly difficult question, paraphrased as, "If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?" Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There's really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever... The issues are proximity and attention.

My take is that most people would instantly save the kid, but given the choice, probably wouldn't take the road by the pond again any time soon. We like to avoid these situations, because these situations make us uncomfortable.

Avert your eyes.

The reporter tells you, I'm going to show you a video of the meat you're going to eat for dinner being slaughtered. Avert your eyes. Or the fundraiser says I'm going to tell you about easily avoidable suffering in the developing world. Avert your eyes...

It boils down to a simple question, "how much is enough?" She knows that one iPod is all she needs, but she wonders how much philanthropy is enough?  And this is a key marketing question for anyone seeking donors.

Do I have to use up all my Italian shoes? How much is my share? ...and at some point, will we end up avoiding Singer's question altogether?

If you don't give anything to good causes, then you define enough as zero and you have no worries about achieving 'enough'. A sad but effective strategy.

If you give money to emergencies, friends with the guts to ask and the occasional feel good moment, you've also defined 'enough' in an easily achievable way. Your gift is a reaction to inputs.

What about people who make substantial, anonymous donations to long-term causes? How do they know what's enough? How do they decide that now it's okay to go out for a fancy dinner and not send the money to the worthy cause instead? If the solution isn't clear, if it's limitless, how do they avoid the temptation of avoiding the problem by doing nothing?

Marketers at good causes have a real challenge as they try to raise money from people who aren't billionaires. As they approach people with $10,000 or $100,000 in the bank, this fear of not seeing a limit is very real, and if it's not confronted, they will fail at both raising the money and generating satisfaction for the donor.

The Mormon Church says, "tithe". Loosely paraphrased, they say, "10% is a lot, and 10% is enough." This is actually very smart, because they've created a difficult but achievable standard, a way to be a member of good standing in their tribe.

When my dad ran the local United Way drive as a volunteer, he pushed for one percent. "One percent isn't a lot, but it's enough."

What's enough? I don't think good cause marketers need to worry so much about which number or figure they choose, but I think they need to dream hard about whether giving people comfort with a ceiling will bring in a new class of significant donors. Too many people still avert their eyes.

PS this same thinking works for marketers trying to persuade people to join a gym, learn an instrument or go on a diet... if people can't figure out what 'enough' is, where the end lies, they may decide it's not worth starting. Sad but true.

What you can learn from a lousy teacher...

If you have a teacher (of any sort) that you cannot please, that you cannot learn from, that is unwilling to take you where you need to go because he is defending the status quo and demonstrates your failure on whatever report card he chooses to use, you could consider yourself a failure. Or you could remind yourself...

  1. Grades are an illusion
  2. Your passion and insight are reality
  3. Your work is worth more than mere congruence to an answer key
  4. Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is a powerful ability
  5. Fitting in is a short-term strategy, standing out pays off in the long run
  6. If you care enough about the work to be criticized, you've learned enough for today

Telling a story on the label

Here's a $20 bottle of soap. Functionally identical to a $3 bottle, so what's the $17 for?

Let's assume the people buying it aren't stupid. What are they paying $17 for? A story. A feeling. A souvenir of a shopping expedition or perhaps just a little bit of joy in the shower every morning. Let's dissect:

1. The hang tag. It's special because most soap doesn't have a hang tag. Hang tags come on things that are a little more special than soap. And hang tags beg to be read. This one says a lot (and nothing, at the same time.) It reminds us that it doesn't contain SLS. What's SLS? Is it as bad as SLES?

2. This isn't soap. It's mineral botanic. Both words are meaningless, which means the purchaser can attach whatever feelings they choose to them. In this case, the marketer is hoping for old-time, genuine, down-to-earth and real.

3. It's not made by a soap company. It's made in a Dead Sea Laboratory. Laboratories, of course, are where scientists work, and the Dead Sea is biblical, spiritual and really salty. The company has a name (Ahava) that is onomatopoeic and reminds you of breathing. Breathe deep and find calm. [Even better, I'm told it means 'love' in Hebrew].

4. My favorite part is that it's made from bamboo and pansy. At least a little. Bamboo because it's fast growing and Asian and gentle and wood and grass at the same time. And pansy... well... pansy is for girls.

5. Two really good things here. First, it's for very dry skin. This is brilliant. If your skin is dry, you don't want to hear that it's sort of dry, kind of dry, not as dry as that guy over there... No, you want to hear that it's extremely dry, really dry, so dry it's like sand. That kind of dry. This bottle understands how very dry your skin is, and it's here to help.

Also, it's in French! I love that there's the language of love and sophistication and diplomacy right here on the bottle. I can imagine that models for Chanel are using it on the Rive Gauche as we speak.

6. Did I mention the part about velvet?

It took guts to take this packaging so over the top. It doesn't match my worldview, but it might match yours. There's not a lot of room for slightly-out-of-the-ordinary.

I'm mad at everyone

No, not you. Not anyone in particular, actually.

I'm angry at the idea of 'everyone' and what they want and what they say.

Everyone says you should do your site and your online presence a certain way.

Everyone is upset at what you did.

Everyone is frustrated at the slow pace government is getting this done.

Everyone knows you should listen to your customers and do what they say.

Everyone knows that our school is wasting money.

Everyone says you need to go to a 'good' college.

You get the idea. That everyone.

The one that's almost always wrong.

Let's spend a (very leveraged) week together

For a year, people have been asking for a sequel to the free alternative MBA program I ran in early 2009. Here it is. Like the last one, it is also free, but it's different, so please read on for the details.

I'm planning on inviting eleven people to an intensive five-day session in New York. This program is designed exclusively for people who:

  • Already have a job
  • Want to do more in that job
  • Can spend five days at my office with their boss's blessing
  • Take initiative as a matter of course
  • Are willing to work really hard and read a lot too
  • Do work that makes the world a better place

You have to have all six, without exception. If you think you would benefit from a rigorous re-thinking of what it means to contribute at work, if you want to take your strong connections and intuition and amplify that, I hope you will consider this program.

Call it the leveraged-nano-MBA for lack of a better name yet. Every day will be spent around my desk, either learning from me, going over case studies, discussing real life situations or working on a project of your choice. The only benefit I get is helping eleven very cool people leverage their jobs doing good. All the details and the application can be found right here.

I'm limiting the program to people at non-profits doing important work (or for-profits that leave a significantly positive impact on their communities). I know this is subjective, but I've found that people who are doing work that they're proud of have already made an important choice.

Applications are open from now until March 31st at noon EST. Late applications will be deleted unread.

For those of you that can't get to New York or want a digital version, I'm afraid that there won't be one. Most of my work is digitally available, but this is an intimate exchange of learning and ideas.

Just because it's free doesn't mean it will be easy, and just because it's short doesn't mean the lessons won't last. I truly want to help people who are doing work that matters, and this feels like a good way to do that. If this is for you, I hope you'll apply. If you can run a program like this, I hope you will. And if neither is possible, I hope you'll find some books and blog posts that help you achieve your goals.


Everybody knows what NSFW means. It's not safe for work if a link contains misogynistic videos, or various curse words or insane prattling sure to upset the boss and your co-workers.

But what about safe for work? Have we thought too much about what's safe?

Is it SFW to criticize a plan your boss loves?

Is it SFW to ship a product without having every single possible meeting beforehand?

Is it SFW to engage with your customers honestly?

Perhaps it's time to revisit what's safe where you work.

Do you make slush?

A few months ago, the Journal wrote a piece about the demise of the slush pile, that undifferentiated mass of unsolicited ideas from authors and screenwriters in search of a publisher or studio.

They missed the point.

In the words of Michael Brooke, "I'm not interested in creating slush."

If you have something good, really good, what's it doing in the slush pile?

Bring it to the world directly, make your own video, write your own ebook, post your own blog, record your own music.

Or find an agent, a great agent, a selective agent, one that's almost impossible to get through to, one that commands respect and acts as a filter because after all, that's what you're seeking, a filtered, amplified way to spread your idea.

But slush?

Good riddance.

When a freelancer changes the game

Often, businesses hire freelancers (writers, photographers, process consultants, trainers) to solve a specific problem for the lowest possible cost. And a good freelancer at the right price is often the right approach.

Sometimes, though, you spend more and get something great. You seek out and find a linchpin who combines inspiration and professionalism and initiative and pushes back on your quest for average. When you interact with someone like that, you might pay more but you get far more than you paid.

I recently did a photo shoot with my friend Brian, and from the moment I walked into the studio, I discovered that he and his lighting guru were relentlessly pushing to change my perception of what was possible at the same time they were focused on overdelivering on the project. They had little interest in settling on merely doing a good job.

There's a lot of pressure for freelancers to fit in, conform and comply. It seems easier to generate new business that way. That's not really true. It's easier to become an easily-described commodity that way, but the person who's willing to push themselves out to an edge that matters is on the only path that actually leads to success.

And then it's up to the client to care enough about the project and in making a difference to have the guts to hire you.

First and never

I met a new addition to the family the other day. She was eleven days old.

It was the warmest day of her whole life the day I was there. And she had just eaten her biggest meal ever.

Firsts are fun and exciting and it's neat to keep topping ourselves.

I've also come to grips with the fact that I'm never going to eat tuna ever again, and that I'm never going to be able to easily walk onto a shuttle flight at the last minute and just show up in Boston. Never is a lot harder than first, but I guess you get used to it.

The internet is like Ice 9. It changes what it touches, probably forever. We keep discovering firsts, the biggest viral video ever, the most twitter followers ever, the fastest bestseller ever... And we constantly discover nevers as well. There's never going to be a mass market TV show that rivals the ones that came before. There's never going to be a worldwide brand built by advertising ever again either. And Michael Jackson's record deal is the last one of its kind... And there may never be a job like that job you used to have either.

Revolutions are like that. They invent and destroy and they only go one way. It's like watching a confused person in a revolving door for the first time. They push backwards, try to slow it down, fight the rotation... and then they embrace the process and just walk and it works.

Anxiety is nothing...

but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.

[and a bonus from George Orwell: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."]

Not for me

A worthwhile discipline: when giving feedback, separate "not for me" from "not for anyone."

If someone brings you a business plan for a power plant that will use perpetual motion as a power supply, it's fair to say, "this will never work, it's impossible."

If someone brings you a business plan for a chain of hot dog sushi restaurants, it's fair to say, "this is disgusting, I will never go here," but not helpful to assume that it won't work anywhere under any circumstances.

You can say you don't like a book or a movie or a political candidate, but without more data, it's impossible to say that it won't succeed, get great reviews or even get elected.

Brilliant editors and venture capitalists have the ability to get excited about a project that perhaps doesn't match their taste--or to criticize it based on experience, not selfishness. This is a really valuable skill, as it requires empathy, experience and judgment, not just the knee-jerk ability to pontificate.

Driveby culture and the endless search for wow

The net has spawned two new ways to create and consume culture.

The first is the wide-open door for amateurs to create. This is blogging and online art, wikipedia and the maker movement. These guys get a lot of press, and deservedly so, because they're changing everything.

The second, though, is distracting and ultimately a waste. We're creating a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not).

Imagine if people went to the theatre or the movies and stood up and walked out after the first six seconds. Imagine if people went to the senior prom and bailed on their date three seconds after the car pulled away from the curb.

The majority of people who sign up for a new online service rarely or never use it. The majority of YouTube videos are watched for just a few seconds. Chatroulette institutionalizes the glance and click mentality. I'm guessing that more than half the people who started reading this post never finished it.

This is all easy to measure. And it drives people with something to accomplish crazy, because they want visits to go up, clicks to go up, eyeballs to go up.

Should I write blog posts that increase my traffic or that help change the way (a few) people think?

Should a charity focus on instant donations by texting from a million people or is it better to seek dedicated attention and support from a few who understand the mission and are there for the long haul?

More and more often, we're seeing products and services coming to market designed to appeal to the momentary attention of the clickers. The Huffington Post has downgraded itself, pushing thoughtful stories down the page in exchange for linkbait and sensational celebrity riffs. This strategy gets page views, but does it generate thought or change?

If you create (or market) should you be chasing the people who click and leave? Or is it like trying to turn a cheetah into a house pet? Is manipulating the high-voltage attention stream of millions of caffeinated web surfers a viable long-term strategy?

Mass marketing used to be able to have it both ways. Money bought you audience. Now, all that buys you a mass market is wow and speed. Wow keeps getting harder and dives for the lowest common denominator at the same time.

Time magazine started manipulating the cover and then the contents in order to boost newsstand sales. They may have found a short-term solution, but the magazine is doomed precisely because the people they are pandering to don't really pay attention and aren't attractive to advertisers.

My fear is that the endless search for wow further coarsens our culture at the same time it encourages marketers to get ever more shallow. That's where the first trend comes in... the artists, idea merchants and marketers that are having the most success are ignoring those that would rubberneck and drive on, focusing instead on cadres of fans that matter. Fans that will give permission, fans that will return tomorrow, fans that will spread the word to others that can also take action.

Culture has been getting faster and shallower for hundreds of years, and I'm not the first crusty pundit to decry the demise of thoughtful inquiry and deep experiences. The interesting question here, though, is not how fast is too fast, but what works? What works to change mindsets, to spread important ideas and to create an audience for work that matters? What's worth your effort and investment as a marketer or creator?

The difference this time is that driveby culture is both fast and free. When there's no commitment of money or time in the interaction, can change or commerce really happen? Just because you can measure eyeballs and pageviews doesn't mean you should.

In the race between 'who' and 'how many', who usually wins--if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.

But it's better than TV

At the local health food store lunch buffet, they offer stir fried tempeh.

I never get it. Not because I don’t like it, but because there are always so many other things on the buffet that I prefer.

That's why I don't watch TV. At all. There are so many other things I'd rather do in that moment.

Broadcast TV was a great choice when a> there weren't a lot of other options and b> when everyone else was watching the same thing, so you needed to see it to be educated.

Now, though, you could:

  • Run a little store on eBay
  • Write a daily blog
  • Write a novel
  • Start an online community about your favorite passion
  • Go to meetups in your town
  • Volunteer to tutor a kid, in person or online
  • Learn a new language, verbal or programming
  • Write hand written thank you notes each evening to people who helped you out or did a good job
  • Produce small films and publish them online
  • Listen to the one thousand most important operas
  • Read a book or two every evening
  • Play a game of Scrabble with your family

None of them are perfect. Each of them are better than TV.

Clay Shirky has noticed the trend of talented people putting five or six hours an evening to work instead of to waste. Add that up across a million or ten million people and the output is astonishing. He calls it cognitive surplus and it's one of the underappreciated world-changing stories of our time.

Books you don't need in a place you can't find

David points us to the Montague Bookmill. This is the bookstore of the future, because it's not a business trying to maximize growth and ROI. No, it's a place, an attitude, an approach to an afternoon. They don't sell every book, they don't even pretend to.

Just as vinyl records persist, an object of joy for some listeners and a profitable cottage business for some sellers, bookstores are going to become like gift stores. The goal isn't a commodity transaction with maximum selection at minimum price, the goal is an experience worth seeking out and paying for.

We're going to see more and more of these newly archaic industries turn into lifestyle businesses, which is what they used to be before Wall Street showed up.

[PS...US readers should change their clocks!)

We can do it

We_can_do_itToo often, it seems, this attitude is missing from teams, organizations or the community.

It's missing because people are quick to opt out of the 'we' part. "What do you mean, we?" they ask. It's so easy to not be part of we, so easy to make it someone else's problem, so easy to not to take responsibility as a member of whatever tribe you're part of.

Sometimes it's missing because people disagree about what 'it' is. If you don't know what you're after, it's unlikely you're going to find it.

And it's missing because people confuse cynicism with realism, and are afraid to say "can". They'd rather say 'might' or even 'probably won't'.

Just about everything worth doing is worth doing because it's important and because the odds are against you. If they weren't, then anyone could do it, so don't bother.

Product launches, innovations and initiatives by any organization work better when the key people agree on the goal, believe that they can achieve it and that the plan will work.

Do we have a cynicism shortage? Unlikely.

Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far.

Count me in. Let's go.

Naming tool of the week

Oleg points us to

It's a conjugator, brainstorming and domain finder, all in one. Nicely done.

I've done a few posts on naming to help you get started. Here's an old one too.

And while I'm sharing links, here's a thoughtful post about money. Not about money, actually, but about the way people think about money.

Wondering around

I stumbled on a great typo last night. "Staff in the lobby were wondering around..."

Wandering around is an aimless waste of time.

Wondering around, though, that sounds useful.

Wondering why this product is the way it is, wondering how you can make the lobby more welcoming, wondering if your best customers are happily sharing your ideas with others... So many things worth wondering about, so few people actually taking the time to do it.

Wondering around is the act of inquiring with generous spirit.

Helping spread the word

Since Linchpin was published six weeks ago, I've gotten some terrific email. Most of it is about individuals who used the ideas in the book to instigate a process of self-reinvention or validation. Some of the best mail, though, has come from managers and leaders who are using the book to inspire others. One company bought 800 copies for its management, while another reader told me how two copies helped change the way her organization coped with change.

When I find a book that moves me, I spread it to everyone who's willing to listen. I hope you feel the same way.

It's ever more clear to me that an author has very little chance of writing a book that goes directly to a large number of new readers who become book buyers. There's not enough time or money or leverage to get in front of a stranger and say, "here, read this!"

On the other hand, that's exactly what someone like you can do. "Here, read this, and then let's discuss it..." In fact, I'd argue that just about every book that has made an impact has spread in exactly that way.

Given that truth, here are two ways I'd like to support you if you think the ideas in Linchpin are worth spreading:


We're working with 800 CEO Read to offer the following: buy five copies of Linchpin and we'll send you a digital ten-page reader's guide. Packed with questions and ideas dreamed up by fellow readers that you can use to inspire or guide group conversations.

Buy five, give them away, have a conversation, make change. (PDF will be sent by email to arrive before your books do). I think you'll be delighted at the impact five books can have on the people you work with or teach.


I'm going to do a live session in New York on April 16, 2010. Instead of charging my usual fee for tickets, I'm offering seats only to people interested and able to train lots of others. If you're a manager, a coach, a teacher, the leader of an organization or someone who has the desire to teach a group about the ideas in Linchpin, I'd love to have you come.

The entire session will be focused on how to talk about and spread the ideas in the book. Because it's a small group, seats are limited and are reserved for people who can buy fifty or more copies of the book from the retailer of your choice. All the details are here. We'll accept applications until all the seats are allocated, so hurry.

Thanks to each of you who have read the book and hugs to those of you touched enough by it to want to share it with others. I appreciate it. Your support made it a NY Times bestseller, #1 in the Journal, etc., but I'm far more satisfied that it has helped people do something that they've always wanted to do. Thanks for making something happen.

Creating the list not the same as obeying the list.

Do you make the list you check off, follow and work on every day? When does it get made? Who approves it? Do you identify tasks or perform them?

If you had a better list, would you do better work? If you made the list instead of just obeying it, would you be a more valuable member of the team?

Yes, asking questions is often more valued than answering them. (If they're the right questions.)

The Wordperfect Axiom

When the platform changes, the leaders change.

Wordperfect had a virtual monopoly on word processing in big firms that used DOS. Then Windows arrived and the folks at Wordperfect didn't feel the need to hurry in porting themselves to the new platform. They had achieved lock-in after all, and why support Microsoft?

In less than a year, they were toast.

When the game machine platform of choice switches from Sony to xBox to Nintendo, etc., the list of bestelling games change and new companies become dominant.

When the platform for music shifted from record stores to iTunes, the power shifted too, and many labels were crushed.

Again and again the same rules apply. In fact, they always do. When the platform changes, the deck gets shuffled.

Think this only applies to software?

The platform for healthcare changed from independent doctor's offices and small practices to hospitals and hmos.

The platform for TV changed from airwaves to wires (so HBO and ESPN win, NBC loses).

The platform for cars is changing from gas engines to alternatives.

And the platform for books is changing (fast!) to e-books and readers. Just published today: the Vook multimedia production of Unleashing the Ideavirus. The price will increase to $5 in two weeks, but right now it's 99 cents. It runs on the web and on your iphone [try this link too] (and the iPad on April 3rd.)

Here's the thing: Vook abridged it, built it, filmed it and distributed it in less than ninety days. They have a software application that they can use again and again for other titles. They've organized themselves to be profitable at a profit margin that few big book publishers can match.

Once again, the platform changes. Insiders become outsiders and new opportunities abound.

The factory in the center

Old time factories had a linear layout, because there was just one steam engine driving one drive shaft. Every machine in the shop had to line up under the shaft (connected by a pulley) in order to get power.

That metaphor extended to the people working in the factory. Each person was hired and trained and arranged to maximize output. The goal was to engage the factory, to feed it, maintain it and have it produce efficiently.

Distribution was designed in sync with the factory. You wanted to have the right number of trucks and drivers to handle whatever the factory produced and to get it where it needed to go.

Marketing was driven by the factory as well. The goal of marketing was to sell whatever the factory could produce in a given month, for as much money and as little overhead as possible.

And things like customer service and community relations were expenses, things you did in order to keep the factory out of trouble.


What happens when the factory goes away?

What if the organization has no engine in the center that makes something. What if that's outsourced? What if you produce a service or traffic in ideas? What happens when the revolution comes along (the post-industrial revolution) and now all the value lies in the stuff you used to do because you had to, not because you wanted to?

Now it doesn't matter where you sit. Now it doesn't matter whether or not you're adding to the efficiency or productivity of the machine. Now you don't market to sell what you made, you make to satisfy the market. Now, the market and the consumer and idea trump the system.

Suddenly, the power is in a different place, and the organization must change or else the donut collapses.

You rock

This is deceptive.

You don't rock all the time. No one does. No one is a rock star, superstar, world-changing artist all the time. In fact, it's a self-defeating goal. You can't do it.

No, but you might rock five minutes a day.

Five minutes to write a blog post that changes everything, or five minutes to deliver an act of generosity that changes someone. Five minutes to invent a great new feature, or five minutes to teach a groundbreaking skill in a way that no one ever thought of before. Five minutes to tell the truth (or hear the truth).

Five minutes a day you might do exceptional work, remarkable work, work that matters. Five minutes a day you might defeat the lizard brain long enough to stand up and make a difference.

And five minutes of rocking would be enough, because it would be five minutes more than just about anyone else.

Losing Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie apparently said, "Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors......Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory."

Is there a typical large corporation working today that still believes this?

Most organizations now have it backwards. The factory, the infrastructure, the systems, the patents, the process, the manual... that's king. In fact, shareholders demand it.

It turns out that success is coming from the atypical organizations, the ones that can get back to embracing irreplaceable people, the linchpins, the ones that make a difference. Anything else can be replicated cheaper by someone else.

Spring reading list--big ideas for idea people

Readers have told me that they enjoy my off-the-wall book lists. Here's another. Science fiction, Tom Peters, Krista Tippett and even a book for touring musicians.

Enjoy them. And don't forget it's okay to share books. They don't wear out.

Pulitzer Prizefighting

People are drawn to existing competitions like moths to a flame.

It's precisely the wrong way to succeed.

Lots of journalists take significant detours in their careers and their writing in order to win a Pulitzer. Maybe not to actually win one, but to be in that class, to have peers that have won one. Mystery novelists stick to the center of the road, because that's where the road is. Movies are written and released in order to win an Oscar. Once there's a category, a ranking, a place to battle for supremacy, we run for it. 

Do you go to trade shows or enter markets or submit RFPs or push for a GPA or even gross ratings points because there's a list of winners or because it's what you actually want to do? Most bestseller lists and prizes measure popularity, not effectiveness.

I wonder if real art comes when you build the thing that they don't have a prize for yet.

On self determination

I posted this eight years ago (!) but a reader asked for an encore.

...are we stuck in High School?

I had two brushes with higher education this week.

The first was at a speech I gave in New York. There were several Harvard Business School students there, invited because of their interest in marketing and exceptional promise (that's what I was told... I think they came because they had heard that Maury Rubin would make a great lunch!).

Anyway, they asked for my advice in finding marketing jobs. When I shared my views (go to a small company, work for the CEO, get a job where you actually get to make mistakes and do something) one woman professed to agree with me, but then explained, "But those companies don't interview on campus."

Those companies don't interview on campus. Hmmm. She has just spent $100,000 in cash and another $150,000 in opportunity cost to get an MBA, but...

The second occurred today at Yale. As I drove through the amazingly beautiful campus, I passed the center for Asian Studies. It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.

Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into "trouble" with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.

The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.

Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it's a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you're reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.

Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It's pretty clear that the thing that's wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.

Cut class. Take a seminar on french literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.

Open buying and open selling

If I can sell you something without a sales call or expensive ad campaign, I can sell it cheaper.

If you want to buy a business development relationship but you're not willing to negotiate, do contracts and invest a lot of time, you're going to get a lesser deal.

It seems like a paradox, but it's not.

Firefox is free, largely because it doesn't cost anything for them to 'sell' it to you. If they had to meet with your IT guys and build case studies and fly people out to conferences and take you to fancy dinners, you'd pay a lot for that friction.

When the customer does a lot of work for the seller, the seller can afford to sell it cheaper. If you drive to the customs warehouse and pick up that rug that just arrived, you can bet it's a lot cheaper.

Amazon offers affiliates a fairly lousy deal. The reason is simple: it's easy. Easy to sign up, easy to get paid, no real hoops or hassles. The openness of doing the deal is a benefit of signing up with them, and so you get paid less in exchange.

If you answer a classified about making money from home stuffing envelopes, is it any wonder you're not going to get paid much? If it's really easy to get a job, the job probably isn't worth much.

In every market, there's an opportunity to create a more open sales channel and lower your price as a way of making sales.

And in many markets, there's an opportunity to offer people a cheap way to affiliate with you and keep a bigger piece of the pie in exchange.

The cost and method of selling (and buying) have a lot to do with the ultimate cost (and benefit).

Try different

The usual mantra is to 'try harder'. Trying harder is impossible when you're already trying as hard as you can.

But you can always try different.

Years ago, I was creating trivia questions for a product we built for Prodigy. We had a 99% accuracy rate in doing the questions. Which was great, except there were 1800 questions in a batch, which meant 18 wrong each time, which was totally and completely unacceptable. These were honest mistakes, made by smart people working as hard as they could.

No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't do better than 99%. So we switched our system completely and did it in a totally different way. Same number of people, same number of hours, 100% accuracy.

If it's not working, harder might not be the answer.

"Be what losers call a loser."

Think about that for a minute or two... Sort of turns the whole idea of 'cool' upside down. From an interview with David Horvath.

And my favorite new blog in ages (from an old friend and sage): Alan Webber.


This is an archaic Italian word for being able to do your craft without a lot of visible effort. It's a combination of elan and grace and class, sort of the opposite of loud grunts while you play tennis or a lot of whining and fuss when you help out a customer.

Many people are unable to put their finger on it, but this is a magnetic trait for many of us. We want our lawyer, dentist and waiter to demonstrate sprezzatura, but of course, not particularly try to. This is one of the secrets of Danny Meyer's top-rated restaurants in New York. It doesn't have to be flashy, it doesn't even have to be the very best there ever was, but sprezzatura is enough to get us to return. As long as this light-footedness is scarce, it will remain valuable.

I don't feel like it

What's it?

Why do you need to feel like something in order to do the work? They call it work because it's difficult, not because it's something you need to feel like.

Very few people wake up in the morning and feel like taking big risks or feel like digging deep for something that has eluded them. People don't usually feel like pushing themselves harder than they've pushed before or having conversations that might be uncomfortable.

Of course, your feelings are irrelevant to whether or not the market expects great work. Do the work. Ignore the feelings part and the work will follow.

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