What if you spent one day a week (hey, even a day a month) without meetings, phone or email?
How will you know unless you try?
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.
What if you spent one day a week (hey, even a day a month) without meetings, phone or email?
How will you know unless you try?
My post last week about an upcoming publishing seminar got a great response... we sold out in less than a day. A few people asked if they could weasel their way in—a great idea for a fundraiser, no?
I'm using a silent auction to generate end-of-year donations for the Acumen Fund. There are six seats available and you can bid on them here. Bidding closes on Thursday, December 2nd at midnight.
The law of the internet is simple: either you do something I can't do myself (or get from someone else), or I pay you less than you'd like.
Why else would it be any other way?
Twenty years ago, self-publishing a record was difficult and expensive. A big label could get you shelf space at Tower easily, you couldn't. A big label could pay for a recording session with available capital, but it was difficult for you to find the money or take the risk. A big label could reach the dozens of music reviewers, and do it with credibility. Hard for you to do that yourself.
Now when someone comes to a successful musician and says, "we'll take 90% and you do all the work," they're opening the door to an uncomfortable conversation. The label has no assets, just desire. That's great, but that's exactly what the musician has, and giving up so much pie (and control over his destiny) hardly seems like a fair trade.
Multiply this by a thousand industries and a billion freelancers and you come to one inescapable conclusion: be better, be different or be cheaper. And the last is no fun.
John taught me this fabulous term. Claim chowder is what happens when you make a prediction about the future and you end up being totally and tragically wrong. Like Steve Ballmer on the iPhone, "There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."
While I wouldn't encourage anyone to go as far as Ballmer in this endeavor, it turns out that no one ever got a terminal illness from claim chowder. While it might be frightening to imagine, it's not so bad in practice. Try it.
Have an opinion. Defend it. It will make you smarter.
I was talking to a colleague about all the noise out there in the world, all the messages, ads, announcements, pitches and friend requests. "And you're sending even more every day into that maelstrom."
"No we're not," she said. "Ours isn't noise."
Yes it is.
I'm less likely to trust your judgment, because you just challenged mine.
I was the victim of a business to business sales call. After the introductions, the CEO of the company pitching me started badmouthing a firm I've worked with. I had just finished talking about how much I liked working with them and how I respected what they were trying to do.
As she and a few other people chimed in with their take on how misguided, lousy and doomed this company was, I couldn't help but notice myself thinking less of my hosts. The only other choice I had was to think less of me... and it was easier and more fun to think less of them instead.
Far more effective, I think, to congratulate the judgment of your prospect based on the information they had at the time, or the goals they had at the time or the resources they had at the time. In fact, it's almost certainly true that given the information, goals and resources they had when they made the decision, they did exactly the right thing.
Then, because things change, it's totally okay to make a new decision based on new information, goals and resources.
Tell me about how things changed. Don't tell me I was an idiot.
Wherever you are, you could celebrate Thanksgiving today.
Not the Thanksgiving of a bountiful harvest before the long winter, the holiday of pilgrims and pie. That's a holiday of scarcity averted. I'm imagining something else...
A modern Thanksgiving would celebrate two things:
The people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference, and...
The opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing. The ability to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.
There are more of both now than there have ever been before. For me, for you, for just about all of us.
Thanks for joining me every day, thanks for your support, but most of all, by a longshot, thanks for doing the work, work that matters.
[I'm told this sold out already. Perhaps I'll do another one soon. Sorry to disappoint... ].
Book publishing is in the throes of serious change, from format to content to marketing. Since my first book in 1986, I've been thinking about this--as a writer, a self-publisher, an ebook creator and as a marketer. I've probably had my hands on 200 books or booklike projects over the last twenty-five years, and I've learned a lot.
For the first time, I'm running a seminar to talk about it. This is a day, at the fabulous Helen Mills Theater in New York City, to understand how effective book publishing works starting now. I'll talk about what's worked and what hasn't, describe my vision for how an asset can be built going forward, and most of all, interact with you about your projects and opportunities.
Because everyone in the room has a similar agenda, we'll be able to focus really closely on how the new marketing and the changes in our world are going to impact our industry.
The day is created with writers, editors, agents and publishers in mind. I believe now more than ever that a book has a significant impact, that it can change minds and that it can be part of a useful business model as well.
If you'd like to come, please sign up as soon as you can, because there are fewer than 100 seats. Use discount code "pilgrim" to save 25% if you get in before this Thursday.
Why do we always focus on the first? Why do we advertise jobs or promotions as being generic on items 2 through 8 and differentiated only by #1?
In fact, unless you're a drug kingpin or a Wall Street trader, my guess is that the other factors are at work every time you think about your work. (PS Happy Birthday Corey.)
Last June, 980 of you organized Linchpin meetups in cities around the world, and more than 6,000 people signed up to attend.
By popular request, we're doing it again, this time on December 7, 2010. You can sign up (to start one or to attend one) here, or you can see the nearest one in the works below.
There was nothing but great news from the last one, with people discovering others that they can work with, hire, work for, connect with or otherwise hang out. Have fun.
Perhaps this can be our new rallying cry.
If it's a new problem, perhaps it demands a new approach. If it's an old problem, it certainly does.
When it comes to art, to human work that changes people, the mass market is a fool. A dolt. Stupid.
If you wait for the market to tell you that you're great, you'll merely end up wasting time. Or perhaps instead you will persuade yourself to ship the merely good, and settle for the tepid embrace of the uninvolved.
Great work is always shunned at first.
Would we (the market) benefit from more pandering by marketers churning out average stuff that gets a quick glance, or would we all be better off with passionate renegades on a mission to fulfill their vision?
The heart of the matter comes from the fact that the TSA often doesn't understand that it is in show business, not security business. A rational look at the threats facing travelers would indicate that intense scrutiny of a four ounce jar of mouthwash or aggressive frisking of a child is a misplaced use of resources. If the goal is to find dangerous items in cargo or track down Stinger missiles, this isn't going to help.
Instead, the mission appears to be twofold:
1. Reassure the public that the government is really trying and
2. Keep random bad actors off guard by frequently raising the bar on getting caught
The challenge with #1 is that if people believe they're going to get groped, or get cancer, or have to wait in line even longer on Thanksgiving, they cease to be on your side. Particularly once they realize how irrational it is to try to stop a threat after it's already been perpetrated. (Imagine the havoc if someone had a brassiere-based weapon...)
And the challenge of #2 is that the cost of raising the bar gets higher and higher.
Smart marketers know how to pivot. I think it's time to do that. Start marketing the idea that flying is safe, like driving, but it's not perfect, like driving. If someone is crazy enough to hurt themselves or spend their life in jail, we're not going to stop them, and even if we did, they'd just cause havoc somewhere else. So instead of spending billions of dollars a year in time and money pretending, let's just get back to work.
The current model doesn't scale.
It's another to do something about it.
Is there anything at all for which this isn't true?
Knowing the facts, the opportunity or even the process is merely a first step.
Every project (product, play, event, company, venture, non profit) has a million tasks that need to be done, thousands of decisions, predictions, bits of effort, conversations and plans.
But what's the hard part?
The CEO spends ten minutes discussing the layout of the office with the office manager. Why? Was that a difficult task that could only be done by her? Unlikely.
The founder of a restaurant spends hours at the cash register, taking orders and hurrying the line along... important, vital, emotional, but hard? Not if we think of hard as the chasm, the dividing line between success and failure. No, the hard part is raising two million dollars to build more stores. Hard is hiring someone better than you to do this part of the job.
Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.
Don't tell me you want to launch a line of spices but don't want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That's the hard part.
Don't tell me you are a great chef but can't deal with cranky customers. That's the hard part.
Don't tell me you have a good heart but don't want to raise money. That's the hard part.
Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.
If an authority figure corrects your behavior, does the intervention lead you to push back and make the behavior worse?
Does a failure set you on a path to more failure?
These questions seem philosophical or even paradoxical, but in fact I think they get to the heart of why some people succeed and others don't. We can choose to create cycles that move us up or endure cycles that drag us down.
A cop hassles a teenager who is acting out. The kid escalates. The cop escalates. Someone gets shot.
A sales call is going poorly because the prospect doesn't perceive the salesperson is confident. She responds by becoming even less confident. No sale.
A mistake is made. The stakes go up. Rattled, another mistake is made, and then again, until failure occurs...
James Bond is a hero because the tougher the world got, the cooler he got. Symphony conductors don't endure the pressure of a performance, they thrive on it.
If being a little behind creates self-pressure that leads to stress and then errors, it's no wonder you frequently end up a lot behind. If the way you manage your brand inevitably leads to a ceaseless race to the bottom, it's no wonder that you're struggling. A small bump gets magnified and repeated until it overwhelms.
Customer service falls apart when mutual escalation or non-understanding sets in. Management falls apart when power struggles or miscommunication escalate. Education falls apart when students respond to negative tracking by giving up.
Someone who gets better whenever he fails will always outperform someone who responds to failure by getting worse. This isn't something in your DNA, it's something you can learn or unlearn.
The appropriate response is not to try harder, to bear down and grind it out. The response that works is to understand the nature of the cycle and to change it from the start. You must not fight the cycle, you must transform it into a different cycle altogether. It's a lot of work, but less work than failing.
When the lizard pushes you to recoil in fear, that's your cue to embrace the trembling fear and do precisely the opposite of what it demands. This won't work the first time or even the tenth, but it's the path to an upcycle, one where each negative input leads to more productivity, not less.
We're surrounded by people who are busy getting their ducks in a row, waiting for just the right moment...
Getting your ducks in a row is a fine thing to do. But deciding what you are you going to do with that duck is a far more important issue.
It doesn't really matter if we like you.
It matters if we like your work.
[Surprisingly, the converse of this rule also works].
Sometimes it seems as though people who are really concerned about one would be better off focusing on the other.
The paradox of an instant, worldwide, connected marketplace for all goods and services:
All that succeeds is the unreasonable.
You can get my attention if your product is unreasonably well designed, if your preparation is unreasonably over the top, if your customer service is unreasonably attentive and generous and honest. You can earn my business or my recommendation if the build quality is unreasonable for the intended use, if the pricing is unreasonably low or if the experience is unreasonably over-the-top irresistible given the competition.
Want to get into a famous college? You'll need to have unreasonably high grades, impossibly positive recommendations and yes, a life that's balanced. That's totally unreasonable.
The market now expects and demands an unreasonable effort and investment on your part. You don't have to like it for it to be true.
In fact, unreasonable is the new reasonable.
We care a lot about finding people who are brilliant, who get things done, who make a difference. We care a lot about finding a playwright with talent, a surgeon who can cure us, a programmer who can get the thing to work.
Along the way, many of the linchpins who are able to do work like this develop affectations, quirks and even obnoxious qualities. They might demand an over-equipped dressing room or a private jet or merely be a jerk in meetings (or show up late, which is almost as bad).
We often put up with this, because, after all, they're superstars, right?
Somewhere along the way, we confused the signals with the work. Now there are people who start with the bad behavior and the affectations, hoping that it will be seen as a sign of insight and talent. And they often get away with it. "Who's that?" we wonder... "I don't know, but they must be good at what they do, because why else would we put up with them?" It's a great plan when it works, but I don't think it's a strategy to be counted on.
The key to getting a reputation for being brilliant is actually being brilliant, not just acting like you are.
The term 'crunchy granola' has been shortened to crunchy, a term used to describe people who willingly alter their lifestyle to make less of an impact on the environment. It's crunchy to give up your car for a bike, or to use mesh companies or to become vegan.
I wonder what happens if we broaden the term to describe someone who changes their lifestyle for a job or a brand or a passion? "Eric is getting really crunchy about his job at Microsoft... he even gave up his iPad." Or perhaps, "Cheryl is crunchy about Vuitton... it's all she wears."
Does success for you depend on creating crunchiness among your customers and fans?
Is there a schism between the folks who love color tattoos and those that like black & white ones? Or the fans of the original Star Trek who hate the folks who like the far inferior newer Star Trek models?
Freud noticed it too.
Here's why it happens:
First, you have to care. When people care about a brand or a cause or an idea, it's likely that have other things in common. And the caring causes them to invest attention. Once they've done that, they can't help but notice that others don't see things the way they do. We ignore the great unwashed and reserve our disdain for those like us, that care like us, but don't see things as we do.
The really good news is that the tribe cares. If you don't have that, you've got nothing of value. In fact, the squabbling among people who care is the first sign you're on to something. [HT to Joel].
There are at least three reasons why someone might pay five or ten or a hundred times more to see a concert than the CD costs (not to mention the value difference: you can listen to the download again and again but the live gig is gone forever):
And yet, people in the 'live' business--restaurants, people doing presentations, the concierge at the hotel--often work hard to avoid getting anywhere near any of the three.
The next frontier in personal coaching. No need to spend time describing your problem.
I can't decide which is sillier--the obviously fake photo (She used to be fat? Those are her jeans?) or the juxtaposition of the banner with the wall.
And this is the secret of lowering your handicap. The box says the bar on the right is for the back nine. My question is: what if you eat them in the wrong order?
Architects don't manufacture nails, assemble windows or chop down trees. Instead, they take existing components and assemble them in interesting and important ways.
It used to be that if you wanted to build an organization, you had to be prepared to do a lot of manufacturing and assembly--of something. My first internet company had 60 or 70 people at its peak... and today, you could run the same organization with six people. The rest? They were busy building an infrastructure that now exists. Restaurants used to be built by chefs. Now, more than ever, they're built by impresarios who know how to tie together real estate, promotion, service and chefs into a package that consumers want to buy. The difficult part isn't installing the stove, the difficult (and scarce) part is telling a story.
I'm talking about intentionally building a structure and a strategy and a position, not focusing your energy on the mechanics, because mechanics alone are insufficient. Just as you can't build a class A office building with nothing but a skilled carpenter, you can't build a business for the ages that merely puts widgets into boxes.
My friend Jerry calls these people corporate chiropractors. They don't do surgery, they realign and recognize what's out of place.
Organizational architects know how to find suppliers, use the cloud (of people, of data, of resources), identify freelancers, tie together disparate resources and weave them into a business that scales. You either need to become one or hire one.
The organizations that matter are busy being run by people who figure out what to do next.
"Sure, Seth can do that, because he has a popular blog."
Some people responded to my decision to forgo traditional publishers (not traditional books, btw) by pointing out that I can do that because I have a way of reaching readers electronically.
What they missed is that this asset is a choice, not an accident.
Does your project depend on a miracle, a bolt of lightning, on being chosen by some arbiter of who will succeed? I think your work is too important for you to depend on a lottery ticket. In some ways, this is the work of the Resistance, an insurance policy that gives you deniability if the project doesn't succeed. "Oh, it didn't work because we didn't get featured on that blog, didn't get distribution in the right store, didn't get the right endorsement..."
There's nothing wrong with leverage, no problem at all with an unexpected lift that changes everything. But why would you build that as the foundation of your plan?
The magic of the tribe is that you can build it incrementally, that day by day you can earn the asset that will allow you to bring your work to people who want it. Or you can skip that and wait to get picked. Picked to be on Oprah or American Idol or at the cash register at Borders.
Getting picked is great. Building a tribe is reliable, it's hard work and it's worth doing.
Matt has a masterful post up about what it means to ship. Until your idea interacts with the market, you're suffocating it. Worth printing out and posting on the watercooler...
The feedback I'm getting from the Shipit journal is that it changes people, makes them uncomfortable and gets things out the door. If you're hiding from the market, it's difficult to do great work.
If you've ever wasted time at a catered affair, you know the water glass trick. Half full glass, wet finger, hold the bottom of the glass and then slide your finger around and around the top of the glass.
As you move your finger, the glass will vibrate. Move it just right (a function of the amount of water and the thickness of the glass) and the glass starts to sing. Do it really well and it sings so loud you might be able to shatter the glass and get into all sorts of trouble.
This is what most marketers seek (not the trouble part, the singing part).
The market awaits your innovation. Things that might make it vibrate and resonate don't work. Then some do. It's not always obvious before you start what the right entry point is, what the right product is, what the right speed is. And knowing that you don't know is the most important place to start.
Honing your music or your presentation or your business plan or your store's inventory are all efforts to resonate. Smart marketers are hyper-alert for what's working, for what's starting to get people to prick their ears. Just like the glass, you have a touch, you adjust, you listen, you adjust again.
Now I know you're bluffing.
First, everyone has good ideas. Maybe not as fast or as often as others, but are you telling me that in your entire life, you've never had one good idea? Ever?
Second, and way more telling, what happens if I give you a good idea. Here. Take it. Now what? You have it, right?
Now you need to find a second reason for not making things happen. "I don't have enough time." "I can't get the resources." "I'm not sure, really sure, guaranteed, that this is a good idea." "My boss won't let me."
And so the lizard brain speaks up, and so the cycle continues, and so the Resistance wins.
There are more good ideas, right here, right now, for free, than ever before. More opportunities to connect and lead and make a difference and an impact and a living. Fewer guarantees, sure, but more ideas.
It's your choice about whether or not you do anything with them, but please don't tell me you don't have any good ideas.
Gravity is a constraint. If you're a designing an airplane, it would be a lot easier without gravity as a concern, but hey, it's not going away.
A problem is solvable. A constraint must be lived with.
For years, Apple viewed retail distribution as a constraint. They had to live with cranky independent computer stores, or big box mass merchants that didn't display or sell their products well.
Using the internet and then their own stores, they eventually realized that this was actually a problem that could be solved, and it changed everything for them.
On the other hand, there are countless entrepreneurs who believe they can solve problems relating to funding or technology that are out of reach given their scale or background. They'd be better off if they accepted them as constraints and designed around them.
The art is in telling them apart.
The easiest form of management is to encourage or demand that people do more. The other translation of this phrase is to go faster.
The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.
Better is trickier than more because people have trouble visualizing themselves doing better. It requires education and coaching and patience to create a team of people who are better.
When a popular rock group comes to town, some of their fans won't get great tickets. Not enough room in the front row. Now they're annoyed. 2% of them are angry enough to speak up or badmouth or write an angry letter.
When Disney changes a policy and offers a great new feature or benefit to the most dedicated fans, 2% of them won't be able to use it... timing or transport or resources or whatever. They're angry and they let the brand know it.
Do the math. Every time Apple delights 10,000 people, they hear from 200 angry customers, people who don't like the change or the opportunity or the risk it represents.
If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you'll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you'll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.
It seems as though there are only two ways to deal with this: Stop innovating, just stagnate. Or go ahead and delight the vast majority.
Sure, you can try to minimize the cost of change, and you might even get the number to 1%. But if you try to delight everyone, all the time, you'll just make yourself crazy. Or become boring.
Childlike makes a great scientist.
Childish produces tantrums.
Childlike brings fresh eyes to marketing opportunities.
Childish rarely shows up as promised.
Childlike is fearless and powerful and willing to fail.
Childish is annoying.
Childlike inquires with a pure heart.
Childish is merely ignored.
I think laziness has changed.
It used to be about avoiding physical labor. The lazy person could nap or have a cup of tea while others got hot and sweaty and exhausted. Part of the reason society frowns on the lazy is that this behavior means more work for the rest of us.
When it came time to carry the canoe over the portage, I was always hard to find. The effort and the pain gave me two good reasons to be lazy.
But the new laziness has nothing to do with physical labor and everything to do with fear. If you're not going to make those sales calls or invent that innovation or push that insight, you're not avoiding it because you need physical rest. You're hiding out because you're afraid of expending emotional labor.
This is great news, because it's much easier to become brave about extending yourself than it is to become strong enough to haul an eighty pound canoe.
Liz quotes a friend who sold expensive business to business products in Texas, "It's not a no until they call security!" This salesperson has no intention whatsoever of helping the folks who reject her do the rejecting.
I'm not sure you have to go that far, but I know that many marketers work hard on behalf of the rejection committee. We sabotage our college applications or email pitches or websites, predicting in advance that we're not going to make it, not good enough, not worthy. So we set out to save them the trouble of having to think hard about the no.
If someone wants to say no, let them. But no need to help them get to no before they get the chance. Let them do their job.
"It's like, how does anyone start their own business? How is it even possible? How do they deal with the crippling fear and harsh economic realities?"
Some people believe that if you have a good job, you shouldn't start your own gig, because it's foolish to give up a job you can't easily replace.
And some people believe that if you don't have a great job, it's foolish to waste time (and the money you can ill afford to lose) starting something when you'd be a lot better off getting a great job or going to school until you do.
And both groups are missing the point.
The people who successfully start independent businesses (franchises, I think are a different thing) do it because we have no real choice in the matter. The voice in our heads won't shut up until we discover if we're right, if we can do it, if we can make something happen. This is an art, our art, and to leave it bottled up is a crime.
I guess the real question, JK, is, "How can you not do it?"
[update: this invite is now closed. Check back in a few months and we might be able to reopen it. Sorry if you missed it...]
This year, fewer than 40% of voting age Americans will actually vote.
A serious glitch in self-marketing, I think.
If you don't vote because you're trying to teach politicians a lesson, you're tragically misguided in your strategy. The very politicians you're trying to send a message to don't want you to vote. Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there's one reason: because of TV advertising.
Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent's supporters. If the TV ads can turn you off enough not to vote ("they're all bums") then their strategy has succeeded.
The astonishing thing is that voters haven't figured this out. As the scumminess and nastiness of campaigning and governing has escalated and the flakiness of candidates appears to have escalated as well, we've largely abdicated the high ground and permitted selfish partisans on both sides to hijack the system.
Voting is free. It's fairly fast. It doesn't make you responsible for the outcome, but it sure has an impact on what we have to live with going forward. The only thing that would make it better is free snacks.
Even if you're disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote.