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

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« April 2011 | Main | June 2011 »

How to be interviewed

The explosion of media channels and public events means that more people are being interviewed about more topics than ever before. It might even happen to you... and soon.

  1. They call it giving an interview, not taking one, and for good reason. If you're not eager to share your perspective, don't bother showing up.
  2. Questions shouldn't be taken literally. The purpose of the question is to give you a chance to talk about something you care about. The audience wants to hear what you have to say, and if the question isn't right on point, answer a different one instead.
  3. In all but the most formal media settings, it's totally appropriate to talk with the interviewer in advance, to give her some clues about what you're interested in discussing. It makes you both look good.
  4. The interviewer is not your friend, and everything you say is on the record. If you don't want it to be in print, don't say it.
  5. If you get asked the same question from interview to interview, there's probably a good reason. Saying, "I get asked that question all the time," and then grimacing in pain is disrespectful to the interviewer and the audience. See rule 1.
  6. If your answers aren't interesting, exciting or engaging, that's your fault, not the interviewer's. See rule 2.

The hard part (one of them)

A guy asked his friend, the writer David Foster Wallace,

"Say, Dave, how'd y'get t'be so dang smart?"

His answer:

"I did the reading."

No one said the preparation part was fun, but yes, it's important. I wonder why we believe we can skip it and still be so dang smart.


A door is not responsible if it swings and hits you in the nose. Neither is the hand of the guy who punched you.

Philosphers and lawyers talk about agency. Responsibility comes with the capacity to act in the world. If you can decide, if you can act, you have agency.

Life without agency would be a nightmare. Trapped in a box, unable to do anything by choice, nothing but a puppet...

Why then, do organizations and individuals struggle so intently to avoid the responsibility that comes with agency? "It's not my job, my boss won't let me, there's a federal regulation, we're prohibited, it's our supplier, that's our policy..."

It's not something you can turn on or off. Either you have the capacity to act in the world. Or you don't.

All economics is local

The media tries to report on the world economy or the national economy, or even the economy in Detroit or LA. This is easy to talk about, statistically driven and apparently important to everyone.

Alas, this has virtually nothing to do with your day, your job and your approach to the market. That's because geography isn't as important as it used to be, but more than that, it has to do with the fact that you don't sell to everyone, and the economy is unevenly distributed.

If the unemployment rate in your industry doesn't match the national numbers, the national numbers don't matter so much.

At the largest Lexus dealer in New Jersey, they're sold out of many models, with a waiting list. In some towns in Missouri, the unemployment rate is twice what it is in your town. In the tech industry, the rate you can charge for developing killer social apps on a tablet is high and going up.

Economics used to be stuck in town. Now, as markets and industries transcend location, useful economic stats describe the state of the people you're working with and selling to.

If your segment is stuck, it might make sense to stick it out. It also might be worth thinking about the cost of moving to a different economy.

Bar gymnastics

Some people I know work hard to lower the bar at work.

That was my strategy at gym class in high school. Not only did I do the minimum amount permitted, I worked hard to do just a little bit less than that. By the time the semester was over, the teacher was relieved if I even bothered to show up at all.

Most people seek to meet the bar. They figure out what's expected, and do that.

A few people, very few, work to relentlessly raise the bar. She's the one who overdelivers on projects, shows up ahead of schedule, instigates, suggests and pushes.

Raising the bar is exhausting, no doubt about it. I'm not sure the people who engage in this apparently reckless behavior would have it any other way, though. They get to experience a fundamentally different day, a different journey and a different reputation than everyone else.

[Why now? What has changed that makes promoting bar gymnastics more than a selfish effort by the boss to get more labor out of the workforce?

Simple. This is the post-industrial era. Success is not about speeding up the assembly line as much as it relies on individuals able to create leaps forward. The person capable of doing that sort of work is in far higher demand than ever before.]

PS congratulations to my wife Helene on opening her gluten-free and dairy free bakery. For those keeping track, it's also kosher and pareve. Another example of raising the bar.


No organization cares about you. Organizations aren't capable of this.

Your bank, certainly, doesn't care. Neither does your HMO or even your car dealer. It's amazing to me that people are surprised to discover this fact.

People, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of caring. It's part of being a human. It's only when organizational demands and regulations get in the way that the caring fades.

If you want to build a caring organization, you need to fill it with caring people and then get out of their way. When your organization punishes people for caring, don't be surprised when people stop caring.

When you free your employees to act like people (as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine) then the caring can't help but happen.

Looking for the right excuse

This is the first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does.

Quietly, our subconscious starts looking around for an excuse, deniability and someone to blame. It gives us confidence and peace of mind. [It's much easier to be calm when the police car appears in your rear view mirror if you have an excuse handy.]

Amazingly, we often look for the excuse before we even accept the project. We say to ourselves, "well, I can start this, and if it doesn't work perfectly, I can point out it was the ..." Then, as the team ramps up, bosses appear and events occur (or not), we continually add to and refine our excuse list, reminding ourselves of all the factors that were out of our control. Decades ago, when I used to sell by phone, I often found myself describing why I was unable to close this particular sale--and realized I was articulating these reasons while the phone was still ringing.

People who have a built-in all-purpose excuse (middle child syndrom, wrong astrology sign, some slight at the hands of the system long ago) often end up failing--they have an excuse ready to go, so it's easier to back off when the going is rough.

Here's an alternative to the excuse-driven life: What happens if you relentlessly avoid looking for excuses at all?

Instead of seeking excuses, the successful project is filled with people who are obsessed with avoiding excuses. If you relentlessly work to avoid opportunities to use your ability to blame, you may never actually need to blame anyone. If you're not pulled over by the cop, no need to blame the speedometer, right?


Insertkingpin300 Who can make a hit?

Zipf's Law is the inevitable distribution of items into a curve that follows the power law. For example, the letter "e" appears in English far more often than the letter "u". For just about every human thing we look at (record album sales, votes in political campaigns, income) there's a distribution with hits and with non-hits. Click on the picture at right to enlarge.

Chris Anderson helped us understand a huge implication of the power law curve in his classic The Long Tail. The relevant notion follows...

In any physical store, the store owner has to make bets. She needs to buy inventory, to choose this over that, to make decisions in advance about what's going to sell. With Christmas coming, the owner might need to make these decisions five months in advance, with no chance to re-order if there's a hit and nothing but the trash bin available for what doesn't sell.

The relentless physics of the situation, then, means that retailers needed the ability to not just pick hits, but to make them. And so they invented the speed table and the pile of stuff at the checkout. They perfected the end cap display and the free standing insert as well.

Years ago, getting our products on the table next to the check out at Target and Lechmere was enough to make the year at the software company where I worked. Two big retailers picked our product and that was enough.

Retailers want to be kings and they want to annoint kings. They want the lever to decide what sells and what doesn't, because it earns them power of pricing and profit (if the retailer can make your product a hit, she can extract better terms. If all she does is sell what sells, then the manufacturer is in charge).

Thanks to the long tail, the digital world ignored this thinking. The iTunes store, and Netflix, for example, take the position that, "We're going to sell everything, and a lot of it. We don't care which thing, because it's all the same to us. Just put everything in the store and the market will sort it out."

As a result, they have far less promotional power. They didn't build a lever. The app store doesn't make a hit, it contains hits. Most long tail retailers are staffed around this idea and have a culture that reflects it. They'll sell everything/anything, because the longer the tail, the better.

Marketers, of course, want their product to be the hit, and they're always in search of someone who will make that happen. They understand that the long tail sellers will do well because they sell everything, but marketers don't care about everything--they care about their thing.

And so sites like LivingSocial and Woot) built online levers, permission assets that allow them to become the new kingmakers. If they pick your product and alert their audience, you have a hit, at least for a short while (and sometimes at great cost to the marketer, which turns into profit for the kingmaker.)

Seeing the success of retailers who are able to make kings, sites like Netflix are trying to figure out how to transform themselves. Finding the lever, though, isn't trivial. The cultural shift from ubiquity to selection is difficult.

The challenge for online retailers (and perhaps for your company) is to build the attention and trust and leverage you need to make kings, to earn attention and trust and make hits. While it's digitally enticing to be the indifferent-to-choice long-tail retailer, the fact is that marketers will always be willing to pay a premium to someone with the ability to generate a hit.

Legacy issues

What does your organization do with legacy products and services? Things you started that never really caught on, or died out slowly over time?

That's a very easy way to judge the posture and speed of a brand. If there's a one-way track--stuff gets added, but it never gets taken away--then the ship is going to get slower and heavier and become much harder to handle until it eventually sinks.

How long did it take Detroit to take the ashtrays out of cars? The single-sex admission policy at the club? How many people who use your website need to speak up on behalf of a button or a policy for you to persist in keeping it there? How long before you cancel the Sisterhood meetings that are now attended by just three people?

Either you're focused on maintaining the legacy features or you're focused on figuring out how to replace them. Driving with your eyes on the rearview mirror is difficult indeed.

In a world of little competition, legacy features are something worth keeping. No sense alienating loyal customers.

But we don't live in a world of little competition. The faster your industry moves, the more likely others are willing to live without the legacy stuff and create a solution that's going to eclipse what you've got, legacies and all.


There is a lot of fear associated with 'overextended'.

Take too much financial risk, expose yourself to the vagaries of the market and you'll end up stressed, bankrupt and overextended.

Stretch your knee too much in the wrong direction after a long swim and the doctor will tell you that the ligaments are overextended.

Brands that get greedy and put their names in too many places in too many ways (as Tiffany's did a generation ago) get overextended and take a long time to heal.

But what about the more prevalent, more insidious and ultimately more damaging notion of being underextended?

The factory-mindset encourages every worker to protect his time and his effort. Don't volunteer because they'll never give you any slack. Don't push harder because you'll only exhaust yourself. Don't let them speed up the line because it will never slow down again...

It's true: in a commodity business, productivity only increases as the result of more effort, and that effort is rarely compensated.

We see one organization after another, left unchecked, pushing miners or laborers or bureaucrats to exhaustion, all in the name of enhanced productivity.

Here's the thing: creative work seems to be an exception. In fact, the exhaustion from overextending yourself creatively is some of the best exhaustion you will ever feel. An organization that provides a platform for people to push into their fear will produce both better work and a better workforce.

No, we don't need more TPS reports. Yes, we need to figure out how to push ourselves until we're creatively overextended.

A marketing lesson from the apocalypse

If you're reading this blog, then the world didn't end, at least in my time zone.

How does one market the end of the world? After all, you don't have a big ad budget. Your 'product' is something that has been marketed again and again through the ages and it has never worked. There's significant peer pressure not to buy it...

And yet, every time, people succumb. They sell their belongings, stop paying into their kid's college fund and create tension and despair.

Here's the simple lesson:

Sell a story that some people want to believe. In fact, sell a story they already believe.

The story has to be integrated into your product. The iPad, for example, wasn't something that people were clamoring for... but the story of it, the magic tablet, the universal book, the ticket to the fashion-geek tribe--there was a line out the door for that. The same way that every year, we see a new music sensation, a new fashion superstar. That's not an accident. That story is just waiting for someone to wear it.

And the some part is vital. Not everyone wants to believe in the end of the world, but some people (fortunately, just a few) really do. To reach them, you don't need much of a hard sell at all.

Too often marketers take a product and try to invent a campaign. Much more effective is to find a tribe, find a story and make a product that resonates, one that makes the story work.

That's the whole thing. A story that resonates and a tribe that's tight and small and eager.

I hope you can dream up something more productive than the end of the world, though.

Busker's dilemma (busker's delight)

If you play music on the street with a bucket for donations, every song has to be a showstopper.

No chance for interludes or pauses or moments where you build up for the big finish. If the passerby doesn't stop, it's all for nought.

So your music changes. You're always at 11, always jamming it, always pushing in the moment.

Online, we're all buskers. For a while, anyway.

Once someone has stopped and started to listen, you have a choice. You can take that person on a journey, forego the next stranger and instead seduce the one you've got...

Or you can keep pushing for more attention from more people.

Both work. The challenge is in making a choice, your choice, a choice based on why you're doing the work in the first place. It's not up to them, it's up to you.

How else are you supposed to take it?

"Don't take it personally."

This is tough advice. Am I supposed to take it like a chair? Sometimes it seems as though the only way to take it is personally. That customer who doesn't like your product (your best work) or that running buddy who doesn't want to run with you any longer...

Here's the thing: it's never personal. It's never about you. How could it be? That person doesn't truly know you, understand what you want or hear the voices in your head. All they know is themselves.

When someone moves on, when she walks away or even badmouths you or your work, it's not personal about you. It's personal about her. Her agenda, her decisions, her story.

Do your work, the best way you know how. Is there any other option?


Coming to Seattle for a half-day Road Trip session

If you're in the neighborhood, come join me early on June 24th. Ticket information is now live, and there are some discounted early bird seats.

No slides, mostly Q&A, the sort of thing you might want to bring your boss to. I hope to see you there.

Attendees in Chicago made a video about their experience last year...

Easy and certain

The lottery is great, because it's easy. Not certain, but easy. If you win, the belief goes, you're done.

Medical school is great because it's certain. Not easy, but certain. If you graduate, the belief goes, you're done.

Most people are searching for a path to success that is both easy and certain.

Most paths are neither.

The privilege of being wrong

When you are truly living on the edge, walking on the moon, perhaps, or caught in the grip of extreme poverty--there's no room at all for error. It's a luxury you can't afford.

For the rest of us, though, there's a cushion. Being wrong isn't fatal, it's merely something we'd prefer to avoid. We have the privilege of being wrong. Not being wrong on purpose, of course, but wrong as a cost on the way to being right.

As you gain resources, the act of being wrong goes from being fatal to annoying to a precious opportunity, something that you've earned. You won't advance your cause or discover new truths if you're obsessed with being right all the time--and so the best way to compound your advantage and accomplish even more than you already have is to set out (with relish) to be as open to wrong as often as you can afford to be.

Just imagine how much you'd get done

...if you stopped actively sabotaging your own work.

We must be talented, powerful and resilient creatures indeed given how much we manage to produce despite the constant undercutting, ridicule and needless censorship we aim at ourselves.

The future of the library

What is a public library for?

First, how we got here:

Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as a small house. As a result, only kings and bishops could afford to own a book of their own.

This naturally led to the creation of shared books, of libraries where scholars (everyone else was too busy not starving) could come to read books that they didn't have to own. The library as warehouse for books worth sharing.

Only after that did we invent the librarian.

The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.

After Gutenberg, books  got a lot cheaper. More individuals built their own collections. At the same time, though, the number of titles exploded, and the demand for libraries did as well. We definitely needed a warehouse to store all this bounty, and more than ever we needed a librarian to help us find what we needed. The library is a house for the librarian.

Industrialists (particularly Andrew Carnegie) funded the modern American library. The idea was that in a pre-electronic media age, the working man needed to be both entertained and slightly educated. Work all day and become a more civilized member of society by reading at night.

And your kids? Your kids need a place with shared encyclopedias and plenty of fun books, hopefully inculcating a lifelong love of reading, because reading makes all of us more thoughtful, better informed and more productive members of a civil society.

Which was all great, until now.

Want to watch a movie? Netflix is a better librarian, with a better library, than any library in the country. The Netflix librarian knows about every movie, knows what you've seen and what you're likely to want to see. If the goal is to connect viewers with movies, Netflix wins.

This goes further than a mere sideline that most librarians resented anyway. Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get better and cheaper as the years go by? Kids don't shlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won't unless coerced.

They need a librarian more than ever (to figure out creative ways to find and use data). They need a library not at all.

When kids go to the mall instead of the library, it's not that the mall won, it's that the library lost.

And then we need to consider the rise of the Kindle. An ebook costs about $1.60 in 1962 dollars. A thousand ebooks can fit on one device, easily. Easy to store, easy to sort, easy to hand to your neighbor. Five years from now, readers will be as expensive as Gillette razors, and ebooks will cost less than the blades.

Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.

Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data.

The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books. Just in time for the information economy, the library ought to be the local nerve center for information. (Please don't say I'm anti-book! I think through my actions and career choices, I've demonstrated my pro-book chops. I'm not saying I want paper to go away, I'm merely describing what's inevitably occurring). We all love the vision of the underprivileged kid bootstrapping himself out of poverty with books, but now (most of the time), the insight and leverage is going to come from being fast and smart with online resources, not from hiding in the stacks.

The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.

The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it's fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.

The next library is filled with so many web terminals there's always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don't view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight--it's the entire point.

Wouldn't you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.

We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.

An end of magic

Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.

So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.

I remember eagerly opening my copy of Wired every month (fifteen years ago). On every page there was something new and sparkly and yes, magical.

No doubt that there will be magic again one day... magic of biotech, say, or quantum string theory, whatever that is. But one reason for our ennui as technology hounds is that we’re missing the feeling that was delivered to us daily for a decade or more. It’s not that there’s no new technology to come (there is, certainly). It’s that many of us can already imagine it.

What (people) want

What do customers, friends, the socially networked, users, neighbors, classmates, servers, administrators, employees... maybe even brands... want?

notice me
like me
touch me
do what I say
miss me if I'm gone


Cool new tool for finding and perfecting phrases

Can't remember the end of a cliche or whether to say use or used in a sentence?

Want to know how common a last name is?

Netspeak is a simple free tool I just found. Type in something like:

Winston tastes ?


Seth ?


music soothes the savage [beast breast]

and it searches a bazillion pages and shows you the most common matches for the question mark. Not the right answer, of course, just the most common one.

Brand exceptionalism

Your brand is your favorite. After all, it's yours. You understand it, you helped build it, you're obsessed with the nuance behind it. Your organization's actions make sense to you, you sat in the room as they were being argued about... you might even have helped make some of the decisions.

So, your brand doesn't do anything wrong. What it does is the best it could do under the circumstances. Someone who knew what you know would make the very same decision, because under the circumstances it was the only/best option.

Of course we should buy from you. You're better!

When your brand starts falling behind a competitor (Dell vs. Apple, Microsoft vs. Google, Washington Mutual vs. Everyone and then Apple vs. Android, Google vs. Facebook)... you say it's not fair, nor expected.

The problem with brand exceptionalism is that once you believe it, it's almost impossible to innovate. Innovation involves failure, which an exceptional brand shouldn't do, and the only reason to endure failure is to get ahead, which you don't need to do. Because you're exceptional.

In the battle for attention or market share, the market makes new decisions every day. And the market tends to be selfish. Often, it will pick the arrogant market leader (because the market also tends to be lazy), but upstarts and new competitors always have an incentive to change the game or the story.

Brand humility is the only response to a fast-changing and competitive marketplace. The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day.

Who is making you uncomfortable?

Who looks you in the eye and says, "given your skills, you could do better..."

"You have enough leverage to really make a difference."

"What would happen if you doubled the amount you donated?"

"Could you set aside the fear and go faster?"

"I know you're holding back..."

It takes love and kindness and confidence to bring the truth to a friend you care about. If you're insulating yourself from these conversations, who benefits?

Self directed effort is the best kind

How much are you paying for a drill sergeant?

Perhaps you can burn 500 calories on the treadmill before you give up for the day. With a personal coach, though, you could do 700. The trainer gets you to exert more effort.

You wake up on a Monday morning after a long hard weekend of misbehaving. You have a splitting headache. You can easily call in sick, no one will freak out. But then you remember that there's a $500 bonus at stake if you keep your attendance perfect. You make the effort because someone else is bribing you.

On the playground, it's tempting to rip into a kid who stole the swing from you. You're about to whack him, but then you see your mom watching. With a great deal of effort, you walk away.

Effort's ephemeral, hard to measure and incredibly difficult to deliver on a regular basis. So we hire a trainer or a coach or a boss and give up our freedom and our upside for someone to whip us into shape. Obviously, you give up part of what you create to the trainer/coach/boss in exchange for their oversight.

Has it become a crutch? Are you addicted to a taskmaster, to someone else's to do list, to short term external rewards that sell your long-term plans short? If no one is watching, are you helpless, just a web surfing, time wasting couch potato? Who owns the extra work you do now that you're being directed?

There's an entire system organized around the idea that we're too weak to deliver effort without external rewards and punishment. If you only grow on demand, you're selling yourself short. If you're only as good as your current boss/trainer/sergeant, you've given over the most important thing you have to someone else.

The thing I care the most about: what do you do when no one is looking, what do you make when it's not an immediate part of your job... how many push ups do you do, just because you can?

Marketing to nobody

Nobody wears a watch any more.

Nobody wears a tie either.

Nobody shops at a bookstore, at least nobody I know.

The market of nobody is big indeed. You can do really well selling to nobody if you do your homework. In fact, most companies selling to nobody outperform those that are trying to sell to everyone.

Selling vs. inviting

Selling is often misunderstood, largely by people who would be a lot more comfortable merely inviting.

If I invite you to a wedding, or a party, or to buy a $500,000 TV ad for $500, there's no resistance on your part. Either you jump at the chance and say yes, or you have a conflict and say no. It's not my job to help you overcome your fear of commitment, to help you see the ultimate value and most of all, to work with you as you persuade yourself and others to do something that might just work.

If the marketing and product development team do a great job, selling is a lot easier... so easy it might be called inviting. The guy at the counter of the Apple store selling the iPad2 isn't really selling them at all. Hey, there's a line out the door of people with money in their pockets. I'm inviting you to buy this, if you don't want it, next!

The real estate broker who says that the house would sell if only he could get below market pricing and a pre-approved mortgage is avoiding his job.

The salesperson's job: Help people overcome their fear so they can commit to something they'll end up glad they invested in.

The goal of a marketer ought to be to make it so easy to be a salesperson, you're merely an inviter. The new marketing is largely about this--creating a scenario where you don't even need salespeople. (Until you do.)

Selling is a profession. It's hard work. Ultimately, it's rewarding, because the thing you're selling delivers real value to the purchaser, and your job is to counsel them so they can get the benefit.

But please... don't insist that the hard work be removed from your job to allow you to become an inviter. That's great work if you can get it, but it's not a career.

In search of six major brands

For a high-profile project (can't announce it yet) for charity that we're doing in September, we're looking for six companies with significant marketing budgets that want to participate and be featured. Household names, or brands on the way to becoming one are ideal.

If you're the CMO or part of the team, and want to know more, drop a note to Lauryn by Wednesday. Thanks.

Share your confusions

If you're building for digital, for a place where you can't possibly be present to guide or to answer questions, I think it's vital you have someone who can review your work. Same for instruction manuals, secret ballots and road signs.

Not to make suggestions to make it better (what do they know?) but to share their confusions.

I don't think that's a phrase, but it should be. Share your confusions is a way of asking someone to dissect your work and point out what's not totally clear.

How long is your long run?

The bank robber may have a long run of just thirty minutes. Stealing money today appears worth it because tomorrow is just too far away to consider.

There are organizations and nations that have been around for hundreds of years and expect to be around for another thousand. They have a long run a little longer than yours.

I think we can agree on what the short run is. The question worth asking your brand, your boss or your family is: what's the long run? Most of the time, we err on the side of short.

What's high school for?

Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it's solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

Seeing the truth when it might be invisible

I’ll believe it when I see it.

This is a problem.

It didn’t used to be. It used to be a totally fine strategy to work your way through life only believing what you could see and touch, only caring about what impacted your life right now.

Two things changed:

First, over time, the base of knowledge we have about the world has increased exponentially, and that knowledge compounds. Electrons and ozone and game theory and databases might all be invisible, they might be beyond your understanding, but they’re still important, still looming right at the edges of the life you live right now.

And second, of course, is the notion of a worldwide web of information, a system that brings every bit of news and data and discovery right to your door. While you may want to disbelieve what’s happening around you, that won’t make it go away, and what’s “around you” is now a much larger sphere than it ever was before.

If you are too trusting of the invisible, then you buy that $89 ebook that comes with the promise of instant riches, or you sign up for ear candling, or invest time and money with a charlatan. If you haven't figured out how to discern the invisible stuff that's true from the invisible stuff that's a trick, you're helpless in a world where just about every decision we make has to do with things that are invisible.

Thus, two kinds of serious errors: believing in invisible things that aren't true, or insisting that the truth might not be. They're caused by fear, by deliberate misinformation and by being uninformed.

We have to accept that once we start down the slippery slope of always (or never) believing, we end up in Alice-in-Wonderland territory. Do you have firsthand knowledge that the Earth is round (a sphere)? Really? Have you ever seen the tuberculosis bacteria? Perhaps it doesn’t exist, they might say it’s just a fraud invented by the pharmaceutical industry to get us to buy expensive drugs... Or consider the flip side, the Bernie Madoff too-good-to-be-true flipside of invisible riches that never appear. After all, if someone can't prove it's a fraud yet, it might be true!

Eight things you’ve probably never seen with your own eyes: Buzz Aldrin, the US debt, multi-generational evolution of mammals, an atom of hydrogen, Google’s search algorithm, the inside of a nuclear power plant, a whale and the way your body digests a cookie. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, nor does it mean you can’t find a way to make them useful.

Do governments and marketers lie to us? All the time. Does that mean that the powerful (reproducible, testable and yes, true) invisible forces of economics, history and science are a fraud? No way.

Once you go down that road, you’re on your own, no longer a productive member of a society built on rational thought. Be skeptical. Test and measure and see if the truth is a useful hypothesis to help move the discussion forward. Please do. But at some point, in order to move forward, we have to accept that truth can’t be a relative concept, something to use when it suits our agenda but be discarded when we're frightened or want to score a point.

Richard Feynman said, "I don't know what's the matter with people: they don't learn by understanding, they learn by some other way — by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!"

Merely because it's invisible doesn't mean it's true--or false.

Is it a skill to figure out what's true, even if it's invisible? I think it is, and a rare and valuable one.

Worldwide Linchpin Meetup is coming Wednesday, May 18

Tens of thousands of people in more than a thousand cities have tried this so far.

It's free and it's fun. Thanks for leading the way and for connecting over work that needs doing...

The feedback I've gotten from around the world from these events has been just amazing. I think you'll find extraordinary support and some very cool people as well.

Find out details here or take a look at the cities list:

What's the point of popular?

You'd think that it's the most important thing in the world. Homecoming queen, student body president, the most Facebook friends, Oscar winner, how many people are waiting in line at the book signing...

Popular is almost never a measure of impact, or genius, or art. Popular rarely correlates with guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).

I'll grant you that being popular (at least on one day in November) is a great way to get elected President. But in general, the search for popular is wildly overrated, because it corrupts our work, eats away at our art and makes it likely we'll compromise to please the anonymous masses.

Worth considering is the value of losing school elections and other popularity contests. Losing reminds you that the opinion of unaffiliated strangers is worthless. They don't know you, they're not interested in what you have to offer and you can discover that their rejection actually means nothing. It will empower you to even bigger things in the future...

When you focus on delighting an audience you care about, you strip the masses of their power.

Hard work vs. Long work

Long work is what the lawyer who bills 14 hours a day filling in forms does.

Hard work is what the insightful litigator does when she synthesizes four disparate ideas and comes up with an argument that wins the case--in less than five minutes.

Long work has a storied history. Farmers, hunters, factory workers... Always there was long work required to succeed. For generations, there was a huge benefit that came to those with the stamina and fortitude to do long work.

Hard work is frightening. We shy away from hard work because inherent in hard work is risk. Hard work is hard because you might fail. You can't fail at long work, you merely show up. You fail at hard work when you don't make an emotional connection, or when you don't solve the problem or when you hesitate.

I think it's worth noting that long work often sets the stage for hard work. If you show up enough and practice enough and learn enough, it's more likely you will find yourself in a position to do hard work.

It seems, though that no matter how much long work you do, you won't produce the benefits of hard work unless you are willing to leap.

On the day everyone is pleased...

On that day, the day that everyone notices your work, approves and lets you know, then what will happen?

We spend an incredible amount of time and psychic energy planning and working for that day, but why? It will never arrive, and even if it does, it's not clear that anything special happens.

Perhaps the approval of every person in the entire world doesn't need to be the goal of your work.

A game theory of NFL negotiations

Off topic here, a bonus post for those that might be interested:

When two sides are negotiating over something that spoils forever if it doesn't get shipped, there's a straightforward way to increase the value of a settlement. Think of it as the net present value of a stream of football...

Any Sunday the NFL doesn't play, the money is gone forever. You can't make up for it later by selling more football--that money is gone. The owners don't get it, the players don't get it, the networks don't get it, no one gets it.

The solution: While the lockout/strike/dispute is going on, keep playing. And put all the profit/pay in an escrow account. Week after week, the billions and billions of dollars pile up. The owners see it, the players see it, no one gets it until there's a deal.

Seeing and counting money you don't get to touch is a very different story than merely imagining the money you didn't get to touch, money that's gone forever... Change the story, change behavior.

The alternative (if you don't do this) is that down the road, instead of announcing a deal where everyone gets a windfall, you are forced to announce a deal where everyone already starts way behind where they would have been in the first place. That money is gone forever, no one gets it back. The problem with the game of chicken is that someone has to lose.

I'm not even a football fan, but this seems like a clear way to both maximize value and minimize the damage to all those involved. Especially players with short careers and those fans with nothing to do on Sunday afternoons.

The $20,000 phone call

When a homeowner decides to put his house on sale and calls a broker...

When he calls the moving company...

When a family arrives in town and calls someone recommended as the family doctor...

When a wealthy couple calls their favorite fancy restaurant looking for a reservation...

Go down the list. Stockbrokers, even hairdressers. And not just people who recently moved. When a new referral shows up, all that work and expense, and then the phone rings and it gets answered by your annoyed, overworked, burned out, never very good at it anyway receptionist, it all falls apart.

What is the doctor thinking when she allows her neither pleasant nor interested in new patients receptionist to answer the phone?

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