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

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



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

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




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« July 2011 | Main | September 2011 »

The web leaders hate typography (but not for long)

It probably started with HTML, and then Yahoo, of course. But eBay escalated the hatred and Google and Facebook have institutionalized it.

To have lame typography, to avoid opportunities to speak not just with what you say, but how the letters look—this is part of the web's engineering-first ethos.

Sergey Brin famously said that marketing is the cost you pay for lousy products, and apparently, typography is a variety of marketing.

Sergey’s wrong about marketing, of course (great products are marketing), but doubly wrong about the benefits of typography.

Typography is what sets Apple, at first glance, apart from just about everyone at the mall. Typography is what makes a self-published book often look pale in comparison to a ‘real’ one. Typography (or the lack thereof) is a safety hazard on airplanes (who decided that all the safety labels should be in ALL CAPS)?

The choice of a typeface, the care given to kerning and to readability—it all sends a powerful signal. When your business card is nothing but Arial on a piece of cardboard, you’ve just told people how they ought to think about you… precisely the opposite of what you were trying to do when you made the card in the first place.

The irony here is clear. It was computer technology (particularly Apple) that put typography into the hands of all of us. And it’s computer technology that is relentlessly picking it apart, devaluing expression in a misguided attempt to demonstrate that you’re too busy coding to make anything look trustworthy or delightful. Typekit and other web solutions are trying to address this problem, and it's pretty clear that the next generation of sophisticated organizations online is going to look a lot better than this one does.

Great typography isn’t as easy as lazy type, but it’s worth way more than it costs—in fact, it’s a world-class bargain. (some typography resources). And a neat tool via Swiss-Miss.

Waving to myself

When I'm on the bike path riding my truly weird recumbent bicycle, sometimes I pass someone else similarly outfitted. And I wave.

Same thing happens when a pregnant mom meets another at the airport, or when two backpackers encounter each other in a strange city.

Of course, we're not waving at the other person. We're waving at ourselves.

The warning signs of defending the status quo

When confronted with a new idea, do you:

  • Consider the cost of switching before you consider the benefits?
  • Highlight the pain to a few instead of the benefits for the many?
  • Exaggerate how good things are now in order to reduce your fear of change?
  • Undercut the credibility, authority or experience of people behind the change?
  • Grab onto the rare thing that could go wrong instead of amplifying the likely thing that will go right?
  • Focus on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits, because the short-term is more vivid for you?
  • Fight to retain benefits and status earned only through tenure and longevity?
  • Embrace an instinct to accept consistent ongoing costs instead of swallowing a one-time expense?
  • Slow implementation and decision making down instead of speeding it up?
  • Embrace sunk costs?
  • Imagine that your competition is going to be as afraid of change as you are? Even the competition that hasn't entered the market yet and has nothing to lose...
  • Emphasize emergency preparation at the expense of a chronic and degenerative condition?
  • Compare the best of what you have now with the possible worst of what a change might bring?

Calling it out when you see it might give your team the strength to make a leap.

Form design

The purpose of a form is not to treat the human as a computer, who will dutifully fill in each and every box just the way you want.

No, creating a form is like hosting a party for words.

Those little boxes (one per letter) are on some forms because it communicates to you that you should slow down and write clearly, because a human being is going to have to read what you wrote and type it in for you.

The large lined area on the application implies that you're supposed to write more than one sentence.

Online forms work the same way. When you use big type and big boxes, you're telling the visitor something, talking in a certain tone of voice. The local DMV site feels very different from a web2.0 company that happens to be collecting almost exactly the same data.

We're all looking for clues, clues about what you want, who you are, whether we trust you. Even in a simple form.

More or less

You can either seek to get more out of an opportunity (job, technology, interaction, person, moment), or less.

More exposure, more risk, more upside, more work, more learning, more engagement, more passion, more chance to be blamed, more opportunity to make a difference, more effort...

or less.

The facts

A statement of fact is insufficient and often not even necessary to persuade someone of your point of view.

[I was going to end the post just like that, but then I realized that I was merely telling you a fact, one that might not resonate. Here's the riff:

Politicians, non-profits and most of all, amateur marketers believe that all they need to do to win the day is to recite a fact. You're playing Monopoly and you say, "I'll trade you Illinois for Connecticut." The other person refuses, which is absurd. I mean, Illinois costs WAY more than Connecticut. It's a fact. There's no room for discussion here. You are right and they are wrong.

But they still have the property you want, and you lose. Because all you had was a fact.

On the other hand, the story wins the day every time. When the youngest son, losing the game, offers to trade his mom Baltic for Boardwalk, she says yes in a heartbeat. Because it feels right, not because it is right.

Your position on just about everything, including, yes, your salary, your stock options, your credit card debt and your mortgage are almost certainly based on the story you tell yourself, not some universal fact from the universal fact database.

Not just you, everyone.

Work with that.]

September 13 session in my office

By request, I'm offering a small group session in my office on the 13th of September. Call it group coaching for lack of a better term... bring your marketing, business model, web or other challenges and we'll try to work through them. A few big ideas are likely to come of it for each attendee.

Apologies in advance if you can't get a ticket, but if it goes well, I'll probably do it again. Details and tickets.

A little empty

I guess this is how a sports fan felt when Joe DiMaggio retired.

Business didn't used to be personal. Now it is.

Computers didn't used to make us smile. Now they do.

We didn't used to care about whether a CEO made one decision or another, or whether or not he was healthy. I do now.

Sure, there was baseball after joltin Joe stopped playing. But it was never quite the same.

Thank you, Steve, for giving us all something to talk about and a way to talk about it with beauty (and fonts). We owe you more than we can say.


[more on the pic here]

Mark Zuckerberg isn't Mark Zuckerberg

"Mark Zuckerberg" has become a codeword for the truly gifted exception, the wunderkind freak of nature for whom traditional rules don't apply.

Well, sure, Mark Zuckerberg can drop out of Harvard, but you're not Mark Zuckerberg...

Here's the thing: Even Mark isn't Mark Zuckerberg.

This notion that there's a one in a billion alignment of DNA and experience that magically creates an exception is just total nonsense. Mark is successful because of a million small choices, not because he, and he alone, has some magical properties.

Mostly, the best way to be the next Mark Zuckerberg is to make difficult choices.

Two earthquake-related thoughts about human nature

1. The first thing that happens after we encounter an earthquake is to wonder if anyone else felt it. The need for group validation is widespread and happens for events that don't involve earthquakes as well.

If those in the tribe feel something, we're likely to as well. That's why people look around before they stand up to offer an ovation at the end of a concert. Why should it matter if any of these strangers felt the way you did about the event? Because it does. A lot. Social proof matters.

2. Organizations are busy evacuating buildings, even national monuments. Even though experience indicates that the most dangerous thing you can do is have tens of thousands of people run down the stairs, cram into the elevators and stand in the streets, we do it anyway. Why? Because people like to do something. Action, even ineffective action, is something societies seek out during times of uncertainty.

The obligation of the adjustable display

There is no longer any room, nor any patience, for your cryptic remarks...

Modekey Your serial numbers can no longer be tiny, your error messages can no longer be short, your warnings can no longer be in ALL CAPS.

We ought to be able to read the entire manual, for free, at the touch of a button with our smart phone. Your suggestions should be a rollover away.

The Catch 22 of engineering feedback: "The only person smart enough to understand this warning doesn't need it."

That's over, I'm afraid. You have unlimited paper and a pen with plenty of ink. Be clear, enunciate and tell us what to do, please.

The good part: it's cheaper to explain it right the first time than it is to answer a question later.

Short-term capitalism

There are a few reasons why one might not care what happens in the long run:

  • You don't intend to be around
  • You're going to make so much money in the short run it doesn't matter
  • You figure you won't get caught

Short-term marketing involves using deception to make a quick sale, or using aggressive promises to get a quick hit. Having a price war counts as well. Linkbait is on that list as well.

Short-term architecture means putting up a cheap building, a local eyesore, something that saves money now instead for building something for the long haul. The guys who put up the Pantheon in Rome weren't doing short-term anything. Hard to say that about a big box store.

Short-term manufacturing ignores the side effects of pollution, bad design and worker impact because it's faster money in the short run to merely make the product (and the sale) in the most direct way possible.

Short-term investment banking invests in transactions that are unsustainable and eventually blow up (after commissions are paid).

Short-term sales involve spamming as many people as you can, as fast as you can.

Short-term hiring requires you to hire cheap, train as little as possible and live with turnover.

Bernie Madoff was a short-term capitalist, of course.

Left to their own devices, (particularly during difficult economic times) too many people misunderstand the essence of capitalism, and rationalize a do what it takes mindset that is ultimately self-defeating. The reason we need the SEC, the EPA, transparent operations, a free press that cares about its mission and people willing and able to speak up is that they make it expensive to choose the short-term option.

The short-term capitalist is betting that someone else will clean it up.

One of the worst things you can call a business person, I think, is a short-term capitalist. He selfishly takes for now and fails to contribute in return.

The internet has opened two doors. First, it's easier than ever to do the short-term thing, anonymously if you choose, with a big splash, internet ads, eBay scams and more. On the other hand, since there's a revolution going on, it's also easier than ever to build something that matters, something that lasts.

The thing to remember about the short-term is that we'll almost certainly be around when the long-term shows up.

When ideas become powerful

Why are we surprised that governments and organizations are lining up to control ideas and the way they spread?

When power resided in property, governments and corporations became focused on the ownership, regulation and control of property.

When power shifted to machines and interstate commerce, no surprise, the attention shifted as well.

Now, we see that the predictions have come true, and it's ideas and connections and permission and data that truly matter.

So gifted inventors shift gears and become patent trolls, suing instead of merely creating. So government agencies rush to turn off cell phone towers. So corporations work to extend and reinvent the very notion of copyright protection.

Here's what we ought to demand:

Are copyright rules being played with as a way to encourage creation of art (which was the original intent) or are they now a tool for maximizing corporate profit?

Are patents (particularly software patents) being used to encourage new inventions, or have they turned into a tax that all of us have to pay whenever we use a computer or a phone? (Hint: if you can draw your patent on an index card, it's an idea, not a patentable process worthy of protection).

Is disconnecting a cell phone or a social network any different from trashing a printing press?

When organizations seek to control widgets and hammers and land, it seems right--that property is clearly private, and sharing it doesn't scale. When two people both try to eat a marshmallow, there's less for both.

Controlling ideas and connections and data... that's a fundamentally different deal, partly because it's so personal (that idea in your head might or might not have been inspired by the idea I wrote down, but it feels wrong for me to tell you that you can't have your idea) and partly because in fact, shared ideas do scale, they don't usually diminish.

Ideas are going to continue to become more valuable, which means that the urge to control and patrol them is going to get greater.

  • Ideas that spread, win
  • Networks in which ideas flow are worth more than networks without
  • Great ideas are amplified when others build on them
  • Just because an idea spreads doesn't mean it's good for us
  • Locking down ideas makes them worth less
  • Those in power will try to keep outsiders from bringing new ideas forward

[Update: Rick asked for my distinction between an idea and an invention. Here goes:

I think an idea is something you can write about in a science fiction book.

An invention is when you build something that people who read about it in the science fiction book said was impossible.]

Twice as much doesn't always mean twice as much

How expensive do you think it is for a fast food chain to switch to sea salt on its french fries? Even if we assert that sea salt costs twice as much as the competitor (dirt salt?), it's easy to see that the impact on the cost of making each order of fries is tiny, since salt is probably 1% of the cost of the item.

That means that upgrading a high-leverage component of your product might not have any real impact on your costs. It just feels that way to the purchasing department.

On the other side of the 'twice' coin, you might discover that you're falling behind the competition. So you spend twice as much on ads, or twice as much time on social media, or devote twice as many of your resources to a problem.

The challenge, of course, is that twice as much of your time or money is irrelevant. Who cares where you started? The correct comparison is to what the competition is investing, and how well.

Is your anger killing your art?

It's rare to find a consistently creative or insightful person who is also an angry person.*

They can't occupy the same space, and if your anger moves in, generosity and creativity often move out. It's difficult to use revenge or animus to fuel great work.

Ironically, when you decide to teach someone a lesson they richly deserve, you often end up strangling the very source you were counting on.

(*Angry is not the same as being a jerk. For some reason, there are plenty of creative jerks--I think because they mistakenly believe that being a jerk is a useful way for some people to wrestle with their lizard brains).

Webinar today with Al Pittampalli and me

At 12:30 (actually, it's 1 pm, sorry) New York time (the 18th, that's today), we'll be discussing Al's book, which hit #1 on the Kindle list and has nearly 100,000 copies out after just two weeks.

Register here. No charge, of course. I hope it'll be fun and maybe, just maybe, we'll help upend meeting culture in your organization. Bring your boss.

Thanks to Citrix for sponsoring it. PS free copies of his groundbreaking book will be sent to some lucky attendees.

"I'm your singer..."

Keith Richards tells a great story about Charlie Watts, legendary drummer for the Stones.

After a night of drinking, Mick saw Charlie asleep and yelled, "Is that my drummer? Why don't you get your arse down here?"

Richards continues, "Charlie got dressed in a Savile Row suit, tie, shoes, shaved, came down, grabbed him and went boom! Don't ever call me "your drummer" again. You're my ... singer."

No drums, no Stones.

Who's playing the drums in your shop?

"I'm under a lot of pressure..."

The ellipsis hides the most important part of this sentence:

"I'm under a lot of pressure from myself."

When you have a big presentation or a large speech or a spreadsheet due, the pressure you feel is self-induced. How do I know? Because stuff that felt high-pressure a few years ago is old hat to you now. Because it used to be hard for you to speak to ten people, and now it takes a hundred or a thousand for you to feel those butterflies. Because not only do you get used to it, you thrive on it.

Unless you're in a James Bond movie, it's really unlikely that the pressure that you're feeling is anything but self-induced.

What you do with the pressure is up to you. If it's not helping you do great work, don't embrace it. Pressure ignored ceases to be pressure.

Three things clients and customers want

Not just the first one.

And not all three.

But you really need at least one.

1. Results. If you can offer a return on investment, an engineering solution, more sales, no tax audits, a cute haircut, the fastest rollercoaster, a pristine beach, reliable insurance payouts at the best price, peace of mind, productive consulting or any other measurable result, this is a great place to start.

2. Thrills. More difficult to quantify but often as important, partners and customers respond to heroism. We are amazed and drawn to over the top effort, incredible risk taking on our behalf, the blood, sweat and tears that (rarely) comes from a great partner. A smart person working harder on your behalf than you'd be willing to work--that's pretty compelling.

3. Ego. Is it nice to feel important? You bet. When you greet us at the door with a glass of white wine, put our name in the lobby of the hotel, actually treat us better than anyone else does (not just promise it, but do it)... This can get old really fast if you industrialize and systemize it, though.

This explains why the local branch of the big insurance company has trouble growing. It's hard for them to outdeliver the other guys when it comes to the cost effectiveness of their policy (#1). They are unsuited from a personality and organizational point of view to do #2. And they just can't scale the third.

Put just about any business with partners into this matrix and you see how it works. Book publishing, for sure. Hairdressers. Spas. Even real estate.

The Ritz Carlton is all about #3, ego, right? And on a good day, there's a perception that the guys at Apple are hellbent on amazing us yet again, delivering on #2, taking huge career and corporate risks on our behalf. As soon as they stop doing that, the tribe will get bored.

(There's a variation of ego, #3, that comes from being in good company. This is what gets people to sign up for Davos, or to choose ICM as their agent. Your ego is stroked by knowing that only people as cool as you are part of this gig. Sort of the anti-Groucho opportunity. Nice position, if you can get it, because it scales.).

It's tempting, particularly for a small business, to obsess about the first—results—to spend all its time trying to prove that the ROI is higher, the brownies are tastier and the coaching is more effective. You'd be amazed at how far you can go with the other two, if you commit to doing it, not merely talking about it.

Dig yourself a hole

Make big promises.

Burn your boats.

Set yourself up in a place where you have few options and the stakes are high.

Focused energy and serious intent will push you to do your best work. You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. (Better than the alternative).

The inevitable outcome of marketing fear

Years ago, the authorities decided that a key weapon in the war on terror (sic) would be to make people more afraid.

Two reasons for this: if you make potential bad guys afraid, they might not move up and graduate to become actual bad guys, and second, if something does go wrong (and of course, things always go wrong), at least it looks like you were trying.

And so an infrastructure is built in which photographers are detained, in which expensive scanners that don't work are installed and in which people believe they are doing their job when they engage in the fear mongering part of the work without paying attention to the actual inspecting and crime fighting part.

At the airport on Thursday, a colleague of mine was detained by two armed police officers because he took a picture (out the observation window!) of a sunset. And when I politely declined to go through the magic scanner, I was put through the regular (inferior?) scanner, detained, carefully searched and basically encourged not to do it again.

Of course, the hard-working folks doing the detaining feel like they're doing their job. It's easy to measure. It's in the manual. It feels like progress. It's actually a cargo cult, though, the sort of thing an organization does to simulate progress when it's actually distracting itself from the mission at hand.

Fear can be used as a tactic, but it's almost never the end goal of marketing. The problem with using it as a tactic is that it's so easy to do, organizations almost always forget the real point of the exercise.

The filter hierarchy

There's more information, provocations, riffs, causes, meetings, opportunities, viral videos, technologies and policies coming at you than ever.

So, how do you rank the incoming? How do you decide what to expose yourself to next?

  • Email from your boss
  • Personal note from a good friend
  • Three or four recommendations from trusted colleagues, each with the same link
  • A trending topic on Twitter
  • The latest on Reddit
  • Phone call from your mom
  • File on the intranet you're supposed to read before the end of the week
  • Spam email from a stranger
  • Tenth note from Eddie Bauer, this one to an email address you haven't used in a year
  • Post on Google + from a friend of a friend
  • Facebook update from someone you haven't seen in ten years
  • Angry tweet from someone you've never met
  • Commercial on the radio that's playing softly in the background
  • Email from someone who had your back one day when it really and truly mattered
  • !!!urgent marked email from the HR department about the TPS reports
  • Text message on your phone from your husband
  • Phone message from the kid's principal
  • Tweet from the handler of a celebrity who is pretending to be the celebrity
  • Story that's repeated endlessly on cable news because a producer thought it would get good ratings
  • Handwritten love note from a current crush
  • New review in the Times of a restaurant you happen to be going to tonight
  • Obviously bulk snail mail from a charity you donated to three years ago
  • Latest volley in a flame war
  • Blank sheet of paper quietly waiting for your next big innovation
  • Comment on a blog post you wrote three days ago
  • New post by your favorite blogger, delivered via RSS
  • Book in the bookstore, next to the cash register
  • Newest negative review of your business on Yelp
  • Movie playing across town
  • TV commercial on a show you've got on your DVR
  • Book on the back shelf of a bookstore, newly put there yesterday by the manager, who doesn't know what you like
  • Tweet from someone who really, really wants you (and everyone else) to follow her
  • Rebecca Black's new video
  • Sales pitch on your voicemail

Which of these are required reading for a productive member of society or a good employee or an informed citizen? Which do you do out of habit? Are you assuming that your habits are the norm, and that others have an obligation to pay attention to what you pay attention to? Should there be symmetry--is it logical to only engage with people who prioritize their filters the same way you do?

Wasting time is not a waste

In fact, wasting time is a key part of our lives.

Wasting time poorly is a sin, because not only are you forgoing the productivity, generosity and art that comes from work, but you're also giving up the downtime, experimentation and joy that comes from wasting time.

If you're going to waste time (and I hope you will) the least you can do is do it well.

Herbie Hancock is not a Pip

I need to clarify this morning's post. In my glib attempt to make a point, I wasn't as clear as I wanted to be.

When Miles Davis made records with John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock, they weren't easily replaceable, invisible sidemen. No one who went to hear them would have been satisfied if they had been subbed out. By my definition, then, they did in fact have a relationship with the customer... they did work that was unique, that was hard to replace.

Yes, we need teams, no doubt about. The MGs without Steve Cropper could never have been such an amazing house band, and we're all lucky that some people will take their craft that far. Marshall Grant didn't merely perform Johnny Cash's bass sound... he invented it.

Does the world need anonymous, replaceable cogs, people who work for the front man and put in a day's work but that's all? Sure, but it doesn't have to be you. The goal, I think, is to find out how to do your work in a way that makes the team and the product in a way that matters.

PS a fun video from Todd makes my point...

Avoiding the pips (and the MGs)

What would have happened if Gladys Knight had fired one of the Pips? Or if Booker had had a falling out with one of the MGs?

I think Gladys would have found another way to get to Georgia.

The problem with being a sideman is that you make it (or not) at the whim of the front man. In exchange for the intellectual comfort of being handed a chart, you give up control and your ability to lead.

Most of all, instead of having a relationship with the audience, you merely have a relationship with the front man.

Can and should

Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

The end of the industrial era is opening countless doors. So many doors, in fact, that it's easy to become paralyzed. Without a clear understanding of what you want, it's harder than ever to get it.

Most of the time, we treat our careers like a buffet. "Show me what's available and then I'll decide..."

With the revolution going on all around us, there's so much on the buffet you're likely to just grab something convenient. Better, I think, to decide what matters first, and go do that.

R&D in public

Companies do research and development, particularly large ones. This is an investment, one that fails often but is essential to future growth.

The web is R&D in public. So are apps. Not just for tech companies. For any company that is trying to figure out how its customers think and what they want.

We shouldn't be so quick to excoriate those companies that launch interactive tools that fail. In fact, we should be critical of those that don't.

Consumers and creators

Fifty years ago, the ratio was a million to one.

For every person on the news or on primetime, there were a million viewers.

The explosion of magazines brought the ratio to 100,000:1. If you wrote for a major magazine, you were going to impact a lot of people. Most of us were consumers, not creators.

Cable TV and zines made it 10,000 to one. You could have a show about underwater spearfishing or you could teach people to make hamburgers on donuts. The little star is born.

And now of course, when it's easy to have a blog, or an Youtube account or to push your ideas to the world through social media, the ratio might be 100:1. For every person who sells on Etsy, there are a hundred buyers. For every person who actively tweets, there are a hundred people who mostly consume those tweets. For every hundred visitors to Squidoo, there is one new person building pages.

What does the world look like when we get to the next zero?

Selling the benefits of charity

Everything we do, we do because somehow it benefits us.

We go to work for the satisfaction (I hope) and because we get paid. We smile at a stranger because it feels good to be nice (and perhaps we'll get a smile in return). We pick up litter when no one is looking because telling ourselves a story about being a good person is worth the effort.

Some people have figured out that charity is an incredible bargain. For the time and money it costs, the benefits exceed what could be attained in almost any other way. A bargain compared to chocolate, or an amusement park visit or buying a shiny new car you probably don't need.

For some, the benefit is in the way society respects the donor. Hence buildings named after Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates. For many, though, hidden charity is worth far more, because the incentives are purer. A donation earns you peace of mind.

I'm fascinated by people who see no benefit in donating to charity, who, in fact, see a negative. My hunch is that for these people, the worldview is: if charity is important, I better give more. If that's true, the thinking goes, then whatever I give isn't going to make me feel good, it's going to make me feel worse... for not giving enough. Easier to just avoid the issue altogether.

I think marketers of causes that do good have a long way to go in selling the public on the core reason to give... don't give because you get a tote bag, or a prize at the charity auction or even a plaque. The scalable unique selling proposition is that being part of the community is worth more than it costs.

Bypassing the leap

Every now and then, a creative act comes out of nowhere, a giant leap, a new way of thinking apparently woven out of a brand new material.

Most of the the time, though, creativity is the act of reassembling many elements that are already known. That's why domain knowledge is so critical.

The screenwriter who understands how to take the build that went into the classic Greg Morris episode of the Dick Van Dyke show and integrate it with the Maurce Chevalier riff from the Marx Bros... Or the way Moby took his encyclopedic knowledge of music and turned into a record that sold millions... if you don't have awareness and an analytical understanding of what worked before, you can't build on it.

That's one of the reasons that the recent incarnation of the Palm failed. The fact that the president of the company had never used an iPhone left them only one out: to make a magical leap.

It's not enough to be aware of the domain you're working in, you need to understand it. Noticing things and being curious about how they work is the single most common trait I see in creative people. Once you can break the components down, you can put them back together into something brand new.

Set the alarm clock the night before

Situational goal adjustment is a real problem.

Don't set the clock when you're tired, set it when you are planning your day. Don't whittle away at your sales goals right after a serious rejection, set them when you're on a roll.

The discipline is in obeying the rule you set when you were in a different mood than you are now. That's what makes it a rule as opposed to a guideline.

History doesn't always repeat itself

...but it usually rhymes.

There's a tendency to confuse the next big thing with the one, it, the last big thing, the end of the line.

Communism, Populism, McCarthyism, Progressivism, Libertarianism...

Impressionism, Cubism, Modernism, Pop, Hyperrealism...

Sufiism, Norse Gods, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christian Science...

Email, the web, web 2.0, mobile...

Newton, Einstein, string theory...

Newspaper, Radio, TV, the Internet...

Most of the time, we're dealing with a moment, a step in a trend. We fail when we fall in love and believe there is no next step.

The heckler

How dare you.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Is this the best you can do?


I've written about the lizard brain and my friend Steve talks about the voice of the resistance.

It occurs to me, though, that most of us have to hassle with the heckler.

The heckler keeps a running critique going, amplifying its tone and anger as it goes on endlessly about all the things we shouldn't do, all the things we're not doing enough, and most of all, at our lack of entitlement to do much of anything new or important.

The heckler cannot be eliminated. It's been around since the beginning of our species, and we're hard wired to have it.

What can be done, though, is alter how the rest of the brain reacts or responds to the heckling.

If you engage with the heckler, if you qualify yourself, justify yourself or worst of all, rationalize yourself, the heckler will pounce, turning a small wedge into a giant hole. Like a standup comedian, it's almost impossible to outwit or shut down a dedicated heckler.

But there is a strategy that works. Acknowledge and move on.

When the heckler announces that you're incompetent, unqualified or hardly ready to step forward, think, "oh." And then proceed.

You give it no purchase. No opportunity to escalate. Each jibe is met with "noted."

Over time, the heckler gets quieter, because it just isn't worth the effort.

Delivering on never

I will never miss a deadline

I will never leave a typo

I will never fail to warn you about a possible pitfall

I will never charge you more than the competition

I will never violate a confidence

I will never let you down

I will never be late for a meeting

There are lots of sorts of never you can deliver to a customer. You can't deliver all of them, of course. Picking your never and sticking with it is a fabulous way to position yourself.

When the truth is just around the corner

...what's your posture?

Sometimes, we get close to finding out who we really are, what's the status of our situation, what's holding us back. When one of those conversations is going on, do you lean in, eager for more, or do you back off, afraid of what it will mean?

Do you go out of your way to learn about your habits, relationships and strengths? Or what's driving traffic to your website? Or why you didn't get that job?

When your organization has a chance to see itself as its customers do, do your leaders crowd around, trying to glean every insight they can about the story and your future, or do they prefer the status quo?

There are more mirrors available than ever. Sometimes, though, what's missing is the willingness to take a look.

Responsibility and authority

Achievers in traditional organizations often say, "I want more authority." They mean that they want the power to make things happen, the mantle of authority that will allow them to get things done.

This is an industrial-era mindset. Management by authority is top-down, risk-averse, measurable and perfect for the org chart. It's essential in organizations that are stable, asset-based and adverse to risk.

There's a different approach, though, one that's based on responsibility instead of authority. "Anyone who takes responsibility for getting something done is welcome to ask for the authority to do it."

Ah, your bluff is called. And so is your boss's.

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