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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

« August 2011 | Main | October 2011 »

Welcome to infinity

How many Twitter followers will be enough?

How many Facebook fans does your company page need?

How much traffic to your blog?

In the digital age, for the first time ever, most of us come face to face with the opportunity for unlimited. No bakery can handle an infinite line, no orchestra could possibly have an infinite number of violins, no teacher in a classroom covets a classroom of infinite size...

But in the digital world, the pursuit of infinity isn't just possible, it's the norm.

The question: What price are you willing to pay for that pursuit?

Deciding that the only audience that is enough is everyone completely changes the way you measure your worth and your work. If pursuing a number you will never reach changes you or your approach or your beliefs, is it worth it?

(The corollary of infinity is zero. As in zero people disagreeing with you, questioning you or ignoring you).

The forever recession (and the coming revolution)

There are actually two recessions:

The first is the cyclical one, the one that inevitably comes and then inevitably goes. There's plenty of evidence that intervention can shorten it, and also indications that overdoing a response to it is a waste or even harmful.

The other recession, though, the one with the loss of "good factory jobs" and systemic unemployment--I fear that this recession is here forever.

Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.

There's a race to the bottom, one where communities fight to suspend labor and environmental rules in order to become the world's cheapest supplier. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win...

Factories were at the center of the industrial age. Buildings where workers came together to efficiently craft cars, pottery, insurance policies and organ transplants--these are job-centric activities, places where local inefficiencies are trumped by the gains from mass production and interchangeable parts. If local labor costs the industrialist more, he has to pay it, because what choice does he have?

No longer. If it can be systemized, it will be. If the pressured middleman can find a cheaper source, she will. If the unaffiliated consumer can save a nickel by clicking over here or over there, then that's what's going to happen.

It was the inefficiency caused by geography that permitted local workers to earn a better wage, and it was the inefficiency of imperfect communication that allowed companies to charge higher prices.

The industrial age, the one that started with the industrial revolution, is fading away. It is no longer the growth engine of the economy and it seems absurd to imagine that great pay for replaceable work is on the horizon.

This represents a significant discontinuity, a life-changing disappointment for hard-working people who are hoping for stability but are unlikely to get it. It's a recession, the recession of a hundred years of the growth of the industrial complex.

I'm not a pessimist, though, because the new revolution, the revolution of connection, creates all sorts of new productivity and new opportunities. Not for repetitive factory work, though, not for the sort of thing ADP measures. Most of the wealth created by this revolution doesn't look like a job, not a full time one anyway.

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a 'real' job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn't a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping... in the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.

The future feels a lot more like marketing--it's impromptu, it's based on innovation and inspiration, and it involves connections between and among people--and a lot less like factory work, in which you do what you did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

This means we may need to change our expectations, change our training and change how we engage with the future. Still, it's better than fighting for a status quo that is no longer. The good news is clear: every forever recession is followed by a lifetime of growth from the next thing...

Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.

"No one goes there any more, it's too crowded"

It's also true that most of your friends have more friends than you do.

The law of large groups is at work here. This explains why the people you see at the gym tend to be in better shape than you are.

People with lots of friends are more likely to be friends with you than people with no friends, right? And the people who are at the gym a lot (as in the people you see the most often) tend to be in better shape because they show up more often.

Discernment is the hardest part of marketing--seeing the world as it is, instead of how you experience it.

Maybe he means it

When someone talks to you about their goals, about whether or not they're trying to earn a lot of money or make a difference or stand out or fit in, it's so easy to assume that they have the same worldview and goals as you do, but that they're lying about it. We assume that if our narrative is, "I do this for the money," that when someone says, "I do this for love," we think they're actually lying. If you believe, "acceptance is everything," then when someone tells you that he's more focused on standing out, you think they they're standing out as a way of being accepted. We assume that if someone says they believe in faeries or Norse gods, we know that they don't, not really. Everyone, apparently, is just like us, but lying about it.

Everyone's internal monologue is unique. It changes by culture, by age and by individual. While it's easy to be suspicious of someone who claims to have a different worldview than you do, it's almost certain that they're sincere. Start with that sincerity and work from there.

Invitation to a teleconference for We Are All Weird

On Monday, October 3rd at 11 am New York time, I'll be hosting a teleconference to talk about (and answer your questions about) my new book We Are All Weird.

If you buy six or more copies from Amazon and send me the receipt via this form, you're in.

(Fine print: Prior purchases of the book are fine, only applies to the hardcover, open to people worldwide, you can call in via a standard toll call or via Skype, seats are limited, it lasts for 90 minutes, you can have your peers on the speaker phone with you, no refunds, exchanges are just fine, your mileage will vary, I hope you enjoy the book.)

Run your own race

The rear view mirror is one of the most effective motivational tools ever created.

There's no doubt that many people speed up in the face of competition. We ask, "how'd the rest of the class do?" We listen for someone breathing down our necks. And we discover that competition sometimes brings out our best.

There's a downside, though. Years ago, during my last long-distance swim (across Long Island Sound... cold water, jellyfish, the whole nine yards), the competitiveness was pretty thick. On the boat to the starting line, there were hundreds of swimmers, stretching, bragging, prancing and working themselves up. By the time we hit the water, everyone was swimming someone else's race. The start was an explosion of ego and adrenaline. Twenty minutes later, half the field was exhausted, with three hours left to go.

If you're going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you've surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path--and holding back when the rush isn't going where you want to go.

If you're dependent on competition then you're counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you'll do. Worse, you've signed up for a career of faux death matches as the only way to do your best work.

Self motivation is and always will be the most important form of motivation. Driving with your eyes on the rear view mirror is exhausting. It's easier than ever to measure your performance against others, but if it's not helping you with your mission, stop.

Marketing of the placebo: Everyone gets their own belief

The placebo effect isn't a lie. In fact, if you believe something is going to help you get better, it may very well do just that.

This very same effect works with stereo equipment, wine, politicians... just about everything where our belief intersects with reality.

You can believe that Ford is better than Chevy, that California reds are better than French ones and that your particular tribe is right (and that everyone else is wrong.)

Marketers love the placebo effect because it opens the door to stories and fables and word of mouth and varied perceptions. It gives marketers room to sell more than price and features. The first cultural byproduct this benefit creates is the notion that everyone is entitled to believe what they believe, and it’s rude to question it.

The second, is a real problem, though. If you spend enough time experiencing your own take on reality, you come to believe that what works for you might actually be a universal truth. Marketing plus psychology might equal science, it seems.

For the placebo to work, you have to believe it, but sometimes believing requires suspension of your connection with verifiable fact.

When that happens, we might believe that we’re entitled to believe things that conflict with demonstrable truth and an understanding of reality. With enough internal spin, you can believe that the moon walk was a fake, that levitation is possible and that the world is only 6,000 years old. You are welcome to believe that aqua metals will improve your sports performance and that z-rays will cure your arthritis, but only until it collides with things that are actually true. Placebos are a good thing, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but they're not entitled to their own science.

We now have to deal with the fallout from personal science. We've so blurred the lines between stories we tell ourselves and our perception of the outside world that it's easy to be confused and easier still to confuse others if it advances your cause.

Consider the fact that the world is getting warmer. To be clear, everyone is entitled to have an opinion on what to do about global warming. The question I'm wondering about is whether we should solicit the opinions of the population as to whether or not it exists. We're asking people to bring their knowledge of statistics, earth science and atmospherics to bear on analyzing data... Of course, most people don't have that knowledge, or care that they don't. If all that matters is belief, why should they?

Dylan told us that you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows... I'm not sure you need to take a poll either.

Before you send me an angry email, consider that the question of what we should do about the trend is a different discussion, one that should be had. The question of how (or if) we should take action is not what this post is about. The trend I'm concerned with is the notion that we're entitled to get upset when the truth doesn't match our point of view. Does the weather care what you think?

Post-mortem or pre-natal

When a project launches or an assignment wraps up, it's tempting to avoid the post-mortem meeting. Tempting because it feels like a downer, a place to identify mistakes, bury errors and mourn the passing of a project.

Perhaps it's more interesting to think of it as a pre-natal meeting instead... After all, the doors you just shut lead to open ones right down the road.

Talker's block

No one ever gets talker's block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

Why then, is writer's block endemic?

The reason we don't get talker's block is that we're in the habit of talking without a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied.

We talk poorly and then, eventually (or sometimes), we talk smart. We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn't, and if we're insightful, do more of what works. How can one get talker's block after all this practice?

Writer's block isn't hard to cure.

Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use Squidoo or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly--you don't need more criticism, you need more writing.

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.

If you know you have to write something every single day, even a paragraph, you will improve your writing. If you're concerned with quality, of course, then not writing is not a problem, because zero is perfect and without defects. Shipping nothing is safe.

The second best thing to zero is something better than bad. So if you know you have write tomorrow, your brain will start working on something better than bad. And then you'll inevitably redefine bad and tomorrow will be better than that. And on and on.

Write like you talk. Often.

(Update: Ira Glass agrees.)

Like you mean it

Sasha Dichter gives a tremendous talk that was just picked up at TED. Other than an insane amount of effort and practice, what's his secret? He's speaking his own story. Rather than following a map or parroting a line from someone else, Sasha is talking about his own work, his own ideas. He paces because the creative energy gives him no choice, it's that eager to get out into the world.

Here's a followup I did in response to a request from Sasha's cohorts at Acumen. Again, this is straightforward (I won't say 'easy') because it's what I believe. I've been in the field and seen this with my own eyes. Too often, the corporate world pushes talking points onto people, and more often than that, speakers and writers get nervous and they turn into parrots. The only reason to go through the hassle and risk of putting yourself out there is to be out there... you, not a clone.

PS In honor of my new book, here are a few interviews I've done recently that you might enjoy...

With Brian Clark at Copyblogger on blogs, books and more

On Dorm Room Tycoon

With Radio Ink about risk and creativity

With William Arruda on careers and promotion

Thanks to David for a fine review. CC Chapman too.

Forward or back?

In revolutionary times, it's tempting to work to get things back to the way they were.

How often, exactly, does that plan actually work out the way you hoped?

I think it's worth beginning a policy, strategy or tactical discussion that revolves around a choice between forward or back by saying, "We'd like to roll the market/technology/competitive landscape back to the way it used to be, even though it almost never works out that way. Here's why it's going to be different this time."

A little bit of honesty goes a long way in helping you be realistic about how you're going to spend your time. The good old days are old. That's part of the deal.

We Are All Weird

My new book launches today. (Link includes translations to three languages and worldwide availability, too).

What are you going to do with your weirdness? Or the weirdness of everyone around you?

During the age of mass (mass marketing, mass manufacturing, mass schooling, mass movements) the key was normal. Normal was important because you needed (were required) to fit into your slot. Manufacturers insisted because profits depended on it.

Normal diets made it easier for mass food manufacturers to generate a profit. Normal driving habits made it easier for mass car manufacturers to reach their production minimums. Normal behavior made you easier to control.

But what happens when mass disappears? When we can connect everyone, customize and optimize--then what happens to normal?

Normal is so ingrained in what we do every day that it's difficult to notice that your tendency toward the normal is now obsolete.

This book is personal, heartfelt and urgent. I hope that you'll take the time to read it. In the words of the philosopher Dr. Seuss, "We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

I'm going to dive into the details here over time, but since you're in a hurry, here are a few early reviews:

"This is a book about giving a damn. It's about caring about what you do and (as importantly) who you do it for. Professional apathy is a relic of a dead era and, as Seth teaches brilliantly, a mentality you cling to at great peril. Everyone with a pulse and a paycheque should be living We Are All Weird."

--Chris Taylor, Founder of (book summary here)

"This book will resonate with anyone who wants to lead a tribe, be authentic, dance to the beat of their own music and make a difference in the world. If your inner critic (the resistance) has been telling you that you are not enough, your work is not good enough and who do you think you are to make a difference, then buy this book. Let your freak flag fly high!"

--Sherold Barr, Master Coach + Freedom Fighter

"Seth has done it again. Open this book to almost any page. Read it, and change your thinking, your work, your life, or better express your art. Weird how he does this, isn't it?"

--Rob Berkley, Executive Coach,

PS We've done some interesting things with the publishing of this book, and as always, I share the best parts on the Domino blog.

"Please complain"

Acquiring and processing user feedback is a choice.

There are good reasons to hide from it:

  • You might believe that inviting disgruntled customers to call or write to someone who will actually take action will encourage them to become more disgruntled. If no one is listening, the thinking goes, then perhaps the annoyed will quietly go away.
  • You might believe that it's expensive to listen to squeaky wheels, particularly if you have someone in authority (as opposed to a low-paid clerk) actually listening and responding.
  • You might believe that the noisy minority don't share the objectives of the rest of your audience, particularly the higher-paying and silent majority.

On the other hand, you might believe:

  • That direct feedback in real time is a competitive advantage which will help you grow.
  • That assuaging an unhappy customer now is worth way more than negative word of mouth later.

Whichever strategy you choose, you should choose. It's the middle way that vexes... the pretending, the grudging acceptance, the insertion of many levels of filters--when you do this, you get none of the benefits of either plan.

If you want people to speak up, be clear and mean it. If you don't, don't pretend.

Can't watch your parade if the house is on fire

People are in pain. Often of their own making, they tell themselves a story that obsesses/distracts and compels them. "I'll never get a movie gig again," "I can't believe they didn't like what I offered," "My job is in jeopardy," "Money's too tight to buy all the things I want..." "Does my butt look fat in these shorts?"

You can jump up and down and sing and dance and launch fireworks, but if the consumer's story of pain is vivid enough, you will be ignored. When the house is on fire, all your audience wants is a hose.


Here's a way to figure out if it pays to adopt a new technology.

When you talk about your market or your peers, do you say, "no one is using it..." or "no one is using it yet"?

Yet implies inevitability. If they're going to use it, it might make sense to get there before they do.

[Worth considering: The difference between a technology where getting in early pays dividends, and those that don't. For example, having a website or a blog or a Twitter account early can help, because each day you add new users and fans.

QR codes, on the other hand, don't reward those that get in the ground floor. You can always start tomorrow.]

Lousy tomatoes and the rare search for wonder

My local supermarket stocks waxy, tasteless tomatoes from Chile and Mexico and Florida. They even do this in early September, when local tomatoes are delicious, plentiful and ought to be a bargain.

Are they clueless, evil or incompetent?

Perhaps none of these. This supermarket, like most supermarkets, is a checklist institution, one that is in the business of providing good enough, in quantity, at a price that's both cheap and profitable. You need a staple, they have it. They have flour and salt and eggs and macaroni and cheese. They've trained their customers to see them as an invisible vendor, as an organization that satisfices demand. It's too much work, too demanding and too risky to do the alternative...

They could program the store instead.

Program it the way a great theater programs the stage. No one goes to the theatre two or three times a week, expecting a good enough show. No, we only go when we hear there's something magical or terrific happening.

Over time, as institutions create habits and earn subscribers, they often switch, gradually making the move from magical (worth a trip, worth a conversation) to good (there when you need it). Most TV is just good. Magazines, too. When was the last time People magazine did something that made you sit up and say, "wow"? Of course, you could argue that they're not in the wow business, and you might be right.

One of the disrupting forces of the new media is that it makes harder and harder to succeed without wow. Since you have to earn the conversation regularly, phone it in too often and in fact, attention disappears.

"But what if it works?"

Dr. Dre licensed his name for a line of headphones. I have no idea how much his royalty is, but figure it's $20 a pair.

At some point during the negotiations, perhaps someone said, "wait a minute! What if it's a hit? What if we sell more high-end headphones than anyone has ever sold, ever, and we sell 5,000,000 pairs. That means that he'll get a hundred million dollars. That's absurd! We need to put a limit on this."

We often hesitate to pay a portion of the upside to someone who is taking a risk, because we're worried that perhaps, just perhaps, his risk will pay off and he'll make a fortune...

The thing is, if they make a fortune, you make five fortunes. Don't worry about it. Go ahead and give people the opportunity to have their risk pay off. More than ever, people are motivated by the opportunities that come with scale.

Why wait?

Who cares when it's due?

If you're on the critical path, if someone is waiting for your contribution, ship now.

We have deadlines for a reason, but the key word is 'dead'. In fact, you don't have to wait for the deadline or get anywhere near it, especially if you want to speed things up.

Too often, we find ourselves using the deadline as the lever to overcome our fear. If you're relying on drop dead dates to push yourself, the project is paying a price.

The bias is to slow down because otherwise the boss will just give you more work to do. Are you still stuck in the us/them dichotomy of factory work?

All other things being equal, faster wins.

PS the challenge with being an initiator of projects is that you are never, ever done.


Emerging is when you use a platform to come into your own. Merging is when you sacrifice who you are to become part of something else.

Merging is what the system wants from you. To give up your dreams and your identity to further the goals of the system. Managers push for employees to merge into the organization.

Emerging is what a platform and support and leadership allow you to do. Emerging is what we need from you.

Confusing obedience with self-control

It’s an expensive confusion.

We organize our schools around obedience. Tests, comportment, the very structure of the day is about training young people to follow instructions.

We organize our companies around obedience as well. From the resume we use to hire to the training programs to the annual budgets, revenue targets and reviews we create, the model employee is someone who does what he’s told.

And the rationale for this appears to be that at some point, obedience transforms into self-control. That at some point, people start obeying themselves and become leaders. Self-control is without a doubt one of the building blocks of success, a key element of any career worth talking about. We need self-control if we’re going to make a difference.

But help me understand why obedience is the way to get there? Compliant sergeants rarely become great generals.

The alternative to failure

“What would you have me do instead?”

To the critic who decries a project as a worthless folly, something that didn’t work out, something that challenged the status quo and failed, the artist might ask,

“Is it better to do nothing?”

To the critic who hasn’t shipped, who hasn’t created his art, anything less than better-than-what-I -have-now appears to be a waste. To this critic, progress should only occur in leaps, in which a fully functioning, perfected new device/book/project/process/system appears and instantly and perfectly replaces the current model.

We don’t need your sharp wit or enmity, please. Our culture needs your support instead.

Each step by any (and every) one who ships moves us. It might show us what won’t work, it might advance the state of the art or it might merely encourage others to give it a try as well.

To those who feel that they have no choice but to create, thank you.

It's different here

The other day, walking through Grand Central, I bumped into a friend, here on vacation with his fiancee.

I got to thinking about why New York City attracts so many tourists, more than just about any city in the world. Not because of natural wonders or even outdoor sports activities. It might be because:

  • It’s different here (as in not the same)
  • You can find someone to have an argument with, about just about anything
  • There are fringes--cultural, educational, architectural, societal
  • More than 42 languages are spoken at the Queens public library
  • You can get something that’s not the regular kind
  • There are profit-seekers who will happily sell you something, anything
  • There are many who do things for no profit at all and will eagerly entertain, entrance and change you for the better
  • You will find a diversity of religious belief like no other
  • It’s changing
  • The food hasn't been entirely homogenized
  • People are active
  • A stranger will go out of his way for you, perhaps, and more often than you expect
  • There is more information per minute, per meter and per interaction
  • Neighborhoods are more important than homogeneity, and co-existing is most important

The thing is, here can be anywhere. There are New Yorks going on in towns large and small, in companies big and tiny and in families that support and respect at the same time they embrace and encourage difference.

I remember ten years ago like it was yesterday, looking out the window of my office and wondering if it (all of it) was over. I remember those that suffered and were lost, and those brave enough to risk everything. Not sure we'll ever forget, or if we should.

But now more than ever, I believe we have an obligation to stand up, stand out and to do work that matters. Wherever you are, there's an opportunity to be different, with respect.

Mass elite

You’ve probably noticed that the line for regular check in is now shorter than the line for Platinum/First Class/Club/Elite/Diamond/Whatever. That the hold time for your super-exclusive access card is longer than ever.

Marketers have figured out that the incremental cost of promising better service to better customers is pretty cheap. Of course, delivering that is expensive, but that’s someone else’s problem.

Once you create two classes of service, there’s an overwhelming temptation to undo that effort in two ways:
--continually degrade the upper class service as a way of saving money
--offer more access to the upper class as a way of leveraging your investment in setting it up in the first place

Should you treat different customers differently? There’s no doubt about it. It’s the single easiest operational way to transform your organization, by giving loyal and profitable customers a reason to come back. The danger is that your team will misunderstand the entire point of the exercise, using it as an opportunity to cut corners on the hoi polloi (who are merely elite customers who haven’t converted yet) at the same time they try to save money by investing less in the very people you set out to serve better in the first place.

Go ahead and charge extra to people who want to pay (in money or loyalty) extra. But don’t forget to give them something in return.

"Do it tomorrow"

Stupid advice, certainly. But free. I didn't charge you anything for it.

There are very few categories where there is less correlation between price and quality than advice. You can buy a million dollars worth of consulting, a thousand dollars worth of coaching or read a few tweets for free--your choice.

This widespread variety of pricing leads to two interesting questions:

Are you confusing what you pay with what you get? (Does expensive advice feel more valuable than the free stuff?)


Are you more likely to take action because you've paid a lot?

One of the most effective ways to get your ideas implemented is to charge a lot for them. It increases the perception of value and creates an impulse to execute so that the investment won't be wasted.

Of course, I said that for free...

Getting serious about your org chart


Manu's funny brilliance aside, this collection of org charts might help you think hard about why your organization is structured the way it is.

Is it because it was built when geography mattered more than it does now? Is it an artifact of a business that had a factory at its center? Does the org chart you live with every day leverage your best people or does it get in their way?

Tote bag marketing

Retail fundraisers have a choice:

You can give a gift along with a donation and spend all your time talking about how great the gift is. The MS bikeathon in New York is like this. The entire pitch is how rare or fun the ride is, with very little time spent on the difficult chore of selling people on raising money for a disease that's hard to visualize and not ubiquitous. The worst example of this is the gala at the fancy restaurant, where novices expect that $500 a plate somehow means the food is going to be good.

You can give a gift that serves as a badge, a symbol for the tribe. It could be your name in the program, or on the wall, or a t-shirt or coffee mug that lets others see what you did. Maybe you'll sit with someone interesting at the dinner...

Or you could focus on the way it feels to do something good, on the urgency, the emergency and the good that's getting done.

With the End Malaria project, Michael and I spent a lot wrestling with this.

The magic of a digital tote bag is that you can spend a fortune, a huge amount of time and effort, produce something magical and each incremental copy doesn't cost a thing. So instead of boiled chicken or a sweatship gimcrack, you get a world class book by 62 authors. A great book, and an important one for you to read, sure, but once you say to people, "buy this book," then you have to spend a lot of time persuading people to buy any book, to sell reading and the search for wisdom and the notion of actually buying, you know, a book.

"Is the book really worth $20? Can I get a copy at the library? Why not wait?" I'm not good at doing a hard sell of a book--if you don't like books, I can't get you to like them by writing a paragraph or two.

Instead, I hope you'll buy a copy today even if you don't buy books, even if you don't even intend to read it, even if you don't have a Kindle or a Kindle app. That would be fabulous, because it means that the transference of emotion has kicked in, and you have realized what a screaming bargain it is to pay $20 for the peace of mind that comes with saving someone's life.

Way more useful than a tote bag.

PS thanks to you (or your colleagues) as I write this, the book is the #1 business book, an instant worldwide bestseller. As a thank you to those that bought a copy, here's a link to a five hour long podcast interview with some of the authors. It's the honor system, of course. (And thanks to our biggest cash sponsors, Ashley Sleep and HubSpot, for their generous donations to MNM.)

That buzzing in my ear didn't mean I was about to die

Six weeks ago, at midnight, I found myself awake but wiped out from jet lag. I was in a lumpy bed, in the dark, in an obscure, $20 a night, John-Waters'-esque former country club. I was in Kitale, Kenya, near the Ugandan border.

A mosquito was buzzing in my ear. (Why do they buzz in your ear?). I had meds, of course, but what if I didn't? What if, like so many who live here, I had kids and no money for medicine?

Try to imagine that for a second before you click onto the next thing you've got on your agenda for today.

Today is End Malaria Day.

Right this minute, right now, please do three things:

  1. Buy two copies of End Malaria, an astonishing new book by more than sixty of your favorite authors. In a minute, I will explain why this might be the most important book you buy this year (not the best book, of course, just the most important one). You should buy one in paperback too so you can evangelize a copy to a colleague.
  2. Tweet or like this post, or email it to ten friends (It only takes a second.)
  3. And, visit the End Malaria Day website and share it as well.

What would happen if you did that? What would happen if you stepped up and spent a few dollars?

Here's what would happen: someone wouldn't die.

A child wouldn't die from malaria, a disease that causes more childhood death than HIV/AIDS.

It's that direct. Malaria bednets are simple nets that hang over a window or a bed. They're treated with a chemical that mosquitos hate. The mosquitos fly away, they don't bite, people don't get malaria.

Every single penny spent on the Kindle edition goes to Malaria No More, giving them enough money to buy one or two bednets and to deliver them and be sure they're used properly. Low overhead, no graft, no waste. Just effectiveness. And if you buy the beautiful paperback edition, you can easily give it away when you're done and the same $20 donation gets made. None of the authors or anyone at the Domino Project sees your money, there's no ulterior motive, just the fact that a kid won't die.

Wait, there is one ulterior motive: You might be inspired. One of the sixty plus contributors might share a gem or spark an idea.

And I guess there's a second motive: Stepping up feels right. It's a few clicks to buy a book, one you might be able to afford. And for the rest of the day, or even a week, you'll remember how it felt to save someone's life.



And if you could, after you buy a copy, please tweet or post or email your friends. It matters. Thanks.

Talent and vendors

You may be purchasing services from people with magical talents (artists) and it's a mistake to confuse them with vendors.

As we get more and more service oriented, it's an easy mistake to make. You're busy buying cleaning services or consulting or design, and sometimes the person you're working with is a vendor, and sometimes they're not--they're an artist, "the talent."

A vendor is someone who exists to sell you something. It doesn't always matter to the vendor what's being sold, as long as it's being sold and paid for.

The quality of what's being delivered is rarely impacted by the method of transaction. The turnips will still show up, the house will still get painted. You can send an RFP to a vendor, bid it out, get the lowest price, sign the contract and if you write the contract properly, will get what you ordered.

The quality of the work you get from the talent changes based on how you work with her.

That's the key economic argument for the distinction: if you treat an artist like a vendor, you'll often get mediocre results in return. On the other hand, if you treat a vendor like an artist, you'll waste time and money.

Vendors happily sit in the anonymous cubes at Walmart's headquarters, waiting for the buyer to show up and dicker with them. They willingly fill out the paperwork and spend hours discussing terms and conditions. The vendor is agnostic about what's being sold, and is focused on volume, or at least consistency.

While the talent is also getting paid (to be in your movie, to do consulting, to coach you), she is not a vendor. She's not playing by the same rules and is not motivated in the same way.

A key element of the distinction is that in addition to the varying output potential, vendors are easier to replace than talent is.

Target understood this when they reached out to Michael Graves to design a line of goods that sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of items. When I interviewed Michael a few years ago, he had nothing but great things to say about the way Target invited him in and gave him the ability to do his work. Threadless embraces this when they treat the designers of their t-shirts in a non-corporate way. Etsy is built on this single truth.

Most industry is built on vendor relationships, and vendors expect (and sometimes value) the impersonal nature of their relationships. This scales... until you lump in the talent.

Should you treat vendors with respect? No doubt about it. Human beings do their best work when they're treated fairly and with enthusiasm. But when the provider is also digging deep to put something on the table that you can't possibly write a spec for, you're going to have to respond in kind.

Back to (the wrong) school

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage at seven-year olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work--they said they couldn't afford to hire adults. It wasn't until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn't a coincidence--it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they're told.

Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.

Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?

Nobel-prize winning economist Michael Spence makes this really clear: there are tradable jobs (making things that could be made somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers). Is there any question that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy?

Alas, Spence reports that from 1990 to 2008, the US economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

Do you see the disconnect here? Every year, we churn out millions of of workers who are trained to do 1925 labor.

The bargain (take kids out of work so we can teach them to become better factory workers) has set us on a race to the bottom. Some argue we ought to become the cheaper, easier country for sourcing cheap, compliant workers who do what they're told. We will lose that race whether we win it or not. The bottom is not a good place to be, even if you're capable of getting there.

As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?

As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.

The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?

People looking for 'more of the same' aren't actively looking

While there may be a lot of them, they're satisfied with what they've got, which means that they're hard to attract.

No, the real opportunity is in reaching out to the dissatisifed, to those in search of something new.

Not fade away

Most partnerships don't end up in court.

Most friendships don't end in a fight.

Most customers don't leave in a huff.

Instead, when one party feels underappreciated, or perhaps taken advantage of, she stops showing up as often. Stops investing. Begins to move on.

No, I'm not going to sue you. Yes, I'll probably put my best efforts somewhere else.

Just because there are no firestorms on the porch doesn't mean you're doing okay. More likely, there are relationships out there that need more investment, quiet customers who are unhappy but not making a big deal out of it. They're worth a lot more than the angry ones.

The shower of data

When I was a kid at summer camp, a letter was as precious as gold (or perhaps candy). If you got five letters in a week, you were rich. Most of the time, we stood by the mailroom, plaintively waiting to see if there was some sort of message from the outside world--only to walk away disappointed.

Back home, missing a TV show was out of the question. If you didn’t see this episode of Mannix or Batman, it was likely you’d never get a chance, ever again.

And so we came to treat incoming data as precious. A lost email was a calamity. Reading everything in your RSS feed was essential. What if I miss something?

A new generation, one that grew up with a data surplus, is coming along. To this cohort, it’s no big deal to miss a tweet or ten, to delete a blog from your reader or to not return a text or even a voice mail. The new standard for a vacation email is, “When I get back, I’m going to delete all the email in my box, so if it’s important, please re-send it next week.”

This is what always happens when something goes from scarce to surplus. First we bathe in it, then we waste it.

Thursday bonuses

First, two signs, each telling a very different story:


This sign says, "we're in power, we're going to use newspeak and double-talk and pretend we've done something to benefit you, which of course, we haven't." It also uses "conveniently" as an adverb, which is just annoying. Why not tell the truth, straight up?


On the other hand, this sign screams transparency and honesty. The farmer explained that on days when the corn was picked that day, he erases the scribbles on the bottom of the sign, but if the corn was picked just one day earlier, it's just not right to say 'fresh'. It's worth noting that instead of having two signs, one for each condition, he uses his own hand to tell the truth, quite vigorously. Guess who has the most popular corn stand in New York, even on days when it is not, apparently, fresh?

...and here's a fascinating, generous and over-the-top-in-a-good-way article on infographics by Ed Fry. Sometimes, earning attention is about being all three, not about gaming the system or getting lucky.

Should the New Yorker change?

For the first time in its history, the editors at The New Yorker know which articles are being read. And they know who's reading them.

They know if the cartoons are the only thing people are reading, or if the fiction really is a backwater. They know when people abandon articles, and they know that the last 3,000 words of a feature on the origin of sand is being widely ignored.

They also know, or should know, whether people are looking at the ads, and what the correlation is between ad lookers and article readers. The iPad app can keep track of all of this, of course.

The question then: should they change? Should the behavior of readers dictate what they publish?

Of course, this choice extends to what you publish as well, doesn't it?

[updated: I fear many people missed my points here. A. this isn't a post about the New Yorker. and B. I'm not sure it should change. Perhaps it's the stuff we don't read that makes the rest of it worth reading. Racing to keep up with your readers and to pander to them might not be the best way to do work that matters. Sorry if I was insufficiently direct in my original notion. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of this update.]

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