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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

« April 2012 | Main | June 2012 »

Where does this blog come from?

A friend asked me today how many people work for me helping me write my books and blog.

I write every word of this blog (more than 2,000,000 words so far). If you see a book or an email that's from me, I wrote it.

I don't actively use Twitter (not because it's not a useful tool for some people, it just doesn't work for me) so I don't need a staff to pretend to be me there. (You can read this blog at @thisissethsblog).

I don't actively use Facebook either, though I have a page there.

If I blurb a book, it's because I've read it and thought it was worth highlighting. I don't endorse companies or other projects.

I don't take pitches to be on my blog, and no one can pay me to endorse them. I don't directly own private or public equity in companies I write about, except for, which I founded, and use because I like what we built, not because I'm trying to persuade you to use it.

And those are my boundaries. They might not be for everyone, and I'm sure that others have other systems that work for them, but there you go. If I fail to respond to an email from you, or read something you send me, it's simply because I've made the choice to be a soloist than to farm out the thing I love to do to someone else.

Thanks for reading.

Getting serious about experimentation

Here's what doesn't work: hacking around and ignoring what doesn't work.

Here's what also doesn't work: doing your best with your work and then dismissing the elements that don't work as experiments.

The best experiments are experiments on purpose. They are done with rigor and intent. They are measured. They are designed to either fail or create an approach that can be scaled.

Great experimenters measure their results. They probe. They fail on purpose. And when they find something that works, they hand the knowledge over to operators and executors who can scale their work.

You don't get to call it an experiment after it fails.

"Perhaps your anxiety is specific to magicians"

I found that quote in a strangely-translated instruction manual for an obscure but beautiful trick.

But it has wide applicability.

Perhaps your anxiety is specific to artists or musicians or to anyone who has to stand up and stand out and stand for something.

It turns out that your anxiety isn't specific at all. Perhaps it is due to the fact that you're trying to control things that you can't possibly control.

Your anxiety might merely be a sign that you care deeply about your work.

Anxiety is almost never a useful emotion to carry around. Even for magicians.

Now that you've been reminded that you care, it pays to let the anxiety go. Good riddance.

A hierarchy of business to business needs

If you're selling a product or service to a business--to a non-owner--consider this hierarchy, from primary needs on down:

  • Avoiding risk
  • Avoiding hassle
  • Gaining praise
  • Gaining power
  • Having fun
  • Making a profit

In most large organizations, nothing happens unless at least one of these needs are met, and in just about every organization big enough and profitable enough to buy from you, the order of needs starts with the first one and works its way down the list.

That means that a sales pitch that begins with how much money the organization will make is pretty unlikely to work. Instead, the amount of profit has to be tied in to one of the other more primary needs of the person sitting across the table from you (as well as the committee or boss she reports to).

B2B selling is just like regular sales, except the customer (who might not be the person you're meeting with) is spending someone else's money (and wants to please the boss).

Thriving in a wet environment

If you've ever fixed any kind of machinery, you know that a device that's exposed to the elements is incredibly difficult to maintain. A washing machine or the underside of a car gets grungy, fast.

On the other hand, the dryest, cleanest environment of all is the digital one. Code stays code. If it works today, it's probably going to work tomorrow.

The wettest, weirdest environment is human interaction. Whatever we build gets misunderstood, corroded and chronic, and it happens quickly and in unpredictable ways. That's one reason why the web is so fascinating--it's a collision between the analytic world of code and wet world of people.

No software design survives a collision with the user.

Emergency room doctors

It's a mindset, not just a job.

You can pitch them as hard as you like about having them work to persuade their patients to give up smoking (after all, it saves lives in the long run), but I think you'll find that they're a lot more interested in stopping the bleeding.

We need emergency room doctors, no doubt. I just wonder if we have too many of them in your organization. If all we do is reward fast first aid in what people do at work, is it any wonder we don't have enough attention to the strategy and choices that would eliminate the need for all that running around in the first place?

It helps to know how prevalent the "emergency room" culture is before you start training your people on a new long-term strategy.

This is (still) broken

Two things worth a design rant, as well as a book and a free video talk...

I apologize if you see the world with more frustration after this.

What are you leaving behind?

I love watching contrails, those streams of white frozen exhaust that jets leave behind. It's a temporary track in the sand, and then the sun melts them and they're gone.

Go to Montana and you might see the tracks dinosaurs left a bazillion years ago. Same sort of travel, very different half-life of their passage.

All day long you're emailing or tweeting or liking or meeting... and every once in a while, something tangible is produced. But is there a mark of your passage? Fifty years later, we might hear a demo tape or an outtake of something a musician scratched together while making an album. Often, though, there's no trace.

I'm fascinated by blogs like this one, which are basically public notes and coffee breaks by a brilliant designer in between her 'real' work. Unlike tweets, which vanish, Tina's posts are here for a long time and much easier to share and bookmark. Her trail becomes useful not just to her, but to everyone who is interested.

What would happen if you took ten minutes of coffeebreak downtime every day and produced an online artifact instead? What if your collected thoughts about your industry became an ebook or a series of useful instructions or pages or videos?

What if we all did that?

The tyranny of low price

If you build your business around being the lowest-cost provider, that's all you've got. Everything you do has to be a race in that direction, because if you veer toward anything else (service, workforce, impact, design, etc.) then a competitor with a more single-minded focus will sell your commodity cheaper than you.

Cheapest price is the refuge for the marketer with no ideas left or no guts to implement the ideas she has.

Everyone needs to sell at a fair price. But unless you've found a commodity that must remain a commodity, a fair price is not always the lowest price. Not when you understand that price is just one of the many tools available.

A short version of this riff: The low-price leader really doesn't need someone with your skills.

A book/gadget list for late spring

I hope you'll find a gem or two.

Here it is.

"If I were you..."

But of course, you're not.

And this is the most important component of strategic marketing: we're not our customer.

Empathy isn't dictated to us by a focus group or a statistical analysis. Empathy is the powerful (and rare) ability to imagine what motivates someone else to act.

When a politician or a pundit vilifies someone for her actions, he's missed the point, because all he can do is imagine what he would do in that situation, completely avoiding an opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, to try on a new worldview, to attempt to imagine the circumstances that would lead to any action other than the one he would take.

When a teacher can't see why a student is stuck, or when an interface designer dismisses the 12% of the users who can't find the 'off' switch... we're seeing a failure of empathy, not a flaw in the user base.

When we call a prospect stupid for not choosing us, when we resort to blunt promotional tactics to get attention we could have earned with a more graceful approach--these are the symptoms that we've forgotten how to be empathetic.

You don't have to wear panty hose to be a great brand manager at L'eggs, nor do you need to be unemployed to work on a task force on getting people back to work. What is required, though, is a persistent effort to understand how other people see the world, and to care about it.

Dancing on the edge of finished

Before, when your shift was done, you were finished. When the inbox was empty, when the forms were processed, you could stop.

Now, of course, there's always one more tweet to make, post to write, words with friends move to complete. There's one more bit of email, one more lens you can construct, one more comment you can respond to. If you want to, you can be never finished.

And that's the dance. Facing a sea of infinity, it's easy to despair, sure that you will never reach dry land, never have the sense of accomplishment of saying, "I'm done." At the same time, to be finished, done, complete--this is a bit like being dead. The silence and the feeling that maybe that's all.

For the marketer, the freelancer and the entrepreneur, the challenge is to level set, to be comfortable with the undone, with the cycle of never-ending. We were trained to finish our homework, our peas and our chores. Today, we're never finished, and that's okay.

It's a dance, not an endless grind.

Ranking for signal to noise ratio

A whisper in a quiet room is all you need. There's so little noise, so few distractions, that the energy of the whisper is enough to make a dent.

On the other hand, it's basically impossible to have a conversation (at any volume) in a nightclub.

Signal to noise ratio is a measurement of the relationship between the stuff you want to hear and the stuff you don't. And here's the thing: Twitter and email and Facebook all have a bad ratio, and it's getting worse.

The clickthrough rates on tweets is getting closer and closer to zero. Not because there aren't links worth clicking on, but because there's so much junk you don't have the attention or time to sort it all out.

Spam (and worse, spamlike messages from organizations and people that ought to treasure your attention and permission) are turning a medium (email) that used to be incredibly rich into one that's becoming very noisy as well.

And you really can't do much to fix these media and still use them the way you're used to using them.

The alternative, which is well worth it, is to find new channels you can trust. An RSS feed with only bloggers who respect your time. Relentless editing of who you follow and who you listen to and what gets on the top of the pile.

Until you remove the noise, you're going to miss a lot of signal.

The endless emergency of politics

Good governance is like great marketing--it takes the long view, and relentlessly focuses on delivering on agreed upon goals over time.

Politics, on the other hand, is more like a ping pong match, and, thanks to electronic media, it's getting faster when we'd be better off if it slowed down.

Those that work in politics are now addicted to today's emergency, whatever it is. It could be a world event, a faux scandal or merely something the other side said. They use it to fundraise, they use it to distribute talking points and they use it to get attention and score points on the opposition. And they use polls to keep score, daily.

It's practically impossible to get the attention or effort of people on a campaign unless you've got something urgent and imminent to discuss. This is no way to do serious marketing.

One side effect of the endless emergency is an insatiable need for cash. Clearly, money spent on campaigns is effective (particularly in depressing the vote for an opponent), but just as clearly, it doesn't scale. Twice as much money is not twice as effective. When the campaign falls in love with the combination of instant reaction plus unlimited fundraising, all strategy and leadership go out the window.

The problem with getting elected using emergency tactics is that it makes it harder than ever to govern for the long term.

[Here's my post about the endless emergency of poverty].

You will be judged (or you will be ignored)

Those are pretty much the only two choices.

Being judged is uncomfortable. Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation... all of these, combined with not enough time (how could there be) to truly know you, means that you will inevitably be misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected.

The alternative, of course, is much safer. To be ignored.

Up to you.

A true story

Of course, that's impossible.

There's no such thing as a true story. As soon as you start telling a story, making it relevant and interesting to me, hooking it into my worldviews and generating emotions and memories, it ceases to be true, at least if we define true as the whole truth, every possible fact, non-localized and regardless of culture.

Since you're going to tell a story, you might as well get good at it, focus on it and tell it in a way that you're proud of.

Where's the heat?

Is that your goal? To find the next hot thing? Do you want to buy it, sell it, use it, eat it?

In every industry where there's fashion (which is every industry), people spend an enormous amount of time looking for heat. It defines the cutting edge, determines what's in or out, what's hot or not.

Two things worth considering:

a. the hot thing isn't always the thing that's aligned with your goals. Sure, sometimes the most profitable item is also the hot item of the moment, but for many companies, market share or profitability or utility has not a lot to do with being on the cutting edge of fashion. And as a user, the hot item of the moment isn't necessarily the thing that will create value or even identify you as truly hip.

b. The cycle of hot keeps getting shorter.

You can chase this, but it's not free, and it might not get you where you want to go.

Not everyone

If you're marketing a bass guitar or an orchid or an electric SUV, why are you concerned with what everyone thinks about it?

It seems to me that you should only care about the opinion of those that are actually open to buying one.

Shun the non-believers.

The quickest way to get things done and make change

Not the easiest, but the quickest:

Don't demand authority.

Eagerly take responsibility.

Relentlessly give credit.

Digital analogs are no longer sufficient

ParkingmeterThe parking meter was rebooting. I guess we're supposed to walk to the other end of the garage and find one that's working.

We're seeing digital awareness coming to just about everything. In this case, it was the parking meter near the library. Of course, it's not really a parking meter, it's a centralized fee collection system that saves the town a lot of money. It's easier to collect from, certainly, it doesn't waste the time of meter readers (who get alerted as to what spaces aren't paid for, as opposed to checking them all) plus it doesn't let a new parker enjoy a few minutes of the last person's payment.

I understand how the incremental sale of this device was easier to maket to the town and to the community. It's just like what we have now, but better.

The problem, of course, is that it's not as better as it could be. Just about every traditional non-digital solution is bounded by the limits of mechanics. Once we start connecting (and the connection revolution won't rest until it's all connected) then the problem can be reset--we can find the best solution, not a better way to solve it the old way.

Why do I have to guess how long I'm going to be parking? Why pay a penalty if I underguess, or waste community resources on patrolling for compliance?

Of course, I don't care much about parking meters. I care a lot about using digital shadows of real world devices because we don't have the imagination to reinvent them.

In this particular case: why bother have a meter at all? After all, the state knows my license plate, the state has a billing relationship with me, the state can (and does) collect money for my driving behaviors (like EZ Pass). So why not drive into the space and have the space just take care of all the paperwork and billing? No tickets, no meter readers. If you don't want local merchants to park in the good spaces, no need to spend a lot of time searching them out...

Instinctually, we want to maintain the hunter/prey relationship of the independent citizen who isn't being snooped on. But you know what? You're already being snooped on, ceaselessly. A parking meter isn't your problem.

Obviously, parking meters aren't the important device here. The connection revolution is going to upend the way we understand the where, who, how much and when of everything around us.

Hard work on the right things

I don't think winners beat the competition because they work harder. And it's not even clear that they win because they have more creativity. The secret, I think, is in understanding what matters.

It's not obvious, and it changes. It changes by culture, by buyer, by product and even by the day of the week. But those that manage to capture the imagination, make sales and grow are doing it by perfecting the things that matter and ignoring the rest.

Both parts are difficult, particularly when you are surrounded by people who insist on fretting about and working on the stuff that makes no difference at all.


Intelligence is the combination of knowing a lot about a little while you also know a little about a lot.

Deep domain understanding helps you create analyses. Your ability to understand how a particular system (no matter how small) works allows you apply a confident analysis to new systems you encounter. Once you know everything there is to know about nuclear physics, soccer or the praying mantis, it makes it easier to understand new systems.

At the same time, it's impossible to be smart without also being aware of the wider world. That's because it's the random interactions and the surprising coincidences that help us navigate our daily lives.

The challenge of the net is that it made the large world a whole lot larger. There are the personal lives of your 1000 closest friends, on display, every day. Here is the news of the world, the whole world, not just what used to fit in the newspaper. And over there is every book ever published, every scientific discovery, every fringe political candidate.

Suddenly, it's a lot more difficult to know a little about a lot. It's tempting to spend ever more time pursuing that goal. That doesn't mean, I think, that you should give up knowing a lot about a little in order to devote ever more time to the noisy mosaic that's on your doorstep, nor does it mean you ought to give up and dive back into your hole. We've redefined worldly, but being an expert remains just as tough and important as it used to be.

The reason the customer is always right...

If you insist that they are wrong, they stop being your customer* (if given half a chance).

People spend their time and attention and money in places that make them feel valued.

*There's nothing wrong with asking customers who are wrong to leave. Just be sure you do it on purpose.

Dedicating the merit

For an author, one of the nicest parts of the traditional book is the dedication page. The dedication is far more than an acknowledgement to someone who helped you write the book, it's a permanent signpost, a capstone to the work of a year or more.

Even if the person you've dedicated the book to can't read it, the writer benefits from the knowledge that a connection was made and that a memory was preserved.

Here's the thing: you can dedicate just about anything. A project, a meeting, a tweet. You don't have to tell anyone but yourself. This blog post, like all the posts before it, has a dedication page, at least in my head.

When you start creating for and in honor of those that have made a difference to you, your work changes.

Naming things

"Over there, by the fire, is that a stick or a snake?"

It turns out that humans have been naming things for a long time. If we know that this is a cheetah, or a grapefruit, we can make intelligent decisions on how to deal with it.

Lately, though, we've been naming more than things. Now we classify ideas and opportunities as well.

Getting smart about naming is at the heart of marketing. Calling every single person a 'customer', for example, is hardly a nuanced way of engaging with the public. Salespeople are especially nuanced at this, but often make mistakes as well. Car salesman are notorious for misnaming women who walk in (spouse instead of primary decision maker).

As an investor, are you misnaming the businesses you look at, mistaking a cliff business for a bootstrappable idea? Dozens of book editors misnamed Harry Potter at first glance, labeling it a 'loser from the slush pile' instead of the most profitable book they were ever offered.

Job interviews are nothing but sessions where we try to put a name on a stranger looking for employment. Is she a superstar in the making or someone we ought to avoid?

Most of all, are you misnaming opportunities and calling them risks instead?

When you are isolated or if the world is stable, your need to name new things goes down, and the world might feel safer as a result. Most of us don't live in that world, so our ability to name things becomes critical.

Just because we're not good at it doesn't mean it's not important.

Free samples

It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer's market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away. The thin slices of handmade rye bread, or the perfect strawberries or the little glasses of juice--all of them disappear into the hands of people who have no intention of buying.

Sure, someone stops and buys now and then, which is why the farmers keep offering the samples. To them, it's merely a cost of doing business, a relatively inexpensive way to keep prospective customers coming. I'm not sure I could do it--the people afraid to look me in the eye, all that slinking around, and most of all, the profits walking out the door, over and over again. Enough thin slices makes a loaf.

This is vexing, even to someone who merely makes ideas. Watching people sneak endless tastes with no intention of making a purchase--sometimes I gasp at the audacity.

The distinction in the digital world is profound. In the digital world, the more free samples you give away, the better you do. The miserly mindset that afflicts the merchant watching inventory walk out the door at the market is counterproductive in the digital world. That's because more free samples cost you nothing.

The scarce resources in the connection revolution are connection, attention and trust, not molecules, atoms or strawberries.

Why ask why?

"Why?" is the most important question, not asked nearly enough.

Hint: "Because I said so," is not a valid answer.

  • Why does it work this way?
  • Why is that our goal?
  • Why did you say no?
  • Why are we treating people differently?
  • Why is this our policy?
  • Why don't we enter this market?
  • Why did you change your mind?
  • Why are we having this meeting?
  • Why not?

How to make money online

  1. The first step is to stop Googling things like, "how to make money online." Not because you shouldn't want to make money online, but because the stuff you're going to find by doing that is going to help you lose money online. Sort of like asking a casino owner how to make money in Vegas...
  2. Don't pay anyone for simple and proven instructions on how to achieve this goal. In particular, don't pay anyone to teach you how to write or sell manuals or ebooks about how to make money online.
  3. Get rich slow.
  4. Focus on the scarce resource online: attention. If you try to invent a way to take cheap attention and turn it into cash, you will fail. The attention you want isn't cheap, it's difficult to get via SEO and it rarely scales. Instead, figure out how to earn expensive attention.
  5. In addition to attention, focus on trust. Trust is even more scarce than attention.
  6. Don't worry so much about the 'online' part. Instead, figure out how to create value. The online part will take care of itself.
  7. Don't quit your day job. Start evenings and weekends and figure it out with small failures.
  8. Build a public reputation. A good one, and be sure that you deserve it, and that it will hold up to scrutiny.
  9. Obsessively specialize. No niche is too small if it's yours.
  10. Connect the disconnected.
  11. Lead.
  12. Build an online legacy that increases in value daily.
  13. Make money offline. If you can figure out how to create value face to face, it's a lot easier to figure out how to do the same digitally. The web isn't magic, it's merely efficient.
  14. Become the best in the world at something that people value. Easier said than done, worth more than you might think.
  15. Hang out with people who aren't looking for shortcuts. Learn from them.
  16. Fail. Fail often and fail cheaply. This is the very best gift the web has given to people who want to bootstrap their way into a new business.
  17. Make money in the small and then relentlessly scale.
  18. Don't chase yesterday's online fad.
  19. Think big, act with intention and don't get bogged down in personalities. If it's not on your agenda, why are you wasting time on it?
  20. Learn. Ceaselessly. Learn to code, to write persuasively, to understand new technologies, to bring out the best in your team, to find underused resources and to spot patterns.
  21. This is not a zero sum game. The more you add to your community, the bigger your piece gets.

A few years ago I put my book The Bootstrapper's Bible online for free. You can find it here.

Solving the problem isn't the problem

The problem is finding a vector that pays for itself as you scale.

We see a problem and we think we've "solved" it, but if there isn't a scalable go-to-market business approach behind the solution, it's not going to work.

This is where engineers and other problem solvers so often get stuck. Industries and organizations and systems aren't broken because no one knows how to solve their problem. They're broken because the difficult part is finding a scalable, profitable way to market and sell the solution.

Take textbooks, for example. The challenge here isn't that you and I can't come up with a far better, cheaper, faster and more fair way to produce and sell and use textbooks. The problem is that the people who have to approve, review and purchase textbooks are difficult to reach, time-consuming to educate and expensive to sell.

Or consider solar lanterns as a replacement for kerosene. They are safer, cheaper and far healthier. But that's not the problem. The problem is building a marketing and distribution network that permits you to rapidly educate a billion people as to why they want to buy one at a price that would permit you to make them in quantity.

Sure, you need a solution to the problem. But mostly what you need is a self-funding method to scale your solution, a way of interacting with the market that gains in strength over time so you can start small and get big, solving the problem as you go.

The flipping point

When people say, "The tipping point," they often misunderstand the concept in Malcolm's book. They're actually talking about the flipping point.

The tipping point is the sum total of many individuals buzzing about something. But for an individual to start buzzing, something has to change in that person's mind. Something flips from boredom or ignorance to excitement or anger.

It starts when the story of a brand or a person or a store or an experience flips in your head and it goes from good to bad, or from ignored to beloved. The flipping point doesn't represent the sum of public conversations, it's the outcome of an activated internal conversation.

It's easy to wish and hope for your project to tip, for it to magically become the hot thing. But that won't happen if you can't seduce and entrance an individual and then another.

Before the tipping point, someone has to flip. And then someone else. And then a hundred more someones.

We resist incremental improvement in our offerings and our stories because it just doesn't seem likely that one good interaction or one tiny alteration can possibly lead to a significant amount of flipping. And we're right—it won't. The flipping point (for an individual) is almost always achieved after a consistent series of almost invisible actions that create a brand new whole.

And the reason it's so difficult? Because you're operating on faith. You need to invest and apparently overinvest (time and money and effort) until you see the results. And most of your competition (lucky for you) give up long before they reach the point where it pays off.

Avoiding false metrics

At the local gym, it's not unusual to see hardcore members contorting themselves to fool the stairmaster machine into giving them good numbers. If you use your arms, you can lift yourself off the machine and trick it into thinking you're working yourself really hard.

Of course, you end up with cramped shoulders and a lousy workout, but who cares, the machine said you burned 600 calories...

The same thing happens with authors who put themselves and their readers through the wringer to get a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list (more on this here). Danielle LaPorte built a huge campaign around putting her book on the list, she succeeded in selling a huge number of hardcover copies in a week (far more than most other books) but didn't make the list because of a secret editorial decision that she's not privy to. At the same time, other authors who do a better job of decoding the secrets end up on the list with far fewer sold.

The point isn't that the list is crooked and unfair (though it is). It measures how good you are at getting on the list, not how many copies of the book your readers buy. The reason to avoid the false metric is that it messes with your shoulders, with the way you approach the work, with the real reason you did the project in the first place.

A third example: many car brands now go to obsessive lengths to contact recent car buyers and ask them to rate their buying experience on a scale of one to five. They use these rankings to allocate cars to dealers, ostensibly to reward the good dealerships. Of course, the dealers are in on the game, and instead of doing the intended thing--providing a great experience--all they do is work hard to get people to give them a five when a drone in a call center makes the call. Many of them will clearly state to a customer, "If anything has happened today that would prevent you from giving us a five when they call, please tell us right now..."

The system of false metrics doesn't create a better buying experience, it creates a threatened customer with pressure to give a five.

And my last example: The Arbitron radio rating system used to rely on diaries in which it asked radio listeners to write down which station they had listened to during the day. Several consultants came along with a service that they guaranteed would raise the ratings of any station that hired them. The secret? Repeat the station's call letters twice as often. It turned out that more repetition led to better recall, which led to more people writing down the call letters which led to 'better' ratings.

A useful metric is both accurate (in that it measures what it says it measures) and aligned with your goals. Making your numbers go up (any numbers--your bmi, your blood sugar, your customer service ratings) is pointless if the numbers aren't related to why you went to work this morning.

Mother's day is May 13

Mothers with daughters adore this bestselling book by Sarah Kay. It's a little piece of magic.

I published it because every time I saw the video, it made me cry. But you can't give your mom a video link for Mother's Day, can you?

Check out these reviews:

"Give this lovely little book to any parent in your life who is trying to instill the values of self-love, adventurousness and intelligent defiance in their children.

Give this book to any parent who questions themselves all too often, even when they are one of the best parents you know.

Give this book to any parent who needs a little reassurance that their love is more than enough."

"I highly recommend this book for new moms, old moms, one day want to be moms, or to anyone that needs to be reminded that they're loved. "

"I bought six copies of this book, keeping one and giving the remaining five to my mom, my aunt, and some dear friends (and mothers)"

"I found this book and decided to purchase 2 copies: one for my daughter and one for myself. It is wonderful and well worth buying for gifts."

"This is a precious gift to share if you are a daughter or have a daughter of any age."

"Some books should still be in print for years to come and this is one of them. Great gift idea! "

A simple antidote to a corporatized, unfeeling, profit-maximizing world


Care more than you need to, more often than expected, more completely than the other guy.

No one reports liking Steve Jobs very much, yet he was as embraced as any businessperson since Walt Disney. Because he cared. He cared deeply about what he was making and how it would be used. Of course, he didn't just care in a general, amorphous, whiny way, he cared and then actually delivered.

Politicians are held in astonishingly low esteem. Congress in particular is setting record lows, but it's an endemic problem. The reason? They consistently act as if they don't care. They don't care about their peers, certainly, and by their actions, apparently, they don't care about us. Money first.

Many salespeople face a similar problem--perhaps because for years they've used a shallow version of caring as a marketing technique to boost their commissions. One report by the National Association of Realtors found that more than 90% of all homeowners are never again contacted by their real estate agent after the contracts for the home are signed. Why bother... there's no money in it, just the possibility of complaints. Well, the reason is obvious--you'd come by with cookies and intros to the neighbors if you cared.

Economists tell us that the reason to care is that it increases customer retention, profitability and brand value. For me, though, that's beside the point (and even counter to the real goal). Caring gives you a compass, a direction to head and most of all, a reason to do the work you do in the first place.

Care More.

It's only two words, but it's hard to think of a better mantra for the organization that is smart enough to understand the core underpinning of their business, as well as one in search of a reason for being. No need to get all tied up in subcycles of this leads to this which leads to that so therefore I care... Instead, there's the opportunity to follow the direct and difficult road of someone who truly cares about what's being made and who it is for.

Reconsidering decisions

There are two common mistakes here:

Frequently reconsidering decisions that ought to be left alone. Once you enroll in college, it is both painful and a waste to spend the first five minutes of every morning wondering if you should drop out or not. Once you've established a marketing plan, it doesn't pay to reevaluate it every time your shop is empty. And once you've committed to a partnership, it's silly to reconsider that choice every time you have a disagreement.

In addition to wasting time, the frequent reconsideration sabotages the effort your subconscious is trying to make in finding ways to make the current plan work. Spending that creative energy wondering about the plan merely subtracts from the passion you could put into making it succeed.

On the other hand, particularly in organizations, failure to reconsider long-held decisions is just as wasteful. Should you really be in that business? Should this person still be working here? Is that really the best policy?

Jay Levinson used to say that you should keep your ad campaign even after your best customers, your wife and your partner get bored with it. Change it when the accountant says it's time. And Zig Ziglar likes to talk about the pilot on his way from New York to Dallas. Wind blows the plane off course after a few minutes. The right thing to do is adjust the course and head on. The wrong thing to do is head back to New York and start over (or to reconsider flying to Dallas at all).

Multiplying or dividing?

If you have a list of 1000 subscribers or 5,000 fans or 10,000 supporters, you have a choice to make.

You can create stories and options and benefits that naturally spread from this group to their friends, and your core group can multiply, with 5,000 growing to 10,000 and then 100,000.

Or you can put the group through a sales funnel, weed out the free riders and monetize the rest. A 5% conversion rate means you just turned 5,000 interested people into 250 paying customers.

Multiplying scales. Dividing helps you make this quarter's numbers.

Is catastrophizing effective?

Often, our instinct is to make the current bump in the road far more urgent than it actually is. It focuses our attention and rallies those around us to take immediate and deliberate action.

After all, if this is the big one, of course we should drop everything and deal with it.

Missing from this equation is the cost of dropping everything. The short-term herk and jerk that is delivered by an organization that responds to those that amplify problems into catastrophes inevitably leads to poor performance in the long run.

Employees who do this ought to be counseled to cut it out. It's not what we hired you to do. Bosses who catastrophize are often hesitant to admit it, though, and if you work for one, it's going to continually hurt your ability to do your best work.

And non-profits who catastrophize to meet their next funding goal inevitably sabotage the very work they set it out to do in the first place, all because it's an easy way to raise some extra money.

Volatility and value

The fine art market continues to generate headline-making sales. This year, paintings by Warhol and Munch are expected to sell for more than $50 million each.

What makes a painting famous enough to sell for that much money?


Consider the Mona Lisa. The reason that it's the most famous (and arguably the most valuable) painting in the world is that it was stolen in 1911. (Even Pablo Picasso was questioned as a possible suspect). For two years, it was a media sensation--precisely when newspapers were coming into their own. For two years it was front page news. As the world media-ized itself, we needed an icon to stand for "famous painting" and the Mona Lisa was it.

Media cycles have gotten shorter and shorter since then, and ironically, it was Andy himself who predicted that one day we'd all be famous for fifteen minutes. The thing is, being famous for fifteen minutes isn't sufficient to make your painting worth $80 million.

Andy never had his own tv show, wouldn't have had the most viral video on YouTube and wasn't focused on the fast pump of fame. It turns out that get big fast (and then fade) doesn't build a reputation that pays.

Media volatility makes more people and more ideas famous for ever shorter periods of time. What the fine art market shows us, though, is that real value isn't created by this volatile fame. Consistently showing up on the radar of the right audience is more highly prized than reaching the masses, once then done. This works for every career, even if you've never touched a brush.

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