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

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We Are All Weird

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »

Just the good parts

"I want to be an actress, but I don't want to go on auditions."

"I want to play varsity sports, but I need to be sure I'm going to make the team."

"It's important to sell this great new service, but I'm not willing to deal with rejection."

You don't get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn't have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.

The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you've chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you're doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.

The very thing you're seeking only exists because of the whole. We can't deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.

Urgent, please read asap

That's what gets done, of course. The urgent.

Not the article you haven't gotten around to writing, the trip to the gym that will pay off in the long run, the planning for your upcoming birthday party, dinner with your parents (who would love to see you), ten minutes to sit quietly, saying thank you to a friend for no real reason... no, we do the urgent first.

The problem, of course, is that the queue of urgent never ends, it merely changes its volume as it gets longer. 

Yes, we've heard it said that it's the important, not the urgent, that deserves attention. But it understates just how much we've been manipulated by those that would make their important into our urgent.

"But what do people really think?"

You know, behind your back...

What do they think of your product or your sales pitch or your speech? What do they think of your new sweater or your new friend?

Hint: You won't find out by searching for yourself on Twitter or Facebook. You won't find out by eavesdropping in the lounge, either. Or by reading the reviews.

Sure, you'll hear what people say when they have an audience, you'll hear condensed, pointed, witty takedowns, but no, you won't hear what they really think. All you'll do is bring yourself down and strengthen the resistance.

No, the only way to know what people think is to watch what they do, not what they say. Do they come back for more? Do you cause them to change their behavior? Can you make them smile?

Howard Cosell was loud, but he was more entertaining than right. The same is true for the armchair critics (amateur and professional) that have a megaphone they're using to criticize you. 

Create a vacuum, don't fill it

On the path from awareness to a sale, the marketer has to create a vacuum.

The goal of that short film or that sales letter or that invitation to a seminar shouldn't be to answer every question and completely describe what's on offer. No, effective marketing amplifies awareness of a problem or an opportunity, a problem the product or service solves or an opportunity it creates.

I know it's tempting to sell with bullet points and an overwhelming amount of data. It gets you off the hook and requires little in the way of creativity or guts. Storytelling requires both.

Toward zero unemployment

A dozen generations ago, there was no unemployment, largely because there were no real jobs to speak of. Before the industrial revolution, the thought that you’d leave your home and go to an office or a factory was, of course, bizarre.

What happens now that the industrial age is ending? As the final days of the industrial age roll around, we are seeing the core assets of the economy replaced by something new. Actually, it’s something old, something handmade, but this time, on a huge scale.

The industrial age was about scarcity. Everything that built our culture, improved our productivity, and defined our lives involved the chasing of scarce items.

On the other hand, the connection economy, our economy, the economy of the foreseeable future, embraces abundance. No, we don’t have an endless supply of the resources we used to trade and covet. No, we certainly don’t have a surplus of time, either. But we do have an abundance of choice, an abundance of connection, and an abundance of access to knowledge.

We know more people, have access to more resources, and can leverage our skills more quickly and at a higher level than ever before.

This abundance leads to two races. The race to the bottom is the Internet-fueled challenge to lower prices, find cheaper labor, and deliver more for less.

The other race is the race to the top: the opportunity to be the one they can’t live without, to be the linchpin we would miss if he didn’t show up. The race to the top focuses on delivering more for more. It embraces the weird passions of those with the resources to make choices, and it rewards originality, remarkability, and art.

The connection economy continues to gain traction because connections scale, information begets more information, and influence accrues to those who create this abundance. As connections scale, these connections paradoxically make it easier for others to connect as well, because anyone with talent or passion can leverage the networks created by connection to increase her impact. The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect, and then demands that we pick ourselves.

Just as the phone network becomes more valuable when more phones are connected (scarcity is the enemy of value in a network), the connection economy becomes more valuable as we scale it.

Friends bring us more friends. A reputation brings us a chance to build a better reputation. Access to information encourages us to seek ever more information. The connections in our life multiply and increase in value. Our stuff, on the other hand,  becomes less valuable over time.

… [this riff is inspired by my new book...]

Successful organizations have realized that they are no longer in the business of coining slogans, running catchy ads, and optimizing their supply chains to cut costs.

And freelancers and soloists have discovered that doing a good job for a fair price is no longer sufficient to guarantee success. Good work is easier to find than ever before.

What matters now:

  • Trust
  • Permission
  • Remarkability
  • Leadership
  • Stories that spread
  • Humanity: connection, compassion, and humility

All six of these are the result of successful work by humans who refuse to follow industrial-age  rules. These assets aren’t generated by external strategies and MBAs and positioning memos. These are the results of internal struggle, of brave decisions without a map and the willingness to allow others to live with dignity.

They are about standing out, not fitting in, about inventing, not duplicating.

TRUST AND PERMISSION: In a marketplace that’s open to just about anyone, the only people we hear are the people we choose to hear. Media is cheap, sure, but attention is filtered, and it’s virtually impossible to be heard unless the consumer gives us the ability to be heard. The more valuable someone’s attention is, the harder it is to earn.

And who gets heard?

Why would someone listen to the prankster or the shyster or the huckster? No, we choose to listen to those we trust. We do business with and donate to those who have earned our attention. We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses that delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way.

And all of those behaviors are the acts of people, not machines. We embrace the humanity in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become less human and more cold. Who will you miss? That is who you are listening to .

REMARKABILITY: The same bias toward humanity and connection exists in the way we choose which ideas we’ll share with our friends and colleagues. No one talks about the boring, the predictable, or the safe. We don’t risk interactions in order to spread the word about something obvious or trite.

The remarkable is almost always new and untested, fresh and risky.

LEADERSHIP: Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership. Management is about generating yesterday’s results, but a little faster or a little more cheaply. We know how to manage the world—we relentlessly seek to cut costs and to limit variation, while we exalt obedience.

Leadership, though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No manual, no rule book, no überleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. If you ask someone for the rule  book on how to lead, you’re secretly wishing to be a manager.

Leaders are vulnerable, not controlling, and they are racing to the top, taking us to a new place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.

STORIES THAT SPREAD: The next asset that makes the new economy work is the story that spreads. Before the revolution, in a world of limited choice, shelf space mattered a great deal. You could buy your way onto the store shelf, or you could be the only one on the ballot, or you could use a connection to get your résumé in front of the hiring guy. In a world of abundant choice, though, none of these tactics is effective. The chooser has too many alternatives, there’s too much clutter, and the scarce resources are attention and trust, not shelf space. This situation is tough for many, because attention and trust must be earned, not acquired.

More difficult still is the magic of the story that resonates. After trust is earned and your work is seen, only a fraction of it is magical enough to be worth spreading. Again, this magic is the work of the human artist, not the corporate machine. We’re no longer interested in average stuff for average people.

HUMANITY: We don’t worship industrial the way we used to. We seek out human originality and caring instead. When price and availability are no longer sufficient advantages (because everything is available and the price is no longer news), then what we are drawn to is the vulnerability and transparency that bring us together, that turn the “other” into one of us.

For a long time to come the masses will still clamor for cheap and obvious and reliable. But the people you seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the interesting frontier, these people want your humanity, not your discounts.

All of these assets, rolled into one, provide the foundation for the change maker of the future. And that individual (or the team that person leads) has no choice but to build these assets with novelty, with a fresh approach to an old problem, with a human touch that is worth talking about.

I can’t wait until we return to zero percent unemployment, to a time when people with something to contribute (everyone)  pick themselves instead of waiting for a bureaucrat’s permission to do important work.

Studying entrepreneurship without doing it like studying the appreciation of music without listening to it.

The cost of setting up a lemonade stand (or whatever metaphorical equivalent you dream up) is almost 100% internal. Until you confront the fear and discomfort of being in the world and saying, "here, I made this," it's impossible to understand anything at all about what it means to be a entrepreneur. Or an artist. 

Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy)

Most people, most of the time, aren't creative, generous or willing to stand up and contribute worthwhile work to the community. At least not the contributions you're hoping for.

The myth of wikipedia is that, when given the chance, hordes of people stepped up and built it. In fact, 5,000 people contribute most of the value on the site.

The myth of ebooks is that now that anyone can publish, enormous numbers of people will use this new platform to create countless numbers of new classics. In fact, most self-published ebooks just aren't very good.

And the same is true for just about everything that's open. A few people do an enormous amount (non-profit volunteers, community organizations, online sites), a few people are vandals or merely taking what they can take, and the masses participate, but aren't at the heart of the project.

To dismiss the crowd is a huge mistake, though.

Here's the fascinating part, call it the golden shoulder: We have no idea in advance who the great contributors are going to be. We know that there's a huge cohort of people struggling outside the boundaries of the curated, selected few, but we don't know who they are.

That means that the old systems, the ones where just a few people were anointed to be the chosen authors, chosen contributors, chosen musicians--that system left a lot of people out in the cold. The new open systems embrace waste. They understand that most people won't contribute and most contributions won't be any good. But that's fine, because this openness means that the previously unfound star now gets found.

The curated business, then, will ultimately fail because it keeps missing this shoulder, this untapped group of talented, eager, hard-working people shut out by their deliberately closed ecosystem. Over time, the open systems use their embrace of waste to winnow out the masses and end up with a new elite, a self-selected group who demonstrate their talent and hard work and genius over time, not in an audition.

Go ahead and minimize these open systems at your own peril. Point to their negative outliers, inconsistency and errors, sure, but you can only do that if you willfully ignore the real power: some people, some of the time, are going to do amazing and generous work... If we'll just give them access to tools and get out of their way.


(The curated block isn't reality, it's merely what the curator claims--that his magical powers will find all of the great talent, without error or waste. Of course, a quick look at Hollywood or even an expensive mutual fund shows that this is a fable. The 'open' block includes the low-quality stuff as well, but since that work is created without a lot of expense, pruning it is no tragedy. The secret is embracing the talented and dedicated people who choose themselves.)

Fomo, joy, jealousy and the lizard

Somewhere, right this very moment, someone is having more fun than you.

Making more money than you.

Doing something more important, with better friends, and a happier ending, than you. Or possibly just better at Words with Friends than you are.

You're missing out.

And somewhere, right now, something in your universe isn't right. There's something happening that will affect you, annoy you, make things not "all right."

A crisis is looming.

Of course joy is hard to find, even with all the leverage, assets and privileges we've got. We've set ourselves up to avoid it at every turn. Electronic media profits from connecting us, sure, but mostly it profits from amplifying emotions we don't want in the long run.

FOMO is the fear of missing out. It always existed of course, ever since we were in high school. As freshmen, we knew that some cool kid was at some party that we could have gone to, but didn't.

We've taken this far beyond a story told the next day over lunch, though. The supercomputer in our pocket, amplified by your choice of social media, brings FOMO right to you, wherever you are, with a mere vibration.

At the same time...

The lizard brain is on high alert to make sure that everything is okay. The lizard brain can't rest until it knows that everyone likes us, that no one is offended, that all graphs are ticking up and to the right and the future is assured. But of course, the future (and the present) isn't perfect. It can't be.

The combination of the two, the reverse schadenfreude of FOMO (the pain we may feel from others having good fortune) and the insatiable yet unreachable need for everything to be fine, conspire to make us distracted, unhappy and most of all, somewhere else.

I'm not talking about the dissatisfaction of the artist who wants to challenge herself and to reach new heights. That's an internal discussion, not one that's measured against the instant updates of the world's population.

The only place joy can be found is right here and right now. Everyone who is selling you dissatisfaction is working for their own selfish ends.

(More clicks, saved for the bottom so you could read the above without worrying about what you were missing on other sites: FOMO, XCKD, schadenfreude and the lizard.)


One way that marketers (of any stripe) make an impact is by displaying confidence. Consumers figure that if a marketer is confident in their offering, they ought to be confident in the marketer as return. We often assume that confidence means that something big is on offer.

The problem with swagger is that if you're the swaggering marketer, you might run into a competitor with even more swagger than you. When that happens, it's time to show your cards, the justification for your confidence. And if you don't deliver, you've done nothing but disappoint the person who believed in you.

Substance without swagger slows you down. But swagger without substance can be fatal. Right now, we're seeing more swagger than ever—but it's rarely accompanied by an increase in substance...

The rule is simple: it's essential to act the part. And it's even more important for it to be real.

Sometimes, more is not what you want

"Fitting in more than anyone else" doesn't work, even in high school. Seeking to be the most average, the most non-descript and the most inoffensive doesn't lead to growth.

"More informed" wears out too. If you get more news, faster, via Twitter, say, you're not going to have a significant advantage over someone who has just enough news. Understanding what every single person is saying about everything, all the time, leaves you little opportunity to actually make something.

Having more on your to-do list probably isn't the best idea either.

Building your backlist (and living with it forever)

Authors and musicians have one, certainly. This is the book you wrote seven years ago or the album from early in your career. The book keeps selling, spreading the ideas and making a difference. The album gets played on the radio, earning you new fans.

"Backlist" is what publishers call the stuff that got published a while ago, but that's still out there, selling.

The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits and Starsky and Hutch all live on the backlist.

Without a backlist, all book publishers would go out of business in no time. The backlist pays dividends long after the work is over.

Advertisers didn’t used to have a backlist. You paid for that magazine or newspaper or TV ad, and within just one cycle, it was gone, forever.

Today, of course, the work you put on the internet has a good chance of staying there for a very long time. The internet doesn’t easily forget.

That TED talk, then is going to be around for your grandchildren to see. The review of your new restaurant, or the generous connection you made on a social network--they’re going to last.

I almost hired someone a few years ago--until I googled her and discovered that the first two matches were pictures of her drinking beer from a funnel, and her listed hobby was, "binge drinking." Backlist!

Two things are going to change as you develop a backlist:

--You’re going to become a lot more aware of the posterity of the work you do. It’s all on tape, all left behind. Just as you’re less likely to litter in your own backyard, the person aware of his backlist becomes more careful and civic minded.

--You’re going to want people to pay attention to your backlist... in my case, the free videos, various ebooks and printed things I've done over the years. In your case, maybe it's your blog, or the projects you've built or the reputation you've earned.

Your history of work is as important as the work you'll do tomorrow.

Us vs. us

Who would cheat at the church social?

"Hey, I know we were supposed to bring handmade food, but I bought some cheap macaroni salad and dumped it into a bowl and faked it..." "Yeah, well I got in line twice and got more food than anyone else, in fact, one old guy (my cousin!) didn't even get any..." "That's nothing! I didn't bother to bring anything..."

No one brags about subverting a community they care about, because your peers will ostracize you (and why would you hurt a group that you are part of?). No, we feed the community first, then we take our share.

On the other hand, we often return a rental car unwashed, or turn a blind eye to someone sneaking into the movies, or fail to report a mistake in our favor by the credit card company. That's because those institutions are apart from us, not a part of us. They transact with us, charge us interest, take what they can get. This is not a community to be fed, it's merely a way to buy what we need, and the system is impersonal, industrial, apparently made to be gamed.

With online tribes and communities, though, instead of adopting the principle of not peeing in your own pool, it's easy to slip into the same mindset of us vs. them. When you sock puppet wikipedia, or vandalize the comments on a blog, who is being hurt?

One way to look at the web is that it's billions of people, anonymous, a shooting gallery of others. The other way is to visualize the smaller circles, the tribes of interdependent human beings helping and being helped.

When we steal or disrupt or game the system of a community we care about, we hurt everyone we say we're connected to, and thus hurt ourselves.

Online communities are quick to form, but they're just as quick to fade, to become less open and to become less trusting because sometimes we have a cultural orientation toward taking, not giving. We forget to feed the network first, to take care of those we care about.

Here's a possible standard: is it open, fair and good for others? If it's not, the community asks that you take your selfish antics somewhere else.

Call me naive, but I think it's possible (and likely) that the digital tribes we're forming are going to actually change things for the better. But not until we embrace the fact that we are us.

Pitch your tent where it's dry

Silly question: Does it snow in Utah because that's where they built the ski areas?

Of course not. It's obvious that you find the snow and then you build the ski runs.

Years ago, a friend was frustrated by the fact that the toy industry wouldn't license her fabulous ideas for new products. She rarely got meetings, was often disrespected and couldn't make anything happen. In a situation like that, it's easy to question the ideas themselves, and to doubt the quality of the work. When I pointed out to her that the toy business actually has a long and dismal history of acquiring and promoting new ideas, she switched--and the book industry (which publishes thousands of new projects every month) opened the door and the market made her a (huge, and deserved) success.

Whether you're a non-profit fundraiser or someone selling b2b, understanding the profile of what's succeeded before you is a little like understanding where it snows. Sure, it's possible to invent an entirely new market dynamic, to persuade the previously unpersuadable. If that's your mission, go for it. But if your goal is to make your project work, to engage in a way that makes a difference right now, you're better off planting seeds in fertile soil.

Insisting that you're "right" isn't nearly as effective as building your organization in a place that's conducive to what you're trying to accomplish. Right is meaningless if it doesn't lead to a connection, and complaining about a wet sleeping bag gets you no sympathy.

Communication is a path, not an event

The other day, I heard the CEO of a large corporation drone on for twenty minutes. He was pitching a large group of strangers, reading them a long, prepared speech that was largely irrelevant to their needs. They weren't there to hear him and in fact, weren't even able to hear him over the buzz in their heads... this was classic interruption, no permission granted.

If you'd interviewed the 150 people in the room an hour later, no one could have told you a single thing about what he had said.

If your tactic is to have a one-shot, the equivalent of a pickup line in a singles' bar, it's pretty hopeless. You can't sell anything complex or risky in this way.

On the other hand, what if he had taken three minutes (just three) to say, "Let's talk." Give out his personal contact info or an easy way (and a good reason!) to engage with his staff. And then give up the podium and let the event go forward.

Don't sell us anything but the burning desire to follow up. The point of his talk wasn't to get a new customer (impossible), nor was it to get through the talk and get it over with (silly and selfish). No, the point of the talk should have been to open the door to have a better, individual conversation soon.

"Let's talk," uses today's interaction to make it more likely you have one tomorrow. And a dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.

Yes, it's surprisingly difficult in today's oversaturated communications world to succeed even with an offer of "let's talk," but it's demonstrably better than the alternative.

Drip, drip, drip.

On feeling small

"To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way." E. M. Forster

The small feeling produced by art comes from dancing with our muse and allowing our inspiration to take us somewhere the resistance would rather avoid. We feel small in the face of magic and connection. Feeling small gives us the guts to create something bigger, bigger than ourselves, the art of human connection and the gift of generosity.

On the other hand, the critic who seeks to beef himself up at our expense diminishes no one but himself.

Important, not very good, could get a lot better

A recipe for personal and brand triage...

We invest our time in hopes of a return, prioritizing the important, but sometimes, we waste it on the urgent instead.

What's worth focusing on improving? How about a combination of these three:

  • The important
  • That you currently don't do very well
  • That you're capable of doing a lot better if you invested effort and time

Eliminate the things that don't matter, that you're never going to get better at or that you're already good at. What's left are the places where you have the opportunity to change your position in the market.

Habit #7

The habit of being easily persuaded by mass media

The habit of doing it right instead of doing it over

The habit of responding to nastiness with nastiness

The habit of failing to trust people who care

The habit of wasting time in meetings

The habit of being on time

The habit of avoiding things that cause fear

The habit of reading ahead

The habit of doing more than promised

The habit of expanding personal knowledge and experience

The habit of skepticism

The habit of close talking

The habit of generosity...

There's a million habits out there, some good, some bad, all learned. Every habit (your market, your family, your organization has) was formed because people got rewarded for it, at least in the short run.

The thing is, every habit is changeable with effort.

"You've got ping, but they've got no pong"

It's almost impossible to have fun playing ping pong with someone who doesn't care, won't try or isn't any good.

The same thing is true of just about anything that matters in the connection economy. A consultation with a surgeon, creating a new conference or working in partnership with an ad agency... If you're going to create something worth building, it's going to be because there's an infinite game going on, not merely blind obedience and tired conformity.

You can take a great deal of responsibility for creating this mutual enthusiasm, and you can put the effort into creating an environment and a story where it's likely to happen.

Connection requires energy and insight and enthusiasm from both sides, and if your partner isn't responding, look hard at why. Of course, if you can't bring your half, stay home.

Choose your customers first

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Each cohort of customers has a particular worldview, a set of problems, a small possible set of solutions available. Each cohort has a price they're willing to pay, a story they're willing to hear, a period of time they're willing to invest.

And yet...

And yet too often, we pick the product or service first, deciding that it's perfect and then rushing to market, sure that the audience will sort itself out. Too often, though, we end up with nothing.


The real estate broker ought to pick which sort of buyer before she goes out to buy business cards, rent an office or get listings. 

The bowling alley investor ought to pick whether he's hoping for serious league players or girls-night-out partiers before he buys a building or uniforms.

The yoga instructor, the corporate coach, the app developer--in every case, first figure out who you'd like to do business with, then go make something just for them. The more specific the better...

The moment of highest leverage

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, don’t waste it.

You’ve already won (or you’ve already lost). Right now, you can choose to do what’s in your heart, you can bring your real work to the world, instead of a lesser version, a version you think the market wants. After all, what do you have to lose?

When it feels like it’s hopeless or when it appears to be a lock, why not?

So you bring your true self to the work, your unadulterated effort, without negative self-talk and the sanding off of the interesting edges. Instead of compromise, you bring us vision.

Of course, when we see that reality, the kamiwaza of what you’re able to do when you’re not second guessing or giving up, the odds of transformation go way up. In fact, you haven't already lost, because your magical, vulnerable work changes everything.

You won’t get this chance again soon (unless you choose to). So go.

Never enough

There's never enough time to be as patient as we need to be. Not enough slack to focus on the long-term, too much urgency in the now to take the time and to plan ahead. That urgent sign post just ahead demands all of our intention (and attention), and we decide to invest in, "down the road," down the road.

It's not only more urgent, but it's easier to run to the urgent meeting than it is to sit down with a colleague and figure out the truth of what matters and the why of what's before us.

And there's never enough money to easily make the investments that matter. Not enough surplus in the budget to take care of those that need our help, too much on our plate to be generous right now. The short term bills make it easy to ignore the long-term opportunities.

Of course, the organizations that get around the universal and insurmountable problems of not enough time and not enough money are able to create innovations, find resources to be generous and prepare for a tomorrow that's better than today. It's not easy, not at all, but probably (okay, certainly) worth it.

We're going to spend our entire future living in tomorrow—investing now, when it's difficult, is the single best moment.

Connected, portable or aware

There's a little bit of a rush to bring content into app form. It's so easy to make an ebook and cram it with videos, or to turn your how-to guide into something that looks slick on an iPad. I think of these electronic projects as the new coffee table books. Beautiful, but unfortunately, not widely read.

The problem is this: when you turn this work into an app or augmented ebook, you're not moving to a less crowded market, not moving to a place where you will earn more attention from strangers. In fact, unless your app is connected, portable and/or aware, the only people who are likely to use it are people who were already your fans. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your goal.)

Connected: the app works better when other people are also using it. Like the fax machine (what did the first owner of a fax do with it?), these apps have a hurdle at first, but get more and more appealing as the word spreads. Instagram and Twitter are connected.

Portable: sure, PDFs and paper books are portable, but there are certain forms of content where having the content in your pocket is really useful. I'd put frequently updated, timely content (like the weather) or content I'll need to refer to again and again on this list.

Aware: Our mobile devices know where we are, and in some cases, know what we've just done. Telematics opens the door to a huge number of breakthroughs, only a few of which we've seen exploited to date.

Slick is not the goal. I know that apps are shiny and new and sexy, but if your goal is impact, you'll need at least one of these three elements--or you're better off in a different format. More than a decade later, email and free-to-share digital text and video remain killer apps if you're trying to spread the word.

What's now?

When I was starting out in the software business in 1983 (gasp), our home computer of choice was the Commodore 64. I vividly remember one day in the playtesting lab when the overworked floppy disk drive burst into flames. The surprising thing was that none of us were surprised. The entire infrastructure of the time just barely worked.

Twelve years later, on a sales call at Levi's ad agency in San Francisco, in the middle of a presentation, my PC laptop started spewing smoke. I didn't miss a beat. I shrugged, closed the cover and dropped it into a trash can.

Today, nothing is starting on fire. Today, a well-designed app looks fabulous, polished and stable, even though it was built by one person, in a garage. Today, email gets through. Today, we have a platform that (almost always) does what it says it will. We're all on the same OS (the internet). We can expect that any person we'd like to do business with, anywhere in the world, has a device we can use to reliably communicate with them...

If you've been waiting for the next big thing before you dive in, it's here.

No longer do we need to wonder, "what's next?" No, I think it's better to take a long look at, "what's now?"

Macro trends don't matter so much

How many people will be using the internet in 2016?

Are women more likely than men to choose the brand of potato chip the family buys?

What percentage of the world's population will speak Spanish in a decade?

Everyone's talking about mobile, it's the next big thing...

If you're General Electric or Yahoo or a presidential candidate, long term trends might matter. If you need not just a plurality but a majority to make your numbers, then by all means, pay attention to these tectonic shifts.

But most organizations need a dozen or a hundred or a thousand new customers, not thirty million. Most non-profits don't need every new foundation or big donor, they just need a few.

When you pay attention to the big trends, you're playing a numbers game and treating the market as an amorphous mass of interchangeable parts. But that's not what your market is. The trend, for example, is for people to buy and read virtually no books each year. As an author, that doesn't matter one bit to you, of course. What matters are the 100,000 people who might make your book one of the most popular of the year (that's only one out of every 3,000 people in the country).

Micro trends matter more than macro ones, but most of all, people matter. Individual human beings with names and wants and interests.


Marketers want commitment. They want the big finish, the closed sale, the new customer. Buy Now!

The goal then is to create tension, to escalate need, to amplify conflict until action is taken. Escalation causes us to commit to our original need, by reinforcing it.

It goes beyond the retail store, of course... it's deep within our culture. Noir novels show the hero goading the guy in the bar until a small dispute escalates into a beat down. Movies create drama (and entertainment) by escalating the small-time heist into the next world war. And commercials, retailers and demagogues take every opportunity to find the smallest thread of disclocation and amplify it into real commitment to action.

But what happens when we do the opposite? If we think about connection instead of power, if we think about abundance instead of scarcity, we can turn this on its head.

What if we de-escalate conflict?

What if we don't try to turn shopping desire into a fever pitch? What if later is just as good, or better, than now?

What if we back off occasionally instead of pressing forward?

What if playing the game starts to become at least as important as winning it?

De-escalation creates connection, not commitment to previously made choices. It trades the short-term battle for the long-term relationship.

Taking our time and letting air in (and heat to escape) might be precisely the best way to build the relationships we need for the long run. It leads to better decisions, less shrapnel and work that truly matters, without regret.

The worst feedback is indifference

We armor ourselves against the cutting remark, the ad hominem attack, the person who just doesn't like our stuff.

But all of this is the feedback we get when we touch a nerve and are doing work that matters enough to care about.

No, the worst sort of feedback is no feedback at all. That means we've created nothing but banality.

Understanding local media

Local media was an essential business for a century, largely for three reasons:

1. Broadcast signals and newspaper trucks could only travel so far, so 'local' was the natural category.

2. Commerce (and thus advertising) was local.

3. Interests tended to align locally as well.

Today, of course, the signal travels around the world, so newspapers, radio stations and TV have no incentive to limit themselves.

Commerce too.

And finally, we're discovering that when given the chance, people are a lot more interested in what they're interested in, as opposed to what their physical neighbors are doing.

Going forward, then, the real kings of media will be local in a totally different sense. They will be the narrators and arbiters of interest for groups that actually have aligned interests. The daily newspaper for families wrestling with juvenile diabetes, or bi-weekly email op ed for the pop music industry. If one of those categories happens to be, "lives in zip code 10706," that's just fine, but it's an exception, not the default.

Many of these categories are in flux, available to an adroit, remarkable, generous media mini-mogul who wants to lead.

"I'm making money, why do more?"

Because more than you need to makes it personal.

Because work that belongs to you, by choice, is the first step to making art.

Because the choice to do more brings passion to your life and it makes you more alive.

Because if you don't, someone else will, and in an ever more competitive world, doing less means losing.

Because you care.

Because we're watching.

Because you can.


Media voice vs. media company

Just about everyone is in the media now. If you've published something online, you know what it is to create and spread ideas.

But that doesn't mean you have to become a media company.

Companies seek to maximize. Maximize attention and clicks and profit. Maximize impact and return on investment.

The New York Times is a media company. They make media, sure, but mostly, they're in the business of making a profit. As a result, most of the media they make isn't made because it's important, or because it personally matters to them. No, media companies make media because making media makes money.

Amateur media tends to be a lot more personal, unpredictable and interesting.

The irony, of course, is that in a billion-channel universe, those three things make it far more likely that you will earn attention, connection and trust, which of course makes it more likely you'll earn a living.

All boats leak

There's always a defect, always a slow drip, somewhere. Every plan, every organization, every venture has a glitch.

The question isn't, "is this perfect?" The question is, "will this get me there?"

Sometimes we make the mistake of ignoring the big leaks, the ones that threaten our journey.

More often, though, we're so busy fixing tiny leaks that we get distracted from the real goal, which is to go somewhere.

[Al points us to this great Jobs joke].

You already have permission

Just saying.

You have permission to create, to speak up, and stand up.

You have permission to be generous, to fail, and to be vulnerable.

You have permission to own your words, to matter and to help.

No need to wait.

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