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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

« December 2013 | Main | February 2014 »

Free Bird!

One of the things a creator can do as a service to the audience is let them know when it's safe to whoop, holler or applaud.

Often, we hesitate to spread the word and recommend something because it doesn't feel safe to do so. It's better to say nothing than it is to feel stupid.

Joining in on the standing ovation at the end of a Broadway play isn't some sort of callow sellout. It's actually a tradition that offers solace for the timid or uninitiated. Same as flicking your lighter and shouting for the band to play Free Bird... no one ever felt stupid for cheering for a hit when everyone else was doing it as well.

The four horsemen of mediocrity

Deniability--"They decided, created, commanded or blocked. Not my fault."

Helplessness--"My boss won't let me."

Contempt--"They don't pay me enough to put up with the likes of these customers."

Fear--"It's good enough, it's not worth the risk, people will talk, this might not work..."

The industrial age brought compliance and compliance brought fear and fear brought us mediocrity.

The good news about fear is that once you see it, feel it and dance with it, you have a huge opportunity, the chance to make it better.

Cheering you on when you lose

Who is waiting at the finish line, and who will be cheering for you at the final banquet, even when you don't win? Especially when you don't win...

I'm not talking about the sometime fan who rewards the winner, or the logo-wearing baseball fan who shows up when the team is in contention... I'm wondering about the person that is in it for your effort and your passion and your tears.

Almost nothing is more important to the artist who dares to leap. [HT to Mara]

Who would be surprised?

When was the last time you surprised or delighted a customer, colleague or boss?

If you did, would it help?

Apple developed a tradition of secrecy largely because Steve saw the extraordinary value in surprising the audience. It creates a rare wave of excitement--remarkable is a byproduct of surprise. Today, they continue to work at the secrecy, as if that's the only element necessary to create surprise.

But of course, it's not.

Surprise comes from defying expectations. Sometimes, we have the negative surprises that come from missing those expectations, but in fact, those negative surprises are part of the process of exceeding them... if you're not prepared to live with a disappointment, you can't be in the business of seeking delight.

Effort matters, sure, but mostly surprise comes from caring enough about your audience that you're willing to fail in your effort to redefine what they expect from you. The vulnerability and intimacy that come from that leap are at the heart of what people talk about.

...different people differently

Don't teach your students as if they are a monolithic population of learners. They learn differently, they have different goals, different skills, different backgrounds.

Don't sell to your customers as if they are a fungible commodity, a walking ATM waiting for you to punch. Six of one are not like half a dozen of the other. They tell themselves different stories, have different needs and demand something different from you.

Different voters, different donors, different employees--we have the choice to treat them as individuals. Not only do they need different things, but they offer differing amounts of value to you and to your project. The moment your policy interferes with their uniqueness, the policy has cost you something.

We used to have no choice. There was only one set of data for the student body, one way to put things on the shelf of the local market, one opportunity to talk to the entire audience...

One of the biggest unfilled promises of the digital age is the opportunity to go beyond demographics and census data. Personalization wasn't supposed to be a cleverly veiled way to chase prospects around the web, showing them the same spammy ad for the same lame stuff as everyone else sees. No, it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need.

It's a no-brainer to treat the quarterback of the football team differently from the head of the chess club. We treat our bank's biggest investor with more care than someone who merely wants to trade in a bag of pennies. Instead of reserving this special treatment for a few outliers, though, we ought to consider what happens if we offer it to all of those we value.

The long tail of everything means that there's something for everyone--a blog to read, a charity to donate to, a skill to learn. When you send everyone the same email, demand everyone learn from the same lesson plan or try to sell everyone the same service, you've missed it.

A very long time ago, shoe salespeople realized that shoes that don't fit are difficult to sell, regardless of what you've got in stock. Today, the people you serve are coming to realize that like their shoe size, their needs are different, regardless of what your urgent agenda might be.

Conference call hygiene

On behalf of the many who have suffered through pointless and painful conference calls, some general principles:

  1. When in doubt, don't have one.
  2. Everyone now knows precisely what time it is. Show up ten seconds early; one minute late is too late.
  3. If you can't live with rule 1, can we live with this one? 10 minutes is the maximum length of a conference call. In, out, over.
  4. If the meeting is only ten minutes long, good news, you have time to pull over, time to let the dog out, and time to give us your undivided attention.
  5. If you're not planning on speaking, no need to attend. You can listen to the recording later if you need to, or we can send you 8 bullet points and save us all time.
  6. While we're on the topic, audio is a truly powerful means of communication, and if you want to record your message and send it to all of us, I'm totally in favor of this. But don't confuse the one-way broadcast power of audio with a pretend meeting where you're talking and we're supposed to quietly listen in real time. That's not a meeting and all the trappings of a conference call detract from the thing you were trying to do.
  7. Before you waste a thousand dollars of company time on another conference call, listen to Al's book for $4. Almost all conference calls that involve more than five people are either a lazy choice or a show of power, and should be eliminated. If you want to talk, for sure, please pick up the phone and call me. 

If we work in the plant, we make widgets. And we expect that the making of widgets will be consistent, rational and done with forethought and a lack of waste. Many of us now work in a system that makes decisions, has meetings and markets ideas. The same kind of clarity and craftsmanship ought to exist here too.

This video is funny, because it's true.

Measuring nothing (with great accuracy)

The weight of a television set has nothing at all to do with the clarity of its picture. Even if you measure to a tenth of a gram, this precise data is useless.

Some people measure stereo equipment using fancy charts and graphs, even though the charts and graphs say little or nothing about how it actually sounds.

A person's Klout score or the number of Twitter followers she has probably doesn't have a lot to do with how much influence she actually has, even if you measure it quite carefully.

You can't tell if a book is any good by the number of words it contains, even though it's quite easy and direct to measure this.

We keep coming up with new things to measure (like processor speed, heat output, column inches) but it's pretty rare that those measurements are actually a proxy for the impact or quality we care about. It takes a lot of guts to stop measuring things that are measurable, and even more guts to create things that don't measure well by conventional means.

On doing the work

I'll be blunt: There's virtually no chance I will ever learn to play the bass, or even the harmonica.

It's not because there isn't a huge range of useful instruction available. There is. No, it's because even though I love glancing at this stuff, I'm just not persistent and driven enough to practice, to dig in, to get through the dip and yes, to do the work.

We used to live in an industrial age, a Smithian-Marxist world where the worker sought to do as little as possible and the boss tried to get the worker to do as much as possible. In our self-serve economy, though, that's just not true. All sorts of roads, but you have to supply your own locomotion.

Almost eight thousand people have taken my Skillshare course so far, and the ones that got the most out of it all had two things in common: They did the project worksheets and they actively contributed to the online discussions. Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.

"I'll just watch and take notes," is inconsistent with, "I'm here to learn."

My philosophy is that it doesn't pay to go to a conference unless you're prepared to be vulnerable and meet people, and it doesn't pay to go to a Q&A session unless you're willing to sit in the front row. Reading blogs is great, writing one is even better.

There are more chances than ever to attend, but all of them require participation if you expect them to work.

The magic of this new economy is that instead of your work benefitting a fat cat boss with a mansion and a yacht, your work and your learning benefits you and the people you care about.

PS a great place to start is with this modern classic from Steve Pressfield.

Copyediting, line editing and the other kind

The copyeditor will fix a misstated fact, spot a typo and get your prose clean.

The line editor will rearrange a paragraph and help you organize a thought more clearly.

And the editor who is your partner will tell you that the chapters are in the wrong order, that you must delete a third of what you wrote, or perhaps consider writing for TV instead. This kind of editor is the one who will tell you your time is better spent doing something else entirely.

It's easier (but not easy) to find a good copyeditor than it is to find someone generous and brave enough to help you figure out your strategy, whether you're working on a book, a career or the structure of your next project.

The copyeditor can tell you that you mangled a few facts early in your presentation. The line editor will help you untangle a complicated story near the middle. And your strategic editor will help you see that a one-on-one meeting would have been better than a presentation in the first place.

Sure, fix my typos, thanks a lot, but what's truly precious is someone able to fix your plan.

Worth noting that most critics and journalists are comfortable being metaphorical copy editors, but it's rare you find someone who speaks up with sensible thoughts about your strategy.

Treasure the folks willing and able to develop a point of view about the big picture.

The answer to, "is that the best you can do..."

is always no.

A better question is, "what resource would enable you to do even better?"

When the cost of the resource (time, people, money, freedom, boundary easing) is worth the benefit, then sure, go for it. If you can't make it better, hire someone who can.

Who has a seat at the table?

When designing a new product or program, it's pretty clear that a successful organization will invite:

The lawyer, so you don't break any laws.

The CFO, so that you'll understand how much this thing will cost and how well it will pay off.

The CTO/Tech folks, so you'll spec something that can actually be built and will work.

And probably designers, marketers and lobbyists--all the people you need to bring the thing into the world.

But where's the person in charge of magic?

In our quest to get it done, to survive the project, to avoid blame, to figure out a solution, it's magic that gets thrown under the bus every time.

Who is obsessed with creating delight, with building in remarkability, with pushing the envelope (every envelope--money, tech, policy) to get to the point where you've created something that people will be proud of, that will change things for the better, that will make a dent in the universe?

It won't happen on its own. It never does.

The index and the menu

Google killed the old-fashioned cookbook.

Why bother searching through a thick, dull cookbook of recipes when all you have to do is type in two or three ingredients and the word 'recipe' online? The index, the now infinite magical index of the web, helps us find whatever we want, better and faster.

On the other hand, a generous, modern cookbook doesn't ask, "what do you want to cook?"  Instead, it says, "how about this?" A menu, not an index. 

Years ago, I was at a power breakfast in New York, a fancy restaurant jammed with masters of the universe and those that hoped to have a few minutes with one of them. The waiter came over and said, "what do you want?" There was no menu. Just tell him and they'll make it.

Looking around, I realized that just about everyone was eating one of three popular items. With an index but no menu, the room resorted to safe and easy.

And this is the challenge every organization faces in the uber-indexed world we live in. It's not enough to sit with a prospect and ask him what he wants. Once we know what we want, search finds it for us. No, we have to offer a menu, we have to curate choices, we have to dream for people who don't have the guts or time to dream for themselves.

This is frightening, because when you offer a menu, often people will get hung up on their status quo and just say "no." You can't get rejected when all you offer is an index, but getting your menu rejected is one of the symptoms that you're doing the hard work of making an impact.

The humility of the artist

It seems arrogant to say, "perhaps this isn't for you."

When the critic pans your work, or the prospect hears your offer but doesn't buy, the artist responds, "that's okay, it's not for you." She doesn't wheedle or flip-flop or go into high pressure mode. She treats different people differently, understands that she is working to delight the weird, not please the masses, and walks away.

Isn't that arrogant?

No. It's arrogant to assume that you've made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can't possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.

Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don't get it unlocks our ability to do great work.

"Bring us your problems"

We're far more aware of our problems than our opportunities. Our problems nag at us, annoy us and paralyze us.

Every organization wrestles with its problems, and is eager to solve them.

When you generously invite people to bring you their problems, they might just do that.

Solving problems—actually solving them, not just claiming you do—solving perceived, urgent problems, is a surefire way to get the world to beat a path to your door. [HT to Adrian for the photo.]

Gradually and then suddenly

This is how companies die, how brands wither and, more cheefully in the other direction, how careers are made.

Gradually, because every day opportunities are missed, little bits of value are lost, customers become unentranced. We don't notice so much, because hey, there's a profit. Profit covers many sins. Of course, one day, once the foundation is rotted and the support is gone, so is the profit. Suddenly, apparently quite suddenly, it all falls apart.

It didn't happen suddenly, you just noticed it suddenly.

The flipside works the same way. Trust is earned, value is delivered, concepts are learned. Day by day we improve and build an asset, but none of it seems to be paying off. Until one day, quite suddenly, we become the ten-year overnight success.

This is the way it works, but we too often make the mistake of focusing on the 'suddenly' part. The media writes about suddenly, we notice suddenly, we talk about suddenly.

That doesn't mean that gradually isn't important. In fact, it's the only part you can actually do something about.

[HT to Hemingway  (and, as I just saw, my friend Steve) for the riff.]

Can I pay you to do me a favor?

Simple concept with big implications: In small groups, money corrupts.

In environments that are built on personal interaction and trust among intimates, transactions based on money don't increase efficacy, they degrade it.

At the other end of the scale, in transactions between strangers, cash scales. Cash enables us to interact with people we don't know and probably won't see again.

But if you want to build the intimate circle that lives on favors and gift exchange, don't bring cash. Bring generosity and vulnerability.

Our upside-down confusion about fairness

Our society tolerates gross unfairness every day. It tolerates misogyny, racism and the callous indifference to those born without privilege.

But we manage to find endless umbrage for petty slights and small-time favoritism.

When a teacher gives one student a far better grade than he deserves, and does it without shame, we're outraged. When the flight attendant hands that last chicken meal to our seatmate, wow, that's a slight worth seething over for hours.

When Bull Connor directed fire hoses and attack dogs on innocent kinds in Birmingham, it conflated the two, the collision of the large and the small. Viewers didn't witness the centuries of implicit and explicit racism, they saw a small, vivid act, moving in its obvious unfairness. It was the small act that focused our attention on the larger injustice.

I think that most of us are programmed to process the little stories, the emotional ones, things that touch people we can connect to. When it requires charts and graphs and multi-year studies, it's too easy to ignore.

We don't change markets, or populations, we change people. One person at a time, at a human level. And often, that change comes from small acts that move us, not from grand pronouncements.

Happy birthday, Martin.

The buffet problem keeps getting worse

Here's the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity:

"Oh, don't worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they're free."

Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is 'free' in the sense that the customer didn't spend anything extra to get that item.

The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don't come.

So, the hotel that says, "With this sort of volume... we do tend to encounter a slower pace with our free wireless internet," has completely misunderstood how to think about the free internet they offer. It's not free. In fact, it might be the one and only reason someone picked your $400 hotel room over that hotel down the street. Sure the hot water and the towels and the quiet room are all free in the sense that they're included in the price, but no, they're not free in the mind of the purchaser.

Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. "Let's make these the best mashed potatoes in town--who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends."

The mashed potatoes aren't free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you'll do all year.

My skillshare course goes live tomorrow

They've beefed up their servers, so if you had trouble signing up last week, today might be worth a try.

The details are right here.

The course is archived, so you can take it at your convenience. I'll be participating in the online Q&A for the students that take it during the first week it's available. Hope to see you there.

"Our biggest problem is awareness"

If that's your mantra, you're working to solve the wrong problem.

If your startup, your non-profit or your event is suffering because of a lack of awareness, the solution isn't to figure out some way to get more hype, more publicity or more traffic. Those are funnel solutions, designed to fix an ailing process by dumping more attention at the top, hoping more conversion comes out the bottom.

The challenge with this approach is that it doesn't scale. Soon, you'll have no luck at all getting more attention, even with ever more stunts or funding.

No, the solution lies in re-organizing your systems, in re-creating your product or service so that it becomes worth talking about. When you do that, your customers do the work of getting you more noticed. When you produce something remarkable, more use leads to more conversation which leads to more use.

No, it won't be a perfect virus, starting with ten people and infecting the world. But yes, you can dramatically impact the 'more awareness' problem by investing heavily in a funnel that doesn't leak, in a story that's worth spreading.

Who are your customers?

Answering, "anyone who pays us money," is a cop out.

Almost as bad is describing your customers by demographics. It's only a little interesting to know that they are, on average, 32 year old, white, male, lacrosse fans.

No, what we need to know is:

What do they believe?

Who do they trust?

What are they afraid of and who do they love?

What are they seeking?

Who are their friends?

What do they talk about?

Less vs. more, give vs. take

You could build a company dedicated to paying your employees ever more. Or you could build a company based on the strategy of paying them ever less.

You could create a business based on the idea of charging your customers the lowest possible prices, or you could set out to figure out how to charge them as much as possible.

Your organization could depend on ever increasing the amount of choice and privacy you give your users--or you could work daily to reduce them.

You could protect your users from interruption or you could decide to profit from interruption.

You could fight daily to tell those that are listening the truth, or you could fight daily to spin your story to have it seen as the truth.

It's tempting to view each of these extremes as merely an alternative to compromise, but compromise isn't a goal, it's a temporary tactic. Where are you headed?

We move the center when we become extremists in our goals.

Every day, we push against the status quo and make difficult choices. Every day, we seek to increase one metric at the expense of the other. The architecture of the successful organization depends on choosing and embracing these extremes.

The feedback you've been waiting for

"You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn't change a thing. You completely nailed it, it's fabulous."

Of course, that's not feedback, really. It's applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback. And that feedback, if it's more than just carping, will be constructive. It will clearly and generously lay out ways you can more effectively delight your customers and create a remarkable experience that leads to ever more customers.

If you're afraid of that feedback, it's probably not going to arrive as often as you'd like it to. On the other hand, if you embrace it as the gift it can be, you may decide to go looking for it.

Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.

Applause is good too.

Understanding sponsorship

The answer to the question, "how are you going to pay for this project?" is turning out to be sponsorship more and more often. If you don't know why organizations want to sponsor things, though, it's likely a long, hard road to find the sponsorship you seek.

As the number of media options continue to explode (blogs, books, conferences, tattoos, speaking engagements, film festivals, stadiums, entire websites...) it's worth thinking a little bit about why organizations buy sponsorships.

1. It might be a substitute for advertising. How many people see it? How much does it cost per person? (this is the cpm, but instead of cost per thousand page views or magazine readers, it's cost per thousand impressions, which come in a myriad of ways). I think this is the film festival/book fair model. It's a reasonable way to reach a hard to reach, high value group.

2. It might be a bragging rights thing. This means that the sponsor isn't focused on tonnage, but instead wants the affiliation that they can mention to others. Sort of a reverse endorsement. The thing being sponsored isn't a media outlet, then, but a license by affiliation. An example of this might be sponsoring a speaker coming to town. Clearly, the 500 people in the audience don't constitute a useful CPM, but the fact that you did it gains you authority with those that notice what you did.

3. It might be a chance to influence the organization being sponsored. This would explain why big corporations are willing to sponsor political conventions.

4. It might be a useful way to inspire and focus your internal organization. When the people who work for you see you sponsoring a worthy charity or a thoughtful opinion leader, it changes how they do their job or how they focus their efforts.

5. It makes the CEO happy and earns the organization a seat at certain sorts of tables. I think this is the model for sponsoring a sports stadium, an act that has never been shown to have any value at all as a mass media choice.

Because there are so many ways to come at this, valuing a sponsorship is difficult indeed. If you're a bank sponsoring a bike sharing service, how do you compare that to five-hundred full page newspaper ads (about the same price over a certain period of time). Of course, you don't. You can't. Instead, you must be really clear internally about what it's for.

In general, if you're clear about which of these five things you're shooting for, most sponsorships are a screaming bargain compared to traditional media buys, particularly if you're trying to reach an elite or elusive demographic.

How much does it cost you to avoid the feeling of risk?

Not actual risk, but the feeling that you're at risk?

How many experiences are you missing out on because the (very unlikely) downsides are too frightening to contemplate?

Are you avoiding leading, connecting or creating because to do so feels risky?

Feeling risk is very different than actually putting yourself at risk. Over time, we've created a cultural taboo about feeling certain kinds of risk, and all that insulation from what the real world requires is getting quite expensive.

It's easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It's neither.

Trapped by tl;dr

TL;DR is internet talk for "too long; didn't read". It's also a sad, dangerous symptom of the malfunctions caused by the internet tsunami. (Here's a most ironic example of this paradox...)

The triathlete doesn't look for the coldest bottle of water as she jogs by... she wants it fast and now. That mindset, of focusing merely on what's fast, is now a common reaction to many online options. I think it works great for runners, not so well for learners.

There's a checklist, punchline mentality that's dangerous and easy to adopt. Enough with the build up, wrap this up, let me check it off, categorize it and quickly get to the next thing... c'mon, c'mon, too late, TL;DR...

Let's agree on two things:

1. There are thousands of times as many things available to read as there were a decade ago. It's possible that in fact there are millions as many.

2. Now that everyone can write, publish, email you stuff and generally make noise, everyone might and many people already are.

As a result, there's too much noise, too much poorly written, overly written, defensively written and generally useless stuff cluttering your life.

When we had trusted curators it was easy. We read what we were supposed to read, we read what we trusted, regardless of how long it was, because the curator was taking a risk and promising us it was worth it. No longer. Now, it's up to us.

One option is to read incisively, curate, edit, choose your sources carefully. Limit the inbound to what's important, not what's shiny or urgent or silly.

The other option is to assume that you already know what you need to know, and refuse to read anything deeply. Hide behind clever acronyms, flit from viral topic to flame war, never actually diving in. It appears that this is far more common than ever before.

Here's what I've found: When I read in checklist mode, I learn almost nothing. It's easy to cherry pick the amusing or the merely short, but it's a quick thrill with very little to show for it.

Judging by length is foolish. TL;DR shows self-contempt, because you're ignoring the useful in exchange for the short or the amusing. The media has responded to our demand by giving us a rising tide of ever shorter, ever more amusing wastes of time. Short lowers the bar, but it also makes it hard to deliver much.

Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)

Perhaps a new acronym: NW;DR (not worthwhile; didn't read) makes more sense. We've got plenty to choose from, but what we need is content that's worth the effort.

How to draw an owl

The problem with most business and leadership advice is that it's a little like this:

How to draw an owl

The two circles aren't the point. Getting the two circles right is a good idea, but lots of people manage that part. No, the difficult part is learning to see what an owl looks like. Drawing an owl involves thousands of small decisions, each based on the answer to just one question, "what does the owl look like?" If you can't see it (in your mind, not with your eyes), you can't draw it.

There are hundreds of thousands of bullet points and rules of thumb about how to lead people, how to start and run a company, how to market, how to sell and how to do work that matters. Most of them involve drawing two circles. (HT to Stefano for the owl).

Before any of these step by step approaches work, it helps a lot to learn to see. When someone does this job well, what does it look like? When you've created a relationship that works, what does it feel like?

Incubator programs and coaching work their best not when they teach people which circles to draw, but when they engage in interactive learning after you've gone ahead and drawn your circle. The iterative process of drawing and erasing and drawing some more is how we learn to see the world.

"But what if I fail?"

You will.

The answer to the what if question is, you will.

A better question might be, "after I fail, what then?"

Well, if you've chosen well, after you fail you will be one step closer to succeeding, you will be wiser and stronger and you almost certainly will be more respected by all of those that are afraid to try.

Delight the weird

Everyone who eats at your restaurant expects a good cup of coffee, and it's difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it's not everyone who wants a cup of coffee. Some want a cup of tea, or a cup of herbal tea, and those folks are used to being ignored, or handed an old Lipton tea bag, or something boring.

What if you had thirty varieties for them to choose from?

Everyone who stays at your hotel expects the same sort of service, and it's difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it's not everyone. Some people travel with their dogs, and they're used to being disrespected. What if you gave those people a choice of a dozen dog toys, three dog beds and a special dog run out back?

When you delight the weird, the overlooked and the outliers, they are significantly more likely to talk about you and recommend you.

The hard work of understanding

Sometimes, we're so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?

We skip reading the whole thing, because it's easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.

We skip engaging with customers and stakeholders because it's quicker to assert we know what they want.

We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to.

We better hurry, because the firstest, loudest, angriest opinion might sway the crowd.

And of course, it's so much easier now, because we all own our own media companies.

Accuracy, resilience and denial

... three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow--if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that's a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you've got better information than everyone else, it's hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can't predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn't a bet on one outcome, instead, it's an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you'll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

If you enter a winner-take-all competition against many other players, accuracy is generally the only rational play. Consider a cross-country ski race. If 500 people enter and all that matters is first place, then you and your support team have to make a very specific bet on what the weather will be like as you wax your skis. Picking a general purpose wax is the resilient strategy, but you'll lose out to the team that's lucky enough or smart enough to pick precisely the right wax for the eventual temperature.

Of course, and this is the huge of course, most competitions aren't winner take all. Most endeavors we participate in offer long-term, generous entrants plenty of rewards. Playing the game is a form of winning the game. In those competitions, we win by being resilient.

Unfortunately, partly due to our fear of losing as well as our mythologizing of the winner-take-all, we often make two mistakes. The first is to overdo our focus on accuracy, on guessing right, on betting it all on the 'right' answer. We underappreciate just how powerful long-term resilience can be.

And the second mistake is to be so overwhelmed by all the choices and all the apparent risk that instead of choosing the powerful path of resilience, we choose not to play at all. Denial rarely pays.

For startups and those about to start: a new course on Skillshare

To start off the year, the folks at Skillshare asked me to teach a course for them. You can find the details on the course at the link above. Reviewing the final footage, I'm excited at how well it turned out, and I'm hoping it will resonate with you.

In this course, I'm teaching specific tactics, and using the Skillshare platform to provide supplemental materials and a chance to interact with others if you choose.

Lately, it feels like I've recently had precisely the same discussion with a dozen different entrepreneurs. They've built (or are about to build) something they're proud of, and then, without warning, they hit a wall.

The problem, surprisingly, isn't their marketing. It's a miscalculation buried deep into the structure of their project. Again and again, the same issues keep coming up. I decided it would be worth creating a course to share my thoughts on how these seven different issues can be avoided (or even better, turned into advantages).

The course features seven lessons plus an intro about business models, together with exercises for each. You get about an hour of original video, along with ebooks, exercises and a chance to post your questions and your work.

If you use discount code BLOG (until January 10) on their site, you will save a few bucks.

I'm going to be actively answering questions online for the first round of students who take the course when it starts on January 15 (it's self-paced, so you can watch it when you want). Hope you find it worthwhile.

Welcome to Paris

You've saved and scrimped and spent hours on the plane, and now you're in Paris for the trip of a lifetime. It's likely you'll never be here again, and you've only got three days.

Question: How much time are you going to spend in the hotel room watching reality TV on cable? For that matter, how much time will you spend checking your email, grooming your social network status or browsing around online to see what's new?

You only have three days.

Now it's a week later, and you're back at your desk. Consider the fact that the most interesting or most beloved or most trusted people you will ever know are sitting right next to you, or can be invited over in just a few minutes. Is it worth postponing that once-in-a-lifetime interaction so you can do a Netflix binge or watch some YouTube videos?

The world is waiting. Your turn....

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