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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

« February 2014 | Main | April 2014 »

The cure or the story?

The plumber, the roofer and the electrician sell us a cure. They come to our house, fix the problem, and leave.

The consultant, the doctor (often) and the politician sell us the narrative. They don't always change things, but they give us a story, a way to think about what's happening. Often, that story helps us fix our problems on our own.

The best parents, of course, are in the story business. Teachers and bosses, too.

Who's responsible?

Who gets to determine how we react (or respond) to the things that happen to us?

Who chooses which media we consume?

Who gets to decide what we start, and what we quit?

Who decides what sort of learning to invest in (or not)?

Who gets to look for someone to blame?

Too much is out of our control, done to us, dealt to us, allocated unfairly. But in a culture in which more and more choice is taken away from those that identify as consumers or cogs, adults still own some of the most important responsibilities of all.

Looking for the sure thing

It's been done before, sorry.

It's never been done before, too risky.

It's too obvious.

It's too obscure.

It's too easy, everyone can do it.

It's too hard to launch, it'll never work.

Too indy, why can't you get backers?

Too mainstream, the man has polluted you, you sold out.

It's never been practiced, you'll do it wrong.

You've practiced it too much, it can't possibly be fresh.

Not here, this city/market/audience is too jaded.

Not here, this city/market/audience is untested.

The market has peaked, nothing goes up forever.

The market is dead, it'll never catch on...

Most bestsellers are surprise bestsellers, because there's no sure thing, at least not where we want to look for it.

Thinking about placebos (a new ebooklet)

After months of working on this project, I confess to being amazed at how little we talk about, think about or use placebos.

Here's a 25-page ebook to get the conversation started. I think you'll find some pretty surprising research and analysis inside...

Feel free to share, or repost, or print it out:

Download the updated Placebo booklet

I wrote it as part of the curriculum of the Skillshare marketing course I'm teaching right now.

Based on what I'm learning about the power of commitment, we decided to double the price of that course at the end of April. The other course, on new business invention, also doubles.

Thanks for reading, share if it makes you think...

No more kids?

What if, in some sort of sci-fi solar flare cataclysm, it was impossible for humans to have more kids? No more babies.

How would we treat the last generation? Would we say to the youngest student on Earth, "sorry the school is really run-down and crowded and poorly staffed, but we don't want to invest in you?" Would we let the last generation grow up in poverty, or would we do everything we could to ensure that this one last time, we did it right?

To make the example a bit more banal, what if your organization discovered that it would never have another new customer? That the customers you've got now are the last ones you will ever have... Would you treat them differently? 

Sometimes, when it seems like there's an endless parade of prospects walking by, it's easy to discount this particular person.

No new prospects, no more new web visitors, no more untouched email lists... And far more dramatically, no more new students, no more chances to open doors, inspire genius or create connection.

I wonder what happens when we treat children and customers like maybe, just maybe, they're the last chance we get to do it right.

Your story about money

Is a story. About money.

Money isn't real. It's a method of exchange, a unit we exchange for something we actually need or value. It has worth because we agree it has worth, because we agree what it can be exchanged for.

But there's something far more powerful going on here.

We don't actually agree, because each person's valuation of money is based on the stories we tell ourselves about it.

Our bank balance is merely a number, bits represented on a screen, but it's also a signal and symptom. We tell ourselves a story about how we got that money, what it says about us, what we're going to do with it and how other people judge us. We tell ourselves a story about how that might grow, and more vividly, how that money might disappear or shrink or be taken away.

And those stories, those very powerful unstated stories, impact the narrative of just about everything else we do.

So yes, there's money. But before there's money, there's a story. It turns out that once you change the story, the money changes too.

The debilitating myth of musical chairs

I was invited to a fancy gathering the other day. Thirty of us, chatting amiably over drinks, then invited to sit down to eat.

A little slow on the trigger, I was the last one over to lunch. To my horror, there were only 29 seats at the long table. All of my Jungian anxieties triggered in one moment. No room for you, you don't belong here, you probably shouldn't have come in the first place.

After a deep breath, I walked over, got a chair from along the wall and scooted myself in.

Epic disaster, averted.

It turns out that in the connection economy, where the network effect creates value and abundance in those connections, it's pretty unlikely that there are precisely one-too-few chairs at the table you hope to sit at. And if there are, it turns out that it's easier than ever to bring your own chair.

Even better, start your own table.

In school, we teach kids to try out, to work to make the cut, to suck it up and give up when they don't. We forget to teach them that the better approach (the adult, real world approach) is to just start your own team. One hyper-ironic example: A friend didn't make it past the final try-outs for the improv club at school. Bummed out, he moved on, never realizing that he could start his own improv club...

If you're spending a lot of time worrying about musical chairs, it's almost impossible to be generous and connected. If you've got one eye on the lookout for when the music will stop and which chair you're going to grab, it's inevitable that you're not really focusing on the amazing people you're with. On the other hand, once you stop playing that game, it seems as though new chairs just keep materializing.

Not even one note

Starting at the age of nine, I played the clarinet for eight years.

Actually, that's not true. I took clarinet lessons for eight years when I was a kid, but I'm not sure I ever actually played it.

Eventually, I heard a symphony orchestra member play a clarinet solo. It began with a sustained middle C, and I am 100% certain that never once did I play a note that sounded even close to the way his sounded.

And yet...

And yet the lessons I was given were all about fingerings and songs and techniques. They were about playing higher or lower or longer notes, or playing more complex rhythms. At no point did someone sit me down and say, "wait, none of this matters if you can't play a single note that actually sounds good."

Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn't produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it's dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

It's obvious, then, why I don't play the clarinet any more. I don't care enough, can't work hard enough, don't have the guts to put that work into the world. This is the best reason to stop playing, and it opens the door to go find an art you care enough to make matter instead. Find and make your own music.

The cop-out would be to play the clarinet just a little, to add one more thing to my list of mediocre.

As Jony Ive said, "We did it because we cared, because when you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure."

It's much easier to add some features, increase your network, get some itemized tasks done. Who wants to feel failure?

We opt for more instead of better.

Better is better than more.

Compromise, design and the literal edges

Let's say you wanted to improve the katana, the legendary fighting sword.

You could ask your team to come up with a sword that's lighter, sharper and more durable.

Built into that charge is the requirement to compromise. And just about everyone who has come before you has tried to come up with the same sort of compromise, and your chances of a breakthrough are slim indeed.

Compromise gives us an out, because, with multiple goals, it's easy to play it safe.

But what if you picked just one?

What if you sought to make the sharpest katana ever? Or merely the most durable one? By optimizing for just one attribute, you've eliminated most of the compromise from the design discussion. As a result, you're far more likely to encounter something extraordinary. It might not be practical, but there's plenty of time to compromise later.

It's almost always easier to roll something back a little than it is to push it forward.

Bulldozers and bullwhips

Bulldozers work because they are incredibly heavy. It's fine that they're slow, they're powerful indeed.

Bullwhips work because they are incredibly fast. The superlight bit of leather at the end of the whip travels faster than the speed of sound, hence the crack.

Organizations often thrive because they have huge mass, they are irresistible forces, going where they are pointed. But they don't get there quickly.

On the other hand, it's quite possible to make an impact by being fast, light and quite focused.

Important to not confuse which you're using, though. Trying to make your bulldozer go faster might not work out so well. And you can't build a road with a bullwhip.

Two ways to listen

You can listen to what people say, sure.

But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.

What does, "it's too expensive," mean?

Sometimes it means, "there isn't enough money to pay for that." Certainly, among the undeserved poor, this happens all the time. And for things like health care and education, tragically, it happens too often.

But most of the time (in the commercialized, wealthier part of the world that many of us live in), the things that are within the realm of possibility could be paid for (even the edge cases could, if we found friends and neighbors and went deep into debt). One person might say a stereo or a sizable charitable donation or a golf club membership is "too expensive" while someone else with the same income might happily pay for it. "It's too expensive," almost never means, "there isn't enough money if I think it's worth it."

Social entrepreneurs are often chagrined to discover that low-income communities around the world that said their innovation was, "too expensive" figured out how to find the money to buy a cell phone instead. Even at the bottom of the pyramid, many people find a way to pay for the things they value.

The same is true for real estate, ad buys and productivity improvements in the b2b sector. If an investment is going to pay for itself, "it's too expensive," rarely means, "we can't afford it."

Often, it actually means, "it's not worth it." This is a totally different analysis, of course. Lots of things aren't worth it, at least to you, right now. I think it's safe to assume that when you hear a potential customer say, "it's too expensive," what you're really hearing is something quite specific. A $400 bottle of water is too expensive to just about everyone, even to people with more than $500 in the bank. They have the cash, but they sure don't want to spend it, not on something they think is worth less than it costs.

Not everyone will value your offering the same, so if you wait for no one to say, "it's too expensive" before you go to market, you will never go to market. The challenge isn't in pleasing everyone, it's in finding the few who see the value (and thus the bargain) in what's on offer.

Culturally, we create boundaries for what something is worth. A pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul costs a dollar, and it's delicious. The same juice in New York would be seen as a bargain for five times as much money. Clearly, we're not discussing the ability to pay nor are we considering the absolute value of a glass of juice. No, it's about our expectation of what people like us pay for something like that.

Start with a tribe or community that in fact does value what you do. And then do an ever better job of explaining and storytelling, increasing the perceived value instead of lowering the price. (Even better, actually increase the value delivered). When you don't need everyone to buy what you sell, "it's too expensive" from some is actually a useful reminder that you've priced this appropriately for the rest of your audience.

Over time, as influencers within a tribe embrace the higher value (and higher price) then the culture starts to change. When people like us start to pay more for something like that, it becomes natural (and even urgent) for us to pay for it too.

The rotten fish problem

On the first day, all the fish at the fish stall are fresh.

Some sell, some don't.

The second day, the sold fish are replaced by newer, fresher fish. The unsold fish remains, even though it isn't so attractive.

By the third day, of course, the unsold fish is noticably unfresh, and it doesn't take much effort to avoid them.

At this point, part of the fishmonger's stock is demonstrably unappealing, bringing down the quality of the entire counter.

Pretty soon, of course, the dropoff in business means that the owner can't afford to buy the freshest fish, even to replace his sold inventory, and the end is near.

The alternative? On day two, discard the unsold fish.

Obvious, but difficult. So difficult that we rarely do it. We'd rather lower the average and see if we can get away with it instead.

Happy wowday

Halloween gives you permission to dress up. April Fool's, a chance to play a prank.

What if there was one day of the year where you had permission to do things that made people say, "wow."

Acts of generosity or bravery or insight...

What if you focused and practiced and got your nerve up and leaned way over the edge, just one day of the year? If you could get out of your comfort zone for a few hours in a way that benefitted and delighted people you care about, what would that look and feel like?

Today might be your wowday.

Or tomorrow.

Up to you.

What's not here?

When you show me a business plan, a wireframe, a features list... whatever you're building, it's not enough to talk about what's there.

Tell us what's not there.

Tell us what you're choosing not to do, what you're not supporting, who you're not interested in working with.

If the there + the not there doesn't add up to the universe of choices, you've missed something.

Confidence is a choice, not a symptom

The batter has already hit two home runs. When he gets up to bat for the third time, his confidence is running high...

It's easy to feel confident when we're on a roll, when the cards are going our way, or we're closing sales right and left. This symptomatic confidence, one built on a recent series of successes, isn't particularly difficult to accomplish or useful.

Effective confidence comes from within, it's not the result of external events. The confident salesperson is likely to close more sales. The confident violinist expresses more of the music. The confident leader points us to the places we want (and need) to go.

You succeed because you've chosen to be confident. It's not really useful to require yourself to be successful before you're able to become confident.

Most ramen is pretty good

So is most pizza.

But people don't drive across town for "pretty good." They don't make lists of "most convenient to your dorm room" or "works fine if you're around the corner."

If you want us to travel, you have to choose to go beyond pretty good. If you want us to click, you need to give us a reason to leave the usual page and go to yours. And most of all, if you want us to talk about you, pretty good isn't going to get you there.

Pretty good is a choice. It works, often. But it doesn't change anything.

[PS If you are better than pretty good at marketing: Acumen is looking for a world-class marketer.]

Better than free?

Without a doubt, free enables an idea to spread, it creates opportunity for sampling, it can open the door to engagement.

But when you buy something, you're paying for something that you can never get when it's handed to you.

Buying requires emotional commitment. Even a small payment has been shown to change the way people set expectations, not just for what they receive but how much energy and effort they're willing to contribute. It begins with confirmation bias, because if you paid for it, it must be worthwhile. But in the constantly-free world of digital media, I think it goes beyond this. 

In my new Skillshare course on modern marketing, I see this every day. Instead of clicking away and giving up, people devote more energy and effort to pushing through the hard stuff. That energy and effort, of course, opens ever more doors, which creates a virtuous cycle of learning.

One way to play in the digital age is to appeal to those that browse, the window shoppers, the mass audience that can't and won't commit. The alternative is to focus on impact, not numbers, and impact comes from commitment.

Price is more than an exchange of coins. Price is a story, a powerful tool for changing minds and one way we persuade ourselves to make a change. Lowering your price (all the way to free) isn't the only way (or even the best way) to move your market.

Commitment is a benefit.

Save the date: With Dave Ramsey and Gary Vee in NYC 10/2/14

Dave's team has booked the beautiful Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center for a day-long event with the three of us on October 2, 2014. I've known Dave and Gary for years, and it promises to be a really special day.

Find out more here. Apologies if it's already sold out. For the next twenty-four hours, get first dibs on seats and save $100 with code sethsblog.

Sometimes you don't need a budget

Most of the time, people don't want a refund or a bonus. What they really want is for you to hear them and to do the right thing. What if every manager and every customer contact in your organization bought into that?

Here are some things you can do that don't cost any money (but they certainly require effort):

Treat your employees with care and respect

Be consistent in your actions

Keep your promises

Grant others their dignity

Give credit

Take responsibility

When wrong, offer a heartfelt apology

Don't be a jerk

Take the time to actually listen to people

Volunteer to handle the issue


The bacon/Yelp correlation

What is New York's favorite way to eat oatmeal?

If you try to reverse engineer preferences from Yelp reviews, you're likely to make a common error. It turns out that bacon-as-a-topping comes up often in Yelp, which might lead you to believe that adding bacon to the menu is a surefire crowdpleaser.

In fact, what it tells you is that bacon lovers are more likely to post Yelp reviews.

There are now two crowds. There is the crowd of mass, of everyone, of what the average folks want. And there is the crowd of the loud, the interested and the connected.

If your goal is to get more reviews on Yelp, then, over-the-top and particularly edgy choices in food and service are a great idea. The thesis of We Are All Weird is that segments of the population are finding each other, challenging each other and getting weirder all the time.

You probably won't get great ratings in TripAdvisor with a perfectly pleasant hotel, or good food at a good price. This group, the group that's gaining in power, demands more from you.

By all means, then, get weird and amplify what the outliers want if your goal is to attract raving fans online. But at the same time, it's way too early to confuse acceptance by the critics with delight of the masses. Difficult to do both at the same time.

Change the way you and your team see marketing

Launching today, my new course on Skillshare: The Modern Marketing Workshop. A course for marketers in every organization.

Click here to find out the details. I think you'll find that this course has the power to transform the way you and your organization spread your ideas, engage with customers and most of all, think about what you make and why.

This is the stuff I learned the hard way. You can be smarter: you have this course.

Marketing has changed more in the last 20 years than any other business discipline. Far more than accounting, manufacturing, or management. Why are we relying on the same-old traditional textbooks? Why are CMOs cornered into decisions that make no sense? Why do leaders still talk about marketing and advertising like they’re the same?

This is my second class. The first Skillshare course I launched a few months ago has gotten a terrific response (their most popular course ever) and people let me know that they wanted me to add a different course, one that would address marketing the way it's done today. It turns out that just about everything we learned in school, just about everything our boss, our board and our co-workers believe about marketing is out of date. 

You can see some of the reviews for the first class here.

The new course includes videos, new ebooks, worksheets and more (more than 75 pages of brand-new material and many hours of discussions and projects for you and your team.) I hope you'll devote the time to really dive into it, and you'll challenge your peers to do it with you.

If you sign up before the 13th, you'll be invited to join me for a live kick-off chat room session. Hope to see you there.

PS discount code seth2014 will save you a few dollars. Thanks.

[Skillshare's motto is terrific: "the future belongs to the curious." My favorite part about this course, and the reason I called it a workshop, is that it connects curious people. The course gets better when more people are taking it. The interactions between and among the curious attendees can last for months or years, an ever-virtuous cycle of creation and connection and teaching and learning.]

Are we not plankton?

Whales have to eat a lot of plankton. A whale needs an enormous number of these tiny creatures because, let's be honest, one plankton just doesn't make a meal.

It's unlikely the whale savors each plankton, relishing the value that it brings.

The fabled Oreo tweet and the now legendary Ellen selfie are examples of whale eating plankton. Each retweet is so worthless to these whales and the brands that come from the TV world that they need millions of them, constantly. 

They're hooked on tonnage, and will dumb down whatever they do to get more of it. To get mass in the social media world, you need luck and you need to pander.

I think our attention is more precious than that.

For most modern marketers, quantity isn't the point. What matters is to matter. Lives changed. Work that made an actual difference. Connection.

You are not a plankton. Neither are your customers.

Will they switch for cheaper?

In fact, most people switch for better.

Without a doubt, there's a slot in every market for the cheap enough, good enough alternative.

But rapid growth and long-term loyalty come from being better instead.

When your product or your service doesn't measure up, the answer probably isn't to lower your price or offer a refund to the disappointed customer. Instead, the alternative is to invest in making it better. So much better that people can't help but talk about it—and so much better that they would truly miss it if it were gone.

Entropy, bureaucracy and the fight for great

Here are some laws rarely broken:

As an organization succeeds, it gets bigger.

As it gets bigger, the average amount of passion and initiative of the organization goes down (more people gets you closer to averge, which is another word for mediocre).

More people requires more formal communication, simple instructions to ensure consistent execution. It gets more and more difficult to say, "use your best judgment" and be able to count on the outcome.

Larger still means more bureaucracy, more people who manage and push for comformity, as opposed to do something new.

Success brings with it the fear of blowing it. With more to lose, there's more pressure not to lose it.

Mix all these things together and you discover that going forward, each decision pushes the organization toward do-ability, reliability, risk-proofing and safety.

And, worst of all, like a game of telephone, there will be transcription errors, mistakes in interpreting instructions and general random noise. And most of the time, these mutations don't make things wonderful, they lead to breakage.

Even really good people, really well-intentioned people, then, end up in organizations that plod toward mediocre, interrupted by random errors and dropped balls.

This can be fixed. It can be addressed, but only by a never-ending fight for greatness.

Greatness can't be a policy, and it's hard to delegate to bureaucrats. But yes, greatness is something that people can work for, create an insurgency around and once in a while, actually achieve. It's a commitment, not an event.

It's not easy, which is why it's rare, but it's worth it.

What happens to privacy?

People don't care about privacy as much as they care about being surprised.

Most people have used credit cards for decades—giving the credit card company tons of intimate data about their habits. We go to doctors and therapists and tell them our detailed medical and emotional histories. That's all fine because we believe we know exactly what's going to happen to the information. When we're surprised and a promise is broken, we're (rightly) furious.

If people actually cared about privacy (no one knowing what they do) then we would have given up on most connected activities generations ago. No, we were fine with some people knowing, as long as we realized who those people were (and what those uses were) in advance.

The outrage over privacy leaks and snooping is largely because it comes as a surprise. It's not what we signed up for and not what we expected. As marketers and governments continue to intrude, though, less privacy will become the new normal. Ask any teenager... few of them are particularly surprised or upset that they're leaving a trail online, it's always been that way for them.

Now that we've been desensitized, expect a huge stampede of apps, services and technologies that monetize and quantitize things that we used to think of as off limits. They won't tiptoe, they will leap, because the race is on to create value from information that used to be invisible. 

The thing about surprising people is that once you do it, you can't do it again and again. As surprise fades, people will come to tolerate and then (eventually) look forward to organizations using the data we used to believe would never be used.

[Here's one scenario to give you a sense of how big the shift will be. When just 1% of all cars have a networked dashboard camera in use, then virtually every car and every driver will be under constant surveillance. When you cut someone off or run a stop sign, the system will know. Good drivers will take advantage of the information that's created to get much better prices on their insurance (why shouldn't they?) which will completely transform both the insurance industry and the safety of driving. We've always been awash in data about how everyone drives, but until now, it's never been collected and turned into information, and that information has value.  Like it or not, the Wild West mentality of 'eat my dust' will be replaced by a privacy-free world of connected driving. Multiply this by healthcare, white collar work productivity and retail behavior and you quickly see a brave, new world.]

Who cares about privacy is a little like the weather. You can care about it, but it's not clear there's much you can do once surprise goes away and the engines of commerce and power kick in.

Welcome to the monoculture

Here's the local supermarket in a little town, way off the beaten path. And there, right next to the cash register, are Lindt chocolate bars--from Switzerland.

Here's the local radio station, thousands of miles from the epicenters of music culture. And the next song--it's the one that kids in every country in the world are watching right now on YouTube.

Monoculture doesn't always mean the status quo. They sell more salsa than ketchup now. It doesn't mean only the established brands win--you can find Kind bars and Teslas in more and more places.

What monoculture does mean is that the churn isn't local as much as it's national and worldwide now. It means the stakes are far higher, because the step from niche win to worldwide win is smaller than it's ever been before.

Your blog, your line of clothes, your song, your cause--there's more competition than ever before (by a lot) because you compete with the world now. And there's more upside, too.

The first leap

The second leap is deciding how to take your project to an entirely new level. The way Zappos redefined how shoes were sold, Charity:water changed how fundraising was done, or Mission Chinese recreated their genre of restaurant. These leaps are what the market sits up and notices.

The first leap is deciding to be the kind of leader willing to make precisely that sort of leap.

Girl Scout cookies

Teaching young people to sell is a priceless gift. The confidence and clarity that comes from being able to engage and to cause a transaction is a trait that can pay off for a lifetime. 

I thought I'd share a simple sales approach that in my experience consistently doubles the sales rate for Girl Scouts, at the same time it permits a more natural, humanistic engagement. Most Scouts are taught to memorize a fairly complicated spiel, one that involves introducing themselves, talking in detail about the good work that the Scouts do, and finishing with how the money raised goes for this and for that.

This is difficult work even for a professional, but for a kid talking to an adult, it's frightening and unlikely to lead to a positive experience. The alternative?

"What's your favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie?"

In less than ten words, all the Proustian memories of previous cookie experiences are summoned up. In one simple question, the power in the transaction shifts, with the Scout going from supplicant to valued supplier. 

(And that's the universal lesson here: A question that avoids a 'no', a question that starts a conversation, a question that opens the door to emotion... those are the questions that build careers and create value.)

The cookie-buying experience isn't about making some sort of charitable contribution. Buying cookies is an incredibly inefficient way to support anything but a cookie company. No, the experience from the buyer's point of view is an emotional connection to something that's been in their life since they were a kid (there's a reason they don't change the flavors) as well as a positive interaction with a young person learning to speak up.

PS If you're busy selling your kid's cookies at work in a misguided attempt to raise money for the troop, please don't! It undermines the very point of the exercise, and you'd probably raise more money if you did some freelance work instead. Access to cookies isn't the point, teaching the Scouts to be confident salespeople is.

What does it sound like when you change your mind?

Nineteen years ago, shortly after I hired Mark Hurst to join the team at my internet startup Yoyodyne, I turned to him and said, "I don't think the web makes sense." This was the most expensive mistake I ever made.

At the time, we were working with AOL, CompuServe and other online services. The web was in its infancy, and I notoriously said, "It's just like Prodigy, but slower and with no business model."

It took me eighteen months to change my mind. Actually, that's not true. It took me about five minutes to change my mind, after eighteen months of being wrong. I still remember how it felt to feel that flip switch in my head.

This is one of the assets of youth, and something that's worth seeking out and maintaining. That flip, the ability, when confronted with a world that doesn't match the world in your head, to say, "wait, maybe I was wrong." We're not good at that. Science brings us overwhelming data about the truth of washing hands before surgery, of the age and origin of species, about the efficacy of placebos, and the natural instinct is push those facts away, rather than find that moment where were can shift our thinking.

If you needed to, could you argue passionately for that thing you don't believe in today? Could you imagine walking over to the other side of the new argument, to once again hear that sound?

That's the essential skill of thriving in a world that's changing fast.

Get out the vote

Without a doubt, the single highest point of leverage in any campaign is getting out the vote. If the people who agree with you or believe in you actually show up and vote, you win.

This, of course, is true for everything, not just retail politics. Your non-profit, retail store or b2b services firm probably doesn't need as many new prospects as you think you do--you will generate more impact if you reconnect with the people who already know and trust you.

Never eat sushi at the airport

or sleep near a train station.

Don't ask a cab driver for theater tips.

Never buy bread from the supermarket bakery...

and don't ask your spouse for honest feedback about how you look.

Don't do business with a stranger who calls you at home during dinner.

Think twice before you ask your ad agency how many ads you should run.

And never eat the macadamia nuts in the mini bar.

Proximity is not a stand in for expertise.

Might as well burn that bridge all the way down to the pilings

It's not that hard to have a misstep. In fact, if you interact with enough people, it's certain that you will.

Sometimes, if we're quite lucky, when we get it wrong, the person we wronged will politely point it out to us.

At this point, we have a choice. We can elegantly (and with gratitude) make things right, which often builds a better bridge than we could ever hope for...

Or, in frustration, embarassment and a bit of pique, we can choose to make things worse. 

Here are some of the magic words that might help build that bridge:

  • "I" (not "we" or some magical use of the third person)
  • "sorry"
  • "thank you"

When someone gives you gentle feedback, it's because they want to connect, not because they want to help you finish burning down the bridge you ignited in the first place. They don't want an excuse, a clever comeback or a recitation that you're just doing your job.

It's there if you want it.

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