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

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All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

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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.

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Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

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The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

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The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

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The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

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Tribes

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

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V Is For Vulnerable

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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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« May 2014 | Main | July 2014 »

The children's menu

"Here, eat this food you've eaten a hundred times before. These chicken fingers and french fries are just like what we have at home. And turn on your iPad and watch that movie you like so much..."

Of course, chicken fingers are just a symptom. If we want to insulate ourselves from new experiences, ensure that we never eat something we don't like, never engage with someone we disagree with, never have to hold two opposing ideas in our head at the same time—chicken fingers are a great way to start.

The new is a habit. It's a habit we can teach to our kids and it's a habit we can learn ourselves. 

Spend a few hours thinking and walking in that local park you've never visited. Go visit an online forum where you disagree with the worldview of those hanging out—but instead of arguing, listen. Play some opera while you're chilling out at home tonight. Try eating vegan for three days...

The children's menu is always available, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

References available upon request

 (and other things to leave off your resume)

Resumes are overrated.

Of course your references are available upon request. What are you going to do, refuse? 

If your references are amazing, don't offer them on request, include them. If they're not stellar, do better work and get some stellar references. Give me names and phone numbers and actual testimonies.

And that objective line? Objectives are a relatively new addition to resumes. Their original purpose was to show a big company that you had aspirations to move up the corporate ladder (their corporate ladder) in a specific direction. For a few isolated careers, this made sense.

But now, the objective line is either used as a narcissistic caption about what's in it for you (not me) to hire you ("to learn about what you do so I can quit and go do it somewhere else soon") or, far more common, as an exercise in say-nothing doublespeak that can best be summarized as blah, blah, blah.

Starting your resume with blah and ending with an obvious bit of boilerplate does no one any good.

"How was your bike ride?"

The answer has evolved over the last century...

It was great, I pushed myself and feel fabulous.

    It was okay, I came in fourth place in the race, but those other guys beat me again.

I did fine. My speed was 15.6 miles per hour, not my best average.

    Well, the computer says it was a personal best, and my heartrate approached max on the third hill.

The app says that I did that route the 159th best of everyone who has ever done it. A bust...

More information doesn't always make us happier. At some point, improvement turns into a game, something to be won or lost, completely losing the point of the project we set out to do.

It's no wonder that after a certain point, increased income doesn't usually lead to more happiness. If income becomes a game, not a means to an end, then people will distort their goals and choices in order to win. They'll cut corners, maybe even do things they're not particularly proud of, all because our culture has created a huge scoreboard, updated hourly.

The same thing is true with the quest to win the sports trophy at all costs, or to measure your office in square inches and compare it to the next guy's...

"How big was your bonus," is not the same question as, "how happy are you?" or even, "do you feel good about making a difference..."

Three marketing lessons from Broadway

Understand who it's for.

Almost all the casting, play selection and advertising done for Broadway shows is designed to appeal to tourists and to those that rarely come to the theater. After all, there are a lot more of them than there are the diehard fans who see three or four or nine shows a year. 

And so the producers focus on celebrities and popular topics. They run bus ads and reach out to hotel concierge staff. Makes sense.

Until you do the math. The math makes it clear that the people who go to the theater regularly are often the ones who fill the seats, pay the bills and spread the word. It turns out that activating people who already like you is far more productive and profitable than it is to spend time and money yelling at people who are ignoring you.

This one shift, a shift to building relationships between and among the core audience, to make plays for your audience instead of finding an audience for your plays, is the golden lesson that applies to just about every organization.

Understand the worldview of those you're trying to reach.

In this revealing article, we see SpotCo, the leading Broadway ad agency, working their way through the creation of an ad. The good news is that they were insightful enough to realize that this musical, with its lack of edginess or big stars, is going to appeal to the kind of people who have been coming to see it--older folks, mostly women, people looking for a reliable, pleasant night at the theater.

Broadway adHere's the ad they just ran. It completely misses the goal of telling a story that matches the worldview of those they're trying to reach. Instead of talking about what other people "just like me" have said, it quotes the awards it's won, but the skeptical theatregoer in this category has seen award-winning plays before, plays she hasn't liked very much. Bragging about all the awards makes perfect sense if you're trying to reach the people who have to see the plays that everyone is talking about, if you're trying to reach the buzzhounds and the completists, but that's not the worldview of this group. Worse, for the skittish ticket buyer, it doesn't tell us what the play is about.

Most of all, it fails to create a sense of urgency for those that share this worldview. In almost every non-essential situation, people are likely to choose, "later," as their response to a pitch. Why do it now if I can do it later? This group in particular, a group that doesn't need to go first, is likely to respond with 'later'. 

(PS If you end up making an ad that compromises enough that it pleases the committee you've been assigned but doesn't accomplish your real goal, I think it's better to frame that ad to hang on the wall and not waste the money actually running it).

Realize that you don't have enough ad money.

Just about every organization doesn't have enough cash to run enough ads to do what ads are best at. Overwhelming the chosen audience with a consistent, persistent message is how display ads do their job. (Absolut vodka). One ad, one time, isn't going to change much. That means that the cash-strapped ad buyer needs to obsessively focus and trim and find an arena where they can reach fewer people, more often. The New Yorker is not that place. One of the advantages of building and connecting a tribe is that you can talk to them directly, and honestly. The other advantage is that each time you show up, you don't have to pay $50,000.

Self assurance checklist for the anxious traveler

Travel has always meant possibility and change, and for some people, that means anxiety. Add to this non-refundable fares, tight connections and security theater courtesy of the TSA, and it's easy for the fun to turn into a literal nightmare.

There are people who will tell you to just get over it and enjoy travelling, but for some people, the real benefit happens if they can eliminate the things that trigger the biggest issues.

Some prophylactic measures to consider, extreme steps to transform your internal dialogue:

  1. Five days before you travel, lay out everything you intend to bring with you, all in a special section of your room. 
  2. You're not going to be checking bags (that's my dad's first law of travel), so, first, relentlessly trim what you laid out. Second, if it still won't fit in a manageable, small, wheeled bag, ship it ahead of time. Get the name of the person at the bell desk at your hotel, and ship the things you can't live without via UPS or Fedex Ground. Track them and you'll know that they've arrived before you even leave.
  3. Take a photo of everything you intend to pack, all laid out on the floor. In addition to helping you file a claim for some reason, the big bonus is that you never have to worry about whether or not you packed something, because you have a photo of everything you packed, on your phone.
  4. While you're at it, go ahead and get a duplicate of your favorite pillow. Ship it ahead. No, we're not moving in, we're not staying at this hotel forever, and no, it's not the way easygoing travelers do it. But hey, you're not an easygoing traveler, and getting a good night's sleep is worth the few dollars it's going to cost you to add a pillow to the box.
  5. Make a written checklist of everything you're going to do the day you depart. Include, for example, the phone number of the car service, checking the oven light and watering the plants. If it's written down, you don't have to keep it in your active memory so you won't forget it. And once you make the list, you can use it again and again, improving it as you go.
  6. Get your boarding pass the day before. I think every airline offers this now. Get it as a printout, not on your phone, because a printout is easy to check off and put next to your passport, more peace of mind. Print a few copies, why not?
  7. Use Yelp to find a restaurant within 4 miles of the airport. Go there for a meal a few hours before the flight is scheduled to leave. You'd feel stupid getting to the airport three hours early, but having a delicious bowl of tom yum three hours before feels just fine, and then you can completely forget about the issue of traffic.
  8. While on Yelp, check out the neighborhood where you are staying. My guess is that they have stores! Remind yourself that if you need a bobbin or a notion or even a toiletry, you'll probably have no trouble picking one up.
  9. When you park your car, put the parking ticket in your ashtray. After you lock the door, take a picture of where you parked, and email the picture to a friend. No worries about finding the car or the ticket later.
  10. You're thinking of bringing more stuff and checking it. Don't. See #2. Only bring the smallest amount of stuff with you, no giant bags to argue about fitting in the overhead and such.
  11. If you travel with people who get all uptight when they go through security, don't go through security with them. Let them go five minutes before you, and you'll have no issues.
  12. Your favorite necklace that's really hard to take off that freaks out the security machines? Leave it at home. And those boots with 100 laces? Leave all of it at home. 
  13. You know that scrum to get on the plane first? Skip it. You have very little luggage, and you can just sit there and relax. No prize for getting on first.
  14. You know that scrum to get off the plane first? Skip it. Particularly people who have trouble wrestling their bags, or racing down the aisle or who might need a wheelchair at the gate. Just let everyone else get off first while you take two minutes to check the email on your phone. No prize for getting off first.

So, there you go. For just a little extra cash and just a little extra time spent, you've eliminated fourteen of the things that get people all stressed in their rush to force reality to match their expectations (or to keep reality from matching their fears).

A bonus: Some people get peace of mind by hiring a car service to meet them at their destination. This always messes me up, because there's the hassle of figuring out where to meet the driver (upstairs? downstairs? which door?). I prefer the random access approach of finding a cab, but highly recommend you have Uber loaded and ready on your phone before you leave. It really does transform the way people travel. (Here's a free ride promo they're running for new users).

And another bonus: the now legendary wrinkle-free packing hack.

Have a good trip.

The existential crisis (and the other kind)

For some, crises are existential. The subsistence farmer, the parent without access to medical care, the person living in a makeshift shelter--this crisis might be the last one they ever encounter. Deal with this crisis or cease to exist.

As a result, crisis management became a cultural emergency, something we all focused on. High alert, drop everything, this is do or die, because if we don't get through this, it's over.

Now, of course, for those lucky enough to live in a well-off part of the world, insulated from disaster, few crises are actually this black and white—they merely feel that way.

The project might be in jeopardy, but you're not.

Don't blow it (the secret of b2b)

If you sell to businesses, you're either calling on unsuccessful companies, who are panicking and afraid and don't have a lot of resources to spend on new things...

Or you're selling to successful businesses. And in those organizations, most people walk around with a three-word mantra imprinted on their arm: Don't blow it.

Far more points are awarded to people who keep things moving and defend the status quo. If you're the gambler, the one who risked and failed, well, it's understood at many places that this isn't good, that you're at risk and off the track.

So, the story that resonates more often than not is a story that's built around those three words. 

A review sprint

How many short book reviews can we assemble in one day?

Think of a book that's influenced you or made a difference in your life and write a short review on Hugdug. Just type in the name of the book and the site will tee you up to write a few words and share them with your friends.

To get you started, here are a bunch of popular authors and their books to choose from.

It would be magnificent if 1,000 people posted a review today. I hope you'll give it a try.

Sharing a book is (almost) as good as writing one.

Cat food is for people

So is this bag of gluten-free, kale, peanutty dog treats.

And the first birthday party for the kid down the street is for her parents, not her. And the same is true for most gifts we give people (they're for us, and how we feel giving them, not for the recipient, not really). And many benefits the company offers to its employees...

It's easy to imagine that the giver is focused on the recipient at all times. But, more often than not, the way the gift makes us feel to give is at least as important as how it makes the other person (or pet, or infant) feel to receive it.

PS if you think cat food is for cats, how come it doesn't come in mouse flavor?

The handyman, the genius and the mad scientist

The handyman brings attention to detail and craftsmanship to the jobs that need to be done. Difficult to live without, but a household name, not a famous name.

The genius, Thomas Edison, relentlessly tries one approach after another until the elusive solution is found.

And the mad scientist, Tesla or Jobs, is idiosyncratic and apparently irrational—until the magic appears.

Who do you need?

Who are you?

Can we talk about process first?

It's so tempting to get straight to the issue, especially since you're certain that you're right. 

The challenge is that organizations and relationships that thrive are built to go beyond this one discussion. They are built for the long haul, and this particular issue, while important, isn't as vital as our ability to work together on the next hundred issues.

So yes, you're probably right, and yes, it's urgent, but if we can't agree on a process to talk about this, we're not going to get anywhere, not for long.

If the process we've used in the past is broken, let's fix it, because, in fact, getting that process right is actually more urgent than the problem we've got right now. Our meta-conversation pays significant dividends. At the very least, it gets us working together on the same side of a problem before we have to be on opposite sides of the issue of the day.

Fast, easy, guaranteed

...pick none.

That's the work that's worth doing.

There are Kracos

Thirty years ago, I used to work the booth at CES. The software company where I was a brand manager launched its products at the Consumer Electronics Show, which was, at the time, the biggest trade show in the world.

You can imagine that a huge stream of people were constantly walking by, and making our pitch to each and every one of them was exhausting. We were there to get mass merchants to sell our stuff--getting into Target or Lechmere was a victory we needed.

A few hours into the first show, I noticed that some of the people walking by had little creatures on their shoulders. Kraco, the low-cost stereo company, had a huge booth, and they were giving visitors these little stick-on humanoids, made of some sort of wool, to ride along on their shoulder. They were about two-inches high and they looked precisely as ridiculous as you are imagining.

I loved this. These people, these lookers, not buyers, were identifying themselves to us from a distance. The little Kraco man on the shoulder meant, "I am here to waste your time, I am not a professional, what will you give me that's free?" We quickly began identifying anyone with one of these on their shoulder as a Kraco, someone not worth an investment of focus and energy or free stuff.

Alas, the Kracos in your world today don't wear a little man on their shoulder, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. All your prospects are not the same, and if you insist on treating them that way, you will waste your time and your enthusiasm on people who aren't bringing any to your interaction.

In search of meaningful

From the individual who needs to get her idea in front of the right people, to the New York Times, which faces a ticking clock to figure out the digital landscape, all of us are in the media business. There's a gold rush for attention going on, and, given how much the media likes to cover the media, we hear about winners and losers, those doing it right and wrong, and most of all, the template for what we ought to be doing if we want to succeed.

I fear that right now, many are laboring under Buzzfeed Envy.

Since 1989, when I first started doing online media, people have been transfixed by scale, by numbers, by rankings. "How many eyeballs, how big is the audience, what's the passalong, how many likes, friends, followers, how many hits?" 

You cannot win this game and I want to persuade you (and Dean Baquet at the Times) to stop trying.

1. Are you generic? Over the last few years, the Times has lost Lisa Belkin, Nate Silver, David Pogue and other big name writers, not to mention the opportunity to do more with Michael Lewis and the Freakonomics guys. Here's the thing: when you read what these singular voices create, you know where it came from, and you have an opinion about it. 

Buzzfeed doesn't focus on who is speaking, they focus on writing something clickable and shareable and urgent in the moment. Those that want to own a valuable 'brand' like the fact that it belongs to them, unlike the demanding star writer, who might leave at any time. The value all goes to the system, not to the individual contributor.

(Buzzfeed is well on its way to becoming a dominant media company. But the Times isn't Buzzfeed, and neither are you.)

The problem with generic is that it's easy go as well as easy come. The Onion just launched their own sharable silliness and to those that spread it, it doesn't matter at all if the person writing it works for one brand in the genre or the other one. Staying ahead and gaining scale gets more difficult, not less for those in this segment.

Kasey Casem is remembered precisely because he refused to become generic. When he left his show and started a new one, so many people followed him that he was able to buy back the original show and run both of them at the same time. We were connected to him, not the idea of a radio show.

2. Is it for the reader or the search engine? Here's an excerpt from how editors are deciding things at the Times now: "There was praise for headlines that had contained the right words ... to maximize online search results." 

The most important thing any individual or corporate media entity needs to learn is this: One subscriber is worth 1,000 surfers. Newspapers learned this a century ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer created one of the richest families in America on the basis of a focus on subscriptions. And Time magazine has turned into a nearly valueless relic because they forgot to focus on subscribers and pandered to the newsstand and to the listicle instead.

[A subscriber, by my definition, doesn't have to pay with money. Sometimes, it's sufficient to pay with attention.]

3. Would I miss it if it were gone? And here's the key question, the one that gets to the heart of meaningful. When we deliver meaningful content, it means we show up, invited, with words and images that matter. It means that we are trusted enough to be permitted to speak the first few words, and talented enough to keep the attention we've worked so hard to earn. Most of all, meaningful can't possibly work for everyone with a smart phone, for everyone in every potential audience, because there are so many ways to be seen as meaningful, so many different tribes of people thirsting for different kinds of connection.

Here's the key flaw in the bigger-is-better reasoning: It's entirely possible to become an important voice merely because everyone is listening. (Walter Cronkite, or the front page of Yahoo in 1999). When everyone is listening, anyone who wants to be part of everyone also has to listen. That's certainly why the most viral viral videos get so many views--the second half of their views are people who don't watch viral videos, but need to get clued in.

There are still some advertisers who want the biggest mass they can find, who will pay extra to reach more people who care less, but those advertisers are going to find someone bigger than you to advertise with.

It's no longer possible to become important to everyone, not in a reliable, scalable way, not in a way that connects us to people who will read ads or take action, not to people who aren't already clicking away to the next thing by the time they get to the second or third sentence.

But it is possible to become important to a very-small everyone, to a connected tribe that cares about this voice or that story or this particular point of view. It's still possible to become meaningful, meaningful if you don't get short-term greedy about any particular moment of mass, betting on the long run instead. And we need institutions that can reach many of these tribes, that can bind together focused audiences and useful content creators.

Newspapers used to work because they were local, delivered and urgent, with few competitors.

Today, all four components have changed dramatically. Craigslist and others have stolen a lot of the revenue that came from local, anyone with email can be delivered, and the news cycle has bypassed the daily rhythm of the newspaper. And few competitors has become infinity competitors.

The future of newspapers (and for anyone making content) is to act more like a magazine, like Fast Company and Wired and The New Yorker of fifteen years ago. The center, the urgent center, of a smaller everyone.

My advice to the Times starts with this: Every reporter (and probably every editor) ought to have a blog (or be part of a focused group blog), and post every single day. That's perhaps 600 blogs, every single day, each charged with finding a group of people who care enough about that voice and that topic to hear about it daily. If a reporter can't write cogently and passionately enough about his topic to gain a following, he probably needs to work somewhere else. And if the paper can organize to hire and train and reward people who can do work like this, if they can figure out how to get out of the 48-page paper mindset, if it can create stars and pockets of true connection, it's inconceivable to me that they won't be able to turn a profit.

Of course, one straightforward act isn't going to change the future of the Times, but it represents a symptom, a visible sign that the focus is changing from making an above-average (or even excellent) newspaper for the masses into creating circles of expertise, organizing tribes, building subscriptions based on attention and publishing outside of the finite world of paper... (And I firmly believe that this applies even more to individuals and smaller organizations than it does to legacy newspapers).

The future of media can't possibly only lie in random mass viral entertainments, generated with the aid of computers and aimed at the lowest-clicking denominator. For most organizations, that can't lead to useful ads, it doesn't lead to subscriptions, and most of all, it doesn't lead to impact. Entertaining the people who click on 50 things a day will get you numbers, but it won't make a difference.

If it's not worth subscribing to a particular voice or feature or idea, if it's not worth looking forward to and not worth trusting, I'm not sure it's worth writing, not if your goal is to become meaningful.

The three questions to ask, then, at every editorial meeting:

Who is this for?

Will we be able to reach them?

Is it meaningful?

And here's the rhetorical question I'd ask the publisher of every media company, from the sole practitioner to the Times: If you had the loyal attention of the powerful, connected, concerned and intelligent people in any given (valuable) tribe or sector, and you regularly showed up with anticipated, personal and relevant content for those people, could you make it into a business?

[More on this (and Clay, too)]

PS From six years ago... Sorry to repeat myself.

Most likely to succeed

"Succeed" is in the eye of the beholder...

Most likely to hit a home run

Most likely to please my boss

Most likely to do the work

Most likely to work for free

Most likely to stick it out

Most likely to change everything

Most likely to be trustworthy

Most likely to attract attention 

Most likely to be invisible

Most likely to be worth it

There are many versions of most likely to succeed. When you're looking for a gig or a client, the category you are placed in by those that choose is up to you. And no category = invisible.

The panda and the bicycle

Many tribes gain in power and connection by finding their opposite, by identifying the choices that members won't make.

"People like us don't do things like that."

So the vegan tribe obviously chooses to not eat meat. And during the key formative years, the Apple tribe wouldn't deign to buy Microsoft products. The Amish build solidarity and define themselves by the machines they choose not to use, and for a long time, many professional photographers wouldn't use digital cameras.

The smart choice is to understand that tribal identity is based on choices, not on facts, based on allegiances, not the intentional disregard of the rest of the world. Some sects of the motorcycle tribe don't wear helments... not because they believe it's safer (and thus denying the obvious) but because it's a choice they want to make.

Shortly after Copernicus rocked the world by proving that the Earth goes around the Sun (and not vice versa), many religions condemned this insight, "people like us don't believe things like that."

The problem is this: science is not the opposite of a tribe, just like the panda is not the opposite of the bicycle and the avocado isn't the opposite of the semicolon. Facts are different than choices. The scientific method is a process, a series of questions and iterations that is distinct from what any particular observer chooses to believe. So yes, professional scientists have a culture and belong to various tribes, but no, that culture is not the same as the scientific method. And yes, scientists are often wrong, but scientists following the method correct their mistakes.

The same thing is true about accounting. When your balance sheet or your direct mail numbers don't add up, don't blame the process that counted them.

Tribes thrive when they connect and coordinate and synchronize. They work when they create a cultural connection. But they can't thrive when they merely embrace (or deny) the reality of the world around them.

You can choose not to ride a bicycle, but it makes no sense to deny that bicycles exist, regardless of how important your tribe thinks the panda bear is... unrelated ideas, ideas that don't benefit from being put in opposition to one another.

As you organize and lead your tribe, then, the opportunity is to be crystal clear about what you stand for, but to give the alert observers within your clan the ability to stick with you and what they believe without having to pretend that the world outside doesn't actually exist.

Micro marketing and the called bluff

Just ten years ago, what difference could you possibly be expected to make?

How could you make music without getting picked by a record label, or help the local community garden more than showing up on Saturday to pull weeds? How could anyone expect you to change a conversation, or raise enough cash or move the needle more than a little?

Today, armed with Mailchimp and Indiegogo and Vimeo and Meetup and a dozen other nearly free tools, you can make quite a ruckus.

You can organize a hundred or a thousand people and get them in sync with a weekly newsletter. You can tailor goods or services or a cause to a small group of people that really want to hear about it and really want to spread the word. You can self publish to your thousand true fans, you can host an event or a dozen events, you can enable your work to become famous to the crowd that matters.

Pick yourself.

If you care enough.

Worldview and stories

Why did McDonald's post signs saying, "More than a billion sold"?

Why do some people pay big money to go to galas that support charities, but not donate otherwise?

Why was the guy on the plane yesterday reading The Fault in Our Stars, years after it came out?

Why are some hipsters getting their tattoos removed?

What makes so many people vote against their long and short-term interests?

How come it's so easy to like or dislike a person, a brand or a politician before we even get to know much about them?

What's a fair price to pay for a decent bottle of wine?

Do doctors cure people more often than alternative medicine?

Is it worth owning a Leica?

When was the last time you took something out of the library?

Do you fly a flag outside of your house?

Enough with the facts and figures and features and benefits. They rarely move people into action. It's our worldview (the way we acted and believed and judged before we encountered you) and your story (the narrative we tell ourselves about who you are and what you do) that drive human behavior.

We make two giant mistakes as marketers:

We believe that everyone has the same worldview, that everyone in a group shares the same biases and expectations and dreams as everyone else... and,

We believe that the narrative is up for grabs, and we ought to just make the thing we make.

An accurate description of a worldview has nothing to do with you or your mission... it's the way a person acts without you in the room. In the case of McDonald's, it's the worldview of: I don't want to take a risk in this transaction, and one way to do that is to follow the crowd.

And the story is the (true) narrative that unlocks that worldview and turns it into action.

Tell me what your ideal customer believes, at the most emotional and primordial level, and then you can tell me the story you'll craft and live and deliver that engages with that belief.

[More on this]

Even better than an app?

Mitch writes about the very near future when most fast-serve and mid-priced restaurants will have a tablet on the table, letting you order and pay without ever speaking to a waiter. It sort of takes the magic out of restaurants for me, but I get his point.

And your store, your store is likely to become not much more than a showroom for an online seller if pointing and clicking is cheaper, faster and more satisfying than hunting down a salesperson and dealing with a transaction.

And this rash, perhaps it might be better diagnosed right now by emailing a picture of it to Jay Parkinson than it would by hassling for an appointment and spending the time and the money to drive an hour to the doctor's office to show it to someone in person.

And when was the last time you looked forward to waiting in line to talk to a bank teller? Or a loan officer? 

It used to be that the goal was to be perfect, like a computer. Now, of course, that's not nearly good enough if you're in any job that can be done by a computer (or a customer with an app in his hand).

Once we acknowledge that the measurable, objective job might be taken by an app, we have to make service dramatically better than self-service, or else this job is gone. If it's not special, don't bother.

What an opportunity! Instead of seeing a job as a shuttler of information and stuff from place to place, we can acknowledge that in fact, the shuttling isn't unique or even particularly valuable. The human being part is what's worth something.

Are you solving a problem or creating a problem?

Uber solves a problem. You always needed a reliable way to get from a to b, and Uber does that, in many ways better than a cab.

Lady Gaga solves a problem. You have neophilia when it comes to music, and she'll bring you new music to satisfy your curiousity.

Same thing goes for Zara. They solve the 'what's new in fashion' problem for a lot of early adopters.

On the other hand, Uggs created a problem for people who aren't necessarily fashion forward but want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Once "everyone" was wearing Uggs, these fashion-laggards had a problem—if they wanted to keep up, they had to go buy a new pair of boots.

In most successful business-to-business selling, the big wins come from creating problems. Once the competition is busy using your new innovation, the other companies have to buy it to keep competitive. Once other brands are using your social medium, the laggard brands do too—not because you've solved their problem, but because you've created one. The people in a traditional bureaucracy buy something new when they have to, not when they want to.

(It's interesting how we recoil from the idea of creating problems. Of course, progress is about creating opportunities, and opportunities always bring along their close colleague, problems.)

Or consider the case of a non-profit seeking to raise funds or gain government support. Without a doubt, they have to create a problem in the mind of the donor, or there will be no funds or no support to solve that problem.

It is clearly more fun (at first) to solve problems because everyone is happy to see you and the discussion is simple indeed, "You know that problem you used to have? We just solved it." The innovations that change the world, though, often create (or highlight) problems before they solve them.

[HT to Mo for the title]

What if you could love what you get paid for?

Really tempting to spend time trying to get paid for what you love.

It's probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.

It's not about you

Right in the front row, not four feet from Christian McBride, was every performer's bête noire. I don't know why she came to the Blue Note, maybe it was to make her date happy. But she was yawning, checking her watch, looking around the room, fiddling with this and that, doing everything except being engaged in the music.

McBride seemed to be too professional and too experienced to get brought down by her disrespect and disengagement. Here's what he knew: It wasn't about him, it wasn't about the music, it wasn't a response to what he was creating.

Haters gonna hate.

Shun the non-believers.

Do your work, your best work, the work that matters to you. For some people, you can say, "hey, it's not for you." That's okay. If you try to delight the undelightable, you've made yourself miserable for no reason.

It's sort of silly to make yourself miserable, but at least you ought to reserve it for times when you have a good reason.

Two kinds of busy

When I'm giving a speech, I don't have the ability to squeeze in a phone call, think about what's for dinner or plan tomorrow's meeting. I'm doing one thing, and it's taking everything I've got. So yes, I'm busy, all in.

On the other hand, we all are familiar with the other kind of busy, the busy of feeding one kid while listening to see if the other is still napping, while emptying the groceries, checking email and generally keeping the world on its axis.

I have two suggestions:

a. if you're used to being one kind of busy, try the other one out for a change. You might find it suits you.

and

b. if what you're doing isn't working, if you're not excelling at what you set out to do or not getting the results you seek, it might be because you're confused about what sort of busy is going to get you there...

Embracing boundaries

One of the most popular home computers ever made was the Commodore 64. The "64" was the amount of memory it had--not 64 gigs, or 64 megs, but 64k. If it were available today, it would be a little like being a toothpick vendor at a lumberjack convention.

The thing is, the amount of available memory was right there, in the name of the machine. All the people who developed for the machine knew exactly how much memory it had. Any time a developer whined or made excuses about how little memory there was, he was telling us something we already knew, making excuses where no excuses were needed or welcome.

With unlimited time, unlimited money and unlimited resources, of course you might do something differently. But your project is defined by the limitations and boundaries that are in place when you set out to accomplish something.

You build something remarkable because of the boundaries, not without them.

"You can buy this from anyone, and we're anyone"

That's not going to get you very far when you sell stuff, raise money, look for a job...

What if instead, you created a reputation as the person or organization that can honestly say, "you can't get this from anyone but me?"

The number #1 reason to focus

You will care more about the things that aren't working yet, you'll push through the dip, you'll expend effort and expose yourself to fear.

When you have a lot of balls in the air, it's easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.

Success comes from doing the hard part. When the hard part is all you've got, you're more likely to do it.

And this is precisely why it's difficult to focus. Because focusing means acknowledging that you just signed up for the hard part.

Clarity vs. impact

Sometimes you can have both, sure, but often, being crystal clear about categorization, topic sentences and the deliverable get in the way of actually making an impact.

If you can make change with a memo containing three bullet points, then by all means, do so.

The rest of the time, you might have to sacrifice the easy ride of clarity for the dense fog of telling stories, using inferences, understanding worldviews and most of all, engaging in action, not outlining the details. of a hypothetical interaction.

It turns out, humans don't use explanations to make change happen. They change, and then try to explain it.

Shame is a brand killer

When your public sees you choosing a path that's shameful, that they don't approve of, that offends their sensibilities, it creates a dissonance that might never be erased.

Brands work not because they have clever logos or taglines, not because they run a lot of ads, but because something about their story and their promise resonates with deeply held cultural beliefs. "People like us do things like this/buy things like this/like things like this," is the mark of a brand (a comedian, a clothing line, a store) that has become part of the zeitgeist, at least for a portion of the population. Most of all, it's, "people like us treat others like this."

When the brand stops resonating and starts undermining the way their audience thinks of themselves, it feels wrong, uncomfortable. When it crosses the line to behavior seen as shameful, the brand fades. Perhaps forever.

Organizations ought to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. Failing that, they ought to do the right thing because their public doesn't belong to them, they belong to their public, and when they fail to understand that, value disappears.

[Shame between individuals is corrosive, an ongoing toll on many relationships. We don't like to talk about shame because the very idea of it is so overwhelming. But shame in the public sphere is fuel for the media, and it's a significant contributor to maintaining or changing the cultural status quo. It's also become an ever increasing part of political discourse, and as a result, virtually all political brands are permanently tarnished.]

More people saying less (and a few more people saying more)

"Ditto!"

Opening the doors for the masses to speak, giving everyone who cares to have one a microphone--it has led to an explosion in people speaking. And most people, most of the time, are saying virtually nothing. Nothing worth reading, nothing worth repeating, certainly nothing worth remembering.

They're speaking, not speaking up.

But a few people...

A few people, people who would never have been chosen by those in power, are saying more. Writing more deeply, connecting more viscerally, changing the things around them.

That's each of us, at our best.

There's a cost of speaking up, of course. The cost of being wrong, or rubbing someone the wrong way, or merely in living with the uncertainty of what will happen next.

There's a cost to being banal, though. That cost isn't as easily felt, but it's real. It's the cost of boring your audience, of dumping 'me too' on people who have something better to do with their time. And especially, the cost of living in hiding, giving in to our fear.

Every day we can wonder and worry about whether a blog post is worth it. Not whether or not the microphone is working, but whether it's worth using at all.

It's much easier to spend a lot of time making your microphone louder than it is working on making your message more compelling...

The path of chiming in is safe and easy and carries little apparent risk and less reward (for you and for your readers). Choosing to dig deep and say more, though, is where both risk and reward live.

Sharing and celebrating your favorite authors...

One of the biggest benefits we've found in the way people use Hugdug is their ability to share the work of people they respect. Today more than ever, ideas spread horizontally, from person to person, not from the top down, not from an ad or from a talk show or from a promotion.

On a regular basis, I hand sell the work of Tom Peters, introducing his classics to people who didn't grow up with him. This one is my favorite.

The Hugdug team has hand-built some curation pages that make it easy for people to find a book they love and review and share it. Here are some authors who are doing amazing work... do you care enough to share it?

Ideas that spread, win. If you speak up about an idea or an artist you care about, the word spreads, the world changes. Find a favorite and tell someone...

Debbie Millman

Micah Sifry

Jeffrey Gitomer

Mitch Joel

Tom Peters

Neil Gaiman

Joachim de Posada

Nathaniel Philbrick

Brené Brown

The Freakonomics guys

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tim Ferriss

Barry Eisler

Dalai Lama

Isabel Allende

Pema Chodron

John Jantsch 

Bryan Eisenberg

Guy Kawasaki

Steve Pressfield

Kurt Andersen

Maira Kalman

Jon Gordon

Dave Ramsey

Neal Stephenson

Cory Doctorow

Mark Fraunfelder

Here are some musicians, too.

Amanda Palmer 

Bob Dylan

Bruce Springsteen

Also! Thanks for your early support of Hugdug. Last week, we sent a donation of $25,000 to charity: water to celebrate our launch. Now you can review a book and make a difference...

Treating people with kindness

One theory says that if you treat people well, you're more likely to encourage them to do what you want, making all the effort pay off. Do this, get that.

Another one, which I prefer, is that you might consider treating people with kindness merely because you can. Regardless of what they choose to do in response, this is what you choose to do. Because you can.

The people who started Staples didn't do it...

because they love office supplies.

They did it because they love organizing and running profitable retail businesses. They love hiring and leasing and telling a story that converts prospects into customers. Postits are sort of irrelevant.

You shouldn't become a middle school math teacher because you love math. You should do it because you love teaching.

I hope Staples has a senior buyer who actually does love office supplies. I hope that textbooks get written by people who love, really love, the topic they're writing about. It's easy, though, to fool ourselves into believing that going up the ladder means we get to do more of the thing we started out doing.

It's often the case that the people we surround ourselves with (and the tasks we do) have far more to do with job satisfaction and performance than the subject of our work.

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