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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


An intensive, 4-week online workshop designed to accelerate leaders to become change agents for the future. Designed by Seth Godin, for you.



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.




Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.



Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.




Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.



V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.




We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

The trap of listening to feedback

"If I listened to feedback, I would have quit on the first day."

You're devoting your life to making something important. Something helpful. Something that matters. Mostly, something that hasn't been done before, that's going to bend the curve and make an impact.

If you begin and end with surveys and focus groups, all you're going to do is what's been done before.

We're counting on you to trust yourself enough to speak your own version of our future. Yes, you'll need the empathy to put yourself in our shoes, and the generosity to care enough to make it worth our time and trust. But no, don't outsource the hard work of insight and creation to the rest of us.

That's on you.

About that tantrum

A note to the customer who just had a meltdown. To the groom without a perfect wedding, to the rental car customer who had to wait twenty minutes, and to the boss who's furious that the delivery wasn't as promised.

We heard you. We, as in the people you were seeking to impact, and we as in the rest of us as well, the innocent bystanders.

Actually, we heard you the first time. Ever since then, the only information that's being communicated is about you, not the people you're angry with.

You're demonstrating your privilege (because you need to have plenty of resources in order to waste so many on an emotional, non-productive tirade.)

You're demonstrating your entitlement.

You're demonstrating a surprising lack of self control. Toddlers have tantrums. Adults should solve problems.

And you're demonstrating your fear, most of all. The fear that fuels a narrative of being unheard. The fear that you're not good enough. The fear that this might be the last chance you get to make everything exactly perfect.

Working with the outside world is an act of communication and mutual respect. You deserve to be heard, but you don't have a right to have a tantrum.

Entrepreneurship is not a job

You don't apply. You don't get a salary. No one picks you.

Bragging about how much money you've raised or what your valuation is a form of job thinking.

Entrepreneurship is a chance to trade a solution to someone who has a problem that needs solving.

Solve more problems, solve bigger problems, solve problems more widely and you're an entrepreneur.

It's tempting to industrialize this work, to make it something with rules and bosses and processes. But that's not the heart of it.

The work is to solve problems in a way that you're proud of.

Missing from your job description

If you're working in an office, here are some of the checklist items that might have been omitted:

  • Add energy to every conversation
  • Ask why
  • Find obsolete things on your task list and remove them
  • Treat customers better than they expect
  • Offer to help co-workers before they ask
  • Feed the plants
  • Leave things more organized than you found them
  • Invent a moment of silliness
  • Highlight good work from your peers
  • Find other great employees to join the team
  • Cut costs
  • Help invent a new product or service that people really want
  • Get smarter at your job through training or books
  • Encourage curiosity
  • Surface and highlight difficult decisions
  • Figure out what didn't work
  • Organize the bookshelf
  • Start a club
  • Tell a joke at no one's expense
  • Smile a lot.

Now that it's easier than ever to outsource a job to someone cheaper (or a robot) there needs to be a really good reason for someone to be in the office. Here's to finding several.


[Heads up: Today's the early priority deadline for the summer session of the altMBA.

Also! Tonight, just after 6 pm ET, the one and only Simon Sinek is joining me for a Facebook Live conversation, on location.]

After you raise your hand...

Show up.

Show up and keep showing up.

Show up with at least as much enthusiasm as you had when you first raised your hand to volunteer.

The volunteering part is easy. Making promises is a fun way to get someone's attention.

Keeping those promises is often unsung, but that's how you build something.


Since dawn of the industrial age, tighter has been the goal.

A tighter system, with less slack.

Tighter connection with customers.

Even plastic surgeons deliver tighter skin. No one ever goes seeking more folds and flab.

The thing is, tighter is fine when you're trimming a sail or optimizing a production system.

But many things in our lives need to be looser. More room for innovation. More slack for peace of mind. More spaces for surprise.

The placebo ratchet

A placebo that works becomes more powerful.

Which makes it more likely to work next time.

It's that simple, but it's magic.

Placebos work for two reasons:

  1. The confidence they create makes it more likely our body will respond, our work will improve, that something will go better.
  2. Things might get better on their own, but if the placebo was around when it happened, it gets the credit.

And so, we end up with medicines or horoscopes or mantras or methods or devices that help us. Without a lot of expense, without side effects, without a hassle.

The positive ratchet of reinforcement can help us if we let it.


A slow motion trainwreck

We like the flawed hero, bad behavior, tragedy and drama in our fictional characters.

Batman and Deadpool sell far more tickets than Superman does.

If we use social media to attract a crowd, we will, at some level, become a fictional character. Reality shows aren't about reality--they're shows.

Which means that it's tempting to become the sort of trainwreck that people like to watch and jeer and root for.

Personally, and for our brand as well.

Every time DC tries to make Superman more popular, they create drama that isn't inherent in who he is. Brands fall into this trap all the time.

For a long time, people would confirm that they'd rather watch a flawed character, but deep down, they'd like to be Superman. Because his humility, kindness and resilient mental health are a perfect match for his unlimited powers. Unfortunately, as we've turned our lives into a reality show, more people seem happier emphasizing their mess.

It's probably a bad idea to vote for, work for or marry a trainwreck. They belong on screen, not in real life.

Everyone has some Superman in them. But it takes emotional labor and hard work to reclaim it.

The words that work

We're bad at empathy. As a result, when we're arguing a point with someone, we tend to use words and images that work on us, not necessarily that help the other person.

So, if you want to understand how to persuade someone, listen to how they try to persuade you.

For example, one partner in a conversation might use concepts like power and tradition and authority to make a case, while the other might rely on science, statistics or fairness. One person might argue with tons of emotional insight, while someone else might bring up studies and peer reviews.

What they're actually doing is talking about things in the way they like to hear them.

Powerful metrics with hidden variables

What factors lead to a search result showing up on page 1 or page 5 of Google?

What about the popularity bar in iTunes? How does it work?

Who decides what your salary is compared to the person down the hall?

On this road, in this town, what's the threshold before you'll get a speeding ticket?

In that magazine article, what's the methodology for ranking these semi-famous people?

How did this image show up in recommended?

There are ratings and rankings that ostensibly exist to give us information (and we are supposed to use that information to change our behavior).

But if we don't know what variables matter, how is it supposed to be useful?

Just because it can be easily measured with two digits doesn't mean that it's accurate, important or useful.

[Marketers learned a long time ago that people love rankings and daily specials. The best way to boost sales is to put something in a little box on the menu, and, when in doubt, rank things. And sometimes people even make up the rankings.]

You'll pay a lot, but you'll get more than you pay for

That's as useful a freelancer marketing strategy as you can fit in a single sentence.

How to give a five-minute presentation

Give a four-minute presentation and take your time.

The alternative is to try to give a six or seven-minute long talk in five minutes. To rush. To get flustered. To go over your time. To act in a way that belies your professional nature.

Nope. Better to stick with the four-minute approach.

The thing is, you'll never have enough time to tell us every single thing in enough detail. It would take you years.

Portion control is your friend. Figure out how big the plate is and serve just the right amount.

Character matters (if you let it)

Choosing to develop character is difficult, because it requires avoiding the shorter, more direct path. It can be slow, expensive and difficult work.

And rewarding character is difficult as well, because someone is probably offering you an alternative that's cheaper or faster. A sure road to a quick payday.


Every time we avoid the easy in favor of what's right, we create ripples. Character begets more character, weaving together the fabric of our culture, the kind of world we'd rather live in.

What happened and what will you add?

Is it outside of the canon?

The internet, with instant access to all known history and science, was supposed to help us all get in sync, to understand what we knew for sure.

But of course, when everyone has a keyboard and a camera, it's up for grabs.

Some people get frustrated when others use the word "enormity" to mean, "very very enormous." That's because they know that enormity means "unspeakably horrible," and they're worried that if enough people use it the wrong way, they'll no longer be able to use it the right way, and a nuanced word will disappear.

Language is plastic, it changes over time. Who knows what 'dap' used to mean, or what it will mean tomorrow? What happens to the serial comma or the other refined elements of punctuation? Language is a reflection of who we are and how we speak and it's foolish to insist that it stay the same as it always was.

Work that alters the canon, that begins outside of it but then is incorporated into it, is how our culture grows.

Facts and history, though, fade away if we let them become plastic.

It probably took Descartes 50 years to reach half a million people with his ideas about philosophy and the mind-body problem. The School of Life, with millions of viewers on its YouTube channel, was able to reach half a million people with its video on the mind body problem in just a year. The issue, as dozens of folks have pointed out, is that the video has nothing at all to do with the actual mind body problem, and simply makes up new stuff.

Descartes isn't here to defend himself, and I'm not sure he should count on me to stand up for him, but it points to a bigger problem: Everyone has the authority to have a media channel, but responsibility is in short supply.

We need new ideas, but if it's not in the canon, it's worth labeling properly--a new idea to consider, not an accurate version of what came before.

If you want to earn trust, it helps to either get it right or to fix it once you've discovered that you've gotten it wrong.

"Your mileage may vary" is a useful way to think about our experiences, but sometimes we don't want our mileage to vary. Sometimes we want to know what actually happened, how to compute acceleration or decode a cultural artifact. Sometimes we want to know about the work that came before.

PS friggatriskaidekaphobia, or the more popular term, Triskaidekaphobia, was first used in print by Isador Coriat about a hundred years ago. Be safe today.

On taking a hint

Hints are free.

You're welcome to take them and use them to do better work.

Often, the real truth is wrapped in a hint, because a direct statement is too difficult, it feels too risky. Unwrapping the hint to find the truth is a life skill.

Sometimes, you might try to take a hint when none was offered. Sometimes, we imagine that people are telling us something that they're not. If you have that experience often, it's totally okay to ask for clarification.

The rest of the time, if someone offers you a hint, take it.

(And if you're working closely with someone, it's probably worth skipping the hints and choosing to communicate with clarity instead).

What do advertisers want?

You can't be thoughtful about culture without thinking about media, and you can't think about media without thinking about who's paying for it.

Advertisers (mostly) want mass. They'd like the SuperBowl, the home page of Google, the shortest route to the largest number of people. It's easier that way. It's more fun. It requires less risk.

But of course, it costs too much.

Hence data. Data's a way of getting mass, but just the mass they're hoping for. It's a way of spending less in total (but more per person) in the hope that the yield will go up. It's also the trend, and advertisers love trends.

The march toward data has been going on since the early online days, at least 1999, the dawn of internet advertising, because the internet can't be a mass medium. Too many channels, too much interaction. And as it splinters further but requires ever more money to run, the race for data is on.

In this week's Akimbo, I talk about being there at the beginning of the surveillance race, as well as the option that advertisers and the public can (surprisingly) agree on: limits. Limits give advertisers the guardrails to go back to what they actually want to do, and they give the rest of us a chance to feel safe in a non-commercialized, non-invasive space.

If we don't push for meaningful legal limits on ad encroachment, hyper-targeting and surveillance, there aren't going to be any. The ratchet will keep turning.

Why even bother to think about strategy?

There's confusion between tactics and strategy. It's easy to get tied up in semantic knots as you work to figure out the distinction. It's worth it, though, because strategy can save you when tactics fail.

If a tactic fails, you should consider abandoning it.

But that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with your strategy. Your strategy is what you keep doing even after you walk away from a tactic.

A real estate broker could decide that her goal is to get more listings.

And her strategy is to achieve that by becoming the most trusted person in town.

There are then 100 tactics she can use to earn that trust. She can coordinate events, sponsor teams, host community meetings in her office, sponsor the local baseball team, be transparent about her earnings, hire countless summer interns at a fair wage, run seminars at the local library, etc. ...

It doesn't matter if one or two or five of the tactics aren't home runs. They add up.

But if once, just once, she violates someone's trust and expectations, the entire strategy goes out the window.

Tactics are disposable.

Strategy is for the long haul.

Speaking up about what could be better

Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.

It's a practice that has built the very best parts of our culture.

Solving interesting problems begins with posing them--which means being willing to speak up about what could be better before we know how to make it better.

We see these problems, all of us do. But they're easy to ignore if we're hoping for a quick win. Instead, patience and empathy define us as the humans we seek to be. 

Too often we get trapped believing we need:


Quick answers

A guarantee

If you want those three things, you're missing the path. The search for quick, guaranteed and certain results will almost always undermine the creativity you're after.

Creativity is a step on the way to making things better. 

As we've built the altMBA (more than 2,000 students so far), the need for creativity has become ever more urgent.

The web is littered with easy promises and simple call & response patterns. It's antithetical to creativity. Instead, our social networks have turned us into unpaid factory workers, toiling in a giant system, one that pushes us to feel shame, to be in a hurry, to worry about nothing but the surface.

That's not where creativity comes from and that's not what creativity is for.

Possibility and responsibility are available to anyone who wants them. That could be us, any of us.

Seeing the world as it is, offering people dignity, choosing to make a difference... none of these are fast and easy paths, but we do them anyway.

Will you?

Please consider joining us for the altMBA. The work matters.

But what about the people who don't care?

How do we work with someone who doesn't seem to care?

I have a hard time believing that people can't care. I think that they often don't see. They don't see what we see, or interpret it differently.  Or if they see, they see something you don't see. But if they saw what you saw, and it was related to how they saw themselves, they'd act differently.

The gap is usually in the difficulty of getting the non-owner to see a path to happiness that comes as a result of acting like an owner. Most people are taught to avoid that feeling. Because it always comes with another feeling--the dread of responsibility.


[PS I'm told that Typepad, where this blog is hosted, is doing some technical work. As a result, publishing and uptime may be funky and unpredictable for a time. On their behalf, my apologies.]

Exit, voice and loyalty

We often have a choice: speak up or leave.

In commerce, if we don't like a brand, we leave. The always-present choice to stay or to go drives bosses, marketers and organizations to continually be focused on earning (and re-earning) the attention and patronage of their constituents.

Sometimes, instead of leaving, people speak up.

For most of my life, the biggest separation between government and economics was this distinction.

In many cases, government has generally taken the idea of exit off the table. If you don't like your country, you could consider leaving it, but that's an extraordinarily disruptive act. Not voting may express your apathy or disgust, but you're still a member of the society.

Capitalism ceases to be an efficient choice when those served have no ability to exit. For-profit prisons, for example, or cable monopolies. If you can't exit, you're not really the customer, and you are deprived, as a result, of voice.

In the case of effective government, voice is built in on behalf of those that have no ability to exit. A well-functioning representative democracy opens the door for people to be heard and action to be taken.

Suddenly, it's easier than ever for rich people to exit instead of speak up. They can wire funds (when wealth was held only in real estate, that wasn't an option, you can't take land with you) and they can live an almost post-national existence. As a result, since they're not tied down and often pay little or nothing in taxes, they're less inclined to work hard to make their place better for everyone. The same applies to private school (for the few) compared to public school (for the rest).

Voice matters.

Loyalty, then, could be defined as the emotion that sways us to speak up when we're tempted to walk away instead.

When your loyal customers speak up, how do you respond? When you have a chance to speak up but walk away instead, what does it cost you? What about those groups you used to be part of? I've had the experience several times where, when my voice ceased to be heard, I decided it was easier to walk away instead.

Voice is an expression of loyalty. Voice is not merely criticism, it might be the contribution of someone who has the option to walk away but doesn't.

In Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Albert Hirschman explains how this overlooked mechanism of the world works.

Words on slides

If you use Powerpoint, a few principles and tips to keep in mind when using type on a slide:

  1. Don't read the words. It's bad enough that people use Powerpoint as a sort of teleprompter. Much worse that you don't trust the audience enough to read what you wrote. If you want them to read the precise words, stand quietly until they do. If you want to paraphrase the words, that can work. 
  2. But even better, remember that slides are free. You can have as many as you like. That means that instead of three bullet points (with two sentences each) on a slide, you can make 6 slides. Or more. The energy you create by advancing from slide to slide will seduce most of the people in your audience to read along to keep up. Slides that people read are worth five times more than slides that you read to them.
  3. Better still, don't use words. Or, at the most, one or two keywords, in huge type. The rest of the slide is a picture, which I'm told is worth 1,000 words. That way, the image burns itself into one part of the brain while your narrative is received by the other part. The keyword gives you an anchor, and now you're hitting in three places, not just one.
  4. When in doubt, re-read rule 1. Don't read the slides.
  5. Many organizations use decks as a fancy sort of memo, a leave-behind that provides proof that you actually said what you said. "Can you send me the deck?" A smart presenter will have two decks. One deck has plenty of text, but then those pages are hidden when the presentation is performed live.
  6. Reconsider the memo. They're underrated when it comes to educating numbers of people in an efficient way. Follow up with a test if you're worried about compliance. Live meetings attended in sync are a luxury. Don't waste them.

If you're interested, I'm happy to read this blog post to you if you want to meet me in room 6-A at 2 pm today.

[Here's the full post from 11 (!) years ago.]


Effort in the face of near-certain rejection

Every day, we shoot for unlikely outcomes. We send out our resume, pitch our book, ask for a donation, swipe right on a social network...

There are two ways you can go:

ONE: Realize that the odds are against you, and go for volume. This means that you should spray and pray, putting as little effort into each interaction as possible, giving you the resources to have as many interactions as you can. This is hiring a virtual assistant to spam your contacts, or sending out 200 resumes, or pounding your email list again and again for orders. This is your reaction to an unfair world, in which you deal with the noise by making more noise.

TWO: Invest far more in each interaction than any rational human would advise. Do your homework. Invest more time in creating your offer than you expect the recipient will spend in replying to it. Don't personalize, be personal. Create an imbalance of effort and care. Show up. Don't spam, in any form.

The thing is, people can tell. And they're significantly more likely to give you an interview, make a donation, answer your question or do that other thing you're hoping for if you've signalled that you're actually a caring, focused, generous human.


[PS Today's the last day to sign up for The Marketing Seminar. More than a hundred days of peer-to-peer interaction designed to help you spread your ideas and make an impact.]

We can do better than meeting spec

Well, that's over. Google AI now sounds indistinguishable from a human. And it'll only get more nuanced and more flexible.

It can read aloud better than you can.

Which means that anything that's ever been written can be perfectly read to you. Which means that anything a computer figures out or computes can be delivered to you with audio quality that meets spec.

That's what AI keeps doing... things we said were impossible.

Most of us shrugged when computers could drill holes or assemble machines with more accuracy and speed than a person can.

And we avoided the topic when we discovered that computers could read x-rays with great skill as well.

But now, it ought to make you shudder to discover that something as basic as speech is now better than the typical human's. Any speed, fully customized, in clear tones with great pronunciation.

Once it's done a little, it will quickly become commonplace.

And as we all know, when you do something that's commonplace, it's not worth that much.

The goal can't be quality, not for people anyway. It needs to be humanity. The rough edges of caring, of improv and of connection.

If all you can do is meet spec, better be sure you can do that faster and cheaper than an AI can. 


Here's this week's episode of Akimbo, my new podcast. Coincidentally, about quality. And rough edges.

Which is worse...

Failure or fear of failure?

Fear or fear of fear?

Trying and failing or not trying at all?

Speaking up and not being heard, or suffering in silence?

Caring and losing, or not caring at all?

Doing or wondering?

Whose meeting is this? A simple checklist

Can your next meeting (not conversation, not presentation, but meeting) pass this test?

There's one person responsible.

The time allocated matches what's needed, not what the calendar app says.

Everyone invited is someone who needs to be there, and no key party is missing.

There's a default step forward if someone doesn't come.

There's no better way to move this forward than to have this meeting.

The desired outcome is clearly stated. The organizer has described what would have to happen for the meeting to be cancelled or to stop midway. "This is what I want to happen," and if there's a "yes," we're done.

All relevant information, including analysis, is available to all in plenty of time to be reviewed in advance.

If you score a seven, count me in.


[Join us for a Facebook Live at 3 pm today. We'll be discussing mindfulness and making an impact with the remarkable Susan Piver. Also! Application deadline for the next altMBA is next week, April 9th.]

Happy Anniversary

Today's the seventeenth anniversary of the founding of Acumen, a groundbreaking non-profit that's changing the way the world sees poverty (they've already made a difference to 100,000,000 of the poorest people on Earth.). In addition to a great idea and passionate leadership, the secret is obvious--showing up.

Showing up day after day after day.

Today's the first anniversary of Sam joining our team at the altMBA. Sam's secret: Her consistent contribution, showing up day after day after day.

And today, give or take, is the sixteenth anniversary of this blog. Not quite on April Fool's Day a bunch of years ago, but close enough. I feel badly that so many people were fooled by this morning's post, and I'm grateful to those that wrote in with concern. But no, I was making a point, not telling the truth. It turns out that showing up is a great way to find new ideas, and I have no plans on stopping.

It's easy to come to the conclusion that someone's generous or inspired and so they do the work. But it's more likely that doing the work makes you generous or inspired.

Go make your ruckus. See you tomorrow.

I used them all up (a warning to creatives)

When I was 12, I brought 100 comic books with me to summer camp. That's a lot of comic books, an essentially infinite number.

So, if someone wanted to borrow one, I said, "sure."

Within a week, they were all gone. I was comicless for the rest of the summer.

Well, I didn't think it would happen, in fact, I said it would never happen, but now, in April 2018, after so many blog posts, after 18 books, dozens of projects and a bunch of ebooks and videos and podcasts, I'm now completely out of ideas. Big ideas, small ideas, any ideas. All gone. Used up.

I have none left.

I always believed that creativity was generative, that one led to two, that holding back was selfish and foolish. More connection begets more value begets more creation. A virtuous cycle for the ages.

And yet, here I am, sixteen Aprils in a row on this blog so far, and now, finally, zilch. Empty. Nothing even close to a new idea, a generous insight or a whisper of novelty. Nothing to say that might prompt you to do more important work. I don't even know what to make for dinner tonight.

So, be warned.

Apparently, all each of us get is seven or eight thousand ideas. I wish I'd known in advance, perhaps I would have been more circumspect with them. Hoarded them. Watched them more carefully.

There you go. Better be careful not to waste yours.



[PS for those of you not looking at the calendar... happy april]

What is and what might be

They have much less in common than you might expect.

The key step in creating a better future is insisting that it not be based on the assumptions, grievances and dead ends of the past.

The future won't be perfect. We won't be perfect. But we can be kind. We can listen. We can give opportunity the benefit of the doubt.

The future won't always work. We won't always succeed. But we can be alert and seek out the possible instead of the predicted.

The future won't always be fair. But we can try. We can care. We can choose to connect.

It can be better if we let it.


[Have you read about The Marketing Seminar? This is our last session before the fall.]

The Podcast Fellowship (a summer program)

[If you know a full-time student in need of a worthy summer project, please share with them...]

Summer internships are a problem. Too often, you're working for free, doing very little of value and learning less. Two out of three might be okay, but that's a lousy combination.

Too often, careers are shaped based on too little input from a busy office. And far too often, privilege and existing relationships play a role in who gets to do something productive.

In real life, after college, you're less likely than ever to have a real job in a real office. You're also hoping to be doing a job you actually like, where people aren't telling you what to do all day. Why train for the worst outcome all summer in a dead-end internship?

Alex DiPalma and I are pleased to invite you to consider an experiment, open to a hand-picked group of students this summer. A virtual program, available wherever there's a laptop and an internet connection. Alex is a successful podcast producer, who has worked on Akimbo, with Minnesota Public Radio, with Cal Fussman, with Food4Thot, among other shows. She knows what's up.

The idea: You should build a podcast. A thirty-episode series, a podcast that captures insights and experiences in an area you care about.

Are you hoping for a career in urban planning? Make your podcast about that. Over the course of the thirty episodes, you can interview leaders in your field. You can capture your thoughts on the big (and small) issues of the day. You can lead and you can teach. And no one can stop you.

It doesn't matter how many people listen to it. It doesn't matter that it doesn't have a sponsor. It matters that you made it.

By the end of the summer, you'll have published your work to anyone who cares to subscribe. You'll have developed assertions, made connections and most of all, shared with generosity. You won't be a technical wizard, you'll have something better than that--the confidence that comes from having built and shipped generous work.

The program itself works like this: We'll accept applications until April 10th, 2018 at 5 pm. Alex will go through the applications and invite a cohort to join the program. It will run every weekday from June 28 to August 15th, using an online community platform we're customizing just for you. You can live anywhere in the world. You can already have a summer gig. All you need is the desire and a commitment to put in the time.

[We're accepting applications from non-students, but students get priority.]

Throughout the program, we'll be teaching you useful techniques, challenging you to invent new ones, and most of all, connecting you with other students who are going where you're going. This online mastermind group will take a real commitment, a few hours a day at minimum. But if you put in the time, you'll earn the body of work you'll end up creating.

The program costs $10 a day, because we want people to have skin in the game. Financial aid is available. The application is here, and we hope you'll consider it.

Video/podcast roundup

Some interviews and talks you might enjoy:



Podcast: Project Management with

Podcast: Talking with Anthony Iannorino

Podcast: With Lisa DeLay.

Daily Grind podcast.

Don't Quit Your Day Job with Cathy Heller.

Podcast with Heneka Watkis Porter

Podcast with Joe Ferraro.



Tropical MBA podcast.

Podcast: Design Matters with Debbie Millman (a backlist classic).


When your ideas get stolen

A few meditations:

Good for you. Isn't it better that your ideas are worth stealing? What would happen if you worked all that time, created that book or that movie or that concept and no one wanted to riff on it, expand it or run with it? Would that be better?

You're not going to run out of ideas. In fact, the more people grab your ideas and make magic with them, the more of a vacuum is sitting in your outbox, which means you will prompted to come up with even more ideas, right? 

Ideas that spread win. They enrich our culture, create connection and improve our lives. Isn't that why you created your idea in the first place?

The goal isn't credit. The goal is change.


[A new episode of Akimbo is out today, with riffs about infinite and finite games. Feel free to subscribe, and please steal these ideas. Ready to spread your ideas? Check out The Marketing Seminar... don't forget the purple circle.]


It's time

Time to get off the social media marketing merry-go-round that goes faster and faster but never actually goes anywhere.

Time to stop hustling and interrupting.

Time to stop spamming and pretending you're welcome.

Time to stop making average stuff for average people but hoping you can charge more than a commodity price.

Time to stop begging people to become your clients, and time to stop feeling badly about charging for your work.

Time to stop looking for shortcuts and time to start insisting on a long, viable path instead. 

Time to start contributing.

There are lots of ways to embrace modern marketing, but the there's no doubt that you'll be better off once you do.

Modern marketing is the practice of making something worth talking about, developing empathy for those you seek to serve and being in the market in a way that people would miss you if you were gone.

Today's the first day for signups for the proven, effective Marketing Seminar. We've worked with more than 5,000 students so far and they've made a substantial impact with their work. The Seminar is not just videos--it's an ongoing cohort, months of working directly with your peers, engaging, challenging and learning what works (and what doesn't.)

It might be just what you need to transform your work. If you click the purple circle on the bottom of the page, you'll save a bunch of money, but hurry, as the discount gets a little less valuable each day.

And, if you're the sort of student who would prefer to skip the discussion board and binge watch, we've just made the Seminar available in an all-video highlights format as well.

It's time to change the way you engage with the market. I'm hoping we can help.

Secure and respected and engaged and risky

Some people want their workplace to be like an artist's studio. A lab. A dance with the possible. Engaging. Thrilling. The chance to take flight, to be engaged, to risk defeat and to find a new solution to an important problem. 

And some people want a job that's secure, where they are respected by those around them.

The essential lesson: These are not necessarily different people, but they are very different attitudes. 

It's a choice, a choice made once a lifetime, or every year, or perhaps day by day...

When you sit with an employee who seeks security and talk to them about "failing fast," and "understanding the guardrails," and "speaking up," it's not likely to resonate. 

It's worth finding the right state of mind for the job that needs to be done.

Don't split the pot (at least not at this table)

I got kicked out of the only regular poker game I was ever a part of.

The first week I won a few bucks.

The second week, I broke even.

The third week, the betting got serious and there was a lot on the table--maybe as much as $30(!). Realizing that this sort of risk didn't work for me, I turned to the last two people left in a hand and said, "why don't we split the pot three ways?"

In the long run, that might be a good way to go home flush. In real life, it's a totally sensible way to deal with risk.

But at a poker game?

When you sit down at a poker table, you're acting as if. As if you're gambling. And if you don't want to gamble, don't play. That's what they told me and they were right.

The same thing is true when you go to a brainstorming session, or to therapy or even an Ethiopian restaurant.

If you don't want to want to engage with what's on the table, don't sit down.

You will not be surprised by artificial intelligence

That's because it's incremental. Every time a computer takes over a job we never imagined a computer can do, it happens so gradually that by the time it's complete, we're not the slightest bit amazed.

We now have computers that can play chess, read x-rays, drive down the highway at 55 miles an hour, understand our voice, scan documents for errors, do all traditional banking chores, correct our spelling, plot a route on foot or by plane, find the cheapest airfares and pick a face out of a crowd.

At any time since 1970, if you went to live on a desert island for a decade, you would have been blown away by what happened when you got back.  Day by day, though, human-only tasks quietly disappear.

After the replacement, computers do some of these jobs better than we ever could, but, as they're evolving, we take each of these perfections and advancements for granted. It's too gradual to be awe-inspiring.

Our job now, isn't to do our job. It's to find new tasks, human tasks, faster than the computer takes the old ones away. Too often, people are displaced and then give up.

We can still add value, but we need to do it differently, more bravely, and with ever more insight.

[IBM recently asked me to do a talk about the future of AI in customer service.]

How many hops?

Some things, like your next job, might happen as the direct result of one meeting. Here I am, here's my resume, okay, you're hired.

But most of the time, that's not the way it works.

You meet someone. You do a small project. You write an article. It leads to another meeting. You do a slightly bigger project for someone else. You make a short film. That leads to a speaking gig. Which leads to an consulting contract. And then you get the gig.

How many hops does the ball take before it lands where you're hoping it will?

If you're walking around with a quid pro quo mindset, giving only enough to get what you need right now, and walking away from anyone or anything that isn't the destination—not only are you eliminating all the possible multi-hop options, you're probably not having as much as fun or contributing as much as you could either.

Overpinnings when the underpinnings go away

Years ago, most middle class people had a huge, expensive piece of furniture in their living room. It played music and captured radio broadcasts.

The high-end stereo business was the overpinning built on this underpinning. "If you're already going to the expense and trouble of making music at home, why not spend a bit more time and money and have it sound fantastic?"

Of course, most people have solved their music problem, and they didn't need a piece of furniture to do it. The underpinnings that the industry was built on have disappeared.

The same is true for the typical bookstore. "If you're already spending a little bit of time and money reading books to stay informed, why not spend a bit more time and money and be really smart?"

The typical adult isn't relying on books for this sort of information any more, so the upgradeable base is much smaller.

Or consider the fountain pen (overpinning the ballpoint), the fancy vacation house (overpinning the motel replaced by vrbo and airbnb), or the fancy suit (overpinning the cheap suit). It's even true for laser printers and cigarettes.

These luxury categories don't go away as fast as the thing they depended on, because they were never mass items, so it's possible to survive on much less demand. But in order to thrive, the creators of these products need to shift their story, their posture and the value they deliver to their audience.

Mobile blindness

You don't need a peer-reviewed study to know that when people surf the web on their smartphones, they're not going as deep.

We swipe instead of click.

We scan instead of read. Even our personal email...

We get exposure to far more at the surface, but rarely dig in.

As a result, the fine print gets ignored. We go for headlines, not nuance. It's a deluge of gossip and thin promises, not the relatively more immersive experience of the desktop web.

And of course, the web was a surface treatment of a day spent with books and in uninterrupted flow on a single topic.

It's not an accident that blog posts and tweets are getting shorter. We rarely stick around for the long version.

Photokeratitis (snow blindness) happens when there's too much ultraviolet--when the fuel for our eyes comes in too strong and we can't absorb it all. Something similar is happening to each of us, to our entire culture, as a result of the tsunami of noise vying for our attention.

It's possible you can find an edge by going even faster and focusing even more on breadth at the surface. But it's far more satisfying and highly leveraged to go the other way instead. Even if it's just for a few hours a day.

If you care about something, consider taking a moment to slow down and understand it. And if you don't care, no need to even bother with the surface.

The beat goes on

That's what makes it the beat.

There are other things that stop. That start. That go faster or slower. 

But don't worry about the beat. We can't change the beat. The beat continues.

When we're watching it, it continues, and when we're distracted, it continues. Beat by beat, day by day, it continues.

Awareness of our forward motion, of the tick and tock as we move from yesterday to tomorrow... it gives us perspective and patience if we let it. Or it can stress us out. Up to us.

Look, there goes another one.

What will you do with the next one?

Getting the default settings right

We know that the default settings determine the behavior of the group. Organ donation, 401k allocations, the typeface on our word processor--the way it's set to act if we don't override it is often the way we act. Because often, we decide it's not worth the effort to change the setting today.

Which means that examining your settings now and then is worth the effort:

Don't speak unless asked vs. don't keep quiet with a suggestion.

Look for the downsides vs. look for the upsides.

Do the minimum vs. do the maximum.

Don't ship until perfect vs. ship and learn.

The benefit of the doubt vs. skepticism.

Trusting vs. wary.

Inquiry vs. sarcasm.

Speed up vs. slow down.

Generous vs. selfish.

We all have defaults. Are yours helping you?

[PS it's definitely not too soon to mark the next altMBA on your calendar. It works. That's why every session we've done has been fully enrolled. Check it out if you can.]

Yes, there's a free lunch

In a physical economy in which scarcity is the fundamental driver, eating lunch means someone else gets less.

But in a society where ideas lead to trust and connection and productivity, where working together is better than working apart, where exchange creates value for both sides...

Then the efficient sharing of ideas is its own free lunch. 

All of us are smarter than any of us, so the value to all goes up when you share.

"What does this remind you of?"

That's a much more useful way to get feedback than asking if we like it.

We make first impressions and long-term judgments based on the smallest of clues. We scan before we dive in, we see the surface before we experience the substance.

And while the emotions that are created by your work aren't exactly like something else, they rhyme.

It could be your business model, your haircut or the vibrato on your guitar.

"What does this remind you of" opens the door for useful conversations that you can actually do something about. Yes, be original, but no, it's not helpful to be so original that we have no idea what you're doing.

Everyone has an accent

The fact that we think the way we speak is normal is the first clue that empathy is quite difficult.

You might also notice how easy it is to notice people who are much worse at driving than you are--but that you almost never recognize someone who's driving better than you are.

We make our own taste, and call it reality

Most of us say, "this is better, therefore I like it."

In fact, the converse is what actually happens. "I like it, therefore I'm assuring you (and me) that this is better."


The latest episode my Akimbo podcast is about hits. (Click then scroll down to see all the episodes, or, even better, subscribe for free...)

The hit that sweeps an industry, like a thresher through a wheat field. The one that everyone is talking about. The lines down the street, the box office record, the career maker.

Isn't that what creators dream of?

There are three ways a hit happens:

  1. Many people who love a particular medium (music, the theatre, books) coalesce around a single new title.
  2. Many people who rarely spend time in that medium make this title the one thing they're going to engage in.
  3. A few people consume that title over and over again.

It's rare to invent something that works on all three levels. Black Panther is not like the DaVinci Code which is not like the Grateful Dead.

You can build something that the cool kids love. You can build something that the bystanders love. Or you can build a cult favorite. Best to do it on purpose.

[PS we're going to record an episode of Akimbo today. The episode is going to be about 'live' and of course, we're going to record it live at 10 am ET. Feel free to tune in and join us.]

[Also, Bernadette's new book is now available. It's worth your time.]

300 seconds

Not stalling.


How many decisions or commitments would end up more positively if you had a five-minute snooze button on hand?

Esprit d'escalier* isn't as hard to live with as its opposite. The hasty one-liner, the rushed reaction, the action we end up regretting--all of them can be eliminated with judicious use of the snooze button. It's a shame there isn't one built in to our computers when we're communicating online...

When in doubt, go for a walk around the block.


*The feeling we get when we think of a witty response on the way home instead of at the dinner party, when it would have been the perfect put-down.

When well-meaning people can't see it the same way

Yes, there are a few people who are mendacious, who are not seeking what you're seeking. And yet, most of the time, there are plenty of good people who disagree with you--they want a good outcome, but the narrative they bring insists on getting there in a very different way. They have different glasses on and are using a different map as well.

People don't believe what you believe, and they don't know what you know. Some of the gaps:

Authority--because the world works better when things are coherent and predictable and someone is in charge
Freedom--because people free to speak up and find their own path are able to weave a civil society out of chaos

Affiliation--because being in sync and engaged with others makes for a happier life
Conformance--because doing what you’re told is safer and telling people what to do is easier

Inconsistent--Change is fine if it makes things better, even if you want to call me a flip flopper
Consistent--Because it’s safer to stand for something and not reconsider it

Hero—Someone needs to save the day
Bystander--There's too much on the line, and I'm not the one to do it this time

What will they say?--keep an eye on those that are watching me
What will my mom say?--doing the right thing, even if someone is looking, and especially if no one is

Belief--because it’s a narrative to quiet the chatter in our head
Proof--because science works

Change--because things can get better if we let them
The status quo--because change is risky

Civility--because we’re working to keep it all from falling apart
Conflict--because if you can’t handle it, get out of the way

The long haul--because none of it is worth it if we poison ourselves
The short run--because the long haul manages to take care of itself

Service--because our heroes sacrificed for others
Profit--because making a profit is the market’s way of rewarding service

The strongest--because the pack moves fastest if the strongest are supported and rewarded
The slowest--because we’re only as good as the way we treat the weakest among us

The cusp--because progress is interesting
The middle--because proven is better

Family first--because you take care of your own
Community first--because everyone is in your family

Emergencies--because this pain needs to be addressed right now
The long game--because the emergencies never end

Show your work--because finding an error in my math helps us both, transparency pays
Opacity—I don't need you cherry-picking an argument with me

Pay it forward--because someone did it for me
Put your own oxygen mask on first--because I might not get another chance

The big hill

There's a commuter shortcut near my house.

To make it work, you need to accelerate the SUV up a really big hill, breaking the speed limit by ten or twenty mph. Then roll a stop sign, avoid a few kids walking to school and gun it on the downhill.

All to save three minutes.

Meanwhile, the other commuters arrive at work with their psychic energy saved for the real work. The hard work of confronting the status quo.

The first shortcut is selfish. It wastes resources and engages in risk to help no one but the driver.

The other work, though, is priceless. Those are the hills worth taking.

[PS hint: There's another session of TMS coming up soon. If you have an idea worth spreading, it might be for you. We always alert our keep-me-posted list first with all the details. Find out more here.]

Where are the movie stars?

I'm sitting in a crowded lobby in Los Angeles, surrounded by 100 or so people. Not one of them looks like a movie star. No one has perfect hair, a perfect family, a perfect life.

I'm at a fancy conference in Boulder. There are a thousand CEOs and founders here. Not one is gliding through her day the way the folks on magazine covers are. Not one has a glitch-free project and the clear sailing that the articles imply.

And here, at the gym in Yonkers, I'm not seeing a single person who looks like he could be on the cover of Men's Health.

Role models are fine. But not when they get in the way of embracing our reality. The reality of not enough time, not enough information, not enough resources. The reality of imperfection and vulnerability.

There are no movie stars. Merely people who portray them now and then.


A traffic jam can teach us quite a lot about human nature.

In the US, when there's an accident on the side of the road, traffic in the other direction slows down. People voluntarily slow down and look over at the carnage.

This is nuts.

These very same people would never pay money to go to a movie filled with car wrecks that hurt real people. And yet, they do it from their car. It turns out we're very interested in things that are happening in real time, right next to us.

Not only that, but the jam created by this voluntarily slowdown can last for an hour or more. And yet, when it's your turn, when you get to the front of the line, instead of saying, "well, I got punished for the bad behavior of the 1,000 people ahead of me, I'm going to fix that and speed up now," we say, "hey, I paid my dues, my turn to look..."

And of course, the nature of variance means that human-controlled cars on the highway have to go much slower when they are closer together. And so the slowdown ripples backwards, because instead of leaving plenty of space so that they can all speed up quickly, we inch together, ensuring that the jam will take even longer.

Every time you think that the human beings you seek to serve are rational, profit-seeking, long-term decision makers, visualize a rubbernecking traffic jam.