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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

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

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meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

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permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

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.

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purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

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small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

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

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

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the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

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the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

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IN STORES:

the.dip

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

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

Tribes

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

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

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v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

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

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

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.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Member since 08/2003

The truth about admissions

One in five applicants to Harvard and Stanford are completely qualified to attend—perhaps 20% of those that send in their applications have the smarts, guts and work ethic to thrive at these schools and to become respected alumni.

These schools further filter this 20% by admitting only 5% of their applicants, or about one in four of those qualified. And they spend a huge amount of time sorting and ranking and evaluating to get to the final list.

They do this even though there is zero correlation between the students they like the most and any measurable outcomes. The person they let in off the waiting list is just as likely to be a superstar in life as they one they chose first.

Worth saying again: In admissions, just as in casting or most other forced selection processes, once you get past the selection of people who are good enough, there are few selectors who have a track record of super-sorting successfully. False metrics combined with plenty of posturing leading to lots of drama.

It's all a hoax. A fable we're eager to believe, both as the pickers and the picked (and the rejected).

What would happen if we spent more time on carefully assembling the pool of 'good enough' and then randomly picking the 5%? And of course, putting in the time to make sure that the assortment of people works well together...

[For football fans: Tom Brady and Russell Wilson (late picks who win big games) are as likely outcomes as Peyton Manning (super-selected). Super Bowl quarterbacks, as high-revenue a selection choice as one can make, come as often in late rounds as they do in the first one.]

[For baseball fans: As we saw in Moneyball, the traditional scouting process was essentially random, and replacing it by actually correlated signals changed everything.]

What would happen if rejection letters said, "you were good enough, totally good enough to be part of this class, but we randomly chose 25% of the good enough, and alas, you didn't get lucky"? Because, in fact, that's what's actually happening.

What would happen if casting directors and football scouts didn't agonize about their final choice, but instead spent all that time and effort widening the pool to get the right group to randomly choose from instead? (And in fact, the most talented casting directors are in the business of casting wide nets and signing up the good ones, not in agonizing over false differences appearing real--perhaps that's where the word 'casting' comes from).

It's difficult for the picked, for the pickers and for the institutions to admit, but if you don't have proof that picking actually works, then let's announce the randomness and spend our time (and self-esteem) on something worthwhile instead.

The best laid plans

As your plans get more detailed, it's also more and more likely that they won't work exactly as you described them.

Certainly, it's worth visualizing the thing you're working to build. When it works, what's it going to be like?

Even more important, though, is being able to describe what you're going to do when the plan doesn't work. Because it won't. Not the way you expect, certainly.

Things will break, be late, miss the spec. People will let you down, surprise you or change their minds. Sales won't get made, promises will be broken, formulas will change.

All part of the plan that includes the fact that plans almost never come true.

Your mood vs. your reality

Who is happy?

Are rock stars, billionaires or recently-funded entrepreneurs happier? What about teenagers with clear skin?

Either what happens changes our mood... or our mood changes the way we narrate what happens.

This goes beyond happiness economics and the understanding that a certain baseline of health and success is needed for many people to be happy.

The question worth pondering is: are you seeking out the imperfect to justify your habit of being unhappy? Does something have to happen in the outside world for you to be happy inside?

Or, to put it differently, Is there a narrative of your reality that supports your mood?

Marketers spend billions of dollars trying to create a connection between what we see in the mirror and our happiness, implying that others are judging us in a way that ought to make us unhappy.

And industrialists have built an economic system in which compliance to a boss's instructions is seen as the only way to avoid the unhappiness that comes from being penalized at work. And so fear becomes a dominant paradigm of our profession.

Those things are unlikely to change any time soon, but the way we process them can change today. Our narrative, the laundry list we tick off, the things we highlight for ourselves and others... our narrative is completely up to us.

The simple shortcut: the way we respond to the things that we can't change can instantly transform our lives. "That's interesting," is a thousand times more productive than, "that's terrible." Even more powerful is our ability to stop experiencing failure before it even happens, because, of course, it usually doesn't.

Happiness, for most of us, is a choice. Reality is not. It seems, though, that choosing to be happy ends up changing the reality that we keep track of.

Fear of public speaking

Very few people are afraid of speaking.

It's the public part that's the problem.

What makes it public? After all, speaking to a waiter or someone you bump into on the street is hardly private.

I think we define public speaking as any group large enough or important enough or fraught enough that we're afraid of it.

And that makes the solution straightforward (but not easy). Instead of plunging into these situations under duress, once a year or once a decade, gently stretch your way there.

Start with dogs. I'm not kidding. If you don't have one, go to the local animal shelter and take one for a walk. Give your speech to the dog. And then, if you can, to a few dogs.

Work your way up to a friend, maybe two friends. And then, once you feel pretty dumb practicing with people you know (this is easy!), hire someone on Craigslist to come to your office and listen to you give your speech.

Drip, drip, drip. At every step along the way, there's clearly nothing to fear, because you didn't plunge. It's just one step up from speaking to a schnauzer. And then another step.

Every single important thing we do is something we didn't use to be good at, and in fact, might be something we used to fear.

This is not easy. It's difficult. But that's okay, because it's possible.

Advice or criticism?

It's quite natural to be defensive in the face of criticism. After all, the critic is often someone with an agenda that's different from yours.

But advice, solicited advice from a well-meaning and insightful expert? If you confuse that with criticism, you'll leave a lot of wisdom on the table.

Here's a simple way to process advice: Try it on.

Instead of explaining to yourself and to your advisor why an idea is wrong, impossible or merely difficult, consider acting out what it would mean. Act as if, talk it through, follow the trail. Turn the advice into a new business plan, or a presentation you might give to the board. Turn the advice into three scenarios, try to make the advice even bolder...

When a friend says, "you'd look good in a hat," it's counterproductive to imagine that she just told you that you look lousy without a hat, and that you then have to explain why you never wear hats and take offense at the fact that she thinks you always look terrible.

Nope. Try on the hat. Just try on the hat.

Put on a jacket that goes with the hat. Walk around with the hat on. Take a few pictures of yourself wearing a hat.

Then, if you want to, sure, stop wearing hats.

Advice is not criticism.

Two kinds of hustle

There's the hustle of always asking, of putting yourself out there, of looking for discounts, shortcuts and a faster way. This is the hustle of it it doesn't hurt to ask, of what you don't know won't hurt you, of the ends justifying the means. This hustler propositions, pitches and works at all times to close a sale, right now.

This kind of hustler always wants more for less. This kind of hustler will cut corners if it helps in getting picked.

Then there's the hustle that's actually quite difficult and effective. This is the hustle of being more generous than you need to be, of speaking truthfully even if it delays the ultimate goal in the short run, and most of all, the hustle of being prepared and of doing the work.

It's a shame that one approach is more common (though appropriately disrespected), while the other sits largely unused.

How loud and how angry?

Professionals are able to get their work done without using emotion to signify urgency.

When a surgeon asks the nurse for a scalpel, she doesn't have to raise her voice, stamp her foot or even make a face. She merely asks.

When a pilot hits a tough spot, he's not supposed to start yelling at air traffic control. He describes the situation and gets the help he needs.

And despite what you may have seen in the movies, successful stock traders don't have to start screaming when there's more money on the line.

Compare this to the amateur world of media, of customer service and of marketing. Whoever yells the loudest gets our attention. Twitter users who use cutting language to get someone at a company to feel badly. Emailers who should know better who mark their notes as urgent, even when they're not. Politicians who take umbrage as if umbrage was on sale.

It should be clear (compared to say, astronauts and surgeons) that these people aren't angry because so much is at stake. They're angry because it works. Because attention is reserved in those industries for those who decide to demonstrate their emotions by throwing a tantrum.

The problem with requiring people to be loud and angry to get things done is that you're now surrounded by people who are loud and angry.

What happens if you take a professional approach with the people you work with, rewarding people who properly prioritize their requests (demands) and ignoring those that seek to escalate via vitriol? What happens if you consistently enforce a rule against tantrums?

If you go first, by consistently rewarding thoughtful exchanges and refusing to leap merely because it's raining anger, the people you work with will get the message (or move on).

A pitfall of throwing tantrums is that sometimes, people throw them back.

A weekend seminar for those making a ruckus

Interrupt your rhythm and spend a few days with me and 80 people in a hurry to make a difference. Over the years I've discovered that these seminars work.

You can details and a link to apply right here. It's March 6, 7 and 8 just outside of New York City.

Having people apply for a seminar is an interesting choice. It certainly takes a lot more time (for you and for us) and also makes it more difficult to promote. In this case, I think it's worth it. The people in the room with you are as important (sometimes more important) than the person on stage. The connections and support and inspiration you get from those around you have a significant impact on who you will become.

We're limiting applications to 200, on a first-come, first-served basis, and then alerting successful applicants after a day or two.

The goal is simple: to create a posture of forward motion, a platform you can use to elevate your work, your company and your team.

You can find the details (and some photos) on this page. It's not inexpensive, and it's not for everyone, but for those that can find the time and urgency to step up and come, I hope it will be a turning point for you. 

Optimistic time (vs. honest time)

Optimistic time seems like a good idea. "We'll ship in January." "The conference will start at noon." "I'll be there in ten minutes."

The hope is that the expectation of completion will raise our expectations and increase the chances that something will actually happen.

In fact, though, there are huge costs to optimistic time. When you announce things based on optimism, the rest of the world you're engaging with builds plans around you and your announcement. And the cost of the person who doesn't have your software or is sitting around a meeting room for hours waiting is high indeed.

The alternative is honest time. Time without recourse or negotiation. The Metro North train leaves at 5:52. Not 5:55, no matter how much you want it to wait.

The software ships, the conference starts--at precisely when we say it will. So the world plans on it and depends on it and effectiveness grows.

It doesn't ship because it's ready. It ships because it's due.

(Amazingly, this rule makes things ready a lot more often).

It's a point of view and a contract with yourself. It ships when I said it would.

Freedom, control and good ideas

Where should great programmers choose to work?

[I say 'choose' because anyone who has worked with programmers understands that the great ones are worth far more than the average ones. Sometimes 50 times as much. That's because great programmers are able to architect systems that are effective, that scale, and that do things that other programmers can't imagine until after they're done.]

While this is a post about people who work to become great programmers, I think it applies to most fields, including sales and design.

Many programmers are drawn to famous, hip, growing tech companies. There are literally tens of thousands of programmers working at Apple, Google and Facebook, and each company receives more than a thousand resumes a day.

It might not be a great choice, though. Not for someone willing to exchange the feeling of security for the chance to matter.

The first challenge is freedom: Not just the freedom to plan your day and your projects, but the freedom to try new things, to go out all the way out to the edge, to launch things that might not work.

A key element of freedom is control. Controlling what you work on and how you do it. If you are part of a team of a hundred people working on an existing piece of software, you will certainly learn a lot. But the areas you have control over, responsibility for, the ability to change—are small indeed.

The team that built the Mac (arguably one of the most important software teams in history) was exactly the right size for each member to have freedom and control while also shipping important work. 

Alas, when an organization gets bigger, the first technical choice they make is to build systems based on programming jobs that don't need brilliant engineers. The most reliable way to build a scalable, predictable industrial organization is to create jobs that can be done by easily found (and replaced) workers. Which means less freedom and less control for the people who do the work, and more freedom and more control for the organization.

When faced with the loss of freedom and control, many talented people demand an increase in security and upside. That's one big reason (irony alert) that fast-growing companies go public—so they will have the options currency to pay their team handsomely, which puts the future of the company in the hands of Wall Street, which will happily exchange stock price growth for the banality of predictable. This, of course, leads to programmers losing even more freedom and even more control.

It's entirely possible that an industrialized organization is going to change the world, but they're going to do it with you or without you.

The alternative, as talented outliers like Marco Arment have shown us, is to take a good idea (like Tumblr or Overcast) and make it into something great.

The challenges here are that finding a great idea is a lot of work (and a distinct skill) and making it into a company that succeeds is a lot of work as well. Programmers who do both those jobs are often left fighting for the time to do the programming they actually love to do. (Mark Zuckerberg decided to give up serious programming at Facebook, Dave Filo chose not to at Yahoo).

The alternative? Be as active in finding the right place to work as great founders are in finding you. The goal might not be to find a famous company or even a lucrative gig. Instead, you can better reach your potential by finding the small shop, the nascent organization, the powerful agent of change that puts you on the spot on a regular basis. 

This is a lot of work. Not only do you need to do your job every day, and not only do you need to continually hone your skills and get ever better at your work, but now you're expected to spend the time and energy to find clients/bosses/a team where you are respected and challenged and given the freedom and control to do even better work.

If I were a great programmer, I'd be spending the time to figure out what I'd want my day to look like, then going to events, startup weekends, VC firms and other places where good idea people are found. The best jobs might be the most difficult to find.

Bernie Taupin needed Elton John as much as John needed Taupin.

You can't get away with this strategy of self-selection if you're simply a good programmer. It won't work if you don't have a point of view about your craft and if you need management supervision in order to ship great code. You need to build a trail that proves you're as good as you assert you are. But those are all skills, skills worth acquiring in an age when they are worth more than ever before. 

Once you have those chops, though, the onus is on you to choose not to be a cog in a well-oiled machine that will rob you of freedom and control, not to mention the personal development and joy that come with a job where you matter.

To be really clear, it's entirely possible to be a great programmer doing important work at a big company. But those companies must work overtime to create an environment where systems-creep doesn't stifle the desire and talent of the best people on the team.

The naive person wonders, "how come so many great architects build iconic buildings early in their career?" In fact, the truth is:

doing the work that earns a commision for an iconic building makes you into a great architect.

Michael Graves and Zaha Hadid didn't wait for someone to offer them a great project. They went and got it.

[If this resonates with you, I might have precisely the right gig for the right programmer. You can read the details here. If you know someone, please share.]