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SETH'S BOOKS

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

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altMBA

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

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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

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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Linchpin

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

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Meatball Sundae

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

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Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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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

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

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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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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

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

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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

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

Mental load and the worry cache

It's well known that the team that wins an Olympic relay isn't the fastest at running or swimming—it's the team that handles the handoffs the best.

The same thing is true of your job. The tasks could be done by many people, but someone who is great at your job embraces the mental effort necessary to do task switching, to read between the lines, to keep many balls going at the same time. Strategy and tactics both.

Sometimes, we think that these are the things that get in the way of our work. In fact, they are the work.

Writing a sentence is easy. Deciding what to write in the next sentence is hard.

Making decisions is exhausting. It involves perception and analysis and most of all, taking responsibility. Pretending to lead and manage is a trivial task, because there's no, "what if?"

It turns out that the mental load of management is primarily around experiencing failure.

Actual failure, sure, but mostly potential failure. Imagining failure in advance. All the current things that could go wrong. And more important, the things you're not doing that will be obvious oversights later. Our brains work overtime to cycle through these, to learn to see around corners, to have the guts to delegate without doing the work ourselves (even though that creates more imagined points of failure). Scan, touch, consider, analyze, repeat.

The other thing that's a huge load: Worry. Unlike all the things I've already mentioned, worry isn't actually part of your job. Worry (expressed through non-productive pessimistic cycles over things out of your control) is antithetical to the work you've agreed to do.

Clear your cache of worry.

It'll free up your processor to focus on the useful stuff.

Gorilla marketing

The late Jay Levinson created the Guerrilla Marketing series. I was lucky enough to work with him early in the arc, producing four of them.

One of the core tenets of the books was that marketing was no longer merely the work of giant organizations with giant budgets. That in fact, it was possible to spread an idea with care, guts and effort, not just with money. We wanted people, particularly small businesses, to see that they could be marketers too.

Well, that's no longer a problem. In fact, it's swung so far the other way that we have a new problem.

When marketing was expensive, it was done with care. Not only by committees that worked hard to keep things consistent, but by creators who thought deeply about their long-term reputation.

Today, because noise is everywhere, we're all surrounded by a screaming horde, an open-outcry marketplace of ideas where the race to be heard appears to be the only race that matters. And so subtlety flies out the window, along with a desire to engage for the long haul. Just a troop of gorillas, all arguing over the last remaining banana.

It turns out that there's a useful response... to ignore them. To stick to the work, to the smallest possible audience, to building something worth talking about.

What actually works in a noisy environment isn't more noise—it's the challenging work of earning the benefit of people telling people.

We don't need more hustle. We need more care and generosity. 

What 99% looks like

I did an interview with a leading Turkish vlogger. He sent me his work (in Turkish) and of course, the thing I noticed was this:

Screenshot 2017-05-22 13.50.36

76 people who saw this interview took the time to give it a thumbs down. The interviewer flew across the world and shared his work for free, but 76 people hated it enough to affirmatively vote it down.

Of course, 1% of 108,000 is about a thousand. This is less than a tenth of that.

In fact, 1% of the 10,000 people who voted it up is 100. It's even less than that.

In just about everything we do, 99% approval is astonishing. 

Except online.

Because online, our lizard brain goes straight to the tiny speck, the little number that's easy to magnify.

Ignore it. Shun the non-believers and ship your work.

Accelerating revolutions

Four hundred years ago, almost no one on Earth had tasted coffee. It was too difficult to move things a few thousand miles.

A hundred years ago, if you wanted a cold drink in the summer or needed to ice an injured knee, you were largely out of luck. It took millions of years of cultural and technical evolution to get to the point where people had a freezer in their house.

The industrial revolution was mighty indeed. It paved the Earth, created the middle class and changed everything. And it was a powerhouse for generations, incrementally changing what hadn't been changed yet.

The TV revolution followed, introducing mass marketing as a force that could change our culture.

Then, the 60s brought the computer revolution, which involved large devices capable of sorting, calculating and processing things that were previously unsorted.

We're living right now in the connection revolution, one powered by the internet, in which people connect to people, computers connect to computers and our culture changes ever faster, daily.

The next two revolutions are right around the corner:

The biology revolution, which has had some fits and starts, will transform our bodies and our planet. Once computers are able to see, understand and modify living things, the same acceleration of the last three revolutions will kick in.

And the AI revolution, in which we engage with computers as much as with each other, is showing itself now too.

Faster, ever faster. Moore's law ratchets technology, technology changes the culture, the culture changes the economy and it continues.

Revolutions are impossible, until they're not, and then they seem totally normal.

Iced coffee, anyone?

"But what if it works?"

Fear of success is at least as big a challenge as fear of failure.

Because if it works, things are going to change.

Are you ready for that?

Living in dissatisfaction

For the creator who seeks to make something new, something better, something important, everywhere you look is something unsatisfying.

The dissatisfaction is fuel. Knowing you can improve it, realizing that you can and will make things better—the side effect is that today isn't what it could be.

You can't ignore the dissatisfaction, can't pretend the situation doesn't exist, not if you want to improve things.

Living in dissatisfaction today is the price we pay for the obligation to improve things tomorrow.

The long, slow, deliberate, all hands on deck method is the best we've got

Worth a try.

When a problem isn't easily solved, it might just be that we have to resort to the other method of solving it. Difficult but worth it.

No way out

That's why we burn the boats when we land on the beach.

Because the only way out is through.

It's pretty easy to bail out of a course (especially a free online course that no one even knows you signed up for). Easy to quit your job, fire a client or give up on a relationship.

In the moment, walking out is precisely the best short-term strategy. Sometimes this place is too hard, too unpleasant, too much...

The thing is, though, that the long-term strategy might be the opposite. The best long-term approach might be to learn something, to tough it out, to engage with the challenge. Because once you get through this, you'll be different. Better.

We always have a choice, but often, it's a good idea to act as if we don't.

Off the hook with Milton Friedman

Nearly fifty years ago, Milton Friedman published a polemic, an article that altered the way many people think about corporations and their role in society. Countless writers have explained why it's poorly reasoned, dangerous and wrong. (Including business school deans, Harvard Business Review and Fortune).

The simple message of the simple article was: “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits..."

Friedman does add a parenthetical, "so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud,” but it's clear that his emphasis is on the first part.

Businesses, he argues, should show no corporate responsibility, do nothing to further the goals of an ethical society, do nothing to improve the lives of customers, employees or bystanders—unless these actions coincidentally maximize profits.

An interesting question that most people haven't focused on: why did this dangerous idea catch on and stick around so long?

Here it is 2017, and the Chairman of one of the largest pharma companies in the country is gleefully telling patients and the FDA to live with the costs of his profit seeking, at the same time he pays his CEO more than $95 million a year. Because he can, and, like many who lucked into top jobs at big companies, because his excuse is simple: He's just doing his job.

If the idea is so wrong, if it leads to an erosion of the social contract and the deaths of innocent kids, why are we still discussing it?

Because it's simple, because it diminishes responsibility, and because it comes with prizes and warm chocolate cookies for those in charge.

The simplicity of the argument matches up with its mendacity. There's no need to worry about nuance, no need to lose sleep over choices, no endless laundry list of social ills to worry about. Just make more profit.

Do this, get that.

A simple compass, a north star, a direction to go that absolves the employee/boss of responsibility for anything complicated or nuanced.

People love mechanical simplicity, especially when it benefits them.

The official rules of baseball are more than 250 pages long. Why? Because working the system, cutting corners and winning at all costs long ago replaced playing by the spirit of the game. Since the league can't count on people to act like people acting on behalf of the community, they have to create ever more rules to keep the system in check.

The problem is far worse in a supposed free market. When humans stop acting like humans and instead indicate that they have no choice but to seek every short-term benefit and cut every possible corner, we can no longer trust each other to act responsibly.

Off the hook feels like a simple way out. "I'm just doing my job, and not thinking hard about the side effects (or to be more accurate, the effects) of my actions. Not only that, but one of the things that's part of my job is lobbying to have fewer rules. Because working the refs is good business. And because everyone is doing it, I have no choice but to do it too."

Of course, it's difficult for us to solely blame poor Milton. Lots of us have bad ideas, I've certainly had plenty. No, we need to blame ourselves for letting selfish corporate officers get away with this reasoning. When we go to work, or partner with, or buy stock in a company that signs up for Milton reasoning, we're rewarding people who have long ago stopped acting like people.

Profits are fine, they enable the investment we need to produce value. But almost nothing benefits from being the only thing we seek, and the pursuit of profit at the expense of our humanity is too high a price to pay.

Here's a different version: A business is a construct, an association of human beings combining capital and labor to make something. That business has precisely the same social responsibilities as the people that it consists of. The responsibility to play fairly, to see the long-term impacts of its actions and to create value for all those it engages with.

[PDF]  

Your instincts are better than you think they are

Data is essential. Data lets us incrementally improve just about anything. That keyboard in front of you, the sink in the bathroom down the hall, the supply chain for the food you eat—they were all improved 100,000 times over the years, data-driven evolution toward efficiency.

It's not enough.

We also need you to leap. To leap without sufficient data. To go with your humanity and your instincts and your hunches.

The insightful Bernadette Jiwa's new book is on sale today. I highly recommend all of the books she's written.

Go first, without being sure. I think you'll find something special.

The critic, the mimic and the clown all have one thing in common

They're not doing the work.

Pitching in requires a different kind of focus, and the generosity and humility to actually get something done.

If they stop hiding, they might even produce something significant.

The right effort of generosity

Don't expect much from a drowning man. He's not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your day was.

He's too busy not drowning.

Generosity takes effort.

It requires the space to take your mind off your own problems long enough to see someone else's.

It requires the confidence to share when a big part of you wants to hoard.

And it requires the emotional labor of empathy.

Generosity begins by trusting ourselves enough to know that we're not actually drowning.

Greatest hits are exhausting

If all you consume is the most-read list, if all you listen to are the hits, if all you eat is the most popular item on the menu—you're missing out.

The web has pushed us to read what everyone else is reading, the hit of the day. But popular isn't the same as important. Popular isn't the same as profound. Popular isn't even the same as useful.

To make something popular, the creator leaves out the hard parts and amps up the crowd-pleasing riffs. To make something popular, the creator knows that she's dumbing things down in exchange for attention.

The songs you love the most, the soundtrack of your life--almost none of them were #1 on the Billboard charts. And the same goes for the books that changed the way you see the world or the lessons that have transformed your life.

Popularity doesn't mean 'best'. It merely means popular.

Thinking clearly about quality

There are at least three ways we use the word 'quality' at work:

Quality as defined by Deming and Crosby: Meeting spec.

If you can reliably, and without drama, deliver precisely what you have promised, this is quality. This is what happens when a car, regardless of price, has doors that don't squeak. Or when a website doesn't go down. Or when your dry cleaning is ready on the day it's promised, and your clothes are clean.

When six sigma professionals talk about quality, this is what they mean. Meeting spec.

Quality as defined by Ralph Lauren or Tiffany: The quality of deluxeness.

This is when the clarity of the diamond or the nap of the leather or the speed of the jet is something that most others can't match. This is not just, "you get what you pay for," but also, "you paid a lot."

And finally, there's the quality of right effort, of "I did my best," of the sweat and vulnerability that happens when a human has given it her all.

That TV show or that software that you love: what do you love about it? What about the calculus you put into shopping for a car or a school for your kids? 

A $100 million-dollar movie might have more spectacular special effects or be more carefully edited, but it might not have the quality that you find in an indie film.

When you're doing your work, when you're creating an offering, there's no more important question to answer than, "what sort of quality are we seeking here?"

There is no right answer

But there are plenty of wrong ones.

In arithmetic, there's a right answer. And everything else is wrong.

But in the work we do, there are, in fact, plenty of creative, useful, generous answers, answers good enough to embrace and celebrate. In the creative world, there can't be a 'right' answer, because that implies that the answer is correct and exclusive. 

But the wrong answers are clear as well. They are selfish, lack rigor, are short-term when long-term is needed. They're lazy, too expensive, defective or have significant side effects...

By all means, avoid the wrong answers. But don't hold out waiting for the correct one.

Do we have a choice?

"Do what I say" vs.
    "Use your best judgment."

"I'm in charge because I have authority" vs.
    "Take responsibility if you care."

"It's simple and easy but ineffective" vs.
    "It's difficult and a bit complex, but you can handle it and it's more likely to work."

"It's the same as last time" vs.
    "This might not work."

"Because I said so" vs.
    "Show your work."

"Here's the kid's menu" vs.
    "Learn to cook."

"Comply" vs.
    "Question."

"Consume" vs.
    "Produce."

"You haven't been picked" vs.
    "It's always your turn."

"You have no choice" vs.
    "It's always up to you, if you care enough."

Choosing your spot

It's difficult to find the leverage to make a difference. At your job, there are probably people with more experience than you, more domain knowledge than you, even more skills than you. The same is true about your competition.

But there's one place where you can make your mark: Your attitude.

You can bring more generosity of spirit, more enthusiasm, more kindness, more resilience, more positive energy, more bravery and more magic to the room than anyone else, at least right now. Because you choose to.

That can be what you stand for.

These aren't soft skills. They're real.

An overlooked secret to effectiveness (and happiness)

Knowing where 'enough' is.

More might be better for awhile, but sooner or later, it can't always be better. Diminishing returns are the law, not an exception.

If we look to advertisers, marketers, bosses, doctors, partners and suppliers to tell us when we've reached 'enough', we're almost certainly going to get it wrong.

It's okay to stop when you're happy. 

Is more always better? Sometimes, only better is better...

[Chip asked a friend, a professional, how does he know when to stop making things better. His answer, "when my budget runs out," is a sad commentary on how some of us think about 'enough'. It might let you off the hook, but as a professional, isn't the hook where you want to be?]

In search of familiarity

Ask someone what they do, and they'll probably talk about where they work. "I work in insurance," or even, "I work for Aetna."

Of course, most of the 47,000 people who work for Aetna don't do anything that's specifically insurance-y. They do security for Building 7, or they answer the phone for someone, or they work in the graphic design department.

Most people have been trained to come to work in search of familiarity and competence. To work with familiar people, doing familiar tasks, getting familiar feedback from a familiar boss. Competence is rewarded, coloring inside the lines is something we were taught in kindergarten.

People will do a bad (a truly noxious) job for a long time because it feels familiar. Legions of people will stick with a dying industry because it feels familiar.

The reason Kodak failed, it turns out, has nothing to do with grand corporate strategy (the people at the top saw it coming), and nothing to do with technology (the scientists and engineers got the early patents in digital cameras). Kodak failed because it was a chemical company and a bureaucracy, filled with people eager to do what they did yesterday.

Change is the unfamiliar.

Change creates incompetence.

In the face of change, the critical questions that leaders must start with are, "Why did people come to work here today? What did they sign up for?"

That's why it's so difficult to change the school system. Not because teachers and administrators don't care (they do!). It's because changing the school system isn't what they signed up for.

The solution is as simple as it is difficult: If you want to build an organization that thrives in change (and on change), hire and train people to do the paradoxical: To discover that the unfamiliar is the comfortable familiar they seek. Skiers like going downhill when it's cold, scuba divers like getting wet. That's their comfortable familiar. Perhaps you and your team can view change the same way.

Predicting or inventing...

The most common way to deal with the future is to try to predict it. To be in the right place at the right time with the right skills or investments.

A far more successful and reliable approach is to invent the future. Not all of it, just a little part. But enough to make a difference.

Microcopy in the age of the glance

People rarely read to the end. And they almost never spend as much time reading your words as you spend writing them.

Which makes it ironic that the little phrases we use (in designing a simple form, or when we answer the phone) matter so much.

Being gentle, kind or human goes a long way.

Coming across as confident, clear and correct matters as well.

Microcopy is word choice. It's a glimpse of a smile or a slip of impatience.

When you start putting™ trademark symbols in random spots, using extra exclamation points or (this is the biggest one) adopting a false commanding tone and being a jerk in your writing, then you lose us.

We know that you feel like using words like ONLY, NEVER, PERMANENT and NOTICE, but we'd rather hear from someone we like instead.

“What about endogeneity?”

Ask this question often.

Several times a day, at least.

Endogeneity is a fancy term for confusing cause and effect. For not being clear about causation and correlation.

It's one reason why smart people make so many mistakes. We think A leads to B, so more A gets more B. While A and B may have been related in the past, though, it's not at all clear that improving A is going to do anything about B.

There is, for example, an extraordinarily high correlation between per capita cheese consumption and the risk of being strangled by your bedsheets while you sleep:

Chart

That doesn't mean that eating less cheese is going to help you not die in bed.

Lowering the bar

Raymond Loewy coined the term MAYA to describe Most Advanced Yet Acceptable when it came to futuristic design. The thinking goes that people (the amorphous term for the lumpen masses) won't accept something too advanced, so we ought to lower our standards to gain acceptance.

But mass acceptance isn't nearly as important as it used to be. Pockets of commitment and enthusiasm are more important than being tolerated or even accepted by the disinterested masses.

Our hunch is that we need to average things down if we don't want to be rejected, that we need to offer a bit less if we're hoping to make change happen. Mostly, we tell ourselves to dumb things down and pander to people who don't pay attention, are afraid of forward motion and don't care much either.

But the horizontal nature of information flow means that the opposite is now true. We can be as positive and pure and advanced as we can imagine, and some folks will follow.

If we can fall out of love with the quick mass hit, the requirement isn't to lower the bar. It's to make big promises and actually keep them.

Would you have it any other way?

Facts are not the antidote for doubt

Drink enough water and you will cease to be thirsty.

And yet, a doubting person can be drowning in facts, but facts won't change a mind that doesn't want to be changed. More facts don't counter more doubt. Someone who is shaking his head, arms folded, eyes squinted and ears closed isn't going to be swayed by more facts.

Instead, doubt surrenders to experience. And experience can only happen if there's enrollment.

If someone is willing to find the right answer, willing to explore what might be effective, what might be confirmable, then enrolling in the journey to ease doubt opens the door to personal experience. Which, magically, can let the light in.

Experience, working it out, touching it, studying it, repeatedly asking why with an open mind... these experiences engage us, earn our attention and gain our trust.

Doubt comes from fear, which is why it's so difficult to earn enrollment. People don't want to commit to working their way out of doubt, because doubt is a perverse variation of perceived  safety, a paralysis in the face of the unknown. Earn enrollment first, a commitment to find a path, then bring on the process and the facts.

Choosing your fuel

The work is difficult. Overcoming obstacles, facing rejection, exploring the unknown--many of us need a narrative to fuel our forward motion, something to keep us insisting on the next cycle, on better results, on doing work that matters even more.

The fuel you choose, though, determines how you will spend your days. You will spend far more time marinating in your fuel than you will actually doing breakthrough work. Richard Feynman was famously motivated by the joy of figuring things out. His scientific journey (which earned him a Nobel Prize) also provided him with truly wonderful days.

Here is a partial list, in alphabetical order, of narratives light and dark that can serve as fuel to push us to do work that others might walk away from:

  • Avoidance of shame (do this work or you'll be seen as a fraud/loser/outcast)
  • Becoming a better version of yourself
  • Big dreams (because you can see it/feel it/taste it)
  • Catastrophe (or the world as we know it will end)
  • Competition (someone is gaining on you)
  • Compliance (the boss/contract says I have to, and even better, there's a deadline)
  • Connection (because others will join in)
  • Creative itch (the voice inside of you wants to be expressed)
  • Dissatisfaction (because it's not good enough as it is)
  • Engineer (because there's a problem to be solved)
  • Fame (imagining life is better on the other side)
  • Generosity (because it's a chance to contribute)
  • It's a living (pay the writer)
  • Peer pressure (the reunion is coming up)
  • Possibility (because we can, and it'll be neat to see how it works in the world)
  • Professionalism (because it's what we do)
  • Revenge (you'll show the naysayers)
  • Selection (to get in, win the prize, be chosen)
  • Unhappiness (because the only glimmer of happiness comes from the next win, after all, we're not good enough as is)

They all work. Some of them leave you wrecked, some create an environment of possibility and connection and joy. Up to you. 

Just words

How about, just bullets, just diseases, just starvation?

The whole "sticks and stones" canard is really dangerous. When a stone gives you a bruise, it's entirely possible you will completely heal. But when a torrent of words undermine your view of what's possible, you might never recover.

Words matter. They can open doors, light a way and make a difference.

Say one thing at a time

I know, you might not get the microphone back for a while.

And I know, you want to make sure everyone understands precisely what went into your thinking. Not to mention your desire to make sure that everyone who hears you hears something that they'd like to hear.

But if you try to say three things, we will hear nothing. Because most of the time, we're hardly listening.

Ads, instructions, industrial design—they all work better when they try to say one thing at a time.

Three ways to add value

Tasks, decisions, and initiation...

Doing, choosing, and starting...

Each of the three adds value, but one is more prized than the others.

Tasks are set up for you. Incoming. You use skill and effort to knock em down one at a time and move to the next one.

Decisions often overlap with tasks. There are alternatives, and you use knowledge and judgment to pick the best one.

And initiation is what happens when you start something out of nothing, break the pattern, launch the new thing and take a leap.

When we think about humans who have made change happen, institutions who have made a difference, cultural shifts that have mattered, we must begin with initiation.

What value-add did you spend yesterday engaged in? How about tomorrow? 

Emotional labor

That's the labor most of us do now. The work of doing what we don't necessarily feel like doing, the work of being a professional, the work of engaging with others in a way that leads to the best long-term outcome.

The emotional labor of listening when we'd rather yell.

The emotional labor of working with someone instead of firing them.

The emotional labor of seeking out facts and insights that we don't (yet) agree with.

The emotional labor of being prepared.

Of course it's difficult. That's precisely why it's valuable. Sometimes, knowing that it's our job—the way we create value—helps us pause a second and decide to do the difficult work.

Almost no one gets hired to eat a slice of chocolate cake.

What Henry Ford understood about wages

Every time Ford increased the productivity of car production (in one three-year period, he lowered labor costs by 66% per car), he also raised wages.

Not merely because it's the right thing to do.

He did it because well-paid workers had more to spend. On houses, on clothes, and of course, on cars.

There's a positive ratchet here.

You can't shrink your way to greatness.

When you enable your workers (and your customers) to do more, connect more, produce more and get paid more, you create a positive system. The goal isn't to clear the table, the goal is to set the table.

The waitlist for the altMBA

Our twelfth session of the altMBA workshop is upcoming. We're only going to do it two more times in 2017, and if this is something you're thinking of doing one day, I hope you'll let us know.

You can sign up for our list here. You'll find out what we're up to and get first dibs on our application dates.

Our list of alumni keeps growing. More than 1,200 strong, it includes freelancers, a law professor, a scientist at the CDC, nonprofit executives, real estate agents, and startup founders. We have a high school principal in San Diego, a translator in Paris, and marketers at Microsoft, Warby Parker, Lululemon, Apple, Google and Zynga.

Our people are ruckus makers, contributors and leaders who have chosen to level up. I'm thrilled that they are taking the lessons of this 30-day intensive and using them to make change happen. I hope you can join us soon.

Stinginess in the connection economy

When six people are trying to split a pizza, some stinginess appears. After all, more for one person is less for the other five.

But in interactions that lead to connection, to shared knowledge, to possibility, it's pretty clear that there isn't a zero-sum game being played. In fact, the more enthusiasm and optimism people bring to the interaction, the more there is for everyone else.

You don't need to save up the goodwill and encouragement you offer to others. It will be automatically replenished, and it pays dividends along the way.

Groucho runs deep

Groucho Marx famously said, "I don't want to be a member of any club that would have me." Thanks to our connection economy, the membership rolls are now wide open, but the problem isn't declining.

There are so many communities that want you. So many opportunities to connect, to learn, to leap.

Some communities have skills and want to share them with you. And other ones need you to teach.

In the face of these opportunities, it's easy to say, "everyone's too smart for me," or worse, "I'm too advanced and I can't learn anything here."

The full Groucho is believing that you don't deserve to learn and you're not entitled to teach.

Of course, that's merely a form of hiding. Because connection leads to learning and learning leads to change and change is frightening. Easier, it seems, to push the opportunities away, say your Groucho Marx line and go back to doing what you were doing.

If you weren't afraid of change, what could you learn?

And if you weren't afraid of rejection, what would you teach?

Each of us is becoming, becoming something better or something worse. And we become what we teach and what we learn.

The middle of everywhere

If the railroad didn't make it to your town, or if the highway didn't have an exit, or if you were somehow off the beaten path, we wrote you off. Your town was in the middle of nowhere.

Now, of course, if wireless signal can reach you, you're now in the middle of everywhere, aren't you?

When time catches up

And it always does.

Bad decisions happen for one of two reasons:

A. You're in a huge hurry and you can't process all the incoming properly. But more common...

B. The repercussions of your decision won't happen for months or years. This is why we don't save for retirement, don't pay attention to long-term environmental issues, and, tragically, tolerate (or fall prey to) irrational rants about things like vaccines. It might be engaging or soothing to promote a palliative idea now, but years later, when innocent kids are sick and dying, the regrets are real.

A bad decision isn't only bad because we're uninformed or dumb. It can be bad because we are swayed by short-term comfort and ignore long-term implications. A bad decision feels good in the short run, the heartfelt decision of someone who means well. But there's a gap when we get to the long run.

Eula Biss has written a beautiful, honest book about this gap. About how we can fall into the trap of being well-meaning, emotional and loud in the short run, but how the truth of time changes the way we see things.

Our job as leaders (and we all are, in our own way) is to elevate the long run on behalf of those we care about, regardless how hard the marketing and tribal noise around us encourages to fall prey to instant comfort.

Everyone has feelings and opinions, but the future ignores them.

"It's not my problem"

But what if it was?

What if the apparently intractable cultural issues that you take for granted were instead seen as problems on your desk, things you could influence?

What if the rules others take for granted are seen by you and your team as standards you can change?

What if we take the responsibility instead of waiting for it to be offered?

Catching up with podcasts

Emma Gannon, with a focus on new careers.

Talking lawyers.

On marketing with the insightful Sonia Simone on Rainmaker.

Elin Barton on thin ice.

Reid and June have a new podcast about scale.

How we solved the altMBA with The Solution.

Talking writing with CC Chapman.

 

Possibility

This is not the same as reality. But without belief in the possibility, your reality is going to be severely curtailed.

We must avoid the temptation to begin with an analysis of what's easy, or what's probable, or even likely.

We can only do our work justice by examining what's possible, and then deciding if we care enough to pursue it.

Tension vs. fear

Fear's a dream killer. It puts people into suspended animation, holding their breath, paralyzed and unable to move forward.

Fear is present in many education settings, because fear's a cheap way to ensure compliance. "Do this," the teacher threatens, "or something bad is going to happen to you."

The thing is, learning is difficult. If it was easy, you'd already know everything you need to know. And if you could do it on your own, you wouldn't need the time or expense to do it with others.

But when we try to learn something on our own, we often get stuck. 

It's not because of fear, it's because of tension.

The tension we face any time we're about to cross a threshold. The tension of this might work vs. this might not work. The tension of if I learn this, will I like who I become?

Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process, not being sure of the curriculum, not having a guarantee that it's about to happen.

As adults, we willingly expose ourselves to the tension of a great jazz concert, or a baseball game or a thrilling movie. But, mostly because we've been indoctrinated by fear, we hesitate when we have the opportunity to learn something new on our way to becoming the person we seek to be.

Effective teachers have the courage to create tension. And adult learners on their way to levelling up actively seek out this tension, because it works. It pushes us over the chasm to the other side.

I've been running the altMBA for nearly two years, and in that time we've seen tens of thousands of people consider the workshop. Some of them see the tension coming and eagerly dive in. Others mistake that tension for fear and back away, promising themselves that they'll sign up later.

The ones who leapt are transformed. The tension pays off.

We're proud of the tension. We built it into the workshop from the start, because education is never about access to information, it's about the forward motion of learning.

You already know this workshop works. That's easy to check out. The hesitation comes from this very fact... that it works. That a change occurs. That the unknown is right over there, and to get yourself there, you have to walk through a month's worth of tension.

That's the best way I know to learn. And so that's the way we teach.

 

PS there are only two more sessions of the altMBA this year. Embrace the tension and apply in time for tomorrow's early priority deadline. 

Without a sail

A sailboat without a sail might float. 

For a long time, in fact.

But without a sail, it can't go anywhere, can't fulfill its function.

Floating is insufficient.

In defense of the tree emoji

The boom emoji gets a lot of play. It happened. It worked. We won.

Boom.

The tree emoji, on the other hand, celebrates the patient and generous acts of planting seeds, watering them, caring for them, and then, in a generation, you have a tree.

It doesn't even have a noise.

Simple growth. With patience. (I prefer the deciduous tree instead of the evergreen, because the leaves coming in and falling off are part of the deal). 

Put me down for the tree emoji.

🌳

Pre-existing conditions

We all have them.

By the time we get this far, we've got bangs and bruises, things that don't work quite right, experiences that have shaped us, sometimes for the worse.

It starts early. We're all born with them and into them. Sometimes we get lucky and we're surrounded by positive role models and people who believe in us, and other times we're stuck in an uphill climb that's unfair and unproductive.

But we all have them.

And all we can do is wrestle with them the best we're able. And realize that everyone else has them too, and give them the support they deserve.

And we just had a winner

The local market has a sign that says, "There was a $500 Lotto winner here..."

A cursory knowledge of statistics will help you see that this doesn't matter. It doesn't make it more likely or less likely that they'll have a winner today or even tomorrow.

And yet...

And yet sales go up after a big win. And to veer to the tragic, when a friend is struck with a serious disease, we're more likely to go to the doctor.

Because proximity is truth.

The truth of experience, the truth of immediacy, the truth of it might just happen to me.

That's why the media has been such a powerful force, because it brings the distant much closer.

And why small communities of interest and connection are still the dominant force in our culture. Because people like us, do things like this.

Defending myself (vs. offending my self)

The reason it's difficult to learn something new is that it will change you into someone who disagrees with the person you used to be.

And we're not organized for that.

The filter bubble and our lack of curiosity about the unknown are forms of self defense. We're defending the self, keeping everything "ok" because that's a safe, low maintenance place to be.

The alternative is to sign up for a lifetime of challenging what the self believes. A journey to find more effectiveness, not more stability.

[PS The discount on the Seminar expires today.]

The self-healing letter of complaint

You've been wronged. The service was terrible. You went unseen, disrespected and abused. You didn't get your money's worth. The software is sloppy, the people were rude, the entire experience was lousy.

A letter to the organization is called for. At the very least, you'll get an apology, some free samples, and maybe, just maybe, they'll fix the problem for everyone who comes after you. How generous of you to dig in and share the vitriol.

Better put a sharp point on it, personalize it and make it sting.

Here's the thing: Every angry word you write is only going to confirm the story you're already telling yourself, the story that's still making you miserable. The more spite you put into the note, the worse you're going to feel. You'll relive the event again and again. And, it's pretty certain, if a human reads the note, they'll now feel lousy too. They might go home and kick their dog, it's that visceral.

To what end? Is it going to increase the chances that change happens?

Here's a different tack, a selfish one that pays off for everyone involved:

Write the most positive note you can imagine. Write about how much the brand/service/government agency means to you. Let them know just how much you trust them, how much they've helped you in the past. Lay it on thick, that's okay, it'll remind you of why you care in the first place, and it will build bridges instead of tearing them down.

Then, say, "Here's what didn't work" or "But I have an important suggestion..."

And, without adding the hurt and anger that you feel, explain what went wrong. Explain it clearly, in a useful way, but give the reader the benefit of the doubt. Assume she knows that it didn't make you happy, that it completely ruined your wedding, that you're never ever going to return. Just leave that part out.

After all, if you didn't care about them, you wouldn't bother writing a letter, would you?

Two things will probably happen:

  1. When you hit 'send' you're going to feel better about yourself and the process you just engaged in, and
  2. It's more likely that the long-suffering recipient of your note will actually take action

We can change the stories we tell ourselves.

Introducing The Marketing Seminar

Can you make change happen?

For the last five months, I’ve been hard at work at something you might be interested in.

The full details are here. The video explains what we're building together.

Enrollment is open today, and closes on May 11th. The Seminar begins now and the discussion board will be open for the next six months.

Seats are first come, first served. I hope you’ll check out all the details. If you use the coupon code READY before end of day on May 5th, you’ll save $70 on the cost of enrollment.

Let's go.

When we understand

Modern marketing, the craft of getting ideas to spread, has split.

On one side are the roboticists. They test and measure and do what works. They do it with no interest in how people decide or what they believe or what story they tell themselves. Instead, they treat the human as an ant in an ant farm, a robot that does this or that. They're behaviorists.

On the other are those that seek to get to the heart of what makes us human. These marketers know that fear, shame, desire for gain and culture are the quartet that drive just about every decision. They know that Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand couldn't have been more wrong, and that truly understanding our narratives is the essence of doing work that matters, that connects, and that spreads.

There are ever more tools for folks who do the former, but the problem is that this is work that gets easier to automate and easier to hire for.

On the other hand, the ranks of people who understand, who understand well enough to lead, to decide and most of all, to see... there are never enough of these people doing the work that matters.

It takes patience and effort (but not focus groups) to develop this empathy. It's worth it.

[I've built a new course around this idea. Look for the details tomorrow.]

The thing about bananas

About half of all the bananas consumed worldwide come from the same tree.

Not the same type of tree. The very same tree. The Cavendish, which has no seeds, is propagated by grafting or cloning. Which means that they're all identical. If you're a mass marketer, pushing everyone to expect and like the very same thing, a thing with no variation and little surprise, this is good news indeed.

Until, of course, a fungus comes along and wipes out the entire monoculture.

It's tempting to want all your bananas to be the same. To have all your employees be clones of one another, your products to be indistinguishable commodities, each conforming to the dominant narrative of the day.

And if you're a freelancer, you're under huge pressure to be just like everyone else. It's easier to talk about what you do, easier to fit in, easier to be ignored.

But variation brings resilience and innovation and the chance to make a difference.

The unfairness (and wisdom) of paint

Repainting your house the same color it already was feels like a waste. It's a lot of effort merely to keep things as they are.

But if you don't do it, time and entropy kick in and the house starts to fade.

The same can be said for 1,000 elements of your organization, including your relationships with customers, staff, suppliers and technology. The way you approach your market, the skill you bring to your craft, the culture in your organization—it constantly needs another coat of paint.

Rust never sleeps.

[PS... delighted that I'll be speaking at the upcoming Convertkit event in June in Boise... Hope to see you there.]

Empathy is the hard part

The rest is mechanics. We're not wired to walk in someone else's shoes, it's not our first instinct.

Showing up with empathy is difficult, hard to outsource and will wear you out.

But it's precisely what we need from you.