Seth Godin's Blog, page 8
April 5, 2013
Every once in a while someone will say to me, "yeah, sure, I've heard that before... what do you have that's new?"
In contemporary art or movies, it makes perfect sense to be focused on the bleeding edge, on the new idea that's never been previously contemplated.
But when we're discussing our goals, our passion and the way we interact with the culture, it seems to me that what works is significantly more important than what's new. Racing to build your organization around the latest social network tool or graphics-rendering technology permits you to spend a lot of time learning the new system and skiing in the fresh powder of the unproven, but it might just distract you from the difficult work of telling the truth, looking people in the eye and making a difference.
"I can't describe the value we deliver, I'm too busy integrating this new technology into my workflow!"
All too often, the ones who are aggressively seeking the theory of the day don't have a lot to show for what they did yesterday.
April 4, 2013
We like positive surprises and fear negative ones.
That means (surprisingly) that it's better to have a consistently negative experience than to confront one that's sometimes negative and sometimes neutral. The TSA, for example, would be easier to take if they were always consistently irrational, time-wasting and disrespectful, thus eliminating the risk and replacing it with certainty.
On the other hand, a positive experience that's positive all the time pales in comparison with the experience that's sometimes neutral but often nice. Beyond a baseline of goodness, you're better off awarding a few people a random discount or a bump up in priority than you are making something consistently (and boringly) slightly more pleasant.
April 3, 2013
The meeting troll is a common creature, one that morphs over time and is good at hiding (snaring you when it's too late to avoid him.)
The meeting troll has a neverending list of reasonable objections. It's the length of the list that makes the objections unreasonable.
The meeting troll never says 'we'. It's all about 'you.'
The meeting troll doesn't actually want you to fail, but is establishing a trail so that if you do, he's off the hook.
Despite his protestations about how much he hates meetings, the meeting troll actually thrives on them, because, after all, this is the only place he gets to do his best work. The very best way to extinguish the meeting troll is to extinguish meetings. The second best way is to not invite him.
A key giveway: The meeting troll will use the phrase, "devil's advocate." More than once.
Growth hackers look for a yes at every turn. The meeting troll thinks his job is to find the no.
The meeting troll never eagerly calls a project meeting, nor does he bring refreshments, volunteer to organize follow up or encourage others to push their ideas even further. He's eager, though, to host the post mortem.
One particularly noxious type of meeting troll says not a thing at the meeting. He uses body language and eye rolling to great advantage, though, and you can be sure that there will be quiet one-on-one undermining going on as soon as the meeting is over. The modern evolution of this is the instant messaging of snide remarks during the meeting.
The meeting troll has a perfect memory for previous failures and complete amnesia when it comes to things that have worked.
Analogies, particularly to vivid flameouts (regardless of how rare or irrelevant) is the easy tool for the amateur troll. He's also good at equating your desire to deal with negative change with the assertion that you somehow caused or were in favor of that negative change.
Open-ended questions that merely hint at failure are sufficient for the experienced troll. He knows that he doesn't have to kill the new project for it to die. He just has to stir up sufficient unease.
The meeting troll is afraid, not merely evil. Change is a threat, and trolling is his well-intentioned but erroneous response to the threat of change.
April 2, 2013
The next time you feel lonely, disconnected or unappreciated, consider that unlike many other maladies, this one hits everyone. And unlike other challenges, this one is easily overcome by realizing that you can cure the problem by connecting, appreciating and leading.
The minute we realize that the person sitting next to us needs us (and our tribe, our forward motion and the value we create), we're able to extinguish their aloneness as well as ours.
When you shine a light, both of you can see better.
April 1, 2013
This afternoon, Amazon is going to announce the Kindle Zero, (screenshot) the first ebook reader that's free (to Prime members, of which there are millions). If you want one, you should hurry, because free goes quick... (here's a sneak preview of the prototype Zero)
The trend has been clear--electronic devices always get cheaper, and locking people into a platform has always been profitable. Hotmail, search engines... free is the driver of attention.
Beyond the surprise of leaping into the free reader, though, are the announcements from Random House and Wiley that 10% of their titles (the ones that used to be free) will now come with a cash incentive. (HT to Kevin for the original idea).
Read a book, get paid in cash. This is beyond free.
People have long treated reading books as a chore, as work, as something to do as little as possible. Now, for the first time, you can get paid for the drudgery of reading.
What this means is simple: you can now order 150 books and a new Kindle and get paid more than $3,000 just for accepting them and reading them when you can. Dense, difficult books like Russian tragedies and others earn you even more, up to $45. Per book. And of course, how-to books earn you hundreds of dollars each, but you do have to read them.
Of course there will be ads. Once it's free, you're not the customer any more, you're the product.
As a pioneer in free ebooks more than ten years ago, I feel like I have to keep up, hence my announcement today that to go with the new Kindle Zero, the free edition of my new book comes with a new Buick LeSabre or a large fig newton, your choice. While supplies last, one per customer.
March 31, 2013
"I want to be an actress, but I don't want to go on auditions."
"I want to play varsity sports, but I need to be sure I'm going to make the team."
"It's important to sell this great new service, but I'm not willing to deal with rejection."
You don't get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn't have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.
The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you've chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you're doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.
The very thing you're seeking only exists because of the whole. We can't deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.
March 30, 2013
That's what gets done, of course. The urgent.
Not the article you haven't gotten around to writing, the trip to the gym that will pay off in the long run, the planning for your upcoming birthday party, dinner with your parents (who would love to see you), ten minutes to sit quietly, saying thank you to a friend for no real reason... no, we do the urgent first.
The problem, of course, is that the queue of urgent never ends, it merely changes its volume as it gets longer.
Yes, we've heard it said that it's the important, not the urgent, that deserves attention. But it understates just how much we've been manipulated by those that would make their important into our urgent.
March 29, 2013
You know, behind your back...
What do they think of your product or your sales pitch or your speech? What do they think of your new sweater or your new friend?
Hint: You won't find out by searching for yourself on Twitter or Facebook. You won't find out by eavesdropping in the lounge, either. Or by reading the reviews.
Sure, you'll hear what people say when they have an audience, you'll hear condensed, pointed, witty takedowns, but no, you won't hear what they really think. All you'll do is bring yourself down and strengthen the resistance.
No, the only way to know what people think is to watch what they do, not what they say. Do they come back for more? Do you cause them to change their behavior? Can you make them smile?
Howard Cosell was loud, but he was more entertaining than right. The same is true for the armchair critics (amateur and professional) that have a megaphone they're using to criticize you.
March 28, 2013
On the path from awareness to a sale, the marketer has to create a vacuum.
The goal of that short film or that sales letter or that invitation to a seminar shouldn't be to answer every question and completely describe what's on offer. No, effective marketing amplifies awareness of a problem or an opportunity, a problem the product or service solves or an opportunity it creates.
I know it's tempting to sell with bullet points and an overwhelming amount of data. It gets you off the hook and requires little in the way of creativity or guts. Storytelling requires both.
March 27, 2013
A dozen generations ago, there was no unemployment, largely
because there were no real jobs to speak of. Before the industrial revolution,
the thought that you’d leave your home and go to an office or a factory was, of
What happens now that the industrial age is ending? As the
final days of the industrial age roll around, we are seeing the core assets of
the economy replaced by something new. Actually, it’s something old, something
handmade, but this time, on a huge scale.
The industrial age was about scarcity. Everything that
built our culture, improved our productivity, and defined our lives involved
the chasing of scarce items.
On the other hand, the connection economy, our economy, the
economy of the foreseeable future, embraces abundance. No, we don’t have an
endless supply of the resources we used to trade and covet. No, we certainly
don’t have a surplus of time, either. But we do have an abundance of choice, an
abundance of connection, and an abundance of access to knowledge.
We know more people, have access to more resources, and can
leverage our skills more quickly and at a higher level than ever before.
This abundance leads to two races. The race to the bottom
is the Internet-fueled challenge to lower prices, find cheaper labor, and
deliver more for less.
The other race is the race to the top: the opportunity to
be the one they can’t live without, to be the linchpin we would miss if he
didn’t show up. The race to the top focuses on delivering
more for more.
It embraces the weird passions of those with the resources to make choices, and
it rewards originality, remarkability, and art.
The connection economy continues to gain traction because
connections scale, information begets more information, and influence accrues
to those who create this abundance. As connections scale, these connections
paradoxically make it easier for others to connect as well, because anyone with
talent or passion can leverage the networks created by connection to increase
her impact. The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and
then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect,
and then demands that we pick ourselves.
Just as the phone network becomes more valuable when more
phones are connected (scarcity is the enemy of value in a network), the
connection economy becomes more valuable as we scale it.
Friends bring us more friends. A reputation brings us a
chance to build a better reputation. Access to information encourages us to
seek ever more information. The connections in our life multiply and increase
in value. Our stuff, on the other hand,
becomes less valuable over time.
… [this riff is inspired by my new book...]
Successful organizations have realized that they are no
longer in the business of coining slogans, running catchy ads, and optimizing
their supply chains to cut costs.
And freelancers and soloists have discovered that doing a
good job for a fair price is no longer sufficient to guarantee success. Good
work is easier to find than ever before.
What matters now:
Stories that spread
Humanity: connection, compassion, and humility
All six of these are the result of successful work by
humans who refuse to follow industrial-age
rules. These assets aren’t generated by external strategies and MBAs and
positioning memos. These are the results of internal struggle, of brave
decisions without a map and the willingness to allow others to live with
They are about standing out, not fitting in, about
inventing, not duplicating.
PERMISSION: In a marketplace that’s open to just about anyone, the only people
we hear are the people we choose to hear. Media is cheap, sure, but attention
is filtered, and it’s virtually impossible to be heard unless the consumer
gives us the ability to be heard. The more valuable someone’s attention is, the
harder it is to earn.
And who gets
someone listen to the prankster or the shyster or the huckster? No, we choose
to listen to those we trust. We do business with and donate to those who have
earned our attention. We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we
listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses that
delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way.
And all of
those behaviors are the acts of people, not machines. We embrace the humanity
in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become
less human and more cold. Who will you miss? That is who you are listening to .
The same bias toward humanity and connection exists in the way we choose which
ideas we’ll share with our friends and colleagues. No one talks about the
boring, the predictable, or the safe. We don’t risk interactions in order to
spread the word about something obvious or trite.
is almost always new and untested, fresh and risky.
Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership. Management is about
generating yesterday’s results, but a little faster or a little more cheaply.
We know how to manage the world—we relentlessly seek to cut costs and to limit
variation, while we exalt obedience.
though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No
manual, no rule book, no überleader to point the finger at when things go
wrong. If you ask someone for the rule
book on how to lead, you’re secretly wishing to be a manager.
vulnerable, not controlling, and they are racing to the top, taking us to a new
place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.
STORIES THAT SPREAD:
The next asset that makes the new economy work is the story that spreads.
Before the revolution, in a world of limited choice, shelf space mattered a
great deal. You could buy your way onto the store shelf, or you could be the
only one on the ballot, or you could use a connection to get your résumé in
front of the hiring guy. In a world of abundant choice, though, none of these
tactics is effective. The chooser has too many alternatives, there’s too much
clutter, and the scarce resources are attention and trust, not shelf space.
This situation is tough for many, because attention and trust must be earned,
difficult still is the magic of the story that resonates. After trust is earned
and your work is seen, only a fraction of it is magical enough to be worth
spreading. Again, this magic is the work of the human artist, not the corporate
machine. We’re no longer interested in average stuff for average people.
don’t worship industrial the way we used to. We seek out human originality and
caring instead. When price and availability are no longer sufficient advantages
(because everything is available and the price is no longer news), then what we
are drawn to is the vulnerability and transparency that bring us together, that
turn the “other” into one of us.
For a long time to come the
masses will still clamor for cheap and obvious and reliable. But the people you
seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the
interesting frontier, these people want your humanity, not your discounts.
All of these assets, rolled into one, provide the
foundation for the change maker of the future. And that individual (or the team
that person leads) has no choice but to build these assets with novelty, with a
fresh approach to an old problem, with a human touch that is worth talking
I can’t wait until we return to zero percent unemployment,
to a time when people with something to contribute (everyone) pick themselves instead of waiting for a
bureaucrat’s permission to do important work.