It's much easier to persuade a philanthropist to fund your project than it is to persuade a rich person to become a philanthropist.
Encouraging someone to shift slightly, to pick this instead of that, is a totally different endeavor than working to turn a no into a yes, to change an entire pattern of behavior.
When looking to grow, start with people who already believe that they have a problem you can help them solve.
Our connection economy thrives when people understand what to expect from one another. We're more likely than ever to engage in interactions that involve an exchange, something that deserves a specific clarification. I'll do this and you'll do that.
More and more agreements are being made, because more and more transactions happen outside or between organizations. The question then: What does good drafting look like?
If the agreement starts with "whereas" and continues along with, "notwithstanding the foregoing," and when it must be decoded by a lawyer on the other side, something has gone wrong. These codewords, and the dense language that frequently appears in legal agreements, are symptoms of a system out of whack. It's possible to be precise without being obtuse.
There's actually no legal requirement that an agreement not be in specific, clear, everyday English. To do otherwise disrespects the person you're hoping to engage with. There's no legal requirement that even the terms of service for a website can't be clear and easy to understand. In fact, if the goal is to avoid confusion and the costs of the legal system when conflicts occur, the more clear, the better.
Consider this clause, which can change everything: "Any disagreements over the interpretation of this agreement will be resolved through binding, informal arbitration. Both of us agree to hire a non-involved attorney, submit up to five pages of material to state our case, and abide by her decision."
The best thing about this clause is that you'll almost never need it. Mutual respect and clear language lead to agreements that work.
Just in time for the last-minute frenzy (of reading, listening or giving):
My favorite fun novel of the year was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I listened to it on audio and loved every moment.
On Immunity was another audio favorite. An even-handed meditation on why people believe what they believe, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, this book is almost literary at times.
Eastern Standard Tribe is a great introdution to the books of Cory Doctorow. The later stuff is even better, but all of it is thought provoking.
The Diamond Age was so far ahead of its time that most of you haven't read it. You should. For irony's sake, perhaps read it on a tablet.
Linchpin is the book of mine that has probably changed more minds and more lives than any other.
The Bride... is a meditation on Duchamp, on conceptual art and on a life lived on the edge. Some books pretend to be quirky, this one is.
Reminding you about Jacqueline Novogratz' The Blue Sweater, a book that will show you that the world is much smaller than it was, and it's getting smaller daily.
Linda Rottenberg has changed the world, and she wants to show you how.
The Art of Asking is Amanda Palmer's breathtakingly honest and personal memoir of one artist's approach to life.
Alex Osterwalder is on a roll, and his books are all worth your time and money.
Bill Strickland's autobiography is a meditation on doing work that matters.
Guy Kawasaki shares more than 100 social media secrets with you and your team.
Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy will resonate with you and stay with you for a long time.
And you can listen to Live at Smalls while you're reading. Cyrille will make you smile.
PS My new book, What To Do When It's Your Turn now has an order backlog that makes it impossible for me to promise delivery in time for gift giving, but I hope you'll find time to read it (and share it) when it arrives. Thanks everyone for your extraordinary enthusiasm and support.
Start your first business this way: Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have. Charge less than it's worth and more than it costs you.
You don't have to wait for perfect or large or revered or amazing. You can start.
"He deserved it," is usually the explanation we hear for behavior that strikes us as unproductive, inhumane or counter-productive. The bully is always happy to point a finger at the person he hurt, to cast blame for his inexcusable actions.
Retribution is a habit, usually a learned one. It's tit for tat, the instinct to punish.
That's a very different posture than the one the productive professional takes. She says, "I choose to take actions that are effective." She chooses a response designed to produce the outcome she seeks, actions that work.
We can react or respond, as my friend Zig used to say. When we react to a medicine, that's a bad thing. When we respond, it's working.
When the world dumps something at our door, we can take the shortcut and allow ourselves to react. We can point out that whatever we do is happening because the other side deserved it. Tantrums are okay, in this analysis, because the other guy made us.
Or we can respond. With something that works. With an approach we're proud of, proud of even after the moment has passed. It's not easy, it's often not fun, but it's the professional's choice.
It's that time of year, when big companies race to put together their annual plan for the coming year. These documents, even though they're now digital, involve thousands of hours of analog meetings and discussion and compromise. To save you time, here's a simple list you can use. Just pick one or more phrases, string them together using words like, "using," and a bit of reconjugation and you're on your way.
- Act in collaboration
- Break existing paradigms
- Commit to quality
- Define new aspirational goals
- Deliver on opportunities
- Develop and align talent
- Develop the optimal portfolio of differentiated brands
- Differentiate the product base
- Enable technology
- Engage globally
- Enhance the digital experience
- Focus on our strengths
- Grow through innovation
- Identify new opportunities
- Innovate through growth
- Invest in people
- Juxtapose complementary opportunities
- Key partners
- Leverage existing assets
- Maximize returns
- Normalize customer expectations
- Operate more efficiently
- Position the organization for future growth
- Recharge the culture
- Structure the organization for effective performance
- Test new hypotheses
- Understand new innovations
The problem with plans created by committees is that they are built on vague. That's because vague is safe, and no one ever got in trouble for failing to meet a vague plan. But vague is singularly unhelpful when it's time to make a hard decision.
Do you want customers (donors, backers, voters, members, vendors) who are:
- Price shoppers
- Bottom fishers
- Easily amused
- Uncomfortable talking about money
- Part of the crowd
- Easily distracted
Here's the thing: you get what you reward. You attract the customers that respond to the way you act. You end up with what you tolerate. You build what your audience demands.
You might not get the customers you deserve, but you will probably end up with the customers you attract.
Sure, you can swoop in and make the numbers by attracting a certain kind of customer. Is it worth it?
Before you finish your new idea or launch your new project, it's worth taking a few minutes to realize that two costs are dramatically underestimated:
1. The cost of selling. How much will it cost you to sell this to an agency, a nation, a customer? How much will it cost them to sell it to the next user?
2. The cost of maintenance. How much will it cost you to stick this project out until it pays for itself? How much will it cost your users to maintain this idea over its useful life?
Hint: It took a decade to sell most people on the personal computer. And the cost of a PC out of the box is less than 1/6th of what it costs to keep it running and in use over its life...
The best time is when you don't feel like it.
Going for a walk when you don't feel like it will change your mood, transform your posture and get you moving.
And if you don't feel like talking with someone, bring them with you on the walk.
If Sylvia makes the math team, there are two ways for the school to find out.
One method is that she alerts people she has a relationship with. Call this a hard network, a direct connection.
The other method is that people tell other people, that the word spreads in unpredictable, uncontrollable ways, from person to person. Call this a soft network.
My thesis is that it's not really hard vs. soft. It's both. The hard network of permission starts and amplifies the soft network of horizontal, unpredictable connection--if the story is worth spreading.
Industrialists, and the marketers who work for them, used to start with spam. Use money and effort to yell at everyone.
Over time, that has radically evolved into a new way to go to market. To talk to people who want to be talked to. Engaged marketers prefer this direct approach. It’s measurable, repeatable, predictable. It can be owned. Permission marketing lives in this sphere, the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.
Permission is an asset, and it is the heart of what can be built online in the connection economy. But permission is notoriously unresilient. If the message doesn’t get through, nothing happens. If networks shift or systems change, nothing happens. As email gets more crowded, as follower numbers explode, we see again and again that hard networks don't carry enough data.
The soft network, on the other hand, begins with permission but then fills in the cracks. In a soft network, people tell other people, horizontally, relentlessly, as the word spreads.
When people asked Timothy Leary what they ought to do next, he said, "find the others."
Tribes form horizontally. Change happens from person to person, rarely from the top down. Organizations establish a culture, the way we do things around here, as much from the craftsmen on the shop floor as from what the CEO does in her office.
I'm seeing the power of this firsthand with the launch of my new book.
I asked some of the people who are already reading it to post on Twitter with the hashtag #YourTurn along with the name of their city. Feel free to add yourself...
Anyone searching on the term will get an instant snapshot of not just where interesting work is being done (and where the status quo is being challenged) but who is doing it as well. New people to follow and learn from. Connections, made. A critical step on the road to making change happen.
The unpredictable, organic nature of soft networks mean that they'll never be assets an organization can bring to the bank. But as we go mobile and immerse ourselves ever deeper in data, this is how ideas move. PS via Ivan, another way to think about this.
...is that it still has edges.
It's tempting to believe that creativity comes from starting fresh. But even when we start fresh, we approach projects and problems with self-created boundaries.
You can't do real work without edges, without something to leverage, but those edges don't have to be the same edges as everyone else uses.
Creative people often excel because they change the shape of the clean sheet.
How does it rank on your list?
When you think about your work or your art or the way you vote, where does obedience rank? What about your tribal connections and social choices?
When you measure the worth of someone else, how highly do you count their willingness to obey authority and the status quo?
It's baked in to our culture. Sometimes so completely that we don't even notice.
What does a good day look like? A good week?
Who do you want to work with?
Who are you trying to please?
What sort of feedback brings you down?
What’s your tolerance for being misunderstood? By whom?
Is it about process or projects?
Which part of the project makes you happy?
At the end of the project, what would you like in return?
What diminishes the work?
How high do the stakes need to be?
How close to the edge do you need to dance? Risk? Resources? Failure?
What will you take? What will you give? Who will you connect?
How much freedom will you sacrifice to get what you want? How much commitment will you promise?
What are you measuring? Smiles, comments, traffic, cash, media response, friends, peers, insiders, outsiders?
Will they miss you when you're done with this?
[PS just posted some new reviews of my new book]
Here's one: "I'm too old to make a difference, take a leap, change the game..." (Sometimes, I hear this from people who are 27 years old).
This is a seductive story, because it lets us off the hook. Obviously, the thinking goes, the deck (whichever deck you want to pick) is stacked against me, so no need to even imagine the failure that effort will bring. Better to just move along and lower my expectations.
Hannes Schwandt has published some interesting research on this. Regret seems to peak at 50, and then, as people start rationalizing that they're not expected to make much of a difference going forward, life satisfaction starts to increase. Of course, this is doubly backwards... we can (and must) contribute as we get older, and freedom is nothing to fear.
The Goal: Who are you trying to change? What observable actions will let you know you've succeeded?
The Strategy: What are the emotions you can amplify, the connections you can make that will cause someone to do something they've hesitated to do in the past (change)? The strategy isn't the point, it's the lever that helps you cause the change you seek.
The Tactics: What are the actions you take that cause the strategy to work? What are the events and interactions that, when taken together, comprise your strategy?
An example: Our goal is to change good donors to our cause into really generous donors. Our strategy is to establish a standard for big gifts, to make it something that our good donors aspire to because it feels normal for someone like them. And today's tactic is hosting an industry dinner that will pair some of our best donors with those that might be open to moving up.
If you merely ask someone to help you with a tactic in isolation, it's likely you won't get the support you need. But if you can find out if you share a goal with someone, then can explain how your strategy can make it likely that you'll achieve that goal, working together on a tactic that supports that strategy is an obvious thing to do.
And it certainly opens the door to a useful conversation about whether your goal is useful, your strategy is appropriate and your tactic is coherent and likely to cause the change you seek.
A tactic might feel fun, or the next thing to do, or a lot like what your competition is doing. But a tactic by itself is nothing much worth doing. If it supports a strategy, a longer-term plan that builds on itself and generates leverage, that's far more powerful. But a strategy without a goal is wasted.
If you hesitate to map out your future, to make a big plan or to set a goal, you've just gone ahead and mapped your future anyway.
[PS Krista's online interview with me is back on the radio this weekend. Her show is one that will stick with you.]
In about a week, I'm hosting a design sprint, and I thought it would be worth sharing the details widely because perhaps you should have one too.
I'm poking around in the early stages of developing some new projects, and one of them tries to solve a widespread problem with a new approach on mobile devices.
To take it to the next level, I'm hosting a 6-hour design sprint in my office (outside of New York City) for a few people. The notion (which I have found useful for many projects) is to get some motivated, talented people together to whiteboard possibilities and challenges and to open doors to new ways of thinking. The participants get paid of course, but even better, they get the energy that comes from a collision with other creative people.
For this sprint, I'm really focused on finding people with significant experience and a point of view about some combination of: mobile app development, back end data manipulation and user interaction and design. Background in one of these areas is enough... if you're at the top of your field, I'd love to hear from you.
If this is interesting to you, please click here to see details.
And if this one isn't for you, I hope you'll consider hosting one for your project, your career, your next thing... It's sort of thrilling.
Also! While I was beginning my search for rock star developers I might want to work with, I was surprised to find it was difficult to even get started in the search. I thought it might be useful to put together and share a lightweight, simple directory of self-selected developers in search of interesting projects. If you're that sort of developer (either an individual or a firm) consider entering your info on this form. If I get a good response, we'll turn it into a web page and I'll link to it in a future blog post. Thanks.
Marketers make change happen. Good marketing can change governments, heal the sick and bring a new technology to the masses. Marketers spend money (sometimes lots of it), take our time and transform our culture. It's quite a powerful position to be in.
Who decides, then, what and how it's okay to market?
At a recent conference for non-profits, a college student asked me, "what right does a public health person have to try to change the behavior of an at-risk group?" That one was easy for me. How can they not work to tell stories and share information that will help those at risk change that behavior?
And then, just a day later, I heard the story of a marketer who intentionally bankrupts the elderly by loading them up with worthless 'investments'. He said, "Hey, if it makes them happy in the moment and they voluntarily buy what I'm selling, who cares? I'm not doing anything against the law, and if it's not against the law, I'm not going to stop."
Or the spam phone banks that steal brand names and generate tens of thousands of calls a day, tricking small businesses into buying fake SEO services, or the e-cig makers who market to kids, looking to build a long-term business based on addiction...
For me, the line is clear. If the person you're trying to change knew what you knew, would they want to change? And so the placebo is ethical, because in fact, it makes people better when they believe. And the expensive wine is ethical, because it's a placebo, purchased by people who can afford it. But the fraudulent penny-stock scam is wrong, because the withheld information about the fraud being perpetrated is a selfish lie.
If you're okay saying to yourself and your family, "I tell selfish lies to the weak, the young and the uninformed for a living," then I guess we need better laws. I'm hopeful, though, that we'll figure out how to do work we're proud of first.
What To Do When It's Your Turn, my new book, is now shipping.
"It seems that Seth's books always find me at the exact moment when I need them the most. Many people label Seth as a great marketer (and he's the best) but after reading his books and working with him, I can tell you it goes much deeper. He's not asking us to be better marketers. His is a call to become more of what makes you, *you*. This book is a call-to-arms and a manifesto of personal art. It will be what everyone on my list gets this year. There are some books you read, and then there are some books you live by. This is the one to live by..."
Josh Long, Writer and Designer
I don't write this blog to help me sell books. I write books to help the blog make change happen.
My new book is just out this week, and I hope you'll take a minute to click here find out more about it. I've added some rare videos and other surprises to the page.
If you order a copy of the book, I'm going to send you two. (And if you order three, I'll send you five). The entire point of the book is to create an agent of change, a lever that helps you and the people you care about start doing even more work that matters.
"...a modern manual on what to do when you feel that psychic pain that comes while creating change. After reading it, you’ll know what to do about the pain, and I think you might be willing to give it all you’ve got."
Logan York, Designer
Deciding how to talk about my own work on the blog is a tricky thing. This is the most urgent, accessible book I've ever written, and in order to get all the details the way I envisioned them, I published it myself. If you haven't read one of my books, I hope you'll start here.
Seth's work is a gift. He doesn't write to write, or because he has to—he writes to change people.
Bernadette Jiwa, author and speaker
The book won't be in bookstores or widely promoted. It means that the only people who are able to spread it are you, my esteemed and trusted readers.
I'm going to make this post sticky and keep it on top of my blog for a few days, but the regular daily posts will appear below. I'll also be adding blurbs and such to the post this week. Thank you, for caring enough to share these ideas.
"...an intellectual tour-de-force, taking everything he has shared from his previous books and putting forth what I will call a geniune masterpiece. Read this book now, then write your name in it and share it with someone who deserves it."
Joseph Ratliff, writer
PS All the details are here including a single-copy international option, a live audiobook pre-order and some translations.
"This book, page after inspirational page, is a potent, visceral, unrelenting call-out to come out of hiding, engage your courage, unleash your art, and live with generosity and authenticity. It's a marvel. An absolute marvel. You can't help but be changed. I am."
Travis Wilson, coach
This is the most difficult sentence for companies that stumble in doing effective customer service.
By effective, I mean customer service that pays for itself, that is a rational expense on the way to building a loyal brand following and generating positive word of mouth.
When someone in your organization says, "You're right, we were wrong," they're not saying that you're always wrong, or that you were completely wrong, or even that, in a court of law with a sympathetic jury, you would lose. It certainly doesn't mean you didn't try.
No, all you're saying is that you made a promise or set an expectation and then failed to live up to it.
Owning that and saying it out loud does two things: it respects the customer and it allows you to make more promises in the future.
If it helps, you can remind yourself that this is investment in your ability to make a promise tomorrow.