"All other difficulties are of minor importance"

Seth Godin's Blog - 2 hours 29 min ago

The Wright Brothers decided to solve the hardest problem of flight first.

It's so tempting to work on the fun, the urgent or even the controversial parts of a problem. 

There are really good reasons to do the hard part first, though. In addition to not wasting time in meetings about logos, you'll end up getting the rest of your design right if you do the easy parts last.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

More pious

Seth Godin's Blog - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 04:59

Tribe members often fall into a trap, a trap created by the fear of standing out, and a natural avoidance to question things.

"You're not wearing the proper tie."

"That's not how someone like us gets married."

"My tweets are of the proper format, yours aren't."

"The way you are teaching your kids the rules is wrong."

"That symbol of purity isn't good enough for my family."

"Your version of the way things should be is a compromise."

"What, you're not wearing an official jersey to the game?"

As soon as someone says, "I am more pious than you," they've chosen to push someone down in order to pull themselves up, at least in feeling more secure as a member of the tribe. This might be good for the hegemony of the tribe, but it ultimately degrades the spirit that the tribe set out to create.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Announcing my candidacy

Seth Godin's Blog - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 09:37

Today, with just 495 days before the election, I'm announcing my run for President of the United States.

I'm well aware that electoral politics have been transformed by the collision of semi-modern marketing techniques with the money necessary to implement them. The TV-Industrial complex demands ever more partisan politics, more tribal division, more vote-suppressing vitriol. As we've turned raising money into a game similar to box office returns (where quantity appears to equal quality), candidates have almost no choice but to sell themselves to the highest bidder of the moment, again and again and again.

Once you see this, it's hard to miss, even though candidates and the media work to conceal it with big promises and lots of apparently retail politics.

Is it any wonder that voters are cynical? Marketers and marketing made us that way.

My candidacy, on the other hand, will be marked by stunning transparency:

  • I'm not promising to get anything done, anything at all, so there is no chance you will be disappointed.
  • I'm selling slots in my campaign to the highest bidder, Google style. Digitally organized bidding makes it easy for any corporation or mogul to determine what something will cost, and real-time auctions will maximize the return.
  • I'll just keep the money, because TV ads merely coarsen our political discourse, almost never leading to a more informed electorate.
  • Most of all, once elected I'll stick to talk shows and other feel-good interactions, which is what the public wants most from its President.

Marketing has changed, but someone forgot to tell the inside-the-beltway power brokers. Brands aren't built the way they used to be, but politicians insist on the impatient churn-and-burn mass market awareness that even Procter & Gamble is choosing to leave behind.

Consider this: In the 2016 election, the candidates for President will together spend more money on advertising than any single US brand. That's never been true before--and it's because marketers today know something that impatient, self-centered politicians don't. Money isn't enough.

The brand of the future (the candidate of the future) is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Word of mouth is more important (by a factor of 20) than TV advertising, and the remarkability word of mouth demands comes from what we experience, not from spin or taglines or a campaign slogan.

Movements have leaders, but mostly, they have a place to lead to. And their leader can't stop, won't stop, has no choice but stay connected, keep raising the bar, continue to cycle forward.

So no, of course I won't be running (but I was a candidate for six paragraphs).

If the history of politics catching up with commercial marketing is any guide, I think that we're about to see a fundamental shift in how we talk about our leaders (and they talk to us), and perhaps (we can hope), the media will respond in kind.

And in the meantime, your brand, your campaign, your project, will benefit from what's happening now, which is marketing, not advertising, which is connection, not interruption. We've moved past the long-lost Mad Men era. Don't do marketing the way they do.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Announcing my candidacy

Seth Godin's Blog - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 17:59

Today, with just 495 days before the election, I'm announcing my run for President of the United States.

I'm well aware the that electoral politics have been transformed by the collision of semi-modern marketing techniques with the money necessary to implement them. The TV-Industrial complex demands ever more partisan politics, more tribal division, more vote-suppressing vitriol. As we've turned raising money into a game similar to box office returns (where quantity appears to equal quality), candidates have almost no choice but to sell themselves to the highest bidder of the moment, again and again and again.

Once you see this, it's hard to miss, even though candidates and the media work to conceal it with big promises and lots of apparently retail politics.

Is it any wonder that voters are cynical? Marketers and marketing made us that way.

My candidacy, on the other hand, will be marked by stunning transparency:

  • I'm not promising to get anything done, anything at all, so there is no chance you will be disappointed.
  • I'm selling slots in my campaign to the highest bidder, Google style. Digitally organized bidding makes it easy for any corporation or mogul to determine what something will cost, and real-time auctions will maximize the return.
  • I'll just keep the money, because TV ads merely coarsen our political discourse, almost never leading to a more informed electorate.
  • Most of all, once elected I'll stick to talk shows and other feel-good interactions, which is what the public wants most from its President.

Marketing has changed, but someone forgot to tell the inside-the-beltway power brokers. Brands aren't built the way they used to be, but politicians insist on the impatient churn-and-burn mass market awareness that even Procter & Gamble is choosing to leave behind.

Consider this: In the 2016 election, the candidates for President will together spend more money on advertising than any single US brand. That's never been true before--and it's because marketers today know something that impatient, self-centered politicians don't. Money isn't enough.

The brand of the future (the candidate of the future) is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Word of mouth is more important (by a factor of 20) than TV advertising, and the remarkability word of mouth demands comes from what we experience, not from spin or taglines or a campaign slogan.

Movements have leaders, but mostly, they have a place to lead to. And their leader can't stop, won't stop, has no choice but stay connected, keep raising the bar, continue to cycle forward.

So no, of course I won't be running (but I was a candidate for six paragraphs).

If the history of politics catching up with commercial marketing is any guide, I think that we're about to see a fundamental shift in how we talk about our leaders (and they talk to us), and perhaps (we can hope), the media will respond in kind.

And in the meantime, your brand, your campaign, your project, will benefit from what's happening now, which is marketing, not advertising, which is connection, not interruption. We've moved past the long-lost Mad Men era. Don't do marketing the way they do.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

What happens when things go wrong?

Seth Godin's Blog - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 05:05

Service resilience is too often overlooked. Most organizations don't even have a name for it, don't measure it, don't plan for it.

I totally understand our focus on putting on a perfect show, on delighting people, on shipping an experience that's wonderful.

But how do you and your organization respond/react when something doesn't go right?

Because that's when everyone is paying attention.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

The rejectionists

Seth Godin's Blog - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 05:17

We can choose to define ourselves (our smarts, our brand, our character) on who rejects us.

Or we can choose to focus on those that care enough to think we matter.

Carrying around a list of everyone who thinks you're not good enough is exhausting.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Buzzer management

Seth Godin's Blog - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 05:25

I started the quiz team at my high school. Alas, I didn't do so well at the tryouts, so I ended up as the coach, but we still made it to the finals.

It took me thirty years to figure out the secret of getting in ahead of the others who also knew the answer (because the right answer is no good if someone else gets the buzz):

You need to press the buzzer before you know the answer.

As soon as you realize that you probably will be able to identify the answer by the time you're asked, buzz. Between the time you buzz and the time you're supposed to speak, the answer will come to you. And if it doesn't, the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.

This feels wrong in so many ways. It feels reckless, careless and selfish. Of course we're supposed to wait until we're sure before we buzz. But the waiting leads to a pattern of not buzzing.

No musician is sure her album is going to be a hit. No entrepreneur is certain that every hire is going to be a good one. No parent can know that every decision they make is going to be correct. 

What separates this approach from mere recklessness is the experience of discovering (in the right situation) that buzzing makes your work better, that buzzing helps you dig deeper, that buzzing inspires you.

The habit is simple: buzz first, buzz when you're confident that you've got a shot. Buzz, buzz, buzz. If it gets out of hand, we'll let you know.

The act of buzzing leads to leaping, and leaping leads to great work. Not the other way around.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

A corollary to 'Too big to fail'

Seth Godin's Blog - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 05:19

"Too big to listen."

Great organizations listen to our frustrations, our hopes and our dreams.

Alas, when a company gets big enough, it starts to listen to the requirements of its shareholders and its best-paid executives instead.

Too big to listen is just a nanometer away from "Too big to care."

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Pugilists

Seth Godin's Blog - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 05:44

Fighters and pugilists are different.

The fighter fights when she has to, when she's cornered, when someone or something she truly believes in is threatened. It's urgent and it's personal.

The pugilist, on the other hand, skirmishes for fun. The pugilist has a hobby, and the hobby is being oppositional.

The pugilist can turn any statement, quote or event into an opportunity to have an urgent argument, one that pins you to the ground and makes you question just about anything.

Instead of playing chess, the pugilist is playing you.

Pugilists make great TV commentators. And they even seem like engaged participants in meetings, for a while. Over time, we realize that they are more interested in seeing what reactions they can get, rather than in actually making positive change happen.

A committed pugilist has a long list of clever ways to bait you into an argument. You'll never win, of course, because the argument itself is what the pugilist seeks. Call it out, give it a name, share this post and then walk away. Back to work actually making things better.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Pulling a hat out of a rabbit

Seth Godin's Blog - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 05:08

It's tempting to do what's been done before, certain in the belief that if you do it, it'll be a little better and a little more popular, merely because you're the one doing it.

In fact, though, that's unlikely. You'll care more, but it's unlikely the market will.

Consider the alternative, which is choosing to turn the question upside down, to do it backwards, sideways, or in a significantly more generous or risky way.

Remarkable often starts with the problem you set out to solve and the way you choose to solve it.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

The tragedy of small expectations (and the trap of false dreams)

Seth Godin's Blog - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 05:01

Ask a hundred students at Harvard Business School if they expect to be up for a good job when they graduate, and all of them will say "yes."

Ask a bright ten-year old girl if she expects to have a chance at a career as a mathematician, and the odds are she's already been brainwashed into saying "no."

Expectations aren't guarantees, but expectations give us the chance to act as if, to trade now for later, to invest in hard work and productive dreaming on our way to making an impact.

Expectations work for two reasons. First, they give us the enthusiasm and confidence to do hard work. Second, like a placebo, they subtly change our attitude, and give us the resilience to make it through the rough spots. "Eventually" gives us the energy to persist.

When our culture (our media, our power structures, our society) says, "people who look like you shouldn't expect to have a life like that," we're stealing. Stealing from people capable of achieving more, and stealing from our community as well. How can our society (that's us) say, "we don't expect you to graduate, we don't expect you to lead, we don't expect you to be trusted to make a difference?"

When people are pushed to exchange their passion and their effort for the false solace of giving up and lowering their expectations, we all lose. And (almost as bad, in the other direction) when they substitute the reality of expectations for the quixotic quest of impossibly large, unrealistic dreams, we lose as well. Disneyesque dreams are a form of hiding, because Prince Charming isn't coming any time soon.

Expectations are not guarantees. Positive thinking doesn't guarantee results, all it offers is something better than negative thinking.

Expectations that don't match what's possible are merely false dreams. And expectations that are too small are a waste. We need teachers and leaders and peers who will help us dig in deeper and discover what's possible, so we can push to make it likely.

Expectations aren't wishes, they're part of a straightforward equation: This work plus that effort plus these bridges lead to a likelihood of that outcome. It's a clear-eyed awareness of what's possible combined with a community that shares your vision.

It's easy to manipulate the language of expectations and turn it into a bootstrapping, you're-on-your-own sort of abandonment. But expectation is contagious. Expectation comes from our culture. And most of all, expectation depends on support—persistent, generous support to create a place where leaping can occur.

There are limits all around us, stereotypes, unlevel playing fields, systemic challenges where there should be support instead. A quiet but intensely corrosive impact these injustices create is in the minds of the disenfranchised, in their perception of what is possible.

The mirror we hold up to the person next to us is one of the most important pictures she will ever see.

If we can help just one person refuse to accept false limits, we've made a contribution. If we can give people the education, the tools and the access they need to reach their goals, we've made a difference. And if we can help erase the systemic stories, traditions and policies that push entire groups of people to insist on less, we've changed the world. 

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

"Did you win?"

Seth Godin's Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 05:33

A far better question to ask (the student, the athlete, the salesperson, the programmer...) is, "what did you learn?"

Learning compounds. Usually more reliably than winning does.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

New times call for new decisions

Seth Godin's Blog - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 07:00

Those critical choices you made then, they were based on what you knew about the world as it was.

But now, you know more and the world is different.

So why spend so much time defending those choices?

We don't re-decide very often, which means that most of our time is spent doing, not choosing. And if the world isn't changing (if you're not changing) that doing makes a lot of sense.

The pain comes from falling in love with your status quo and living in fear of making another choice, a choice that might not work.

You might have been right then, but now isn't then, it's now.

If the world isn't different, no need to make a new decision. 

The question is, "is the world different now?"

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

The problem with holding a grudge

Seth Godin's Blog - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 04:54

...is that your hands are then too full to hold onto anything else.

It might be the competition or a technology or the lousy things that someone did a decade ago. None of it is going to get better as a result of revisiting the grudge.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

You will rarely guess/create/cause #1

Seth Godin's Blog - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 13:07

The breakthrough pop hit is so unpredictable that it's basically random.

You will always do better with a rational portfolio of second and third place reliable staples than you will in chasing whatever you guess that pop culture will want tomorrow.

Of course, it means giving up hoping for a miracle and instead doing the hard work of being there for the people who count on you.

[Update: It turns out the key word here is rarely. Just because I'm incapable of predicting the hits doesn't mean everyone is. I just heard from Scott Borchetta at Big Machine. He's had a #1 hit on the pop music charts every year for the last thirty. At some point, it's not luck, it's your profession.]

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Kneejerks

Seth Godin's Blog - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 05:35

Just about all the ranting we hear is tribal. "He's not one of us, he's wrong." Or, the flipside, "He's on our team, he's right, you're blowing this out of proportion."

The most powerful thing we can do to earn respect from those around us, though, is to call out one of our own when he crosses the line. "People like us, we don't do things like that." This is when real change starts to happen, and when others start to believe that we really care about something more than scoring points.

Calling out our own jerks is the best kind of kneejerk.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

How, why and the other thing

Seth Godin's Blog - Thu, 06/18/2015 - 12:28

Almost all the inputs, advice and resources available are about how. How to write better copy, how to code, how to manage, how to get people to do what you want, how to lose weight, how to get ahead...

Far more scarce is help in understanding why. Why bother? Why move forward? Why care?

And rarest of all, yet ironically the most important, is help and insight about getting to the core of the fear that is holding us back.

This is the cause of the unfinished novel, of the self-sabotaging aggressive marketing campaign and the speech that goes on too long. It's at the heart of too much, too little, and too boring as well.

You might need confidence in your 'how' to deal with your fear. You might have found your 'why' overwhelmed by your fear. But all the how and all the why aren't going to help much if we can't acknowledge that essential driver is, "where is the fear?"

Are we so afraid of it that we can't even discuss it?

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Plenty more

Seth Godin's Blog - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 04:36

One of the critical decisions of every career:

"Well, there's plenty more to do, I'll do the least I can here and then move on to the next one."

vs.

"I only get to do this one, once. So I'll do it as though it's the last chance I'll ever have to do this work, to please this customer, to ring this bell."

As little as possible. Or as much. The system might push you to become mediocre, but that very same system rewards excellence. The perception that the minimum is viable is built deep into our notion of productivity, but it turns out that the maximum is valuable indeed.

The biggest cause of excellence is the story we tell ourselves about our work. 

It's a choice, a commitment and a lifelong practice.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Abandoning perfection

Seth Godin's Blog - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 05:54

It's possible you work in an industry built on perfect. That you're a scrub nurse in the OR, or an air traffic controller or even in charge of compliance at a nuclear power plant.

The rest of us, though, are rewarded for breaking things. Our job, the reason we have time to read blogs at work or go to conferences or write memos is that our organization believes that just maybe, we'll find and share a new idea, or maybe (continuing a run on sentence) we'll invent something important, find a resource or connect with a key customer in a way that matters.

So, if that's your job, why are you so focused on perfect?

Perfect is the ideal defense mechanism, the work of Pressfield's Resistance, the lizard brain giving you an out. Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important).

You're not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that's what the world wants from you.

Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog

Overpriced

Seth Godin's Blog - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 05:07

Things that are going up in value almost always appear to be overpriced.

Real estate, fine art and start up investments have something in common: the good ones always seem too expensive when we have a chance to buy them. (And so do the lame ones, actually).

That New York condo that's going for $8 million? You didn't buy it when it was only a tenth that, when it was on a block where no one wanted to live. Of course, if everyone saw what was about to happen, it wouldn't have been for sale at the price being offered.

And you could have bought stock in (name company here) for just a dollar or two, but back then, no one thought they had a chance... which is precisely why the stock was so cheap.

And the lousy investments also seem overpriced, because they are.

Investments don't always take cash. They often require our effort, our focus, or our commitment. And the good ones always seem like they take too much, until later, when we realize what a bargain that effort would have been.

The challenge isn't in finding an overlooked obvious bargain that people didn't notice. The challenge is in learning to tell the difference between the ones that feel overpriced and the ones that actually are.

The insight is that when dealing with the future, there's no right answer, no obvious choice—everything is overpriced. Until it's not.

       
Categories: Seth Grogin Blog