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SETH'S BOOKS

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

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

alt.mba

altMBA

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

ONLINE:

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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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IN STORES:


THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Member since 08/2003

Not enough 'if' or not enough 'then'?

All change involves an if/then promise.

"If you want a delicious dinner, then try this new restaurant."

"If you want to be seen as a hunk, drive this Ferrari."

"If you want to avoid being dead, have this surgery."

If people aren't taking you up on your offer, there are two possible reasons:

  1. Not enough if. Maybe the person doesn't want the thing you're promising as much as you need them to. Maybe they don't care enough, won't pay enough, just don't want that sort of change.
  2. Not enough then. More common is that we want the if, but we don't believe your then. It's easy to claim you're going to deliver the then, but that doesn't mean you have credibility.

When in doubt, add more if.

And definitely more then.

The problem with complaining about the system

...is that the system can't hear you. Only people can.

And the problem is that people in the system are too often swayed to believe that they have no power over the system, that they are merely victims of it, pawns, cogs in a machine bigger than themselves.

Alas, when the system can't hear you, and those who can believe they have no power, nothing improves.

Systems don't mistreat us, misrepresent us, waste our resources, govern poorly, support an unfair status quo and generally screw things up--people do.

If we care enough, we can make it change.

Taking notes vs. taking belief

Is there anything easier than listening to a lecture or reading a book and taking notes?

And is there anything more difficult than setting aside our preconceptions and the resistance and acting 'as if', being open to belief, at least for a moment?

If taking notes is making it easier for you to postpone (or avoid) the possibility of belief, better to put down the pencil and focus.

Facts are easy to come by. Finding a new way to think and a new confidence in our choices is difficult indeed.

Bigger for?

Is bigger better for the investor or is it better for the customer?

At a huge hotel in Nashville (more than 1,000 rooms), there's always a long line at the check in desk, the gym is full at 5 in the morning and the staff has no clue who any guest is.

It's clear that doubling the size of the hotel helped the owner make more money (for now). But it's worth taking a moment to think about whether bigger is the point.

Maybe better is?

"So busy doing my job, I can't get any work done"

Your job is an historical artifact. It's a list of tasks, procedures, alliances, responsibilities, to-dos, meetings (mostly meetings) that were layered in, one at a time, day after day, for years.

And your job is a great place to hide.

Because, after all, if you're doing your job, how can you fail? Get in trouble? Make a giant error?

The work, on the other hand, is the thing you do that creates value. This value you create, the thing you do like no one else can do, is the real reason we need you to be here, with us.

When you discover that the job is in the way of the work, consider changing your job enough that you can go back to creating value.

Anything less is hiding.

You can't ask customers what they want

... not if your goal is to find a breakthrough. Because your customers have trouble imagining a breakthrough.

You ought to know what their problems are, what they believe, what stories they tell themselves. But it rarely pays to ask your customers to do your design work for you.

So, if you can't ask, you can assert. You can look for clues, you can treat different people differently, and you can make a leap. You can say, "assuming you're the kind of person I made this for, here's what I made."

The risk here is that many times, you'll be wrong.

But if you're not okay with that, you're never going to create a breakthrough.

The saying/doing gap

At first, it seems as though the things you declare, espouse and promise matter a lot. And they do. For a while.

But in the end, we will judge you on what you do. When the gap between what you say and what you do gets big enough, people stop listening.

The compromises we make, the clients we take on, the things we do when we think no one is watching... this is how people measure us.

It seems as though the amount of time it takes for the gap to catch up with marketers/leaders/humans is getting shorter and shorter.

"The way we do things"

There are two pitfalls you can encounter in dealing with focus and process:

  1. In moments of weakness, you take on a project or client that's outside your focus zone. After all, you need the work.
  2. In moments of blindness, you fail to expand what you do, relying on the fading glory of yesterday instead of realizing that you are perfectly positioned to go forward.

In 1994, I ignored the web, defining our business as being email pioneers, not, more broadly, pioneering digital interactions. It took three years to catch up from that error.

On the other hand, we raced to do business with online services from Apple and Microsoft. Not because they were in our focus, but because we could. 

The easiest way to see these errors is in hindsight, which does you no good at all.

The best way to avoid these two errors is to regularly decide (in a moment of quiet, not panic) what you do and where you do it. With intention.

Stretching without support

One of the fundamental equations of our self-narrative is: If I only had more support, I could accomplish even more.

Part of this is true. With more education, a stronger foundation, better cultural expectations, each of us is likely to contribute even more, to level up, to make a difference.

The part that's not true: "If only."

It turns out that every day, some people shatter our expectations. They build more than they have any right to, show up despite a lack of lucky breaks or a cheering section. Every day, some people stretch further.

You might not be able to do much about the support, but you can definitely do something about the stretching. It's under your control, not someone else's.

And practicing helps.

 

[Sunday is the last day to sign up for the summer session of the altMBA. We are only running two sessions through the rest of the year, and we'd love it if you would consider joining us in our quest to help people like you contribute more than they thought possible.

We do this by giving you a safe space to stretch. 

We do this by raising expectations at the same time we give you access to tools and to a group of fellow travelers eager to make a difference.

We can't possibly give you all the support you need (no one can). But we can help you imagine the stretch.]

The ruby slippers problem

Most of what we're chasing is that which we've had all along.

In our culture, the getting is ever more important than the having.

There's nothing wrong with getting, of course, as long as the process is in sync with the life you want to lead.

It's not a race

Some things are races, but not many.

A race is a competition in which the point is to win. You're not supposed to enjoy the ride, learn anything or make your community better. You're supposed to win. 

At the end of a race, people congratulate the winner, and point out how well she did by winning. The rest of the field, the losers, well, hey, you tried.

Once you see it that clearly, so many things are clearly not races. And when we treat life that way, we cheat our customers, the people we seek to serve, as well as ourselves.

We sometimes abbreviate, "he won a particular race," to, "he's a winner." They're not the same thing.

 

[PS Here's a free e-copy of Steven Pressfield's new book. No strings attached, just a chance to share it early. And Do The Work is worth seeking out.]

"Things have gotten a little quiet..."

In the old economy, social connection was done to us.

"There's nothing to do around here." "I'm bored." "Nothing's happening in this place."

You could whine about the fact that your college didn't have enough activities, or that the bar was 'dead'.

Today, though, the obligation is on us to make our own magic. To find two sticks and turn them into a game. To organize our own conversations, find our own connections... most of all, to bring generosity and energy to communities that don't have enough of either one.

Freedom and leverage is great, but it comes with responsibility. We're all curators/concierges/impresarios now.

If the association or the chat room or the street corner isn't what you need it to be, why not make it into the thing we're hoping for?

Raising the average

Great organizations are filled with people who are eagerly seeking to recruit people better than they are. Not just employees, but vendors, coaches and even competitors.

Most organizations seek to hire, "people like us." The rationale is that someone too good might not take the job, might get frustrated, might be easily lured away. 

A few aim for, "so good she scares me." A few aim for, "it'll raise our game."

This takes guts.

It takes guts for an employee or a group member to aggressively try to persuade people more passionate, more skilled or smarter to join in, because by raising the average, they also expose themselves to the fact that they're not as good as they used to be (relatively).

Can we take it a little further? What happens if we read a book we not quite sure we'll understand, or ski down a slope that's a little too hard or sign up for a project we're not certain we can easily do?

What happens if we go to a school where we think everyone is smarter than we are?

We are each the average of the people we hang out with and the experiences we choose.

The best way to end up mediocre is via tiny compromises.

Shields up

Do not tell your friends about your nascent idea, your notion, the area you hope to explore next.

Do not seek reassurance from them.

Do not become vulnerable about your tiny new sprout of an inkling.

It will be extinguished by people who mean well. They are trying to protect you from heartache.

There is a very, very tiny group of fellow travelers who can amplify your inkling. For the rest, keep it quiet. Trot out a make-believe idea instead, a pretend Potemkin Village of a project, let them dump all over that one instead.

Keep the other one in the incubator for now. There will be plenty of time for sharing later.

"But where's the money?"

A colleague was talking to the CEO of a fast-growing small business about a partnership opportunity.

The CEO said, "well, this is something we believe in, something we want to have happen," and then he continued, "in fact, it's something my partners and I want to be able to support in our personal and our corporate lives." 

But he declined, because, times are tough, the company is small, they need all their resources, etc.

If you aren't willing to live your values now, when will you start?

A company that begins with its priorities straight--about how it will keep promises, treat its workers, support causes it believes in--will rarely have trouble becoming the kind of company that does this at scale.

But if you put it in a folder marked "later," it may never happen.

[A marketing PS: It turns out that small organizations that stand for something and act that way usually have a better shot at earning our attention, our trust and our commerce. So yes, doing the thing that you believe in will get you better employees, better customers and more growth. I love it when things happen for the right reason, don't you?]

The marketing we deserve

We say we want sustainable packaging...   

    but end up buying the one in fancy packaging instead.

We say we want handmade, local goods...

    but end up buying the cheap one, because it's 'just as good.'

We say we want the truth...

    but end up buying hype.

We say we want to hire for diversity (of thought, culture and background)...

    but end up hiring people who share our point of view in most things.

We say we want to be treated with respect...

    but end up buying from manipulative, selfish, short-term profit-seekers instead.

We say we don't want to be hustled...

    but we wait for the last-minute, the going-out-of-business rush or the high pressure push.

It actually starts with us. 

Here's the thing. It also starts with anyone with the leverage and power and authority to make something.

    Because even if it's the marketing we deserve, it's also the marketing they create.

Your job vs. your project

Jobs are finite, specified and something we 'get'. Doing a job makes us defensive, it limits our thinking. The goal is to do just enough, not get in trouble, meet spec. When in doubt, seek deniability.

Projects are open-ended, chosen and ours. Working on a project opens the door to possibility. Projects are about better, about new frontiers, about making change happen. When in doubt, dare.

Jobs demand meetings and the key word is 'later'. Projects encourage 'now.'

You can get paid for a job (or a project). Or not. The pay isn't the point, the approach is.

Some people don't have a project, only a job. That's a choice, and it's a shame. Some people work to turn their project into a job, getting them the worst of both. If all you've ever had is jobs (a habit that's encouraged starting in first grade), it's difficult to see just how easy it is to transform your work into a project.

Welcome to projectworld.

"Um" and "like" and being heard

You can fix your "um" and you probably should.

Each of us now owns a media channel and a brand, and sooner or later, as your work gains traction, we'll hear your voice. Either in a job interview or on a podcast or in a video.

For a million years, people have been judging each other based on voice. Not just on what we say, but on how we say it.

I heard a Pulitzer-prize winning author interviewed on a local radio show. The tension of the interview caused an "um" eruption—your words and your approach sell your ideas, and at least on this interview, nothing much got sold.

Or consider the recent college grad who uses thirty or forty "likes" a minute. Hard to see through to the real you when it's so hard to hear you.

Alas, you can't remove this verbal tic merely by willing it away.

Here's what you can do: Persuade yourself that the person you're talking to will give you the floor, that he won't jump in the moment you hesitate. You actually don't have to keep making sounds in order to keep your turn as the speaker. The fastest speaker is not the speaker who is heard best or even most.

Next step: First on your own, eventually practicing with friends, replace the "um" with nothing. With silence.

Talk as slowly as you need to. Every time you want to insert a podium-holding stall-for-time word, say nothing instead. Merely pause.

You can do this into a tape recorder, you can try it in a meeting. It works. 

You're not teaching yourself to get rid of "um." You're replacing the um with silence. You're going slow enough that this isn't an issue.

Then you can slowly speed up.

The best part: Our default assumption is that people who choose their words carefully are quite smart. Like you.

Try better

'Try harder' is something we hear a lot. After a while, though, we run out of energy for 'harder.' 

You can harangue people about trying harder all you like, but sooner or later, they come up empty.

Perhaps it's worth trying better instead.

Try the path you've been afraid of.

Spend the time to learn a whole new approach.

Better, not harder.

On knowing it can be done

Can you imagine how difficult the crossword puzzle would be if any given answer might be, "there is no such word"?

The reason puzzles work at all is that we know we should keep working on them until we figure them out. Giving up is not a valid strategy, because none-of-the-above is not a valid answer.

The same thing happened with the 4 minute mile. It was impossible, until it was done. Once Bannister ran his mile, the floodgates opened. 

Knowing it was possible was the hard part.

And that's how software leaps forward as well. Almost no one seriously attempts something, until someone figures out that with a lot of work, it can be done. Then the shortcuts begin to appear, and suddenly, it's easy.

What's possible?

As soon as we stop denying the possible, we're able to focus our effort on making it happen.

[PS Tomorrow is the first priority application deadline for the next session of the altMBA.]

A ten-year plan is absurd

Impossible, not particularly worth wasting time on.

On the other hand, a ten-year commitment is precisely what's required if you want to be sure to make an impact.

Neophilia and ennui

These are two sides of the same coin.

Neophilia pushes us forward with wonder, eager for the next frontier.

And ennui is the exhaustion we feel when we fall too in love with what might (should?) be next and ignore the wonder that's already here and available right now.

Add engines until airborne

That's certainly one way to get through a thorny problem.

The most direct way to get a jet to fly is to add bigger engines. And the easiest way to gain attention is to run more ads, or yell more loudly.

Horsepower is an expensive but often effective solution.

The challenge is that power is expensive. And that power is inelegant. And that power often leaves behind a trail of destruction.

When in doubt, try wings.

Wings use finesse more than sheer force. Wings work with the surrounding environment, not against it. Wings are elegant, not brutal.

All mirrors are broken

It's impossible to see yourself as others do.

Not merely because the medium is imperfect, but, when it comes to ourselves, we process what we see differently than everyone else in the world does. 

We make this mistake with physical mirrors as well as the now ubiquitous mirror of what people are saying about us behind our back on social media. We misunderstand how we look on that video or how we come across in that note.

When we see a group photo, we instantly look at ourselves first. When we pass a mirror on the wall, we check to see if there's parsley stuck on our teeth, yet fail to notice how horrible that camel's hair jacket we love actually looks on us. When someone posts a review of something we've built, or responds/reacts to something we've written online, we dissect it, looking for the germ of truth that will finally help us see ourselves as others do.

No one understands your self-narrative, no one cares that much about you, no one truly gets what it's like to be you. That germ of truth you're seeking isn't there, no matter how hard you look in the mirror.

You're not as bad (or as good) as you think you are. 

Read more blogs

Other than writing a daily blog (a practice that's free, and priceless), reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what's going on. The last great online bargain. 

Good blogs aren't focused on the vapid race for clicks that other forms of social media encourage. Instead, they patiently inform and challenge, using your time with respect.

Here's the thing: Google doesn't want you to read blogs. They shut down their RSS reader and they're dumping many blog subscriptions into the gmail promo folder, where they languish unread.

And Facebook doesn't want you to read blogs either. They have cut back the organic sharing some blogs benefitted from so that those bloggers will pay to 'boost' their traffic to what it used to be.

BUT!

RSS still works. It's still free. It's still unfiltered, uncensored and spam-free.

follow us in feedly

Here's how to get into the RSS game. Go ahead and click the green button above. It will take you to Feedly, where you can add this blog. You can then add blogs on food, life, business and even chocolate. I read more than fifty blogs every day. Worth it.

If you're a desktop user, go ahead and bookmark the Feedly page after you set up an account, add some more blogs (they have more than a million to choose from) and visit the page every day. You can easily keep up to date in less time than it takes you to watch a lousy TV show.

If you're on mobile, go ahead and sign up and then download the Feedly app.

AND!

For those of you that have been engaging with this blog for months or years, please share this post with ten friends you care about. We don't have to sit idly by while powerful choke points push us toward ad-filled noisy media.

Thanks.

Wasting our technology surplus

When someone handed you a calculator for the first time, it meant that long division was never going to be required of you ever again. A huge savings in time, a decrease in the cognitive load of decision making.

Now what?

You can use that surplus to play video games and hang out.

Or you can use that surplus to go learn how to do something that can't be done by someone merely because she has a calculator.

Either way, your career as a long-divisionator was over.

Entire professions and industries are disrupted by the free work and shortcuts that are produced by the connection economy, by access to information, by robots. Significant parts of your job are almost certainly among them.

Now that we can get what you used to do really quickly and cheaply from someone else, you can either insist that you still get to do that for us at the same fee you used to charge, or you can move up the ladder and do something we can't do without you.

The possibility of optimism (the optimism of possibility)

Is the glass half full or half empty?

The pessimist sees what's present today and can only imagine eventual decline. The glass is already half empty and it's only going to get worse.

The optimist understands that there's a difference between today and tomorrow. The glass is half full, with room for more. The vision is based on possibility, the future tense, not the present one.

Pessimists have trouble making room for possibility, and thus possibility has trouble finding room for pessimists.

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.

Problems

Avoiding a problem with foresight and good design is a cheap, highly leveraged way to do your work.

Extinguishing a problem before it gets expensive and difficult is almost as good, and far better than paying a premium when there's an emergency.

Fretting about an impending problem, worrying about it, imagining the implications of it... all of this is worthless.

The magic of slack (a little extra time in the chain, a few extra dollars in the bank) is that it gives you the resources to stop and avoid a problem or fix it when it's small. The over-optimized organization misunderstands the value of slack, so it always waits until something is a screaming emergency, because it doesn't think it has a moment to spare. Expensive.

Action is almost always cheaper now than it is later.

The originality paradox

There are a billion people trying to do something important for the first time. These people are connected by the net, posting, creating, daring to leap first.

It's hard, because the number of people racing with you to be original is huge.

The numbers are so daunting that the chances that you will create something that resonates, spreads and changes the culture are really close to zero.

But it's also certain that someone will. In fact, there's a 100% chance that someone will step up with an action or a concept so daring that it resonates with us.

Nearly zero and certain. At the same time.

Pick your odds, decide what you care about and act accordingly.

Beware the gulf of disapproval

As your new idea spreads, most people who hear about it will dislike it.

Gulf of disapproval.001

               (click to enlarge)

Start at the left. Your new idea, your proposal to the company, your new venture, your innovation—no one knows about it.

As you begin to promote it, most of the people (the red line) who hear about it don't get it. They think it's a risky scheme, a solution to a problem no one has or that it's too expensive. Or some combination of the three.

And this is where it would stop, except for the few people on the blue line. These are the early adopters, the believers, and some of them are sneezers. They tell everyone they can about your new idea.

Here's the dangerous moment. If you're keeping track of all the people who hate what you've done, you'll give up right here and right now. This is when the gulf of disapproval is at its maximum. This happened to the telephone, to the web, to rap music... lots of people have heard of it, but the number of new fans (the blue line) is far smaller than the number of well-meaning (but in this case, wrong) people on the red line.

Sometimes, if you persist, the value created for the folks on the blue line begins to compound. And so your fans persist and one by one, convert some of the disapproving. Person by person, they shift from being skeptics to accepting the new status quo.

When the gulf of disapproval comes, don't track the red line. Count on the blue one instead.

Pretty, cheap and well-rounded (three misunderstandings)

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to be prettier if you want to be an actor or actress. It turns out, though, that most important thespians aren't conventionally pretty (Marlon Brando, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Geena Davis, Morgan Freeman...)

It's easy for a retailer or a freelancer to believe that the best way to succeed is to be cheap. But just about every important brand (and every successful freelancer) didn't get that way by being the cheapest.

And anyone who has been through high school has been reminded how important it is to be well-rounded. But Nobel Prize winners, successful NGO founders and just about everyone you admire didn't get that way by being mediocre at a lot of things.

Pretty, cheap and well-rounded are seductive ways to hide out in a crowd. But they're not the path to doing work that matters.

Transitions

Coming and going matter far more than what happens in the middle.

Opening things.

Closing them.

Tearing off the bandage.

Losing something.

Meeting someone new.

Getting on the airplane, getting off of it.

Being greeted.

Elections.

Ending a feud.

We mistakenly spend most of our time thinking about, working on and measuring the in-between parts, imagining that this is the meat of it, the important work. In fact, humans remember the transitions, because it's moments of change and possibility and trepidation that light us up.

There is more than one solution to your problem (and your problem is real)

Challenge one: Believing that the solution you've got (the person you want to hire, the strategy you want to implement, the decision you want to make) is the one and only way to make the problem go away or take advantage of the opportunity.

Falling in love with your solution makes it incredibly difficult to see its flaws, to negotiate with people who don't agree with you, to find an even better solution.

And, on the other side of the table...

Challenge two: When you find someone who is pitching a solution you don't like, it's tempting to deny that there's much of a problem at all. After all, if you diminish the problem, you won't have to accept the solution that's on the table.

But of course, the problem is real. The dissatisfaction or inefficiency or wrong direction isn't going to go away merely because we deny it.

It's amazing how much we can get done when we agree to get something done.

Breakpoints

A neighbor recently put in some new sidewalk. As usual, the workman interrupted the unbroken swath of perfect concrete with lines every three feet.

What are the lines for?

Well, the ground shifts. When it does, perfect concrete cracks in unpredictable ways, often ruining the entire job. When you put the breakpoints in on purpose, though, the concrete has a chance to absorb the shifts, to degrade effectively.

This is something we often miss in design and in the creation of customer experiences. We're so optimistic we forget to put in the breakpoints.

There's no doubt the ground will shift. The question is: when it does, will you be ready?

More than ten is too many

Human beings suffer from scope insensitivity.

Time and again, we're unable to put more urgency or more value on choices that have more impact. We don't donate ten times as much to a charity that's serving 10 times (or even 100 times) more people. We don't prioritize our interest or our urgency based on scale, we do it based on noise.

And yet, too often, we resort to a narrative about big numbers.

It doesn't matter that there are more than 6,000 posts on this blog. It could be 600 or 60. It won't change what you read next.

It doesn't matter if a library has a million books instead of a hundred thousand.

It doesn't matter how many people live without electricity.

Of course it matters. What I meant to say is that when you're about to make a decision of scale, right here and right now, if the number is more than ten, the scope of the opportunity or problem will almost certainly be underestimated.

Metaphors aren't true

But they're useful.

That's why professionals use them to teach, to learn and to understand.

A metaphor takes what we know and uses it as a lever to understand something else. And the only way we can do that is by starting with the true thing and then twisting it into a new thing, a thing we'll be able to also understand.

(Of course, a metaphor isn't actually a lever, a physical plank of wood that has a fulcrum, which is precisely my point).

The difference between the successful professional and the struggling amateur can often be seen in their respective facility with metaphor. The amateur struggles to accept that metaphor is even acceptable ("are atoms actually building blocks?") or can't find the powerful analogy needed to bring home the concept. Because all metaphors aren't actually true, it takes confidence to use them well.

If you're having trouble understanding a disconnect, or are seeking to explain why something works or doesn't, begin with a metaphor. "Why is this new thing a lot like that understood thing..."

Metaphors aren't true, but they work.

PS more on this in my latest post on Medium.

The other kind of harm

Pop culture is enamored with the Bond villian, the psycho, the truly evil character intent on destruction.

It lets us off the hook, because it makes it easy to see that bad guys are other people.

But most of the stuff that goes wrong, much of the organizational breakdown, the unfixed problems and the help not given, ends up happening because the system lets it happen. It happens because a boss isn't focusing, or priorities are confused, or people in a meeting somewhere couldn't find the guts to challenge the status quo.

What we choose not to do matters.

Our bias for paid marketing

A few rhetorical questions:

Is a physical therapist with a professional logo better than one with a handmade sign?

Are you more likely to stay at a hotel that you've heard of as opposed to an unknown one, even if 'heard of' refers to the fact that they've run ads?

Do you believe that companies that rank higher in search results are better than the ones a few pages later? And if you don't, then what's the reason we so often stop clicking after one page?

There are more ways than ever to spread the word about your work, but we live in a culture where paid ads still have clout.

"As Seen on TV" was such a powerful phrase that companies brag about it, right on the box. And that connection between paying for attention and quality still remains.

Over time, we've been sufficiently seduced by marketers that spend on the surface stuff that cognitive dissonance has persuaded us that we must be making those choices for a reason.

Find the discipline to build your projects like you won't be able to run ads to make them succeed. A product that sells itself, that's remarkable, that spreads.

Then consider running ads as if you don't need them.

The short run and the long run

It's about scale. Pick a long enough one (or a short enough one) and you can see the edges.

In the short run, there's never enough time.

In the long run, constrained resources become available.

In the short run, you can fool anyone.

In the long run, trust wins.

In the short run, we've got a vacancy, hire the next person you find.

In the long run, we spend most of our time with the people we've chosen in the short run.

In the short run, decisions feel more urgent and less important at the same time.

In the long run, most decisions are obvious and easy to make.

In the short run, it's better to panic and obsess on emergencies and urgencies.

In the long run, spending time with people you love, doing work that matters, is all that counts.

In the short run, trade it all for attention.

In the long run, it's good to own it (the means of production, the copyrights, the process).

In the short run, burn it down, someone else will clean up the problem.

In the long run, the environment in which we live is what we need to live.

In the short run, better to cut class.

In the long run, education pays off.

In the short run, tearing people down is a great way to get ahead.

In the long run, building things of value makes sense.

Add up the short runs, though, and you're left with the long run. It's going to be the long run a lot longer than the short run will last.

Act accordingly.

Identity vs. logic

Before we start laying out the logical argument for a course of action, it's worth considering whether a logical argument is what's needed.

It may be that the person you're engaging with cares more about symbols, about tribal identity, about the status quo. They may be driven by fear or anger or jealousy. It might be that they just don't care that much.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a discussion where the most coherent, actionable, rational argument wins.

Sometimes, but not often.

People like us do things like this.

Using video well

The web was built on words.

And words, of course, are available to anyone who can type. They're cheap, easy to edit and incredibly powerful when used well.

Today's internet, though, is built on video. Much more difficult to create well, far more impactful when it works. 

My friends at Graydin, for example, needed only 140 seconds to make their case about their practice.

Because video costs more, is more difficult to edit and takes a different sort of talent to create, we often avoid it. Or worse, we cut corners and fail to do ourselves justice by posting something mediocre.

When copy exploded across the web, the professional copywriter felt threatened. Anyone could write, and anyone did.

When photography was added to the mix, the professional photographer felt threatened. Everyone had a camera, after all.

And now, the same thing is happening to video.

In each case, the professional has something to add, something significant, but she has to change her posture from scarce bottleneck to extraordinary contributor.

Great video doesn't change the rules. A great video on your site isn't enough. You still need permission, still need to seek remarkability, still need to create something that matters. What video represents is the chance—if you invest in it—to tell your story in a way that sticks. 

Actually, more data might not be what you're hoping for

They got us hooked on data. Advertisers want more data. Direct marketers want more data. Who saw it? Who clicked? What percentage? What's trending? What's yielding?

But there's one group that doesn't need more data...

Anyone who's making a long-term commitment. Anyone who seeks to make art, to make a difference, to challenge the status quo.

Because when you're chasing that sort of change, data is the cudgel your enemies will use to push you to conform.

Data paves the road to the bottom. It is the lazy way to figure out what to do next. It's obsessed with the short-term.

Data gets us the Kardashians.

HT: Marco

Amplifying social proof

Trust is the biggest hurdle.

And trust largely comes from social proof.

Is everyone doing this?

Is it safe?

Will I be embarrassed/ridiculed/left out/left behind/feel stupid?

Social proof shares a word with social networks, but they're only loosely related.

Social proof is the story we end up believing.

Your job as a marketer, then, is to take the threads of social proof and weave them together into something powerful.

No, you can't fake this (and shouldn't try). But you can amplify it. You can focus the proof on a tiny cohort, so that it has more impact. You can invest in media that acts as a megaphone, multiplying the impact of the proof you already have.

One way to be trusted is to trust the people you seek to serve.

Mostly, you can work to build something that's worth trusting. 

The momentum myth

Roller coasters work because of momentum—the quantity of motion from the downhill allows the car to make it up the next rise. Without momentum, the car would merely stop. But few things in the world of ideas follow the same rules. 

Ideas have no mass, they don't coast.

Authors fall into this trap over and over again. They believe that a big launch, the huge push upfront, the bending of the media in their favor (at any cost) is the way to ensure that weeks two and three and eleven will continue to show solid growth.

A decade ago, I wrote two different posts for friends who were launching books. The ideas still stand.

I'm betting that an analysis of the Billboard charts over the last fifty years would confirm that the speed a song makes it to the top has no correlation with how long it stays at the top.

Here's a look at the cumulative sales for Your Turn, the book I published in November 2014. And you'd find a similar curve for most successful books.

The launch is the launch. What happens after the launch, though, isn't the result of momentum. It's the result of a different kind of showing up, of word of mouth, of the book (or whatever tool you're using to cause change) being part of something else, something bigger.

Fast starts are never as important as a cultural hook, consistently showing up and committing to a process.

The toddler strategy

Most people don't get too upset at anything a two-year-old kid says to them.

That's because we don't believe that toddlers have a particularly good grasp on the nuances of the world, nor do they possess much in the way of empathy. Mostly, though, it turns out that getting mad at a toddler doesn't do any good, because he's not going to change as a result (not for a few years, anyway).

Couldn't the same be said for your uninformed critics? For the people who bring you down without knowing any better, for those that sabotage your best work, or undermine your confidence for selfish reasons?

It's hardly productive to ruin your day and your work trying to teach these folks a lesson.

Better, I think, to treat them like a toddler. Buy them a lollipop, smile and walk away.

Striking a chord

Commonly misunderstood and misspelled as "striking a cord."

A cord is a single strand that connects. You can strike a cord, but not much happens.

A chord, on the other hand, is the resonance of multiple cords, more than one vibrating together.

That's rare, and worth seeking out.

It probably won't happen if you don't do it on purpose.

The problem you can't talk about

... is now two problems.

On being treated like an adult

It's great to dream like a kid, but no fun to be treated like one. It bristles because we feel that, even if the person involved has best intentions, we've outgrown being treated like a child. Some behaviors to consider if you want to avoid this situation...

Make long-term plans instead of whining

Ask hard questions but accept truthful answers

Don't insist that there's a monster under the bed even after you've seen there isn't

Manage your debt wisely

Go to school, early and often

Don't call people names

Get your own drink of water

Don't hit your siblings

Stop bullying

No tantrums

(On the other hand, all the good stuff about being a kid helps you be happier and endear yourself to others: being filled with optimism and hope, smiling, trusting, finding creative solutions to old problems, hugging for no good reason, giggling and sharing your ice cream cone with a friend.)

Rigor

Doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor.

Rigor is a focus on process. Paying attention to not just how you do things, but why. Rigor requires us to never use an emergency as an excuse. It is a process for the long haul, the work of a professional.

An amateur bread baker leaves the kitchen coated in flour, and sometimes, perhaps, ends up with a great loaf of bread.

A professional baker might not seem to be as flustered, as hassled or even as busy. But the bread, the result of this mindful process, is worth buying, every day.

We know that you're working hard. 

The next step is to do it with rigor.

Calling your finding

Many people are trying to find their calling.

But that doesn't explain Marianne Money, bank manager, or Jim Kardwell, who owns a card company. Or Thomas Duck who started Ugly Duckling rent-a-car and Tito Beveridge who makes vodka. It doesn't explain why people named Dennis are more likely to become dentists...

I'm not sure that anyone has a calling. I think, instead, our culture creates situations where passionate people find a place where they can make an impact. When what you do is something that you make important, it doesn't matter so much what you do.

It's not that important where. It matters a lot how. With passion and care.