Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Do you have a black and white TV?

Two interesting things on the radar today.

1. thousands of people ignoring my confirmation email because the return address looked funny
2. a few notes complaining that ChangeThis uses PDFs. Like this one:

The point should be what\’s being said, not that is green
and has a bunch of red lines running across it. For people who print out
email before they read it, I guess this is the sort of thing they\’d like.
Always struck me as something of a minority, though.

You lose searchability – try finding a key phrase from within the text on
Google. You can\’t cut and paste excerpts in references – not without
opening multiple programs. (And if you can using Internet Explorer on
Windows, well, funny thing, not everyone lives in the monoculture…)

I see already how you are having to handle people not understanding why
they can\’t just read the darn things. Why add that extra layer of
complexity? Isn\’t it the message that matters most?

I refuse to enter the “is PDF bad” debate, but the one thing we all have to agree on is this: OF COURSE it matters what it looks like.

We judge books and blogs and tv shows and even people “by their covers” every single day.

Acknowledging that makes it easier to spread your ideas, and it alerts you to the fact that you might be embracing some ideas (like who to vote for) based on cues that have nothing to do with logical, rational reality. Abe Lincoln would come in fourth in a three way election if it were held today.

A note to subscribers

I’ve been building my list of monthly announcement subscribers (which I refer to–in my head and in my software–as “Blogmonthly”) since 1998. At the beginning, it was single opt in, because at the time, that was the most aggressive kind.

Since then, Double Opt In (which means you not only sign up, but then confirm by email that it was really and truly you who signed up) has become the most rigorous standard. And a lot of legitimate opt in lists (like mine) are now being blocked as spam.


If you got a note today that asked you to confirm that you want to get BlogMonthly, that was real, and it was from me, and if you still want to get it, just click on the link. You can ignore all the fields that you see after that… it’s the default of the database and I’m just not clever enough to delete them.

If you want to subscribe, Seth Godin: Subscribe, have at it.


Time to take action?

More than a year ago, I wrote this for Fast Company:

Here’s a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, “I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing.” Because that’s what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

While your company has been waiting for the economy to rebound, Reebok has launched Travel Trainers, a very cool-looking lightweight sneaker for travelers. They are selling out in Japan — from vending machines in airports!

While Detroit’s car companies have been whining about gas prices and bad publicity for SUVs (SUVs are among their most profitable products), Honda has been busy building cars that look like SUVs but get twice the gas mileage. The Honda Pilot was so popular, it had a waiting list.

While Africa’s economic plight gets a fair amount of worry, a little startup called ApproTEC is actually doing something about it. The new income that its products generate accounts for 0.5% of the entire GDP of Kenya. How? It manufactures a $75 device that looks a lot like a StairMaster. But it’s not for exercise. Instead, ApproTEC sells the machine to subsistence farmers, who use its stair-stepping feature to irrigate their land. People who buy it can move from subsistence farming to selling the additional produce that their land yields — and triple their annual income in the first year of using the product.

While you’ve been wishing for the inspiration to start something great, thousands of entrepreneurs have used the prevailing sense of uncertainty to start truly remarkable companies. Lucrative Web businesses, successful tool catalogs, fast-growing PR firms — all have started on a shoestring, and all have been profitable ahead of schedule. The Web is dead, right? Well, try telling that to Meetup.com, a new Web site that helps organize meetings anywhere and on any topic. It has 200,000 registered users — and counting.

Maybe you already have a clipping on your mirror that asks you what you did during the 1990s. What’s your biggest regret about that decade? Do you wish that you had started, joined, invested in, or built something? Are you left wishing that you’d at least had the courage to try? In hindsight, the 1990s were the good old days. Yet so many people missed out. Why? Because it’s always possible to find a reason to stay put, to skip an opportunity, or to decline an offer. And yet, in retrospect, it’s hard to remember why we said no and easy to wish that we had said yes.

The thing is, we still live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity — we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

Are these crazy times? You bet they are. But so were the days when we were doing duck-and-cover air-raid drills in school, or going through the scares of Three Mile Island and Love Canal. There will always be crazy times.

So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That’s why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment — just one second — to decide.

Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that’s to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?

And then today, I got this note:

Shortly after reading this article, I left a great paying, but hardly
satisfying, job and started my own PR business that has been going
gangbusters for the last 12 months. I make almost twice as much and work
less than half as much. I knew I had it in me, but it took this page of
words to get me started. Thanks, Seth!

No, thank YOU Lisa. You made my day. And your courage is a great reminder to the rest of us.

Seth can’t type

I wrecked my shoulder in a horrible (okay, not horrible, but loud) rollerblading accident, and it’s going to be months before I can type correctly. Which makes it hard to blog. Don’t pity me (okay, maybe a little) but please forgive the sporadic and often short posts. Sorry.

Read em slow, cause that’s the way they’re now written.

ChangeThis is now live.

Congratulations to Amit, Phoebe, Noah, Catherine & Michelle.

Check out their work: ChangeThis

And from the Russian judge…

in honor of the Olympics, a Fast Company column from four years ago:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics. To me, most of the pageantry is hackneyed and off-putting — and I’ve never forgiven them for not including Ultimate Frisbee as a sport. Most of all, what’s the deal with curling?

But one part of the Olympics that fascinates me is the torch relay that kicks off the event. Apparently a riff on some legend from ancient Rome (or ancient Greece, I can never remember), the torch relay involves carrying a single flame from one spot to another — preferably a spot that’s pretty far away.

Unlike every other moment of the Olympics, this one focuses all of our attention on a single person, a single detail. No multiple-event, three-ring circus here. It’s one runner, one flame. If the torchbearer falls, it’s a big deal. If she doesn’t make it to the next runner, she lets down everyone ahead of her in line, as well as all of the runners who carried the torch before her.

When people in the workplace confront shift, rift, zooming, and all of the other challenges that make up business life, there is one thread that runs through all of the choices that they make: Either they’re torchbearers, or they’re not.

In 2000, I spent some time working with friends at Flatiron Partners, one of the biggest Internet venture firms on the East Coast. Entrepreneurs think that the selection process used by VCs is a big mystery. They’re dying to know how VC firms decide who gets the big bucks and who gets nothing. The answer is surprisingly simple.

When venture-capital firms look for entrepreneurs on whom to risk their money, they aren’t searching for a great idea, or even great credentials. No, what they’re searching for is this: the certainty that the person who brings them a business idea is going to carry the torch for that idea as long as it takes, that the idea will get passed on, and that the business will make it across the finish line.

The really great startup companies in Silicon Valley, the ones that overcome every obstacle and manage to persist, even when it looks as if they’re going to fail — those companies are run by torchbearers. If there is one thing that separates Silicon Valley from almost any other place I’ve been, it’s not the technology, the traffic jams, or the lack of a decent Italian restaurant — it’s the culture. The place is teeming with torchbearers, with folks who are willing to take responsibility for carrying a flame.
As more and more of us emigrate to Free Agent Nation, a place where more and more people are their own chief executives, the trend toward rewarding torchbearers will only increase. The biggest chasm in our society has become the gap between people who embrace the torchbearer’s responsibility to customers, investors, and companies, and those who are just there for the job.

A lot of folks whom I talk to speak wistfully about what they would do if they were “in charge.” I’ve got news for them: If they’re willing to be in charge, people will put them in charge! In my view, the huge rewards that we’re seeing for people who are brave enough, crazy enough, and talented enough to carry the torch for a new business are entirely justified. Why? Because there aren’t nearly enough torchbearers around.

In 1999, more money was spent to fund new business ventures than in any other year in the history of the world. Yet a huge amount of money sat uninvested, because there was no place to invest it. Are we really out of good ideas? No way. I’ve got a file cabinet filled with them, and you probably know of a few as well. Is there a shortage of engineers who are capable of implementing those ideas? Nope. There are plenty of engineers too.

So, if it’s not a lack of money, ideas, or engineers that is slowing down our shift to the new economy, what is it? Exactly the same thing that’s holding up your company’s transition to a new way of doing business — the absence of someone who is willing to stand up, look everyone in the eye, and say, “I’ll make it happen.”

Here’s how I know that I’m talking to a torchbearer:

First, torchbearers don’t make excuses. Our current economic good times won’t last forever. You won’t always be able to found a company and go public in less time than it takes to have a baby. At some point, the venture-capital funds will dry up. And, when those tough times come, they will present a perfect opportunity for the pretenders to fold their tents. Filled with vitriol and busy looking for a lawyer so that they can sue someone, these entrepreneurial also-rans will find a way to blame their troubles on other people. Real torchbearers run uphill with the same grace and style that they bring to gliding downhill.

Second, torchbearers often attract a crowd. People are fascinated by folks who are willing to carry responsibility. All too often, people add their own burdens to those that their leader must already carry — but, in any case, they’re usually delighted to follow along. And sometimes these folks are loyal and hard-working enough to follow a torchbearer uphill as well as downhill.

Third, most torchbearers don’t realize how unique they are, how powerful their role is, or how hard their task is. Even though they could make outrageous demands and insist on all kinds of special treatment, most of them are happy just to perform their role and to handle their task.

Fourth, torchbearers often care more about forward motion than they do about which route to take. You won’t find them tied up in endless strategy meetings, looking for the perfect solutions. Instead, you’ll find them out on the road, picking their way through boulders and weeds — moving, moving, moving, because they realize that moving is often the best way to get where they’re going.

Fifth, and most important, real torchbearers don’t stop until they finish. In the life of any torchbearer, there’s a balance between devotion to duty and the pursuit of joy. A torchbearer never forgets about or shortchanges a duty, even when that means postponing joy.

In established companies, the refrain that I hear most frequently is “Well, we’d be doing great if [insert person or department, along with pejorative adjective] would just get [his/her/its] act together.” Many previously great companies, both big and small, are having a lot of trouble dealing with all of the changes and rifts that the new economy is bringing to their doorsteps. Why? Because in many companies, the torchbearers have left the building. Either the folks in charge have forgotten what it takes to practice true leadership (after all, they’ve made it, the company has hit its marks, and now it’s “Miller time”), or they’ve left and been replaced by a different kind of management.

The point here isn’t that people in top management are unwilling to embrace change. The point is that the people who are busy pointing fingers and whining about “those guys” are demonstrating that they’re not torchbearers.

If you’re waiting for someone else to lead you to a better way of doing business, then reckon with this Olympic-size news flash: Settle in. It’s going to be a long wait.

All of a sudden, in every company in every country, torchbearers are in high demand. Everybody is trying to figure out where to go. And, much more important, they’re trying as hard as they can to find someone who will take them there: someone who will walk through walls and over hot coals, someone who won’t give up until the job is done.

Intrinsic to being a torchbearer is recognizing that you bear the torch for someone else. In our increasingly “me”-centered society, it’s easy to worry about increasing the value of the Brand Called You, while letting someone else carry your company’s or your investor’s torch. Torchbearers do both.
In a small town in Georgia, a woman named Karen Watson faced such a challenge head-on. Several years ago, her friends and neighbors were complaining about the way that blacks in that town were treated. There was an undercurrent of racism, and, in particular, blacks were being tracked to lower-level classes in school.

For a while, Watson and her neighbors appealed to civil-rights organizations, waiting for some big shot to come to town and save them. Then it dawned on Watson that maybe, just maybe, nobody was ever going to come — and that the person who could make a difference was her.

So she stood up and took charge. She taught herself what she needed to know. She made a commitment. And the organization that she built, the Positive Action Committee, has made a huge difference in her community, generating change in several areas. Watson took responsibility — for her town and for her neighbors’ town. She is a torchbearer.

So could you be a torchbearer? Are torchbearers born or made? Here’s my guess: Many of us have the torchbearer gene, but for some of us, it lies dormant until something awakens it. Some parents raise their children to be torchbearers from birth. Others do whatever they can to persuade their kids to hide it. We’re certainly not organizing our schools or our society to reward children who demonstrate torchbearer qualities.

But I think that you can awaken the torchbearer within. I think that most people, given the right reason, can find the intestinal fortitude to carry a flame across the finish line.

Now, I’m not talking about working hard, or being dedicated, or putting your mission first. Being a torchbearer has nothing to do with how late you work at night, or whether you give your cell-phone number to your boss. No, I’m talking about the people with that rare skill, the ability to dig deep when the need arises — to get past the short-term pain and to pull off an act that few would have believed possible.
In the new economy, people are doing things that have never been done before. Faced with the unprecedented, in an environment that’s unstable, many people say, “It can’t be done.” The torchbearer is the one who does it. Roger Bannister did more than set a record when he ran a mile in less than four minutes. He showed the world that anyone else could do that as well. He broke a time barrier, and he changed the way that everybody trained for a race.

Are you a torchbearer? Probably. The challenge is to find the right project, the right challenge, the right moment — and then to do it. Once you’ve shown that you can do that, the world will beat a path to your door.

Yes, words matter.


You’ll enjoy this:

The Adventures of ACTION ITEM!

Time for another seminar

Fall is almost here, and so it’s time to do another seminar in my office. This seminar will include half a day of serious indoctrination into the new rules of marketing (a la Purple Cow, Permission and Free Prize). But the best part is the second half, in which the focus is on you and your projects and your issues.

As usual, it’ll be limited to less than 30 people, and, as usual, it comes with a money-back guarantee.

For those intrepid enough to make the trek to Dobbs Ferry, NY (about 15 miles from NYC) I can promise a day chock-filled (what a great expression!) with practical insights you can use to transform your organization, your business or your non-profit.

The cost is $1,000, which entitles you to bring your boss too if you like. Non-profits get a 40% discount on a space available basis. People have come from as far away as Korea and Australia, and they tell me it’s worth the trip. Alas, I can’t bend the rules in terms of fees or colleagues, as it’s not fair to others that would like to attend.

This is first-come, first-served. We always sell out. The only way to hold your slot is to send me a check. All the details can be found here: Seminars.

Starting Over

Imagine, for a second, that you’re China.

Over the next few years, you’re going to buy half a billion or so cars. Pave most of the country. Buy billions of barrels of oil… all the price of modernization.

The thing about China is that the government isn’t shy about being authoritarian.

So what if the Chinese government decided to decree what it meant for something to be legally sold as a car?

What if a Chinese car:
–got 40 mpg or more
–with low emissions
–was small enough to fit into a parking space sized x by y (which is a number smaller than, say, a Buick)
–had a built-in transponder to track stolen cars
–had built-in cell phone capability
–had a transmitter that alerted the local authorities whenever you drove faster than the emergency speed limit
–had built-in baby seat anchors
–had brights that automatically dimmed whenever another car approached
–was recyclable
–had digital key systems that made it easy to do car sharing
–had insurance paid for with a gas tax
–allowed local roads to ‘talk’ to the car about upcoming dangers
–had a body that was ugly but easy to repair after an accident
–had a transponder that broadcast when it was stuck in traffic and received inputs on how to avoid existing jams
–had a follow me feature that allowed a car to be set to follow the car ahead (at low speeds) to increase the efficiency of traffic flow
–ten other things I can’t think of but you can

How would that change the future of China? The definition of a car?

And what on earth does this have to do with you and your life and your career?

I think there are entire classes of products and services (from charities to political parties to cars) that are about to be completely reversioned. The accumulating weight of new technology, new networking abilities and ecological and economic demands means that incremental band aid improvements cease to pay off and instead, wholesale replacement occurs.

Think iPod. The iPod is not a better CD player. It’s part of a totally new system. China has the luxury of starting from scratch (though it appears, based on the sales of Maybachs and Land Rovers, they’re blowing it the same way others have), but either way, it’s going to happen to just about every industry.

Imagine the network effects that will occur when your industry gets networked and rebuilt and reinvented. Who’s going to go first? Maybe you.

This site uses cookies.

Learn more