The new book is out on Tuesday. I think it will resonate with you and your work.
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A million blind squirrels

My dad likes to say, "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then." And it's true. You shouldn't pick your strategy by modeling someone else's success. The success might have been strategic and planned, but it's just as likely to be a matter of blind luck. Someone had to get that big deal, and this time it was him.

The numbing reality of the net is that now we can see all the blind squirrels, all the time. A recent piece in the Times talked about bloggers getting six figure book deals in just a few weeks after posting community-driven goofy websites. It's easy to read this and say, "I should do that! I could do that!"

What's missing from the article is that for every 10,000 goofy websites that get launched, one turns into a six-figure book deal and the other 9,999 fade away. If you want to build a goofy website, go for it. Just don't expect to be the lucky squirrel.

Infinity–they keep making more of it

If you had a little business in a little town, there was a natural limit to your growth. You hit a limit on strangers (no people left to pitch), some became friends, some became customers and you then went delivered as much as you could to this core audience. Every day wasn't spent trying to get bigger.

There's no limit now. No limit to how many clicks, readers, followers and friends you can acquire.

I don't think this new mindset is better. It shortchanges the customers you have now (screw them, if they can't take a joke, we'll just replace them!) and worse, it means you're never done. Instead of getting better, you focus obsessively on getting bigger.

You're at a conference, talking to someone who matters to you. Over their shoulder, you see a new, bigger, better networking possibility. So you scamper away. It's about getting bigger.

Compared to what? You're never going to be the biggest, so it seems like being better is a reasonable alternative.

The problem with getting bigger is that getting bigger costs you. Not just in time and money, but in focus and standards and principles. Moving your way to the biggest part of the curve means appealing to an ever broader audience, becoming (by definition) more average.

More, more, more is rarely the mantra of a successful person.

There are certainly some businesses and some projects that don't work unless they're huge, but in your case, I'm not sure that's true. Big enough is big enough, biggest isn't necessary.

Might as well panic

If you don't know what to do, and you're frightened, might as well panic.

That seems to be the first rule of being a member of the human race. Apparently, panicking is an acceptable substitute for forethought, contingency planning or actually taking productive action. We almost want to blame the thing we're anxious about on the person who isn't panicking. "Don't you care! Can't you see that we're all gonna die! That we're going to go bankrupt? That the world as we know it is going to end?"

More people are killed by deer than sharks, but you don't see park rangers running around like nutcases.

There's huge pressure on our leaders and co-workers and institutions to panic. If for no other reason, we say, they should panic as a sign that they care, that they are taking things seriously.

A while ago, I said that the devil doesn't need an advocate.

Let me add to this: we have enough caution. We don't need an abundance of caution. That's too much.

The collectible totem

I've been a huge fan of Hugh MacLeod since he first showed up on the web a few years ago. Hugh is a provocateur, a brilliant marketer and a nice guy. He's also a great cartoonist.

Hugh's images, combined with his insightful promiscuous licensing policy (want to use this cartoon? Sure!) propelled his blog to the top of the charts and led to a book deal.

His newest project, though, is the point of this post.

Hugh is making fine art prints of his cartoons, in very limited editions. It's basically a collectible (like Andy Warhol silkscreens or Swatch watches) but for businesses. But it's more than that, because you can hang it on the wall. By putting something up for all to see, you start conversations or remind people of the mission.

So far, it's working. I'm told that every other poster in the series has sold out its pre-sale allocation, and my guess is that while resales will be rare, they'll go up in value.

PC133 Totem poles have been around for a long time, because they work. We need a place to tell our stories, and a reminder of what to talk about. I think it's really cool to start a conversation with something that hangs on the wall. Years ago, I visited the offices of DC Comics and noticed some plaster on the wall of the conference room. That's when I noticed a hand (Superman's hand) punching through the dry wall. It changed the conversations that got held in that room. Most products (or even services) could turn into totem poles if you worked at it. I'm sort of amazed at how little this idea has been leveraged.

Hugh's latest print made me blush. He asked me for permission to do the cover of Purple Cow, a book he found inspirational. I agreed to let him take a shot, and here it is. The book exists for people to talk about it, so this is perfect. I told Hugh that my readers needed hear about it first, but Hugh's posting his take on it in a few minutes.

Every penny of my share of the project goes to My hope is that this project alone will pay for most of a school in a small village that really needs one. If you're looking for a big purple totem pole, here you go. It's up to you whether to hang it in the portrait or landscape view. Thanks Hugh!

PS I'm signing each print, and so is Hugh.

Making commercials for the web

TV advertisers are finally discovering that YouTube + viral imagination = free media.

The good news for you is that money is not a barrier, which means that marketers of any size can play. But the rules are different, as they always are online.

Because media is free but attention is not
(this is flipped from TV world) you need to make a different sort of ad for a different sort of audience.

1. Assume that the viewer has the attention span of an espresso-crazed fruitfly. That means slapstick, quick cuts and velocity.

2. Find a word or phrase that you can own in Google, that fits in an email, and that comes up in discussion at the cafeteria table or in the playground.

Castrol gets both rules right in this inane commercial.

3. Length doesn't matter. 10 seconds is fine and so is five minutes. Media is free, remember?

4. Challenge the status quo, be provocative, touch a social nerve or create some other sort of interesting conversation. In other words, a commercial worth watching.

Dove does both in this now-famous commercial.

Because of the power of free media, I expect to see a whole host of commercials that would never be deemed effective enough to spend big media money on, but that generate huge views online. Look for plenty of irrelevant slogans and catch phrases and off strategy content… anything for an eyeball.

Also, understand that this is out of your control. Once launched, what happens, happens. One commercial I know of caught fire and ended up with millions of views. The client then called the producer, screaming in anger. He wanted to be able to turn it off, to decide how it got used, who talked about it, etc. You can't. Once it spreads, it belongs to the community, not to you.

The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one. The same way that there's very little correlation between popular websites and big companies, we'll see that the most popular commercials get done by little shops that have nothing to lose.

I need more time

First rule of decision making: More time does not create better decisions.

In fact, it usually decreases the quality of the decision.

More information may help. More time without more information just creates anxiety, not insight.

Deciding now frees up your most valuable asset, time, so you can go work on something else. What happens if, starting today, you make every decision as soon as you have a reasonable amount of data?

Thinking big

Michael Port’s latest manifesto ships tomorrow.

If you need a push to think bigger today and tomorrow, here it is.

You’re nuts if you believe me

I'm the first person to admit that compared to you, I have no idea what I'm talking about. You're there, doing what you do, and doing it with skill.

Let me be really clear: My job is not to tell you what to do. I don't know what to do. You do.

Not just me, of course. Everybody with a blog or a book or an interest in your success. Don't do what they say. Listen to their questions instead.

My job is provoke you into asking hard questions. Ask those questions to your boss and your co-workers and yourself. It's easy to show that self-aware decisions and thoughtful strategies outperform blind stumbling.

I don't have a lot of patience for this list of seven rules or that manual of how it's supposed to be or the step-by-step road map you can purchase today only. I think you'll do a lot better if you get optimistic about the future and cynical about pat answers at the same time instead.

Pick anything–the calculus of change

Remember WordPerfect? This word processor dominated the world until Word wiped them out. How did that happen?

WordPerfect was the default word processor in every law firm, big company and organization in the land. If you had the DOS operating system, it was likely you were using WordPerfect. And, if the operating system in the office hadn't changed to Windows, it's likely you'd still be using it now.

What happened was that the change in operating system created a moment when people had to pick. They had to either switch to Word or wait for a new version of WordPerfect. In that moment, "do nothing" was not an option.

Do nothing is the choice of people who are afraid. Do nothing is what you do if too many people have to agree. Do nothing is what happens if one person with no upside has to accept downside responsibility for a change. What's in it for them to do anything? So they do nothing.

The key moment for an insurgent, then, is the time of "pick anything." That's why these are such good times for iPhone apps. That's why the beginning of an administration is a good time to lobby. When people have to pick, they have to confront some of the fear and organizational barriers that lead to the status quo.

It seems to me, then, that the best time for a marketer to grow is when clients have to pick something. Seeking these moments out is inexpensive and productive.

[Lately, this post has been paraphrased as, "Nothing is what happens when everyone has to agree." That has a nice ring to it.]

What you say, what you do and who you are

We no longer care what you say.

We care a great deal about what you do.

If you charge for hand raking but use a leaf blower when the client isn't home
If you sneak into an exercise class because you were on the wait list and it isn't fair cause you never get a bike
If you snicker behind the boss's back
If you don't pay attention in meetings
If you argue with a customer instead of delighting them
If you copy work and pass it off as your own
If you shade the truth a little
If you lobby to preserve the unsustainable status quo
If you network to get, not to give
If you do as little as you can get away with

…then we already know who you are.