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Random rules for ideas worth spreading

If you've got an idea worth spreading, I hope you'll consider this random assortment of rules. Like all rules, some are made to be broken, but still…

  • You can name your idea anything you like, but a google-friendly name is always better than one that isn't.
  • Don't plan on appearing on a reality show as the best way to launch your idea.
  • Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying that you're stalling. You don't wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.
  • Don't poll your friends. It's your art, not an election.
  • Never pay a non-lawyer who promises to get you a patent.
  • Avoid powerful people. Great ideas aren't anointed, they spread through a groundswell of support.
  • Spamming strangers doesn't work. Spamming friends doesn't work so well either, but it's certainly better than spamming strangers.
  • The hard part is finishing, so enjoy the starting part.
  • Powerful organizations adore the status quo, so expect no help from them if your idea challenges the very thing they adore.
  • Figure out how long your idea will take to spread, and multiply by 4.
  • Be prepared for the Dip.
  • Seek out apostles, not partners. People who benefit from spreading your idea, not people who need to own it.
  • Keep your overhead low and don't quit your day job until your idea can absorb your time.
  • Think big. Bigger than that.
  • Are you a serial idea-starting person? If so, what can you change to end that cycle? The goal is to be an idea-shipping person.
  • Try not to confuse confidence with delusion.
  • Prefer dry, useful but dull ideas to consumer-friendly 'I would buy that' sort of things. A lot less competition and a lot more upside in the long run.
  • Pick a budget. Pick a ship date. Honor both. Don't ignore either. No slippage, no overruns.
  • Surround yourself with encouraging voices and incisive critics. It's okay if they're not the same people. Ignore both camps on occasion.
  • Be grateful.
  • Rise up to the opportunity, and do the idea justice.

Upcoming events

I'm thrilled to invite you to a killer evening with the brilliant Steven Pressfield
(and me, it's a tag team) at Borders Columbus Circle in New York on Monday, February 8th at 7 pm.
It's free but space is pretty limited. First come, first served.

I'll be in Orange County on February 11th.

Utah on February 12th. No head shaving this trip, I promise.

I'll also be in Toronto on March 2nd. Say hi if you can.

Chicago, March 24th.

I'll be in Belgium on April 1st. I don't get to Belgium ever, so here's your big chance.

All Marketers...

The ipod isn’t a pod

But the iPad is a pad. Consistency matters.

The success of the
iPhone confused the naming guys at Apple. iPhone means phone + iPod. At
launch, the part with obvious value was the phone (we knew that) and
the iPod apps were a bonus that ended up being really terrific. Success.

The formula doesn't work in naming the iPad. We already have the "i" part, and we don't value the Pad part.

just as Apple blew it with the word 'book' (Powerbook led to Macbook
because they didn't own the word power–IBM made them change it when the processor was changed–which led others using netbook, which
they don't own at all), they can't own the word Pad either. Thinkpad is
made by Lenovo, not Apple.

It's a mess. It's sloppy. It communicates nothing.

When in doubt, design like Apple but name like Procter and Gamble. Pringles anyone?


Ogori (and generosity)

PSFK writes about a cafe in Japan with a simple rule: you get what the person before you ordered (and paid for), and the next person gets what you ordered.

Take a few moments to think about that.

Would you go?

What would you order?

Is this an opportunity to give or an opportunity to take…

I think we have Ogori opportunities daily.

Strangers, Critics, Friends or Fans

The work you do when you spread the word or run an ad or invent a policy is likely aimed at one of these four groups.

  • Strangers are customers to be, but not yet
  • Critics are those that would speak ill of you, or need to be converted
  • Friends are those that might have given permission, or even buy now and then
  • Fans are members of your tribe, supporters and insiders

You already know the truth: can't please all these groups at once. And you also probably realize that each of us with an idea to spread has a knee jerk default, the one we lean to without thinking. Many marketers are evangelical, focused on strangers at all costs… they'd rather convert a new customer than revisit an old one. A cubicle worker, on the other hand, might focus on no one but the boss, at the expense of broadening her platform.

Before you launch anything, run down the list. How can you optimize for the group you truly care about? How much is that optimization worth? (Hint: a new true fan is worth a thousand times as much as a slightly mollified critic).

Finding people who make a difference

Many months ago, I asked my readers to send me pictures of people who mattered, who made a difference–people they couldn't live without. The result of that shout out is now published on the inside cover of my new book.

If you didn't get your picture in on time, you can post it, along with a description, links, guest books and more at whoisthelinchpin.com. Even better, post someone else. It's a nice thing to do for someone who matters to you.

Celebrate the linchpins. We need more of them.

Quieting the lizard brain

Lizard image linchpin istock How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior?

We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us.

The contradictions never end. When someone shows up and acts without contradiction, we’re amazed. When an athlete just does the sport, or when a writer just writes the words, we can’t help but watch, astonished at the purity of their actions. Why is it so difficult to do what we say we’re going to do?

The lizard brain.

Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.

The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.

The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to.

Want to know why so many companies can’t keep up with Apple? It’s because they compromise, have meetings, work to fit in, fear the critics and generally work to appease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Late launches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others.

The amygdala isn’t going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it. This is so important, I wanted to put it on the cover of my new book. We realized, though, that the lizard brain is freaked out by a picture of itself, and if you want to sell books to someone struggling with the resistance (that would be all of us) best to keep it a little more on the down low.

Now you’ve seen the icon and you know its name. What are you going to do about it?

The difference between a bonus and free

Free is something you get, no matter what.

A bonus is something you get as an add-on when you purchase something, or trade your attention.

The purpose of free is to spread the word, alert the universe and generate interest.

The purpose of a bonus is to reward immediate action and to sway the undecided.

Here are some free things we built for Linchpin:

  • Download an eight-page manifesto from Changethis. (My favorite one)
  • Find posters and riffs on Scribd.
  • See a brainstorming video on Vimeo.
  • Watch a video on shipping at Behance.

In each case, you don't have to do a thing to get started but you might decide you like it enough to spread the word. In the old days, gifts like these would cost money to create and be hard to share. Today, the opposite is true. The goal of something that's free is to spread the idea.

On the other hand, some bonus things we built for Linchpin:

Oh, wait, I can't show them to you because you have to buy something first.

Anyway, what we did was collect:

  • Zen Unicorn, an ebook of the last few years of this blog (it sells on the Kindle for $9)
  • Membership to the invite-only online Triiibe community that I started a while ago (limited supply of these)
  • Ten minutes of excerpts from the audio version of my book
  • Some other bonuses, below

To get them, you need to answer a simple question to demonstrate that you've ordered the new book. That's because they are bonuses, not free. And yes, you qualify even if you got the book as a gift or received it a month ago. The bonus material will only be available for a few weeks.

Blue We also did two special deals with 800 CEO READ (that's their phone number). If you hurry, you can get a bonus hardcover copy of The Blue Sweater with your purchase of two copies of LInchpin. Jacqueline's breakthrough is a brilliant book that will change the way you see the world.

Or, if you'd like one of the no-longer-sold boxed sets, there are a few left, available to anyone who buys a bulk box of 50 Linchpin copies from them.

KINDLE USERS! Also, if you have a Kindle, you'll automatically get a thirty-page original essay when you buy the Kindle edition at Amazon. It magically shows up on your Kindle, you don't even have to click. This is the only place you can get it. The free bonus will only be available for the next five weeks.

The best bonuses are valuable and scarce, worthy of your attention. I hope we succeeded.

Whatever you sell, whatever idea you want to spread, it's now possible to create both freebies and bonuses. One spreads, the other induces.

PS for audio listeners, Linchpin is now available on iTunes.

Jumping the gun

4293966039_0c400a5213 There's going to be a lot of hoopla this week, some of it on this very blog (three posts already today!).

I want to be the very first author to announce a new project for Apple's tablet.

Apple is announcing the device tomorrow (I wish they had waited a week), but I thought I'd let you know early that I've licensed Vook the rights to Unleashing the Ideavirus so they can convert it into a multimedia app. It should be finished before the tablet ships, so we intend to be ready when they are.

Steve Jobs will probably never speak to me again for announcing before his launch. That's okay, he never speaks to me anyway.

The 2.0 media tour

[I'll be updating this post all day, just fyi, click through to see the latest update]

You know by now that I haven't gone to any traditional media for the launch of my new book – no pitches to newspapers, magazines, or television. Instead, I went directly to my readers and the many intelligent voices online. I sent review copies by request to my readers – who were generous and creative in their reviews, and now we'll hear from the bloggers and other online denizens. This is the short head of the new long tail, the group of professional and semi-pro writers and journalists that are increasing in influence daily.

I spoke to over 40 different people from various industries and blogs about Linchpin. I was given a warm reception by artists, business blogs, marketing sites, brand innovation sites, and creative blogs. It was a blast. My interaction with them reminds me that the online world is quickly becoming even more human and connected everyday. The page summarizing all of the links is right here.

There are a lot of people on this list, and I respect every single one of them, for their insights, their generosity and for plugging away at a medium that's just getting started.

Here's what we talked about, organized by general theme and topic. There are some overlaps, but I figured rather than talking about my book on this blog, I'd let them lead the conversation.

Thanks to each of these big thinkers for sharing some time with me, and thanks to you for reading! If you find a blog you like, don't forget to subscribe to it.

What is an Artist?

  • Michael Hyatt:
    Over the top generosity from the head of one of the largest book
    publishers in the world. Michael interviewed me about
    making a difference. Visit his site if you'd like to win a free copy of
    the book.
  • Tom Peters: A guest post on the blog of one of my role models and heroes. I take on the idea of 'excellence' and what it means now.
  • Good Experience: Mark practically invented the science of simplified web design. I do a guest post about why artists break things.
  • Gaping Void: Your favorite cartoons-on-the-back-of-business-cards provocateur generously asks me ten (hard) questions, and I generously answer them.
  • Pilgrimage of the heart: Jeff and I talk about breaking rules, technology and art.
  • Art of Non-Conformity: Chris is at the forefront of rethinking work. We talk about the courage needed to do it. And plumbers. It keeps coming back to plumbers.

Shipping and The Resistance

  • Behance: I first launched the ideas in Linchpin at their conference last year, and here's a guest post about shipping.
  • Steve Pressfield: The godfather of the resistance, the five-star general in the war against fear, Steve takes on the ideas in Linchpin and asks me some hard questions about my personal creative habits and the idea of making a ruckus.
  • White Hot Truth: Danielle takes on the burning questions of pushing yourself to do art that matters.
  • Ruzuku -Another Step Forward Rick is leading a tribe of entrepreneurs. We talked about why I wrote the book and how entrepreneurs can use it. And I talk a little about golf.

Creativity and Art

  • Dan Pink: Dan's new book is really terrific, and he let me interview him about it. 
  • Derek Sivers: The man who re-invented music distribution for indie bands. We talk about good vs. great music and why there's already plenty of good.
  • Merlin Mann: Merlin is well-known for inventing inbox zero, and we did a podcast together about creativity.
  • Martha Beck: One of the most well-known coaches, Martha is a leading thinker on how individuals can make a difference. We talk about jazz and writing…
  • Jennifer Lindsay: What keeps one writing, a video conversation.
  • B.L. Ochman: I did an interview with BL about what keeps marketers (and people) from being creative.
  • Richard Pachter: Richard is a regular reader. He tracked me down and we did an interview about curiosity for the Herald.
  • Cool Hunting: A cutting edge site about the changes driving our culture. A podcast about my take on art.

Be a Linchpin, Be Indispensable

  • Duct Tape Marketing: John is the Peter Drucker of small business tactics. In this podcast, that's what we talk about (small business, not Peter Drucker).
  • The Happiness Project: Gretchen dives into how you can become indispensable (and whether it will make you happy).
  • WebInkNow: David Meerman Scott is the Charles Darwin of new media marketing, tirelessly chronicling how it works. In this video, we talked about becoming indispensable.
  • Tonic.com: Where are the good things in life? That's what this site is about, and we talked about making change.
  • Fuel Your Creativity: On the intersection between digital arts, graphics and becoming someone they can't live without.
  • Marty Wilson: You can see a picture of me when I was 18. We talk in depth about learning to be a leader, canoeing and how you can choose to make a difference.
  • Crazy Engineers: Not so crazy, actually. Driven, but not crazy. This is an interview about how a cube-dweller can make a big impact.
  • IQ Partners is an executive search and retention firm. We talked about the new standard for people worth hiring.
  • Gail Goodwin: Gail writes about non-traditional thinking and opportunities. We talked about creativity and being remarkable.
  • Charlotte AMA: Some very sharp marketers in Charlotte. We get tactical on this podcast.

Entrepreneurs, Money, Art and Balance

  • Lee Stranahan: Lee often writes for Huffpo and we discussed (via podcast) the power a Linchpin has to change things. We all live in Detroit now.
  • Joi Ito: If you don't know Joi, you should. I interview this cutting-edge linchpin on his blog.
  • Personal MBA: Josh and I did an interview on entrepreneurship and stepping out of the status quo.
  • Writing on the Web: Patsi and I talked on this podcast about coaching and making a difference.
  • Ladies Who Launch: Shipping and marketing with the ladies who know how to do it.
  • Mongezi Mtati: This video interview wins the prize for longest-distance by Skype. Mongezi called in from South Africa to talk about the struggle between giving it away and making money.
  • Mixergy: A podcast with the always interesting Andrew Warner. (Transcript too)
  • Twist Image: Mitch is at the cutting edge of what it takes to succeed in new media. He lives it every day (in Canada even!). We talked about What Matters Now on this podcast.
  • Fearless Business: Mediocre obedience and being remarkable are covered in this video.
  • Be The Media: David and I use this podcast to talk about how innovative thinking impacts distributed media. And he has a great logo.
  • Self Growth.com: Brian interviews me on self improvement and becoming indispensable.
  • Untemplater: Jun and I talk about the value of an MBA and entrepreneurship.Hint: not so much. We do a video chat.
  • Careerealism: Because every job is temporary.
  • Site Visibility:  Kelvin and I talk on this podcast about remarkable products and their place in a world of SEO and clicks.
  • Neville Hobson: A podcast about innovation and marketing.
  • Mark Ramsey: Mark is a visionary about the future of radio. In this podcast, he's his usual insightful self, and I try to keep up. This is the new normal.

Connecting, Being Human, and why it matters

  • Flowerdust.net: Anne Jackson understands the power of faith, regardless of religion. She's worth learning from–and she was kind enough to give me a guest post.
  • Sasha Dichter: Sasha works for Acumen Fund and writes a powerful blog about giving and philanthropy. We talked about whether there will be a surplus of linchpins and my early history in working for not much money.
  • Marketing Over Coffee: Just like it sounds, except I had tea. We use this podcast to talk about the death of the factory.
  • First Friday Book Review: Robert Morris, an inveterate Amazon reviewer and journalist, interviews me about the book.
  • John Moore: One of his classic (and very funny) video readings, this time of a little bit of Linchpin. Horrifying.

Education and Giving Gifts in the new economy

  • Personal Branding Blog: The power of applying linchpin thinking to your own brand. This is a PDF magazine for download.
  • ArtBeat of America: On Rick's podcost, he and I talk about artists who can't draw.
  • Rethinking Learning: Barbara asked some startling questions about whether higher education has a future.
  • Book Blade: Randy and I talked about education and the broken school system in this video interview.
  • Todd Sattersten: We talked about choosing words carefully.
  • Goose Educational Media: Chris Taylor interviews me on video about changing education and being remarkable.

Shenpa, Emotional Labor, and Fear

  • Pam Slim: Pam wants you to quit your job. I did a short guest post on her blog about why that might be hard for you and how to get started.
  • Communicatrix: More than communication, insights that turn things upside down. Colleen will make you think.
  • Innovate on Purpose: Jeff asked some hard questions about mediocre obedience and being a cog.
  • Church of Customer: Jackie and Ben pioneered the idea of the 1%, and in this interview we cover five questions that matter to marketers (and artists of all stripes).

Thanks to each of these big thinkers for sharing some time with me, and thanks to you for reading! If you find a blog you like on this list, don't forget to subscribe to it.

Bonus! A guest post on shipping for Leo on Zen Habits.