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Two seminars in October

First up, a free, small-group seminar in my office near New York City for leaders of non-profit organizations. Check out the details and apply via this form. The deadline for applications is next Friday, so don't delay.

I'll be hosting about fifteen leaders on October 15, and I apologize to those that I can't accomodate. Here's a recent review of the day-long office experience as well as a shorter review of a previous event, and a video from 2009.

Second, for entrepreneurs, freelancers and people working for organizations seeking to make a ruckus, a weekend seminar at the fabulous Helen Mills Theater in New York on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21.

The Helen Mills is an intimate space with less than 125 seats, so there will be a lot of connection going on. Expect to be interacting with CEOs, up and comers and independent writers, impresarios and agents of change.

Sunday adds a new format, and I'm hoping you'll come for both days and see how far it can take you.

A weekend devoted to small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and anyone in a larger organization that wants to take responsibility and make something happen. The internet has opened doors, made connections and created leverage. The post-industrial age is here, and it brings with it the opportunity to carve a completely different path–for you, for your team and for your organization.

People who have attended previous events have left with new strategies, new tactics, and most important, new resolve on how to get through their Dip. Knowing that there are other people in the same place, and being able to establish lines of support can really change the way you do your work.

The format: I'll set the stage with an hour-long talk about the role of impresarios, the connection economy and the chance to create work that matters. From that, we'll shift to a wide open Q&A session in which attendees share their stuckness, talk about their strategies and mostly ask about how this new way of thinking (and doing) can help them. I've discovered that by spending more than six straight hours leading the discussion and answering questions, I can start to get under your skin and help you see how this revolution is open to you.

For the entire day, you'll be surrounded by fellow travelers, by people in just as much of a hurry as you are. I'll provide lunch and snacks (and lots and lots of coffee) and we'll go at it until about 3:45. It's a long day, but worth the effort.

That afternoon, you'll have the chance to connect with other attendees and (if you're staying for Sunday) dive into your homework. Dinner that night (optional, dutch treat) will be divided across ten restaurants throughout the city, with groups picked to maximize cross-pollination. If you don't meet someone who significantly changes your outlook and your future projects, you probably were hiding…

The next morning, the Sunday attendees will reconvene bright and early at 9. For Sunday's session, we're moving out of the theatre and into the group space upstairs. We'll spend the day alternating between group work, assignments, presentations and feedback from me.

Both days include lunch, snacks, Q&A, surprises but, sadly, no dancing monkeys.

This is my last public event until my book launches, and I hope you'll be able to join a very motivated, very talented group of people for a weekend that will both frighten and empower you to go do the work you're capable of.

Get tickets here. There are a few early bird discount seats for blog readers.

PS To be clear, Saturday is a classic Seth Godin Q&A session, designed to help you think through the challenges you're facing and to see the common elements that so many successful projects share. Sunday is that plus group work, presentations, thought exercises, the Shipit workbook and more. It builds on Saturday and is a smaller group, with more airtime for all.

If you have questions, drop a line to michelle@sethgodin.com

If you want to get paid for your freelance work

…then access to tools is no longer sufficient. Everyone you compete with has access to a camera, a keyboard, a guitar. Just because you know how to use a piece of software or a device doesn't mean that there isn't an amateur who's willing to do it for free, or an up and comer who's willing to do it for less.

…then saying "how dare you" is no longer a useful way to cajole the bride away from asking her friend to take pictures at the wedding, or the local non-profit to have a supporter typeset the gala's flyer or to keep a rock star from inviting volunteers on stage.

…then you ought to find and lead a tribe, build a base of people who want you, and only you, and are willing to pay for it.

…then you need to develop both skills and a reputation for those skills that make it clear to (enough) people that an amateur solution isn't nearly good enough, because you're that much better and worth that much more.

…then you should pick yourself and book yourself and publish yourself and stand up and do your work, and do it in a way for which there are no substitutes.

It's true, if someone wants professional work, then he will need to hire professionals.
But it's also true that as amateurs are happy to do the work that
professionals used to charge for, the best (and only) path to getting paid is to
redefine the very nature of professional work.

Scarcity is a great thing for those that possess something that's scarce. But when scarcity goes away, you'll need more than that.

All the slow hedgehogs are dead

For fifty years, it was a national disgrace.

Motor cars in the UK often left behind road kill. Hedgehogs would meander across the road and splat.

Today, you hardly see that anymore. One reason is that there are fewer hedgehogs due to suburbanization. The real reason, though, is that slow hedgehogs became former hedgehogs, which meant that they were unable to produce more slow hedgehog kids. The new hedgehogs are fast.

Draw your own organizational analogy.

[Update: plenty of people have helped me see that there's a lack of data about the hedgehog hypothesis. It might be true, but we can't prove it. So consider it apocryphal…]

Two questions behind every disagreement

Are we on the same team? and

What's the right path forward?

Most of time, all we talk about is the path, without having the far more important but much more difficult conversation about agendas, goals and tone.

Is this a matter of respect? Power? Do you come out ahead if I fail? Has someone undercut you? Do we both want the same thing to happen here?

The reason politics in my country is diverging so much from useful governance has nothing to do with useful conversations and insight into what the right path is. It's because defeat and power and humiliation and money have replaced "doing what works for all of us" as the driving force in politics.

If you feel disrespected, the person you disagree with is not going to be a useful partner in figuring out what the right path going forward might be. If one party (employee/customer/investor) only wins when the other party loses, what's the point of talking about anything but that?

Deal with the agenda items and the dignity problems first before you try to work out the right strategic choices.

Memory and media

Not too many millenia ago, just about everything we remembered happened to us. In real life.

Books and then radio and TV changed that. Orson Welles demonstrated that a radio drama could create feelings (and then memories of those feelings) that were as powerful to some as the real thing.

Eleven years ago, we all experienced an event of such enormity that it still haunts us. Some escaped, some saw it out their office window while others watched on TV.

Just a decade later, we're far more likely to both celebrate and generate our memories in 140 character bursts, or in short updates or in a 'breaking news' email. The short version amplifies our other memories. Neil Armstrong's death shook us not because we knew him, but because we remember watching him on TV… The blip of information alone was sufficient to give us pause.

A few generations ago, the only music most people heard was music we heard in person. Today, the most famous (and in some ways, important) people in our lives are people we will never meet.

As we continually replace real life with ever shorter digital updates, what happens to the memories we build for ourselves and the people we serve? More and more, we don't remember what actually happened to us, but what we've encountered digitally. It scales, but does it matter in the same way?


Please don't include the phrase, "I'll keep this brief," in your remarks.

Please don't quote Robert Browning or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at us. If less is more, just give us less, not an explanation.

Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more, and the length of your speech or your document has nothing at all to do with your impact or your status.

What to obsess over

They use stopwatches at McDonald's. They know, to the second, how long it should take to make a batch of fries. And they use spreadsheets, too, to whittle the price of each fry down by a hundredth of a cent if they can. They're big and it matters.

Small businesspeople often act like direct marketers. They pick a number and they obsess over it. In direct mail, of course, it's the open rate or the conversion rate. For a freelancer or small business person, it might be your bank balance or the growth in weekly sales.

I think for most businesses that want to grow, it's way too soon to act like a direct marketer and pick a single number to obsess about.

The reason is that these numbers demand that you start tweaking. You can tweak a website or tweak an accounts payable policy and make numbers go up, which is great, but it's not going to fundamentally change your business.

I'd have you obsess about things that are a lot more difficult to measure. Things like the level of joy or relief or gratitude your best customers feel. How much risk your team is willing to take with new product launches. How many people recommended you to a friend today…

What are you tracking? If you track concepts, your concepts are going to get better. If you track open rates or clickthrough, then your subject lines are going to get better. Up to you.

Worth doing?

One reason to do something is because you get paid to do it.

But it's sad to think that this might be the only reason to do something.

Now that you've got a skillset and trust and leverage and a following and the tools to make something happen, are you going to invest your heart and soul into something that's important or waste it selling something you're not proud of?

A simple truth about photo albums

When you hand someone a photo album or a yearbook, the first thing they will do is seek out their own picture.

Knowing that, the question is: how often are you featuring the photo, name, needs or wants of your customers where everyone (or least the person you're catering to) can see them?

Thinking about supermodels

Models are fairly generic placeholders, attractive men and women who anonymously walk down the runway at a fashion show or stand up for a photo shoot. It's surprisingly unglamorous and isn't particularly steady or financially rewarding.

Supermodels, on the other hand, are a relatively recent innovation, and they are in a totally different (financial) category. The interesting thing is that everyone benefits: the model makes a lot more money, the advertiser gains more credibility from using the known face and the audience gets the frisson of recognition that comes from celebrity. Supermodels aren't necessarily prettier, they're merely more famous, a niche that serves all the parties.

There's a leap between model and supermodel. There isn't really a stable niche for reallygoodmodel and extremelygoodmodel. You are either seen as worth the super premium or you're not. This quantum leap from one state to the other makes it an unpredictable career, one fraught with risk, because you never know when you're going to pop.

You've probably guessed that supermodel status exists in many fields. Stocks, brand names, consultants, doctors, even dog trainers.

The leap must be an intentional one. You don't walk there. You leap.