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Finding your peer group

Your peer group are people with similar dreams, goals and worldviews. They are people who will push you in exchange for being pushed, who will raise the bar and tell you the truth.

They're not in your business, but they're in your shoes.

Finding a peer group and working with them, intentionally and on a regular schedule, might be the single biggest boost your career can experience.

Go first

Before you're asked.

Before she asks for the memo, before the customer asks for a refund, before your co-worker asks for help.

Volunteer.

Offer.

Imagine what the other person needs, an exercise in empathy that might become a habit.

Two new videos

No content online is 'rare', but here are two presentations you might not have seen before:

…from the Maker Faire, and here's a speech I did last year at Nearly Impossible in Brooklyn:

Seth Godin | Nearly Impossible 2013 from Nearly Impossible on Vimeo.

Weight thrown and the slippery slope

Sometimes it's fun or profitable to throw your weight around, to get customers or partners or students or the media or even local government agencies to do what you need them to do.

Inevitably, weight throwers come to a fork in the road:

Are you doing this to get people to do what's good for them or what's good for you?

When a teacher uses her power to get students to study (not in their short-term interest, at least not right now), she's doing them a service.

When a retailer or manufacturer uses purchasing power and scale to bring a product to market that people weren't expecting, it's probably because the customers will end up delighted.

Any time an organization pushes to change the status quo on behalf of its mission, causing the change they exist to make in the world, they're building something that will last.

But often, the opposite happens. Organizations in power change their pricing or their technology or their policies because it's good for the organization, because it raises quarterly earnings, most often because it's easier for them. They change the way they do support, or the promises they keep to long-term customers and vendors. Often, the people who count beans are making the decisions, not those that count positive change on behalf of those they serve.

And it works. For a while. And then it doesn't, because even powerful organizations don't last forever, especially when those that have been pushed discover that they might just have other options.

Throw your weight around, please. But do it for those you serve, not against them.

“I don’t have any good ideas”

That's a common mantra among those that say that they want to leap, but haven't, and aren't, and won't.

What they're actually saying is, "I don't have any ideas that are guaranteed to work, and not only that, are guaranteed to cause no criticism or moments when I'm sure the whole thing is going to fall apart."

And that sentence is probably true.

But no good ideas? C'mon.

Here's a simple hack that takes whatever word you put in the seed box and comes up with a fresh game idea you've never had before. And it can do it over and over and over again. Pretty good ideas are easy. The guts and persistence and talent to create, ship and stick it out are what's hard.

At least you know what's holding you back. The good news is that those skills are available to anyone who cares enough to acquire them.

The special problem

Yes, it's possible that your particular challenge is unique, that your industry, your job situation, your set of circumstances is so one-of-a-kind that the general wisdom doesn't apply.

And it's possible that your problem is so perfect and you are so stuck that in fact there's nothing out there that can help you.

Possible, but not likely.

When you complain that you need ever more specific advice because the general advice just doesn't apply, consider looking for your fear instead. As Steve Pressfield has pointed out, the resistance is a wily adversary, and one of the clever ways it will help us hide from the insight that will lead to forward motion is to play the unique, this-one-is-different card.

We can learn by analogy, if we're willing to try and fail, and mostly, if we're willing to get unstuck.

The first step is acknowledging that our problem isn't that special.

When in doubt, re-read rule one

Rule one has two parts: 

a. the customer is always right

b. if that's not true, it's unlikely that this person will remain your customer.

If you need to explain to a customer that he's wrong, that everyone else has no problem, that you have tons of happy customers who were able to successfully read the instructions, that he's not smart enough or persistent enough or handsome enough to be your customer, you might be right. But if you are, part b kicks in and you've lost him.

If you find yourself litigating, debating, arguing and most of all, proving your point, you've forgotten something vital: people have a choice, and they rarely choose to do business with someone who insists that they are wrong.

By all means, fire the customers who aren't worth the time and the trouble. But understand that the moment you insist the customer is wrong, you've just started the firing process.

PS here's a great way around this problem: Make sure that the instruction manual, the website and the tech support are so clear, so patient and so generous that customers don't find themselves being wrong.

Project management for work that matters

  1. Resist the ad hoc. Announce that this is a project, and that it matters enough to be treated as one.
  2. The project needs a leader, a person who takes responsibility as opposed to waiting for it to be given.
  3. Write it down. All of it. Everything that people expect, everything that people promise.
  4. Send a note confirming that you wrote it down, specifically what you heard, what it will cost and when they will have it or when they promised it.
  5. Show your work. Show us your estimates and your procedures and most of all, the work you’re going to share with the public before you ship it.
  6. Keep a log, a notebook, a history of what you’ve done and how. You’ll need it for the next project.
  7. Source control matters. Don’t change things while people are reviewing them, because then we both have to do it twice.
  8. Slack is your friend. Slack is cheaper, faster and more satisfying than wishful thinking. Your project will never go as well as you expect, and might take longer than you fear.
  9. Identify and obsess about the critical path. If the longest part of the project takes less time than you planned, the entire project will take less time than you planned.
  10. Wrap it up. When you’re done, take the time to identify what worked and what didn’t, and help the entire team get stronger for next time.

Lessons from the Eiffel Tower

  • It was designed at home, on the kitchen table…
  • by someone who didn't get their name on it
  • Never been done before, not guaranteed to get built or to work
  • It was criticized by hundreds of leading intellectuals and cultural experts
  • It wasn't supposed to last very long
  • It's designed to be an icon, it's not an accident
  • People flock to it because it's famous
  • You can sketch a recognizable version of it on a napkin

Your turn to build one. Happy Bastille Day.

Literacy (and unguided reading)

Two hundred years ago, the government of Sweden changed everything: They required all their citizens to be literate. It transformed every element of the culture and economy of Sweden, an effect that's felt to this day.

Television, of course, is a great replacement for the hard work of learning to read and write, but, if you think about it, so are autocratic governments and dogmas that eliminate choice. Unguided reading is a real threat, because unguided reading leads to uncomfortable questions.

Teach someone to read and you guarantee that they will be able to learn forever. Teach an entire culture to read and connections and innovations go through the roof.

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