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Lulled

Everyone has a comfort zone.

Worth considering: How hard (and how often) are you willing to work to get out of it?

You can turn that into a habit if you choose.

The paradox of rising expectations

Perhaps this is what your organization desires: To be more trusted, to have people willing to pay more, choose you more often, expect more…

Of course, over time, good work will lead to higher expectations. And the paradox is that this will sooner or later lead to disappointment. Raised expectations tend to be exponential… they grow faster and faster.

Raise expectations forever and even Superman is going to let us down.

One possible path is to do what Bob Dylan has done several times—destroy them. Veer left when everyone expects you to veer right.  Launch something that makes no sense. Reset expectations instead of raising them.

Hard to do if you're a public company, but probably worth considering if you're a human intent on making your art.

Logo vs. Brand

Spend 10,000 times as much time and money on your brand as you spend on your logo.

Your logo is a referent, a symbol, a reminder of your brand.

But your brand is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.

Nike spent $250 to buy a swoosh. Probably a little more than they needed to. But the Nike brand, the sum total of what we think and believe and feel about what this company makes–it's now worth billions.

The swoosh is just pixels.

Most people wait (for most people)

Most people can’t go first, most people don’t want to go last. Most people do what most people do. That’s obvious. A tautology.

The bell shape of product adoption is almost directly the opposite of what we’d guess based on a rational worldview of adoption being driven only by quality or features or head-to-head testing. It contradicts the dreams of creators, who imagine that the grand opening is truly grand, and that, armed with a better mousetrap, the world is beating a path…

No, most people wait. For most people.

Worth a pause to understand that this is literally true, obviously true, and not a criticism of those who choose to go first nor of those who wait. 

The marketer’s challenge, then, is to work hard to get to the point where most people (in the community) feel that most people are accepting the new product or service. Outbound marketing is largely the act of alerting the right people in the community at the right time… to keep most people in sync (which is our goal as most people).

In late December, we shipped the 50,000th copy of my new book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn. We reached that level in less than five weeks, which is really gratifying. I’m thrilled, and many thanks to those who leapt first.

Of course, most people haven’t seen it yet. Even though that’s a huge start for a book, most people, appropriately, wait. (Here’s an interesting growth chart of cumulative sales.)

A friend, someone who has been reading this blog every day for years, came over for coffee last week. “Have you seen my new book?” I asked. She sheepishly admitted she hadn’t, for all the good reasons.

Which makes perfect sense.

I was thrilled to see the look in her eyes when she picked up the book (and wouldn’t put it down). Her feedback mirrored many of the comments I’ve heard since the book started shipping.

More people (not quite most, but more) are starting to seek out a copy now. Because it’s time. 

It’s your turn.

PS here is the new Seth Godin Instagram page, curated by Winnie Kao, which might spark you into sharing some pithiness. Thanks!

Uncertainty is not the same thing as risk

Often, the most important work we do doesn't bring a guaranteed, specific result. Usually, the result of any given action on our part is unknown.

Uncertainty implies a range of possible outcomes.

But a range of results, all uncertain, does not mean you are exposing yourself to risk. It merely means you're exposing yourself to an outcome you didn't have a chance to fall in love with in advance.

A simple example: the typical high school student applying to a range of colleges has very little risk of getting in nowhere. Apply to enough schools that match what you have to offer, and the odds are high indeed you'll get in somewhere. Low risk but a very high uncertainty about which college or colleges will say yes.

That's not risky. That's uncertain. It takes fortitude to live with a future that's not clearly imagined, but it's no reason not to apply.

Another example: If you speak to 100 people, it's uncertain which 40 people will be impacted by what you say. But the risk that you will resonate with no one is small indeed.

The question to ask every organization, manager, artist or yourself is, "are you hesitating because you're not sure the future will match your specific vision, or is there truly a project-endangering risk here?"

A portfolio of uncertain outcomes is very different from a large risk.

HT to Bert Spangenberg.

Doing calculus with Roman numerals

Quick, what's XIV squared?

You can't do advanced math without the zero. And you can't write precise prose without a well-developed vocabulary.

The magic of the alphabet is that twenty-six letters are all you need to spell every word. The beauty of Lego blocks is that you don't need very many to build something extraordinary.

Imagine how hard it would be to get anything done, though, if you only knew 17 letters.

In most fields your work is hindered if you only have a few of the most basic tools. Understanding more of the building blocks of finance, or marketing or technology are essential if you want to get something important done. 

Here's my advice: Every time you hear an expert use a word or concept you don't understand, stop her and ask to be taught.  Every time. After just a few interactions, you'll have a huge advantage over those who didn't ask.

When to decide

Important decisions carry risk and can unnerve and distract us.

One instinct is to delay, merely because doing something risky and distracting later is better than doing it now. That's the wrong strategy.

You should decide the moment that new information relevant to the decision is more expensive to obtain than the cost, the inaction and the anxiety of waiting.

So, don't apply to 30 colleges and see which ones you get into before you decide. That'll cost you thousands of dollars and take up months of your life.

Don't delay hiring a great CMO merely because it's entirely possible that other resumes might appear one day. Your hesitation might cost you the person you've found, and going three more months without a great person on board is way more expensive than waiting for Ms. Perfect.

Make high leverage decisions early, and profit from your ability to take advantage of commitments when others are still in limbo.

Unprepared

Is there anything worse we can say about you and your work? "You are unprepared."

But the word "unprepared" means two things, not just one. There is the unprepared of the quiz at school, of forgetting your lines, of showing up to a gunfight with a knife… this is the unprepared of the industrial world, the unprepared of being an industrial cog in an industrial system, a cog that is out-of-whack, disconnected and poorly maintained.

What about the other kind, though?

We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always.

We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we’ve never connected before.

We are unprepared for our first bestseller, or for a massive failure unlike any we’ve ever seen before. We are unprepared to fall in love, and to be loved.

We are unprepared for the reaction when we surprise and delight someone, and unprepared, we must be unprepared, for the next breakthrough. 

We've been so terrified into the importance of preparation, it's spilled over into that other realm, the realm of life where we have no choice but to be unprepared.

If you demand that everything that happens be something you are adequately prepared for, I wonder if you’ve chosen never to leap in ways that we need you to leap. Once we embrace this chasm, then for the things for which we can never be prepared, we are of course, always prepared.

Used to be

This hotel used to be a bank.

That conference organizer used to be a travel agent.

This company used to make playing cards.

Perhaps you used to be hooked on keeping score, or used to be totally focused on avoiding the feeling of risk, or used to be the kind of person who needed to be picked…

"Used to be," is not necessarily a mark of failure or even obsolescence. It's more often a sign of bravery and progress.

If you were brave enough to leap, who would you choose to 'used to be'?

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