The new book is out on Tuesday. I think it will resonate with you and your work.
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Your preference is not universal

You’re entitled to it, and we will do our best to help you find what you want.

But it’s unlikely that what you want is what everyone wants. It’s hard to believe that there is only one appropriate standard for value, observance, speed or performance.

The easiest way for us to help you is to not waste time arguing about whether you’ve uncovered a natural law that we’ve been ignoring and instead, let’s simply find out what you want.

“I like it when…” is so much more productive than, “everyone wants…”

On reading it in a book

Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation, said of his career, “This is not stuff you can read in a book,” he said. “This is stuff that you have to experience.”

I think it’s also useful to flip it around. There are things you will have trouble experiencing until you read them in a book.

A useful non-fiction book is a map, not the territory. It’s a chance to safely experience what might be, to experience it before it happens.

And a book makes it easy to talk about what you’re doing. It gives you the structure and the words to explain to someone else why they might want to come along with you on the journey.

Captives of memetic desire

How much of what we want, really want, is due to the ideas that culture has given us, and how much is truly what we need?

If memetic desire isn’t making us happy, perhaps we can find some new ideas.

Survivor bias and the mistake of stability

An asteroid has never destroyed the Earth, therefore an asteroid never will.

This brand has been involved in scandals before, and it has always come back stronger, so there’s nothing to worry about.

There have been technology changes before, but we’ve always managed to find clients for what we do.

Survivor bias is the trap of only considering the successful entries when thinking about risk. For example, if you look at the performance of mutual funds after ten years, most of them seem to do pretty well. But that’s partly because the ones that did really poorly didn’t make it to ten years.

We are lucky enough to live on a planet that hasn’t been destroyed by an asteroid. But that doesn’t mean that other planets haven’t had their life forms extinguished–we’re simply unaware of them.

Past performance is no guarantee of the future. Sorry.

We should plan accordingly.

The first person

“I” is first person.

“You” is second person.

“She” “They” “It” are all third person.

So far, so good.

But how can ChatGPT use the word “I”? And when we talk about ChatGPT, is it “he” or “she” or “they” or “it”? Because anything that is an “it” shouldn’t be able to say “I”.

We probably need a form of “it” that can be used by ChatGPT when it is talking about itself or on its behalf. Because “I” brings emotional and intellectual weight that confuses or deceives us.

As Kevin points out, the regulation to lead to this fix is really simple and easy to implement. When I say “we” I think we know what I mean. But when ChatGPT or other LLMs say “I”, what is being communicated here?

When we built the bot for this blog, I insisted that the bot not say “I.” Because it’s not me. It’s a bot.

Inventing new rules for how language works is fraught and regularly fails. But it’s only been a few months, and it sure seems like we’re getting comfortable with not distinguishing between text from a person and text from “it.”

It might be as simple as IT, with the second t being capitalized. Or ix, which is fun to say and will help my Scrabble game…

Just because the computer says “I” doesn’t mean that we’re not interacting with a computer. The uncanny valley is real and perilous.

Conversations, an early review… (and the free class)

“I have trained companies to treat people better, and SONG is the guidebook I wished I had when doing this work. Now, I will now give it to the enlightened and brutes alike, with a recommendation to take immediate action. 

Seth Godin has been carefully documenting the end of the industrial revolution and providing new strategies for working in this new world for as long as any of us can remember. With no exception, this is his most important work to date. You must listen and dance to this song now.” 

Anthony Iannarino 

My new book, The Song of Significance, went to #1 on the day we introduced it, but only after a book is in reader’s hands does the word begin to spread. People who talk about it with others, who share it with their co-workers, their boss and their employees.

Or consider the five-pack. It comes with 25 free shareable booklets as a bonus.

Conversations change the culture and conversations change us.

Special link for this week only, for folks who read all the way to the end of the post: My LinkedIn Learning class on the ideas in the new book goes live today, and it’s free today. Use this link to get it. Thank you.

To celebrate the new course and the book, a swarm of upcoming LinkedIn interviews, each with a live Q&A and some door prizes too. Recorded, of course, but I hope you can join us.

Michael Bungay Stanier May 24 (in just a few hours)

Whitney Johnson May 25

Ramon Ray May 30

Dorie Clark May 31

Anthony Iannarino June 1

Baratunde Thurston June 2

Charlie Gilkey June 6

It’s not easy

…to make it look easy.

Sometimes, you don’t need to bother. Making it look hard might be a plus.

The important part is how it makes the recipient feel.

Stevie and Marvin

When Marvin Gaye joined Motown, he went with his strengths. He wanted to work only in the studio. He hated touring and was sure he lacked the charisma and other gifts that made some musicians great onstage. This didn’t really fit the label’s strengths, and he struggled to find his footing.

In 1962, Berry Gordy sent Gaye on tour with other Motown acts. While Gaye wasn’t naturally a performer, he was competitive. The tour managers discovered that if they put Little Stevie Wonder on just before Gaye, something extraordinary happened. Wonder was a crowd pleaser, a magician at getting fans excited. After a few shows, Gaye realized that he had to dramatically raise his on-stage game if he was going to be able to keep his gig.

Two days after the tour ended, Gaye was in the studio recording what became his first Top 40 hit. He became known as much for his live performances as his music.

His charisma was a skill, not something he was born with.

It’s up to us if we want it to be.

Compounding head starts

When a six-year-old kid beats the other kids at tennis, that kid is more likely to be encouraged to play more, or to get a coach, and pretty soon, they’re much better at tennis than the others.

When a musical group has a single that gets some buzz on Spotify, they’re more likely to be able to find a producer or even a label.

When a candidate polls well early in a race, they’re more likely to get donations, attract consultants, run ads and not be encouraged to drop out…

There are clearly scarcity-based competitions in our culture that reward early success. Acknowledging this (however unfair or suboptimal it is as a sorting mechanism) leads us to two very different sets of tactics:

One alternative is to dramatically overinvest and overprepare for your debut. If early head starts are rewarded, be sure you have one. This can even involve entering school a year later, or running for dog catcher instead of the senate.

The other is to acknowledge that even though head starts are sort of random and often reward the wrong folks, you’re going to ignore them. Make sure you have the resources and resolve to develop your following and your skills regardless of how well you do in the first interactions. Day by day and drip by drip.

Most people try to do both, and doing both almost guarantees you’ll burn out.

Which sort of sinecure?

Sooner or later, we find a place to hide. A place of security or sustenance. A place of safety.

That sort of foundation can give us peace of mind and open the door to possibility.

But, it’s possible that we can turn it into a trap as well.

A situation so perfectly created that we’re stuck. Stuck without forward motion, stuck with a narrative of insufficiency or suffering.

The places we inhabit are external, for sure, based on how the world treats us. But they’re often internally driven as well, a story that felt comfortable for a while. But if that story has created a stable place of ennui, dread or dissatisfaction, it might pay to find someone who can help us see that it’s possible to move on.