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Seth’s Top 100

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Don’t Shave That Yak!

The single best term I’ve learned this year. I want to give you the non-technical definition, and as is my […]

Ode: How to tell a great story

Chris Fralic reminded me of this piece I wrote for Ode. Great stories succeed because they are able to capture […]

Advice for authors

It happened again. There I was, meeting with someone who I thought had nothing to do with books or publishing, […]

How to be remarkable

From this week’s Guardian: 1. Understand the urgency of the situation. Half-measures simply won’t do. The only way to grow […]

You should write an ebook

I’m serious. Smart people with good ideas worth sharing can get a lot out of this exercise. It’s technically easy […]

Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want […]

1000 true fans

This is Kevin Kelly’s best riff of the year, and that’s saying an enormous amount. Go read it! Some people […]

Email checklist

Before you hit send on that next email, perhaps you should run down this list, just to be sure: Is […]

First, ten

This, in two words, is the secret of the new marketing. Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need […]

Ignore sunk costs

The most important decision-making rule you learn in business school is still largely misunderstood. When making a choice between two […]

Understanding business development

Business Development is a mysterious title for a little discussed function or department in most larger companies. It’s also a […]

define: Brand

Here’s my definition: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a […]

Quieting the lizard brain

How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior? We say we want one thing, then we do another. […]

The modern business plan

It’s not clear to me why business plans are the way they are, but they’re often misused to obfuscate, bore […]

Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]

Many people in the United States purchase one or fewer books every year. Many of those people have seen every […]

The world’s worst boss

That would be you. Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your […]

Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself

Amanda Hocking is making a million dollars a year publishing her own work to the Kindle. No publisher. Rebecca Black […]

Are you making something?

Making something is work. Let’s define work, for a moment, as something you create that has a lasting value in […]

Hard work vs. Long work

Long work is what the lawyer who bills 14 hours a day filling in forms does. Hard work is what […]

What’s high school for?

Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following: How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved. […]

The future of the library

What is a public library for? First, how we got here: Before Gutenberg, a book cost about as much as […]

Back to (the wrong) school

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working […]

Talker’s block

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and […]

The forever recession (and the coming revolution)

There are actually two recessions: The first is the cyclical one, the one that inevitably comes and then inevitably goes. […]

The difference between management and leadership

Managers work to get their employees to do what they did yesterday, but a little faster and a little cheaper. […]

You will be judged (or you will be ignored)

Those are pretty much the only two choices. Being judged is uncomfortable. Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation… all of these, combined […]

Seven marketing sins

Impatient… great marketing takes time. Doing it wrong (and rushed) ten times costs much more and takes longer than doing […]

The circles of marketing

Most amateurs and citizens believe that marketing is the outer circle. Marketing = advertising, it seems. The job of marketing […]

Corporations are not people

You may have read Matt Fisher’s story about the tragic death of his sister and the response of her insurance […]

True professionals don’t fear amateurs

Professional farmers don’t begrudge the backyard gardener his tomato harvest. That’s silly. And talented mechanics certainly don’t mind the antics […]

Should you work for free?

That depends on what you mean by “work” and by “free.” Work is what you do as a professional, when […]

Thinking about money

Many marketers work overtime to confuse us about money. They take advantage of our misunderstanding of the time value of […]

“People like us do things like this”

There is no more powerful tribal marketing connection than this. More than features, more than benefits, we are driven to […]

Understanding luxury goods

A luxury good gets its value from its lack of utility and value. A typical consumer would look at what […]

The four horsemen of mediocrity

Deniability–“They decided, created, commanded or blocked. Not my fault.” Helplessness–“My boss won’t let me.” Contempt–“They don’t pay me enough to […]

Not even one note

Starting at the age of nine, I played the clarinet for eight years. Actually, that’s not true. I took clarinet […]

Thirty five + years of projects

I realized the other day that most people grow up thinking in terms of professional affiliations. “I’m going to be […]

Project management for work that matters

Resist the ad hoc. Announce that this is a project, and that it matters enough to be treated as one. […]

The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy: Stop Stealing Dreams

This post announced the most popular ebook I’ve ever published. Millions have shared it and you can read the entire […]

A manifesto for small teams doing important work

We are always under tight deadlines, because time is our most valuable asset. If you make a promise, set a […]

The short run and the long run

It’s about scale. Pick a long enough one (or a short enough one) and you can see the edges. In […]

Your job vs. your project

Jobs are finite, specified and something we ‘get’. Doing a job makes us defensive, it limits our thinking. The goal […]

The problem with complaining about the system

…is that the system can’t hear you. Only people can. And the problem is that people in the system are […]

Uninformed dissent

“I’m not sure what it is, but I’m against it.” It’s a mistake to believe that people know all the […]

A dollar more (vs. a dollar less)

Consider a race to the top. How can Lyft possibly compete with Uber? Scale is often the secret to a commodity […]

We are all home schooled

Day after day, year after year, it’s the interactions we have at home that have the biggest impact on who […]

No one is unreasonable

No one says, “I’m going to be unfair to this person today, brutal in fact, even though they don’t deserve […]

Just because you’re right…

You may be right, but that doesn’t mean that people will care. Or pay attention. Or take action. Just because […]

Empathy is difficult

If you believed what he believes, you’d do precisely what he’s doing. Think about that for a second. People act […]

The lottery winners (a secret of unhappiness)

You’re going to have to fight for every single thing, forever and ever. It’s really unlikely that they will pick […]

Marketing in four steps

The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about. The […]

Temperament is a skill

Throwing tantrums, calling names, not doing the reading, making things up, demonizing the other, impulsivity, egomaniacal narcissism, breaking big promises… […]

The paradox of the flawless record

If your work has never been criticized, it’s unlikely you have any work. Creating work is the point, though, which […]

The professional pushes back

The architect refuses to design the big, ugly building that merely maximizes short term revenue. She understands that raising the […]

Anxiety loves company

Somehow, at least in our culture, we find relief when others are anxious too. So we spread our anxiety, stoking […]

Wedding syndrome

Running a business is a lot more important than starting one. Choosing and preparing for the job you’ll do for […]

Dropping the narrative

Okay, you don’t like what your boss did yesterday or last week or last month. But today, right now, sitting […]

Your discomfort zone

Most of us need an external stimulus to do our best work. It helps to have an alarm clock if […]

Ketchup and the third-party problem

Sir Kensington’s Ketchup is better ketchup. Most adults who try it agree that it’s more delicious, a better choice. Alas, […]

Plenty of room on the island

Have you noticed that authors often happily recommend books by other authors (even though an MBA might call them competitors)? […]


When we’re sure it’s not going to work, when we can’t figure out where to turn, when we don’t know […]

The confusion about enough

To watch people at work, it seems like we never have enough: We need more social media likes We want […]

The memories we rehearse are the ones we live with

A million things happened to you today. The second bite of your lunch. The red light on the third block […]

The best way to stand for something

The best way to build a brand that matters, a story that spreads, an impact that we remember, is to […]

The myth of quick

In his day job, The Wizard of Oz sold hokum. Patent medicines guaranteed to cure what ailed you. And none […]

No one knows anything

About twenty years ago, Permission Marketing was getting ready to go to the publisher. We sent a copy to Jack Trout, co-author […]

Is it a note worth playing?

Just published, a three-minute TED talk from 2014:   It follows on the ideas in this TEDx talk from a […]

The candy diet

The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the […]

Entitlement is optional

It’s not forced on us, it’s something we choose. And we rarely benefit from that choice. That emergency surgery, the one […]

… and it bends toward justice

The arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward access. Twelve years ago, Acumen made a modest […]

Everyone is better than you are…

(at something). Which makes it imperative that you connect and ask for help. At the same time that we encounter […]

Working for free (but working for yourself)

Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free. There are countless websites and causes and clients that […]

Maybe your customer isn’t trying to save money

Perhaps she wants to be heard instead. Or find something better, or unique. Or perhaps customer service, flexibility and speed […]

The opposite of “more”

It’s not “less.” If we care enough, the opposite of more is better.

Fear, failure and shame, oh my

Fear runs deep. Fear used to keep our ancestors alive. Fear keeps you from taunting a saber tooth tiger. The […]

Three simple and difficult steps

Get smarter. Hurry. Learn something new and difficult and valuable. Learn it today and continue learning it tomorrow. Solve interesting […]

Like riding a bike

People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten. What […]

‘Sort by price’ is lazy

Sort by price is the dominant way that shopping online now happens. The cheapest airline ticket or widget or freelancer […]

Being wrong until you are right

Are there any other options for people who seek to innovate?

The bingo method

You might need help to turn an idea into a project. Most of the time, though, project developers walk up […]

The self-healing letter of complaint

You’ve been wronged. The service was terrible. You went unseen, disrespected and abused. You didn’t get your money’s worth. The […]

What Henry Ford understood about wages

Every time Ford increased the productivity of car production (in one three-year period, he lowered labor costs by 66% per […]

Emotional labor

That’s the labor most of us do now. The work of doing what we don’t necessarily feel like doing, the […]

Choosing your fuel

The work is difficult. Overcoming obstacles, facing rejection, exploring the unknown–many of us need a narrative to fuel our forward motion, […]

Facts are not the antidote for doubt

Drink enough water and you will cease to be thirsty. And yet, a doubting person can be drowning in facts, but […]

The right effort of generosity

Don’t expect much from a drowning man. He’s not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your […]

Off the hook with Milton Friedman

Nearly fifty years ago, Milton Friedman published a polemic, an article that altered the way many people think about corporations […]

What 99% looks like

I did an interview with a leading Turkish vlogger. He sent me his work (in Turkish) and of course, the […]

Mental load and the worry cache

It’s well known that the team that wins an Olympic relay isn’t the fastest at running or swimming—it’s the team […]

You are more powerful than you think

Highlights from an annotated list of 17 rules for the new world of work: You are more powerful than you […]

In search of the minimum viable audience

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to […]

On beating yourself up

Almost everyone does it. I’m not sure why. After the fact (or even during it) all the blame, second-guessing and […]

The crisp meeting

A $30,000 software package is actually $3,000 worth of software plus $27,000 worth of meetings. And most clients are bad […]

Defining authenticity

For me, it’s not “do what you feel like doing,” because that’s unlikely to be useful. You might feel like […]

What will you do with your surplus?

If you have a safe place to sleep, reasonable health and food in the fridge, you’re probably living with surplus. […]

Money for nothing

A friend asked me for some ways to make money. (All direct quotes). “Can I do okay taking those surveys […]

Yelling upstairs

When you’re cooking breakfast and the school bus is coming in just a few minutes, it’s tempting (and apparently efficient) […]

Two kinds of practice

The first is quite common. Learn to play the notes as written. Move asymptotically toward perfection. Practice your technique and […]

Rules for working in a studio

Don’t hide your work Offer help Ask for help Tell the truth Upgrade your tools Don’t hide your mistakes Add […]

Different people hear differently

What you say is not nearly as important as what we hear. Which means that the words matter, and so […]

Start small, start now

This is much better than, “start big, start later.” One advantage is that you don’t have to start perfect. You […]

Are you day trading?

The volatility of bitcoin turns the people who own it into addicts. At any given moment, it’s up $100 or […]

Why we don’t have nice things

The creation of worthwhile work is a duet. The creator has to do her part, but so does the customer. […]

Charisma, cause and effect

Charisma doesn’t permit us to lead. Leading gives us charisma.

Beginning is underrated

Merely beginning. With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared. With imperfect odds of success, because the odds […]

A changemaker’s triangle

Editor, publisher, instigator. The instigator is the author, the dreamer, the writer. She creates a screenplay, founds a non-profit, says […]

Why even bother to think about strategy?

There’s confusion between tactics and strategy. It’s easy to get tied up in semantic knots as you work to figure […]

How to give a five-minute presentation

Give a four-minute presentation and take your time. The alternative is to try to give a six or seven-minute long […]

Entrepreneurship is not a job

You don’t apply. You don’t get a salary. No one picks you. Bragging about how much money you’ve raised or […]

About that tantrum

A note to the customer who just had a meltdown. To the groom without a perfect wedding, to the rental […]

Defective apologies

Civilization depends on the apology. When humans interact and something goes wrong, the apology builds a bridge that enables us […]