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Rewind: Seth Godin: Learning to take risks, be generous, and make a ruckus
If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, just type “Seth” into Google or DuckDuckGo. The first entry will lead you to his blog, where he writes—every day—about marketing, design, writing, how being a better human will make you better at your job.
Once you’ve started to read his blog, you’ll probably be hungry for more of his wisdom. He’s written over eighteen bestselling books on business and marketing, including Linchpin, Purple Cow, and The Dip.
We’ve been following Seth for a long time, and his writing and speaking have influenced how we think about creating and marketing products. So it was a huge honor to have him on our show, where we spoke about subjects ranging from how to take risks in your career, to why being creative is an act of generosity, to the idea of “creative destruction.”
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Seth as much as we did, and after you finish, we encourage you to go make a ruckus.
Thanks for listening to the Design Better Podcast! Subscribe for free to receive episodes a week early, bonus content, and more.
Why the counterintuitive idea of “surplus” means that, despite everything going on in the world, we all have access to more resources than the last King of France did.
Why writing is often the best starting point for almost any type of creative work.
Why a company is more like an organism than an organization
Seth is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker and teacher. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 19 best-selling books, including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). His most recent book, This is Marketing, was an instant bestseller in countries around the world.
Though renowned for his writing and speaking, Seth also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.
In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In an astonishing turn of events, in May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.
Eli Woolery (00:00):
Seth Godin, welcome to the design better podcast.
Seth Godin (00:02):
Yes. Thank you guys for having me appreciate it.
Eli Woolery (00:05):
Yeah. Such a huge honor to have you here. We've both been following your work for a long time, and we thought we'd bring you in to speak a little bit about how in this current really challenging time for everybody, how design might be applied to help out both on sort of a personal side, but also on a more societal and larger level. First question we wanted to ask is related to one of your recent akimbo podcasts. And you talk about this idea of surplus, which seems like a little bit of a strange thing to talk about in the current situation where a lot of people have lost their jobs, but the way that you frame it is really interesting. And you point out that everybody listening on this podcast has more resources. And the last King of France said, what can we as designers and creatives do with this surplus
Seth Godin (00:53):
First, let's get some terms, right? Yes. These are difficult times. It's a tragedy, worldwide unevenly distributed. A lot of people dealing with health problems, everyone dealing with economic dislocation. It's weird to talk about surplus in that sense, but there are people and I have spent time with them who, before this, and after this make $3 a day who everything they own fits into one satchel who have never been to see a doctor in their entire life. That is a life with way less surplus than we have, but even those folks have a cell phone. And so maternity is all about creating insulation between us and tomorrow that we have built cushions in so that we can leverage and move forward. We've wasted any enormous amount of our surplus. We've wasted watching soap operas. We've wasted it dealing with trolls on the internet. We've wasted it by building social media networks.
Seth Godin (02:03):
When we could actually be building something that created lasting value and designers are at the forefront of what is possible. So that leads to the next word I want to define, which is design because design is not decoration. And the two of you know that, and most of the people listening to this know that, but the clients don't know that. And the leaders don't know that. And I think it's incumbent on people who do design to get really clear before the conversation even begins with whoever they're talking to, that they're not decorators. And that's why I've spent most of my career as a leader in marketing, trying to explain what marketing is, because if you don't know what marketing is, you think it's advertising. And if you don't know what design is, you think it's decoration. And if all we've got is decoration and advertising, well, no wonder we're stuck. And so one of the giant breakthroughs of modern is getting back to the point, which is design is everything. Design is what we make, how we make it. It's resilience, it's downstream effects, whether it creates joy, whether it's toxic, whether it's a finite or an infinite game, all of it. And so if you're a professional, I think you have to own that and run with it.
Aarron Walter (03:18):
Seth, keeping on that theme. I want to talk a little bit about risk times like these, where people are forced into situations where they're in risky situations. If they're out of work, maybe they're kind of rethinking their career because of that. Could you talk to us a little bit about the role of risk in your career and insights that you've pulled from that you've certainly taken a lot of risks in being an entrepreneur. You've taken a lot of risk in being creative, putting creative things into the world is inherently risky because it brings it invites criticism. And of course, with all of those things, there's financial risk to investing in an idea that you believe in how might people think about risk and see this time as an opportunity for something big in their life.
Seth Godin (04:05):
So a bunch of years ago, Ford motor company laid off 10,000 people on the same day when the SUV sales hit a dip, those 10,000 people did not think they had a risky job. Those 10,000 people were sort of blameless in that they went to work and did what they were told. They were taking a huge risk because they had given their agency over to somebody else. Most of the entrepreneurs, I know, do not feel like they are taking risks. They feel like they are closer to the control panel than they would be if they were simply following somebody else. And if you want to make it as an independent, if you want to move forward, the idea is not that you do foolhardy fearless risk taking it's that you are obsessed with resilience and figuring out, Oh, if that doesn't work, then what will happen?
Seth Godin (04:57):
Coming up with alternate paths forward, not over leveraging over leverage is the main reason we are having this economic dislocation right now because the typical organization and the typical family didn't have more than a few days or weeks worth of resources set aside that before we got obsessed with leverage, that would have been crazy that taking a week, two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks. Okay. That's not good, but it's not going to wipe us out because we weren't over leveraged. So I think the key, if you seek to make a difference is to say, wait a minute, I still got to keep my day job. And my day job consumes 45 hours a week of my life. Then what am I doing? What would happen if on Saturdays or evenings or whenever I started building something independent because yeah, it might not work, but it's not risky in quotation marks because if it doesn't work, all I've wasted is Netflix time. I haven't wasted my family's dinner money. And that is how I built my career. I have failed more times than most people listening to this, but the failures were expected because you have a portfolio approach. And you say, if I send out 1000 book proposals, I'll probably sell 80 of them. You don't obsess about the 920 books. It didn't get made. You just do the best work you can on the 80 the did I think so
Aarron Walter (06:28):
Tied to that, you have this great way of framing, creativity as an act of generosity. Certainly I've struggled with trying to put creative things out in the world and then feeling like I'm asking people to, Hey, look at me or I'm being self promotional. Maybe you can talk a little bit about how creativity can be generous.
Seth Godin (06:46):
Well, here's the simplest hack. What if it was anonymous? Right? What would happen if there was no chance you could get credit or blame, would you do it? And if you did it, what would it feel like? And so it can be something as simple as there's brunches going on in the restaurant and the door keeps slamming shut and somebody gets up and without any fanfare just puts a little piece of wood in there to keep the door open, right? That is a creative act on behalf of others, for which you cannot be compensated. And if you interrupted everyone in the restaurant and said, I'm doing this, thank you very much. Please applaud. Now that would be different. But when we think about so many of the things that have shifted our lives, we don't remember who invented them. I mean, Thomas Edison was a great self-promoter.
Seth Godin (07:37):
Ben Franklin was pretty good at it as well. But in between Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin, there are countless people who designed things and invented things that we use to this day who got no credit for it. And if we begin with that, then we realize that the best design interventions don't have to have our names signed to them. If you get in that habit, then it becomes a generous act to actually sign your name so that the next person knows where to find you. So you can do a generous act for them because the more leverage we have as generous actors, the more generosity we'll be able to share with other people,
Aarron Walter (08:14):
Seth, I know you've got a pretty wide range of interests. You're interested in cooking.
Seth Godin (08:20):
I cooked dinner every night and have for the last 30 or so years. Yeah.
Aarron Walter (08:24):
One thing that I find really fascinating about the way that you work is that you talk to us about a thing that we have in common, but you draw upon all the adjacencies of what's in the world. And that's a really great skill. It's a really powerful skill. In fact, that is like the nature of creativity is connecting the disconnected for many creative people. They're often very focused on their craft, their discipline. I wonder if you could talk to us about the value of sometimes not looking at your craft about seeing the bigger world and
Eli Woolery (08:56):
How the, all those things can serve us.
Seth Godin (08:58):
Well first, thank you. I think that there's a miss definition of craft here. One of the things that happened when cameras were expensive, press type needed a stick to put on the page and it was difficult to hand Kern type is that we needed people. We called designers to spend a lot of time doing a thing over and over again. And we could probably tell the difference between someone who was very good and someone who was merely good, but most of that work is now done by a computer. And there are even more people calling themselves designers than ever before. So what are they doing when they're doing the thing of most value that anytime I have a job where I can spec it, I'm going to get it done by the cheapest possible person. Why would I pay extra right? And places like five or made it super easy to have a race to the bottom.
Seth Godin (09:54):
And you know, here's 20 pictures. I need them color corrected. That's a $7 job. Now that's not a $700 job. And so working on your craft of being a slightly better color corrector that's makes no sense whatsoever that when everyone has a camera calling yourself a wedding photographer, because you have a camera that doesn't work anymore. So what's the alternative. The alternative is to get back to what drew you to design in the first place, which is solving interesting problems. And here's the thing about interesting problems. If interesting problems could be solved using existing approaches, they wouldn't be problems. Someone would have solved them already. And so if you want better clients, the only way to get them is to be the person who solves interesting problems. And the only way to solve interesting problems is to solve them in ways that other people haven't tried yet. So yeah, your hand current type is probably a little bit better than my hand Kern type. And no one cares
Eli Woolery (10:55):
Seth. You're at you're at this really interesting intersection of creativity and business. And I think assuming you're not setting out on the path of doing your own thing, at least on immediately, you know, a good portion of our audiences employed at larger companies, how can you make yourself valuable to the business? How can you think about positioning? You know, your own work in such a way that it really reflects the impact on the business at large?
Seth Godin (11:21):
Yeah. Love this. So the deal is, it doesn't matter if you're independent or not, you still work for yourself. And it doesn't matter if you work for a big company or not your stuff, clients. And if you get better clients, your day's going to go way better. Your career is going to go better. You'll have more leverage. So the most common mistake that people and companies make is adopting a victim mindset. I'm just doing my job. I'm just doing what they told me to do, but I'm also supposed to do the boss. Won't do the right thing. And at one end of the extreme, it's someone who markets cigarettes for a living and doesn't want to take responsibility for giving millions of people and early death. And at the other end of the extreme it's somebody who just knows the right thing to do, but their boss doesn't have a clue and they're frustrated at their job.
Seth Godin (12:13):
But in all these situations, the answer is organizations are rarely going to give you authority. They're rarely going to give you the authority you seek, but they will almost always give you responsibility if you're willing to take it. And so the hack to do productive work in an organization is to give away credit, relentlessly giveaway, credit, and take responsibility. Every chance you get, because what you will discover is people like getting credit and they will give you more chances to give them credit. And they like giving away responsibility. And so they will give you more chances to take responsibility. And so if you can start doing those two things in tandem, you will make a difference where you work. And if you are totally boxed in, then you need to quit tomorrow. Even if the job market sucks, cause you don't get tomorrow over again and waiting is not helping anybody. You need to figure out how to take the place you are and turn it into a place where you can take responsibility or you need to leave.
Aarron Walter (13:16):
You know, Seth, one thing that seems very clear that this pandemic has made clear is that being locked away, it takes a toll on us. All right. It takes a toll on our spirit. And it's clear to me today, more than ever that we need each other, we need each other socially. We need each other spiritually. We need each other to create and do our best work and create something bigger than ourselves. You just talked a little bit about feeling boxed in, and I know that there are a lot of design leaders, a lot of people in large organizations where there's personality, conflict, and there's a struggle to like see it from the other person's perspective to see them as like they're coming at this with good intent as well. How might we think about building partnerships and building bridges with one another in our professional work,
Seth Godin (14:10):
These are just such juicy topics, you know, in the alt MBA, which we run and the other akimbo workshops, one of the things we teach is something I call practical empathy and practical empathy says this other people don't know what you know, they don't believe what you believe. They might not even want what you want. And the recipe to be a frustrated designer is to hate that is to rail against the fact that they just don't get it. But the alternative, if you seek to make change happen, which is all creativity is, is to acknowledge it and then add. And that's okay, because if you can't begin with and that's okay, then you're insisting people come to you. But the only way to make design work is to come to them on their terms, based on who they are, what they want, what they believe.
Seth Godin (15:05):
And so, no, you don't have to quit your job, but you do have to take initiative. You do have to launch things and there has never been a better moment. Then this day at home filled with fear moment of organizing of saying, I'm putting together a book group, I'm putting together a document. I'm putting together a discussion I'm putting together this, do you want to join in? What would it mean to move something forward inside your organization? Well, first it would mean going to where they are instead of insisting that they come to where you are and this idea of practical empathy, realizing that everyone's got a noise in their head, just like you have a noise in your head, helps us get to the next level. And it will go a long way to building bridges, to people who have been put off by inside talk among crafts. People who don't have a lot of respect for people who don't know the difference between a Sarah fitness and Sarah font
Eli Woolery (16:05):
This week. And this is going to sound like a bit of a name drop, but I have a point behind it this week we had this week, we had Johnny I'm in the class. I teach. One of the things that Johnny said was that he, which surprised me actually was that he starts out all his creative projects with writing. And I just thought that was really interesting for a designer. Could you talk a little bit how you, and you're obviously a writer and a publisher and an author, but how do you see writing being the foundation of good creative work?
Seth Godin (16:31):
Well, I was first going to say something snarky. Like I started off my creative projects by making everything I work on, look like a bar of soap, taking away the functionality from the software and doing lousy support. But I didn't say any of those things, cause that would be snarky
Eli Woolery (16:44):
And that's okay.
Seth Godin (16:47):
He broke my heart so many times I was a beta tester for Steve jobs in 1983 for the original Mac. And you should just hear me railing when my stuff doesn't work the way it's supposed to work, just cause it's prettier. I don't want it to be prettier. I want it to be better. Anyway, writing everyone should have a blog, even if no one reads it and you should blog every day. Even if no one reads it. Even if you write it under an assumed name. And the reason is simple. If you go to bed knowing you gotta write something. When you wake up in the morning, it will become a productive opening for you. If you know that you need to make assertions about how the world is promises about how you will make the world, it will make it more likely that you keep those promises.
Seth Godin (17:34):
If you can describe in writing the change you seek to make and who you seek to change, just the act of concretizing, it will keep you on track. Now we don't want to get hung up on, "Oh, it has to be a design brief, and we have to fill in all the blanks." Because that's a form of hiding, that if you read most big company design briefs, they say absolutely nothing. They're like mission statements. They're undeniable.
Seth Godin (18:00):
The purpose of writing is to write something that is deniable, to write something that says "this, not that." And all of us have words. And even if you're not well-spoken you can put those words in order on the screen or on a piece of paper. And you know, we do this thing in the altMBA called the ShipIt journal, which is a 32 page booklet that you actually write in with a pen. And what we find is that it's really hard to start, but once you start you're hooked because now you've committed. And it's so easy to be non-committal when you can command Z your way back from wherever you went. But something about writing it in a pen and a piece of paper feels like shipping. And that gets us one step closer to making a difference
Aarron Walter (18:50):
Building on that point out another one of your superpowers, which is seeing, I feel like the thing that people respond to with your work, these short posts, that's just like, it's like you shoot an arrow in the bullseye. It's I saw that thing. I saw the thing that we all saw, right? And this is what it is, which is an amazing skill to be able to see Leonardo da Vinci would stare at swirling water for hours and hours and try to see the thing that people aren't paying attention to. I wonder if you could talk about where that comes from, how that gets cultivated, because seeing it's where ideas come from, it's where conversations come from. So many possibilities. Once we can train our brains, our eyes and our brains to see the world, the things that are right in front of us.
Seth Godin (19:42):
Well, Aaron, thank you for such kind words, but also for calling it a skill because it's a skill people aren't often told they're talented at riding a bicycle. Cause no one's born knowing how to ride a bicycle. You learn. If you want to learn, this is merely a skill. It is a skill available to almost everyone. And the way I do it is very simple. If I see something in the world that is working and I don't understand why I need to be able to describe why I need to make assertions as to why. So Supreme comes along and they're selling an $80 t-shirt in New York city and people are waiting in line outside to buy an $80. T-shirt why you're not allowed to walk by and say, I don't know, not okay. Right. Why do people respond to Helvetica now differently than they used to need to make an assertion about that?
Seth Godin (20:40):
And so all I'm trying to do in my blog 7,600 posts later is explained something that is obvious to some people so that they have an easier way to explain it to other people that if you're just, if you're reading it and say, Oh, of course I knew that then it was a good blog post because I'm not trying to make stuff up. I'm trying to explain things that are already happening and everyone can do that. And one of the things that's been fascinating. I have a book coming out in November about the creative process, certain creative geniuses. And I know a bunch of them hate to talk about this. They are worried that if they talk about it, the muse will run away, that it will evaporate. And so we end up with all this to hip downtown Silicon Valley mystery stuff. And it's not a mystery. It's simply a process. And it is a process that can be learned by most people that requires making assertions, that don't work on your way to make any assertions that do on that
Eli Woolery (21:48):
At topic. One of the things that I've heard you say several times is that plumbers don't get plumber's block. So is writer's block a real thing. I think that's a great, great synopsis of that. I wonder if one of your somewhat recent blog posts, you talk about an organization versus an organism. And we talk a lot with design leaders about, you know, how their organization is structured, but maybe you could talk a little bit about that kind of viewing your organization as a living thing, whereas an organism,
Seth Godin (22:16):
Right? So, you know, one of the things I heard about IDEO in the early days is the way you did a job interview was you defended your portfolio. You stood there in front of a bunch of people. You talked about it. I love this because one of your jobs at IDEO is not having an interview. So why are you interviewing? Because that's not what your job is, right. And what it means to have an organization is there's an org chart and org charts are filled with boxes. And the reason org charts have boxes on them is that if someone leaves the organization, you can find someone who's approximately the same size box and slot them in organisms. On the other hand have organs and it's not easy to put a kidney from one organism, you know, from a squirrel into a pig. It's just not going to work.
Seth Godin (23:07):
And so industrialists don't like organisms because organisms are tweaky and difficult and hard to rely on because they're this growing shifting entity. And so if you're going to be a 1955 car company or a 1965 copy machine company, you should build an organization because the outside world just wants it to do what it's supposed to do. But if you are living in a world, that's shifting, if you're living in a world where delight and innovation are highly prized, you need an organism, not an organization. And that means you have to hire differently. You have to reward people differently. You have to structure differently. And when someone leaves what a pain in the ass, because now we gotta like go get a new kidney and that's okay because the prizes are worth.
Aarron Walter (23:59):
So that's one of the challenges in working in the software world for so long is that what we make is very ethereal. It's a little bit like making a sand Mondalez on a Mountain's edge somewhere. That's beautiful, very thoughtfully produced and the wind blows and it's gone. And I see that leads to a lot of burnout in our industry. And the ultimate question of like, what am I doing? What does this all mean here? I wonder if you could talk about that role of how important is it for us to do meaningful work, feel like this work is solving a problem. Steve jobs used that phrase, you know, putting a dent in the universe and it's sometimes we just need to do a thing. We just need to do a thing and earn a paycheck. And it doesn't have to be quite as existential.
Seth Godin (24:46):
I'm thinking hard because my experience has been a little different. I started software design in 19, well as a hobby in 76, but in 1983, my first commercial product shift. And I think the problem with software design is not that it's a femoral it's that it's overleveraged is that we have confused lines of code per day with innovations that matter. And we have confused extinguishing bugs with systems design, and that if you are fortunate enough, to be able to work on systems design and innovation in software, it's thrilling because you're not attached to the fact that the software is going to be obsolete in five years. Isn't that sad? You're thrilled at the fact that you made something that actually worked one day after you thought about it and you can't do that. If you're an architect, buildings lasts a long time, but buildings take a really long time to put up and you have to spend way more time engaging with all these other trades and clients before your innovation gets built.
Seth Godin (25:55):
So I think the real challenge is people in software tend to be managed by people who don't understand software and wall street doesn't understand software and investors don't understand software. So as a result, they've over leveraged and all sorts of directions and put all this pressure on small groups of people to do a magic trick, that they don't necessarily have the doves and scarves to do in that moment. And so smart software leadership and good systems design opens the door to be the kind of software innovator you want to be. You know, so if I think about Joel Spolsky, who's built $3 billion software companies, you know, Jeff Atwood at discourse, working with Sam and the rest of the team. I mean, discourse is a wonderful open source magic trick that feels to me like it has a sane environment for designers as well. So I think it's on us and I don't, I shouldn't say us.
Seth Godin (27:00):
I think it's on people who actually know how to write software to speak up and say, if you want my 10 X design magic, these are the terms. And I'm going to show up and do my work, but no, I'm not going to pull an all nighter just because you need to ship this tomorrow. Cause there are bugs. That's not what I do. If you want to find people who don't think about design and are looking for $20 an hour, job stamping out bugs, go hire them. That's not what I do, but I'm doing here. Speaking for the people who know how to do softwares, I'm going to solve a systems problem for you. That's worth $10 million. Bring that one to me. Since you've spoken about this idea of
Eli Woolery (27:40):
Creative destruction and how right now it's being accelerated the current crisis. Could you talk about that concept? And then the, how designers might be able to play a role in what comes next?
Seth Godin (27:52):
Every once in a while economist gets something, right? Here's something that Carl Marx and Adam Smith agreed with, which is that as soon as you come up with something that starts to work, you can get investors and the investors will leverage and you can do it more and do it more and do it more and soon it cannot be a creator of value anymore because it's the standard capitalism. Doesn't like the standard because the standard doesn't pay interest, the standard doesn't grow. It needs things that grow. And so what it will do is aim its investment money at destroying the thing. It just helps you build because they need their investment to grow. And this is the cycle of capitalism needing to destroy what came before in order to feed itself and Schumpeter took a sunnier view of this and called it creative destruction and basically said, that's how the world gets better.
Seth Godin (28:48):
The world gets better because you couldn't make a better horse drawn carriage. The horse drawn carriage was optimal. And so all the money goes to Daimler Benz and they figure out how to make a car. And then the ma I mean, you can see the cycles and we can talk all day about the short term vision of capitalism, but we won't. The point is that creative destruction only happens because it's creative, meaning we made something better. And it also destroyed the thing that came before. Well, a pandemic that kills millions of people is not better, but it was caused by worldwide travel that you could buy for 150 bucks. It was caused by truly efficient cities that enabled people to engage with each other in ways that would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Okay. So that was a side effect of what we built. It will lead to a new thing. It might not be better in the scheme of things, if you were King of the world, but it's going to be different than what was before based on the conditions in the world. So if you're a designer, your job only exists because the creative destruction, you're at the creative part of creative destruction. And the flip side of it is everything you make is going to break something that came before you
Aarron Walter (30:08):
Seth, a former guest on the podcast, jihad Fona over at VMware, who's a design leader, but fancies himself, a business leader. He said something to us that was really fascinating. He talked about how he's had people come into his office and give a status update on a project. And he says, great. That sounds good. Have you made stickers? Would executives know this project by name? Have you attended other people's meetings? So he's pushing people to realize that the act of creativity in a business is not enough. There's a marketing effort as well. Could you talk a little bit about storytelling as a skillset to be cultivated and how that gets plugged into our professional work?
Seth Godin (30:51):
So marketing is not advertising. Marketing is the story we tell and the product we make and the way we make it, how are we going to get the resources to go forward and just intuitively totally randomly, super lucky. 23 years old, I have no direct reports. I'm a brand manager. If my software doesn't ship, it turns out the company, which at the time had 50 people in, it would go bankrupt. So I've, co-opted dozens of engineers to work on my software in their spare time, more than I had been allocated. And it's really clear. We're going to have a lot of trouble making it till Christmas to get this thing to ship before Christmas. So I go out and I get a bunch of buttons, red ones and green ones. And on my own initiative, I call a company wide meeting and I say, we've all agreed.
Seth Godin (31:43):
We need to ship this product. So what I've done is I brought in a bunch of buttons. If you are working on the critical path of my project, this project, our project, please put on a green button. And if you were doing something important in the organization that isn't on the critical path, please put on a red button. And I had already co-opted the CEO because he knew this had to happen. So he was the first person that put on a red button. I said, so here's the deal. If you're wearing a red button and you meet someone with a green button, you got to say, how can I help? Doesn't matter what your role is in the organization. If a green person needs to something from a red person, how can I help? And the next morning, the chairman of the board was making breakfast for the programmers who had pulled an all nighter.
Seth Godin (32:29):
And we kept that momentum going for six weeks and it was thrilling and it was marketing, right? Because I didn't have the authority to do any of things. But I told a story and I made the story concrete, which is, we're all gonna lose our jobs. If radio shack and target canceled their orders for this Christmas, that's not in dispute. What's in dispute is how are we going to not lose our jobs? Why is this important? That's a story. And the story can be the pirate flag that hung over the Mac team. At the beginning, the story can be the open Mac license plate that John Luca SA had. The story can be the way you call meetings and where the meetings are held and who sits, where at the table, the story can be how exactly you do your pitches because the art of the pitch is really important.
Seth Godin (33:23):
And the arrogance of not having practical empathy and insisting that people see what you see and that you don't need to pitch. Well, that's not going to get you very far. So all of these things are designed problems. They're designed problems just as much as user interface is a design problem. And so in my book, this is marketing. That's what I'm writing about. How do you tell the true story? How do you see status roles? How do you get engagement and enrollment? What does it mean to make better decisions? This is such a great time to be a designer, but it's not a good time to be a type setter. So that's the fork in the road.
Eli Woolery (34:02):
It's a story you told when you were at, I believe it was Cal Fussman was interviewing you that your dad would only pay for college. If you studied engineering and I can empathize with that. Cause I wanted to go to art school, but my folks wanted me to study engineering. So I chose product design, which is the only engineering program where you could also take art classes, but maybe you could talk a little bit, like what are the hard skills right now that people should be focusing on? And you know, in a time when automation and artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming so powerful,
Seth Godin (34:33):
My two sisters went to engineering school as well, all three of us. And I think my dad fought every day. So there's the difference between art skills, soft skills, real skills. If it's easy to measure, we tend to measure it, call that a hard skill, hard skills that are easy to measure are getting less and less useful because we can outsource them and we can get a computer to do them. I don't call them soft skills. I call them real skills. Real skills are hard to measure. And they range from truly human behavior, like empathy, like willing yourself to show up on time, like making promises and keeping them like becoming an empathic voice around the table. All the way to what I learned in engineering school, which is understanding sunk costs, figuring out how to make interesting choices and making assertions. This is the work of science that can be measured.
Seth Godin (35:29):
So I think everyone should read the classics. Everyone should have an understanding of what literature is, but think if you're going to go to college, you should study engineering and do that other stuff as filling in the blanks because figuring out how to solve a problem with a solution, everyone should know how to do that. That's really hard to do on your own, but if you can be in a product design, mechanical engineering, even chemical engineering setting, when you say, yeah, that is the right answer, it gives you way more foundation to be able to make creative assertions about what could come next, as opposed to simply saying, I'm not really sure this is sort of airy, but I will put on a show for you. That's important, but I think it's insufficient. It really helps to be able to also say my code compile
Aarron Walter (36:21):
Sets as we draw to a close what's going on in your life that you're very passionate about right now.
Seth Godin (36:27):
Well, I think you could tell from my rants, this is one of the things that I'm the most passionate about. I looked at the state of education five or seven years ago, the state of people learning from books. And I said, I would like to contribute here. And that's why we built the altar MBA and these other online communities that we're building these workshops. I don't do online courses anymore. I think the whole idea that people are going to watch a video and learn something that's not bad, but it's hardly worth paying for. And so I wake up every day excited about the fact that we've had 20,000 people graduate, that we're not just changing them, but they are changing 10 or 20 people each. And I don't have to add many more cycles before. We're starting to influence a lot of conversations among a lot of people.
Seth Godin (37:13):
And I have a tiny team in the studio, seven or eight people hundred plus coaches around the world, watching these people level up, watching them become part of this organism. That's thrilling. So that's my day job, but I'm also really inspired by in the middle of a pandemic. All of the people who are putting aside their pain and their fear and saying, how can I help? What can I organize? How can I show up to lead? Because the only way through any slog is from leadership and leadership, doesn't come from people with authority. It comes from people who care and I'm gratified to see that it's still persisting. The Internet's used for a lot of horrible things. A lot of trolling, a lot of misinformation, but at its best, it's a microphone for people who can say, follow me, let's go over here and who do. And I think that's open to way more people than realize it.
Aarron Walter (38:15):
I love it. Where can people learn more about Alton BA and more of Seth in their life?
Seth Godin (38:21):
Well, you can find out about all our workshops, including the alt firstname.lastname@example.org. A K I M B O. My podcast email@example.com. And if you type Seth into your favorite search engine, like dr. Go, I ought to be the first match in and all my blog posts are there for free.
Aarron Walter (38:36):
Fantastic. That's golden. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for your generosity and spending time with us and all the work. Yeah,
Seth Godin (38:45):
A real pleasure. Keep making this ruckus. It really matters. Thank you both.