Lessons Learned from Seth Godin
“Busy does not equal important. Measured doesn’t mean mattered.” – Seth Godin
There’s a hidden message in this post – it’s your free prize inside. Whether you find the free prize or not, this post will make you think. About your life. About work. About just about everything. Why? Because it’s a distillation of lessons from a man named Seth. Seth Godin is an author, an agent of change, a meaning maker, and an Idea Merchant.
I have to say, this was my most challenging “greatness distilled” post to date. Seth is a fountain of insight, and I wanted to do more than show the tip of the iceberg. At the same time, I wanted to take the balcony view, look across his forest of ideas, and make a map of the most meaningful insights. I won’t claim victory, but I smile inside as I think in the spirit of Seth, I won’t let perfect get in the way of the good. I’m hoping people will share their lessons from Seth with me, and the map will go beyond my sketch and take a life of its own. For now, this is my “Seth on a page.”
25 Lessons Learned from Seth Godin
As you explore Seth’s work, find what you can use for the business of life, or the game of work. If you walk away with the goal of finding 3 ah-has, you’ll change your frame … and a key to life is that if you change your frame, you change your game.
Seth is full of lessons and insights.
Here are 25 lessons to chew on:
1. Have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.
Seth says — “Life is like skiing. Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill. It’s to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.”
2. Be remarkable.
Boring is invisible. Remarkable products and remarkable people get talked about. Seth on remarkable — “How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”
3. Success is a skill.
Seth’s philosophy on success is — "it’s possible to enjoy your job, to do the right thing, to be transparent, to give more than you get and to be successful, all at the same time." It takes work. Surround yourself with people who are succeeding. You become who you hang with. By surrounding yourself with people who are succeeding, you’ll learn what’s working and what’s not. You can model their success and open doors that you might otherwise not see. Seth on successful people – “"Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far."
4. Being the best is the best place to be.
It’s better to be the best. People pick the market leaders and they narrow their choices to the top. Seth says, “Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.” According to Seth, best in the world is relative – “It’s best for them, right now based on what they believe and in their world, the one they have access to.” In the Dip, Seth shares 7 reasons why you might fail to become the best in the world: 1.) You run out of time, 2.) you run out of money, 3.) you get scared, 4.) you’re not serious about it, 5.) you lose interest or enthusiasm and settle for being mediocre, 6.) you focus on the short term instead of the long, 7.) you pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world.
5. Be missed.
Seth on how to be missed — “Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed.”
6. Everybody is an expert about something.
You’re an expert at something. Make meaning. A SQUIDOO lens is a way to make meaning for others. Seth on lenses – “A lens gives context. When it succeeds, it delivers meaning.”
7. Success is a hierarchy.
Seth teaches us the hierarchy of success: 1.) Attitude, 2.) Approach 3.) Goals 4.) Strategy 5.) Tactics 6.) Execution
8. Don’t do A as a calculated tactic to get B.
Do A because you believe in it. Seth on success – “If we define success as the ability to make a living doing what I do, I’d say the following: 1.) No ulterior motive. I rarely do A as a calculated tactic to get B. I do A because I believe in A, or it excites me or it’s the right thing to do. That’s it. No secret agendas, 2.) I don’t think my audience owes me anything. It’s always their turn, 3.) I’m in a hurry to make mistakes and get feedback and get that next idea out there. I’m not in a hurry, at all, to finish the “bigger” project, to get to the finish line, 4.) I do things where I actually think I’m right, as opposed to where I think succeeding will make me successful. When you think you’re right, it’s more fun and your passion shows through, 5.) I’ve tried to pare down my day so that the stuff I actually do is pretty well leveraged. That and I show up. Showing up is underrated.”
9. Be in it for the long haul.
Things rarely come easy. Make the journey worth it. Chip away at success. Seth says — “Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that’s how long it’s going to take, guys.”
10. Quit the right things and lean into the right Dips.
Winners quit the right things all the time. Recognize when you’re in a Dip. Pick the right Dips. In the Dip, Seth teaches us 3 curves: 1) the Dip, 2) the Cul-De-Sac, and 3) the Cliff. The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. The Dip is where success happens. Stick it out, only if you’re going to get the benefits of being the best in the world. The Cul-De-Sac is where you work and work and work, but nothing much changes. These are dead-end jobs. The Cliff is a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off. If you’re in a Cul-De-Sac or Cliff, you need to quit. You need to quit these so you can refocus on something with promise.
11. Decide if you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur.
In the Bootstrapper’s Bible, Seth teaches us that a freelancer sells their talents. While they may have a few employees, they’re doing a job without a boss, but not running a business. There’s no exit strategy or pot of gold, but they make their own hours and be their own boss. Examples include layout artists, writers, consultants, film editors, landscapers, architects, translators, and musicians. Seth writes that an entrepreneur is trying to build something bigger than themselves. They take calculated risk and focus on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours, and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value.
12. It’s like walking through a maze.
Seth on building a business from scratch — “Learn as you go. Change as you go. Building a business from scratch is like walking through a maze with many, many doors. Once you open one, 100 new doors present themselves. As you move your way through the maze, you need to stop and check your location. Look at a map. If you’re in the wrong place move. But if you’ve discovered a new place, there’s nothing wrong with exploiting it.”
13. Everyone is not your customer.
Seth teaches us the key to failure – “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Listen to your real customers. It’s not the media, the investors, or the early adopters. Seth on everyone is not your customer – “The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them. Ignore the early adopter critics that never have enough to play with. Ignore your investors that want proven tactics and predictable instant results. Listen instead to your real customers …” Seth on figuring out what your customers really want — "Most people have no clue what they want, and if you ask them, you’ll get a lame answer. Most people don’t know they want Pretty Woman or Slumdog Millionaire. They don’t know they want Purple Cow or one of your killer articles. So if you want to have an impact, all you can do is lead. You can’t ask."
14. Feed, grow, and satisfy the tribe.
Build your tribe. According to Seth, “You can lead a tribe of people, connect them, commit to them and create a movement.” Seth on building your tribe – “It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about. Everything the organization does is to feed and grow and satisfy the tribe.”
15. Small is the new big.
Focus on relevant, specialized, and unique. It’s the difference that makes the difference. According to Seth, small helps you be remarkable – “Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others, while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable and tell stories to people who want to hear them.”
16. Find the new scarce.
Where there’s scarcity, there’s value.
17. It’s the FREE PRIZE INSIDE.
Seth teaches us how to create a remarkable product – “The thing that makes something remarkable isn’t usually directly related to the original purpose of the product or service. It’s the FREE PRIZE INSIDE, the extra stuff, the stylish bonus, the design or the remarkable service or pricing that makes people talk about it and spread the word.”
18. The third century is about ideas.
We went from farms to factories to ideas. Seth on the third century – “Fact is, the first 100 years of our country’s history were about who could build the biggest, most efficient farm. And the second century focused on the race to build factories. Welcome to the third century, folks.”
19. Spread your ideas.
Be an idea merchant. Spread your ideas. Seth on being an idea merchant — "If you can get people to accept and embrace and adore and cherish your ideas, you win. You win financially, you gain power and you change the world in which we live." According to Seth, spreading is a formula of 8 variables: Sneezers, Hive, Velocity, Vector, Medium, Smoothness, Persistence and Amplifier.
20. Don’t wait for perfect.
Test your ideas. Learn and respond. Don’t wait for perfect to land in your lap, and don’t let it get in the way of sharing a good idea. Seth on testing ideas – “I’m in a hurry to make mistakes and get feedback and get that next idea out there.” Seth on perfect — “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.” Seth on doing it well now, is better than perfect later — "The minute you start walking down a path toward a yak shaving party, it’s worth making a compromise. Doing it well now is much better than doing it perfectly later."
21. Don’t get paid to alter your behavior.
Be authentic. There are two types of sneezers – the promiscuous sneezers and the powerful sneezers. Promiscuous sneezers can be motivated by money and rewards to sell ideas to a hive. Powerful sneezers have authority by setting a trend and can’t be bought. A powerful sneezer can be worth many more times a promiscuous sneezer. Seth on staying a powerful sneezer — “After I left Yahoo!, I had many opportunities to serve on boards and do endorsements. I chose not to. Why? Because I didn’t want to squander the powerful sneezing points I’d earned by writing my last book. … In every case, you’re getting paid to alter your behavior. That makes you more promiscuous and less powerful.”
22. The goal of reading is to choose what to change.
Find 3 take aways when you read a business book. Seth on how to read a business book – “Decide, before you start, that you’re going to change three things about what you do all day at work. Then, as you’re reading, find the three things and do it. The goal of the reading, then, isn’t to persuade you to change, it’s to help you choose what to change.”
23. The world changes whether you like it or not.
The world’s getting bigger and smaller. Seth on how the world is changing – “The world’s getting bigger because you can look everywhere, but it’s also getting smaller because categories are getting specialized.”
24. The game of marketing has changed.
It’s not price – it’s relevancy, difference, and value. Marketing is now tribal leadership. Small is the new big. Fire customers that aren’t right for your business. Attention is an asset. Permission marketing works better than spam – “Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.” You take word-of-mouth marketing to the next level with IdeaViruses. Tell the stories people want to believe. Products that are remarkable get talked about. Be authentic. You can’t fool people. According to Seth — “You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people, once unfooled, talk about the experience.” Marketing is an investment. Seth says, “If you are marketing from a fairly static annual budget, you’re viewing marketing as an expense. Good marketers realize that it is an investment.”
25. Feed, grow, and satisfy your business.
Plan for the money. If there’s no money, you’re out of the game. In the Bootstrapper’s Bible, Seth shares 9 rules to take care of your business: 1.) find people who care about cash less than you do, 2.) survival is success, 3.) success leads to more success 4.) redo the mission statement and the business plan every three months, 5.) associate with winners, 6.) beware of shared ownership, 7.) advertise, 8.) get mentored, and 9.) observe those little birds that clean the teeth of very big hippos.
Top 10 Seth Godin Quotes
Here are my top 10 favorite quotes by Seth:
- “Expectations are the engines of our perceptions."
- “Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death.”
- “Go ahead, do something impossible. “
- “You can’t shrink your way to greatness! “
- "Don’t try to please everyone. There are countless people who don’t want one, haven’t heard of one or actively hate it. So what?"
- “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
- “Why waste a sentence saying nothing? “
- “If you could do tomorrow over again, would you?”
- “Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.”
- “Are you a serial idea-starting person? The goal is to be an idea-shipping person.”
Seth Godin Quotes Organized by Category
I’ve included some of my favorite Seth Godin quotes below. For simple scanning, I’ve organized them using the following categories: General, Business, Change, Greatness, Ideas, Leadership/ Management, Marketing, Mediocrity / Status Quo, Strategy.
|Leadership / Management||
|Mediocrity / Status Quo||
Seth Godin’s Resources at a Glance (Sites, Books, Videos)
Seth has a wide range of resources, from blog posts to books. For simple scanning, I organized Seth’s collection of resources into the following buckets: sites, books, eBooks, videos, and popular posts.
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Photo by jurvetson.