My day with Seth Godin

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Seth Godin is brilliant. His no nonsense, common sense riffs on leadership, business, and life can be eerily mind blowing. In fact, sometimes his writing can be so uncomplicated, that it can almost feel like he is writing what you are thinking, but you didn’t know you were actually thinking that way.

All that being said, when I went to Seth’s event today at the Helen Mill’s Theater in New York City, it was not as a fanboy or blind sycophant. I attended as a nonobjective person with no preconceived notions of what to expect.

The main reason I flew up to NYC from the Caribbean was because in the very near future my wife and I will sell our business and I need to get moving on some ideas and projects that I have been holding off on. My feeling was, perhaps Seth’s wisdom would be just what I needed at this stage to start taking action and creating.

Below is a bulleted list snapshot of my notes. I apologize to you in advance that they are kind of all over the place and the fact that I am not doing Seth justice. However, many of his responses were based on riffing off of audience questions and I wanted to be listening and not writing.

Perhaps you will get some nuggets that can help you.

  • Seth started off talking about the industrial revolution and the assembly line mentality.
  • He went on to discuss how mass marketing was invented to sell more product and if you ran enough ads you could potentially make more money to run more ads.
  • Seth asks, “What killed marketing?” The answer, “CLUTTER.” Meaning that manufacturing got so good that there are too many choices and the consumer’s natural instinct is to purchase the cheapest version.
  • Then he moved on to discussing how the internet is a connection machine and it leaves out mass marketers because when people purchase products now they talk to each other online (word of mouth).
  • In the last ten years no major brand has been built on mass marketing (not Amazon, JetBlule, etc).
  • It’s 2011 and this is the revolution! People are lucky to get one in a lifetime and this is our revolution because people/individuals now have the leverage.
  • With respect to a JOB, you cannot make a good living being told what to do. And the person who follows instructions is needed less and less.
  • You want to be seen as the person who is hard to replace. Anybody can take orders or follow instructions.
  • If you had to make a choice for a doctor, for a bricklayer, computer programmer, whatever,… YOU would pick the best. So you want to be that person who is irreplaceable.
  • Average (business or employee) is a race to the bottom.
  • People are lonely and want to connect. The feeling of being left out is powerful. There are insiders and there are outsiders.
  • Attention spans are going down.
  • You want to be so good that people WILL only buy from you. And you have to identify early who your customer is because you will not appeal to every one.
  • How do you tell the world you’re remarkable? How do you make people have conversations about you/your product? You make things worth talking about!
  • Simply, you have to be notable and need to create a product that is going to be missed if it’s gone. This does NOT work for the masses!
  • No one buys facts. We buy stories. You can get shoes anywhere, but ZAPPOS has a great (customer service) story.
  • To be talked about today you have to be wiling to take a risk.
  • If you have a business story to tell, it’s much better the first time. Tom’s shoes works for Blake because he was the first. You don’t want to be the third person giving away a pair of shoes.
  • If you’re a marketer, being loud or louder, doesn’t work anymore.
  • Huge challenge today is being seen as the best and what (or who) do you have to give up in your niche to be the best.
  • The internet is a connection machine for tribes and circles of people that trust each other.
  • You DON’T deserve a tribe but if you’re very lucky you might earn one.
  • Today, it’s not about finding customers for your products. It’s about finding products for your customers. What can you make or create for your tribe.
  • Be a human. Do acts of genius. Humans selling to humans.
  • Seth provides general thoughts on Kickstarter, Ideo, and Dropbox.
  • Early adopters are the people you want (not the mass market).
  • Important distinction: it’s not early adapters, it’s early adopters.
  • How do you continue taking care of your tribe? Answer: have interaction and solve problems in an interesting way.
  • Want to shoot for maximum return on inspiration.
  • You must treat different people differently. Your best customers must be treated the best!
  • If you can whisper and talk (not shout) to your tribe, then it’s working. Not about how to yell better but it’s about how do YOU dig deeper?
  • Innovation is a step at a time. Not a jump off a cliff.
  • When you’re stuck in the dip and wondering if you should quit/give up, analyze what others have done. Investigate their failure.
  • Refuse to be in the commodity business.
  • The world needs compliant cogs but it does not have to be you!
  • (Regarding debt) If you have to ski down glades, don’t wear three backpacks. Meaning, you need to be agile.
  • Give the person of the month award NOT to the person who makes the fewest mistakes, but to the person who fails the most.
  • On social media – Twitter can be like crack for the lizard brain. You need to quiet the world around you if you want to create art.
  • In today’s world, you must live the story you want to tell.
  • This revolution is the revolution of our lives. You need to be lean, failing and focused on your tribe.
  • Figure out how you can fail five times more often than you do now.
  • How you can build up a reputation that you can turn into a brand?
  • You need to be the one we can’t live without.
  • Marketing to strangers is dumb and you shouldn’t do it. You want to market to friends.
  • The resistance (to create) is the lizard brain. You never heard of anyone with talker’s block, have you?
  • We do emotional labor and it’s hard. But that’s good because if it wasn’t everybody would do it.
  • When thinking about projects, you must think about scale and you want to be so remarkable that you make the competition invisible.
  • A freelancer gets paid while working. Entrepreneurs get paid when sleeping. You need to decide which one you are.
  • If you’re in a place where you can’t fail, then you can’t succeed.

As a final note, I wanted to mention that I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with Willie Jackson (@williejackson on Twitter) today. Willie is the Chief Technology Officer of The Domino Project and he does WordPress development and optimization as a side hustle. You should hire him.

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Mark Hayward


13 thoughts on “My day with Seth Godin

  1. Edgardo – I did get to ask him a question. I wanted to know what he does when he gets up and doesn’t feel like creating, or writing, or pushing himself.

    And he said that it’s good to feel that way and it’s a privilege because if it was easy everybody would be doing what he does. Essentially, Seth takes it as another challenge and he stressed that (what he calls) the lizard brain is making you fearful.

  2. Great summary. It’s easy to get the point and main message of the conference. Thanks for sharing.
    saludos desde PR.


  3. Hello Mark! I congratulate you for such a great summary. I was there as well and took some notes as I could on my htc smartphone via Evernote app. Today I was editing my notes and found your article while trying to get clarification on some ideas from Seth Godin’s previous articles. I can tell that you faithfully captured the essence of Seth Godin’s 6 hour talk. Your summary is as good as his talk. Thank you Mark, you are the man! You made my day!

  4. Thanks for the summary Mark. Being out here in LA, this trip wasn’t possible right now, so I’m glad you filled us in.

  5. So interesting- thanks for the bullet list, Mark.

    Can I ask… what were the reasons Seth gave for wanting the early adopters, instead of another slice of the market? I’d be curious to hear more about that in particular.

    1. Mark – because they are the most passionate and they are going to be the ones that help to spread the word about your great work.

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