Seth Godin

Take a look at who’s succeeded, and you will find years of hard work. You’ll find ages of failure, of torment, of showing up. Again and again and again and again.

Two of my heroes are Brene Brown and Seth Godin. Brene was a focused researcher for years before her books went mainstream (before that she was an alcoholic). Seth ran multiple failing companies. Seth has had many projects go nowhere.

You’ll find the pattern repeat over and over. It’s the way of the leader. Failure and consistency are the marks of a successful life. You must fail to win.

I just finished Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. Like all of Godin’s work, it was excellent. I highly suggest you check it out if you’re interested in creative work.

Here is one of my favorite lines in the book: six daily habits for artists.

  1. Sit alone; sit quietly.
  2. Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.
  3. Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.
  4. Spend time encouraging other artists.
  5. Teach, with the intent of making change.
  6. Ship something that you created.

You can find more great quotes here.

I’m finishing up Seth Godin’s book All Marketers are Liars. There are a lot of major ideas in the book. This post is a taste.

Marketers tell us stories. A great example of this deals with car buying. If you buy a Prius, you’re communicating to the world that you’re smart and eco-friendly. If you buy a Jaguar, you’re communicating that you value class and can afford expensive tastes. If you don’t buy a mini-van, it’s because you don’t want to be seen as a soccer mom.

It doesn’t matter that the Jaguar is made by Ford or that it isn’t as reliable as, say, a Honda.

It doesn’t matter that the SUV you bought instead of the mini-van is more dangerous, less fuel efficient, and less comfortable.

Sometimes these stories are true like with Starbucks and providing a great coffee experience. Sometimes they’re not like with Beats headphones, which don’t actually provide great sound quality for their price point.

The power of the placebo is real.

What’s it matter if the expensive, organic soap you got was made considerably cheaply and doesn’t offer that noticeable of a difference in terms of cleanliness? It’s about the story that you get to tell yourself about the type of person that you are because you bought that soap. It’s about how you got to feel buying it at the store. As Seth would say, it’s about the lie that you told yourself.

Seth’s point throughout the book is that all marketers aren’t liars. No, they’re storytellers. They’re telling you stories that relate to the lies you tell yourself.

But it’s more complex than that.

Because sometimes the storytelling is actually manipulative and harmful to our health and to the world.

It’s a great book. It’s intentionally provocative, and I don’t agree with everything, but it’s compelling at the least. I highly suggest you give it a try.


“That is where breakthroughs lie.

If you keep poking around the expected, it’s unlikely you’ll be surprised by what you find.”

This is a short blog post by Seth Godin. Follow him at

Any time you say there are two types of anything, you’ve set yourself up for being wrong. Life is much too complex and nuanced for bifurcations, just as it is for absolutes; always and never are almost always never the right thing to say.

Notwithstanding these facts, saying there are two types of marketers is useful to demonstrate a point.

Recently, I came across this post: The 20 Best Marketing Podcasts (From the Playlists of CEOs & Marketers).

As someone interested in marketing, I decided to queue most of these in my podcast feed. What I discovered was that a lot of these marketers are the prototypical marketing scum; namely, they’re greedy. They do what generates traffic and an audience rather than what they actually believe, they spend their time thinking and worrying about how to scale their business rather what really matters in life (the legacy they’re leaving), and they follow marketing trends rather than create meaningful projects. We might call these the Greedy Marketers.

On the other hand, there are the Meaningful Marketers like Seth Godin. Seth is pushing hard to create insightful content. He pushes his audience to “make a ruckus” by challenging the status quo and doing the work that matters most by finding the minimum viable market. He isn’t worried about being the richest, so he isn’t chasing trends.

He’s taking the Star Trek approach rather than the Beverly Hillbillies one by focusing on developing a project that is substantive rather than appealing to mass markets.

This marketing approach isn’t centered around secret tactics or guile. It focuses on meaningful ideas that spread or quality content worth sharing.

In both camps, there is a niche understanding about human nature – the relationships between how people see themselves and how they’d like to see themselves, the tension between status and authority, and the elements that define perception. All marketers, in other words, study what makes us resonate with stuff and why. But the difference lies in those who use it to manipulate and those who use it help people be their best selves and become creators.

Seth Godin in his book This is Marketing advances the idea that a professional puts aside their authenticity using emotional labor to do a job that is useful to others.

Emotional labor, he writes, is “The work of doing what we don’t necessarily feel like doing, the work of being a professional, the work of engaging with others in a way that leads to the best long-term outcome.”

He suggests people don’t care about the bad day you’re having or the details about your personal life, and if you have a job that allows you to be your most honest self, you’re just an amateur with a good gig.

It makes sense. As a professional, you have a duty to perform the work you’ve promised, and work does tend to be utilitarian or impersonal transactions.

Notwithstanding the idea’s commonsensicalness, it’s dangerous.

Human beings are not services or products to be simply useful in a society of kind of accepted systems of thinking.

Sure, you do your job. But we are more than institutions.

We are people, with complex personalities, each trying to find our way along these made up systems that we kind of agree on, each with a social responsibility to our communities – to our neighbors, and cashiers, and the kids we hire to mow our lawns.

You have a duty to do your part in creating an accepting, caring, appreciative, and helpful world.

The kind of impersonality that has become accepted during the rise of industrialism is a large contributor to the many problems we see in the world – the abundance of mental health issues, the lack of fairness in our democratic processes, and increasing inequities.

You are more than just a person doing your job. You are a person, who is busy and trying to survive in a hypercompetitive environment.

But understand this: If you abandon good-naturedness, empathy, and the love necessary to create a better world, you might be more productive, but you have failed the next generation because you’ve created one more small divide in the common humanity that unites us.

Seth Godin says that it’s dangerous to be average, to appeal to the masses. You look just like everyone else. You’re just another individual. This idea is conveyed in this TED talk.

Platitudes that hold up: 1. A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. 2. Fortune favors the bold.

Authenticity often feels a lot like discomfort, like insecurity that something you do won’t be accepted.

So you have to cultivate social courage.

It can be hard, especially while you’re navigating your identity in your 20s. But you have to step out. You can’t go along to get along. That’s how we remain mired in the same problems. That’s how systems fail.

Make the move. Wake up each day and ask yourself how you can live a little more true to your conviction. Each day is a small step until eventually you realize you’ve created something genius.

Here’s a great Janelle Monae song in case you need some inspiration: