Five Genius Lessons You Can Learn From Seth Godin Hands Down
Of course, Seth Godin needs no introduction to most of you reading this, but the TLDR of it is this — he’s the author of 19 books including titles such as Linchpin and Purple Cow, he wrote 8,000 odd blog posts and founded companies such as The Marketing Seminar and YoYoDyne. In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. So I thought it could be interesting to share with you today five genius lessons from Seth Godin.
Trying to nail down Seth Godin’s greatest strength is no easy task.
He’s a brilliant author, marketer, speaker, and entrepreneur, but above all that, he’s truly mastered the art of getting straight to the point. Whether he’s writing a blog post, delivering a speech, teaching a class, or giving an interview, he holds true to this way of doing things. Seth’s body of work speaks for itself — 19 bestselling books, he’s started and sold a number of successful companies, speaks all over the world and has fundamentally changed the way marketing is done in the 21st century.
So why do I look up to Seth Godin, especially since I don’t work in marketing?
It’s because I know he’s someone who cares and is passionate about helping others. From what I can tell, it’s not about him but it’s about the contributions he’s seeking to make to others and to causes that are important to him — like education. Seth talks a lot about being remarkable. Being different and standing out, finding your purple cow. Being a leader. Getting to that point, however, requires us to take time away from our desks, open our minds to the endless possibilities around us and formulate a process, a direction, a goal to chase.
Whether you find the free prize or not, this post will make you think.
About your life. About work. About just about everything. Why? Seth Godin is an endless fountain of insight. Because it’s a distillation of lessons from a man named Seth Godin. Seth Godin is an author, an agent of change, a meaning maker, and an idea merchant.
So, here are five genius lessons from the Seth Godin himself!
Seth Godin has built a massive and diverse global audience because he’s an inspiration and a role model to many people and business owners. That said, let’s dive into five genius lessons from Seth Godin that you’ll enjoy. There’s countless more where these came from, so if you’re not familiar with Seth Godin you should check him out!
Lesson #1: Be Remarkable
The world is full of followers. So when you see someone that is willing to consider things and come at the world from his own point of view, they stand out. If you want to be one of the pack, then follow. But you will never be a leader that way. If you want to make change, you have to create your own opinions.
Challenging the status quo for leaders of a company means providing alternative ideas for ways the company operates.
According to Seth Godin, being a leader isn’t so much a position of authority, as much as it is using whatever kind of influence you have and leveraging it for the sake of the cause, whatever the cause might be. In order to do this well, leaders must challenge the status quo. To move from mediocrity to greatness, we must venture out. To build something substantial, we must take a strong stand. To create something meaningful, we must create significance. Nothing great is ever achieved by doing things the way they have always been done.
Seth Godin has been challenging the status quo for years.
He has in business, marketing, publishing and more. Currently he is doing this in education. His altMBA program is a perfect example of doing something totally different because the status quo is not working. Online education is largely free, and anyone can do it, but the drop out rate is 99%. So Seth Godin has created a program that is exclusive and expensive…and it’s successful. Breakthroughs happen outside the comfort zone. If you want to be unforgettable, take on big projects and jump at an opportunity to accept bigger responsibilities. It may not guarantee you the success you want, but it will help you grow.
Remarkable. You’ve probably used it a few times yourself. But what does it really mean?
You’ve heard the word tossed around in meetings, snuck into blog titles, and worked into recommendation letters. The way Seth sees it, there’s a stark difference between doing something that simply gets noticed, and doing something that’s truly remarkable. When you do something remarkable, people begin telling others, and the word about what you’re doing spreads in a very genuine manner. But getting people talking is only half the battle. His analogy is that it’s easy to get noticed by wearing plaid to a funeral. But is that remarkable? Absolutely not. The real challenge is to get people to remark about what you’re doing, but to do so in exactly the way you want them to.
Most companies attempt to go straight for the early and late majority, by creating products that will hopefully appeal to everyone.
But if the biggest part of the cake — that “juicy middle” — ignore you, and the laggards will only start caring when most people have already moved on to something new, you need to design your products and services in a way that will inspire innovators and early adopters instead. And for Seth Godin, the only way to do that is by creating a product or service that’s so useful, interesting, outrageous, and noteworthy that the market will want to listen to what you have to say. So instead of pouring all your thought into marketing your products in different ways to attract more people, try to spend some time creating purple cows.
Lesson #2: It Might Not Work
The world is changing too fast. If you want to fast-track your business or life, you need to take the initiative. Seth Godin is successful because he’s not afraid of publishing extremely shorter articles on his blog. He’s not afraid of building mediocre products. He takes action. He fails and learns from his mistakes to create something truly remarkable. Over the years, you learn how to live with that little fear in the back of your head. You need to. If you don’t, you’ll find it’s seemingly impossible to think outside of the box and take risks.
Seth Godin has explained the psychological power behind why he regularly tells himself that his next big creative risk, simply might not work.
Rather than trying to convince others that a new endeavor — like his radically different altMBA online workshop, for example — will be an immediate success, Seth makes it very clear there is always the possibility of painful failure. That’s just what happens when you take a business risk. Instead of burying that fear of failure, he challenges himself to dance with his fears. All too often, we allow our primal fears to negatively impact our decision making process when it comes to things as simple as public speaking, or trusting your instinct on a critical business decision. When in fact, the act of reminding yourself that you simply do not have all the answers, and that failure is a very real possibility, is a vital personal development stage in progression towards becoming a better version of yourself.
All of the things that might not work do two things.
It provides feedback for how to do it next time around which is incredibly powerful and it drills into your brain the importance of having this mentality. It counter intuitively allows for you to become more confident and to continue to try new things, which is the only way to create anything in this world, and soon you develop a different perspective of the world and things start working — not all the time, but enough of the time to make it worth your time. If you want to create work that is remarkable, you have to be willing to try new things. If you try new things, you will fail. That’s just the way life works. But as we get older, we stop ourselves from taking these risks. We have to be willing to fall down if want to make great things.
Living with so much uncertainty is hard. Human beings crave information about the future in the same way we crave food and other primary rewards.
Instead of resisting, we can practice acceptance. Because acceptance allows us to see the reality of the situation in the present moment, it frees us up to move forward, rather than remaining paralyzed (or made ineffective) by uncertainty, fear, or argument. To practice acceptance, we surrender our resistance to a problematic situation, and also to our emotions about the situation. Accepting a situation doesn’t mean that it will never get better. We don’t accept that things will stay the same forever; we only accept whatever is actually happening at the moment. Practicing acceptance in the face of difficulty is hard, and it’s also the most effective way to move forward.
The difference between being willing to fail and unwilling to fail is taking risks.
If you are one who is not willing to fail in a particular area of life, you will make sure that you have no opportunities to fail. The key words in there being no opportunities. Security will always have the drawback of closing doors. The point is, like in skiing, the goal is not just to slide to the bottom of the hill, the goal is to have a bunch of good ones before the sun sets. And so what great people do is not to have one dip in life and say we are done, but to look for the next dip always when they are done with one.
Lesson #3: Be Consistent
Seth Godin is the King of consistency. He has written a blog post every day for years. Every day. Each day he shows up for his audience and gives them something to think about. Sometimes they are short and sometimes they are long. But he shows up without fail. When he started, his audience was small. But by showing up every day he has built one of the largest followings in the world.
Be patiently impatient. Or perhaps impatiently patient. Do what you have to do to succeed and do it fast if at all possible. But realize that success can take time.
Earning trust from anyone, first entails giving them something for which they can trust. Seth is now incredible successful, but he hasn’t always been, at least financially. It’s no mystery that he’s been able achieve such success, in part because of the fact that he’s been playing the long game all along — he’s been helping people and providing value to as many people as he can, not because he has to, but because that’s who he is. You set up a brand new social media channel in no time at all, but no one is using it — should you close it down and do something else? It took Twitter 2 years to catch on. Imagine if they had given up after a few weeks or months.
If you truly want to make change for people, you need to recognize that it will take time.
Buying ads on Facebook, Google or anywhere else may get some sales but it is not going to build customer loyalty. Trust takes time to build and ultimately, your greatest customers will be those that continuously connect with your brand message and with your story. You need to consistently provide that emotional response from your smallest viable audience in order for them to recommend your product or service to friends, and become your sales people. You need to be consistent in order to be able to keep doing your work in a way that other people will appreciate. Because if you’re a wandering generality, we don’t know when to listen to you, because who are you trying to please today? So that’s a calculation: there are certain choices that you need to make about what you’re going to do and you must be consistent in them.
Giving your customers a consistent experience with your brand will make your business well known among customers in your target market.
If this is done right, your customers think of you first anytime they have a need your product can or service can fulfill. This can only happen when you consistently deliver positive experiences to customers. Coca-Cola promises refreshment and fun, that’s why each time you open a bottle of coke, you expect to be refreshed and energized. Most people will always default to Google searches because their experience with Google every time is faster and with more accurate results. Brand consistency can expose your business to a whole new level of marketing, where customers think about your brand automatically whenever they have a need. This makes it an uphill task for competition to win your customers, and as a result, your business will retain a larger customer base.
Consistency makes you reliable.
Today’s consumers know they have a whole spectrum of options to choose from, so they’ll quickly move on if you don’t give them what they need. Customers expect a similar experience every time they go to you, so make sure it continues to be a good one. If they enjoy their experiences, they’ll keep coming back; this builds recognition and helps your brand gain clout. By keeping your branding consistent, you can grow your customer base while staying true to the people who believed in you from the beginning. No matter how quickly your business grows, don’t lose track of your values. It’s important to adapt along the way, but you should understand your audience and grow along with the people who support your endeavor.
Lesson #4: Small Is The New Big
You cannot change everyone — not everyone has the desires to be fulfilled. You cannot be truly helpful to everyone — not everyone has the same problems and you are not providing a product or service that solves any problem for anyone. You can’t be loved by everyone — it is far better to beloved by few rather than be warm liked by many.
Who really cares about what you do? Your product or your service is truly valuable to a small group of people.
When you ask yourself this, you can really focus your marketing efforts to resonate with this small group. In our globalized world, it would be extremely difficult to not find a specific audience that wasn’t big enough to allow us to have a business. This is where the world ‘viable,’ comes in. Just really focus on the few that you can truly provide value for. Minimum viable products have been all the rage ever since Eric Ries released his influential book, The Lean Startup, back in 2011. But too many entrepreneurs forget the V, and end up release half baked solutions to poorly defined problems onto unsuspecting recipients. Oftentimes, this results in an ‘MVP hangover’, particularly if the market of recipients or potential customers is small, and results in bridges being burned that can take a long time to rebuild.
Most business leaders fall into the trap of believing that the more people they have in their tribe, the better and stronger it will become.
But that’s not necessarily true, particularly when just starting out. You need quality tribe members, people who will communicate with other members of the tribe and also introduce their like-minded friends to your cause. You can often strengthen a tribe by creating a feeling of insiders versus outsiders. Successful business leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far move powerful than a larger group could ever be.
According to Seth, social media metrics are all about the numbers.
Your follower count, your likes, your clicks — it’s easy to fall into the temptation to get those numbers up. It’s a “race for mass,” that pushes you to create more content to reach more people. But that dilutes your power. If you make something everyone wants, you have to be average. And to aim for average, in a medium that can so powerfully attract passionate people when used right, seems like a waste of that power. Rather than connecting a single product or message with a wide audience as in the days of TV or radio, social media can connect your content with bundles of audiences defined by specific interests. If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s not the smartest strategy.
Minimum Viable Audience is the smallest potential market that you must lock or serve to maintain your business plan and make sure it survives.
It is the minimum number of people you have to serve for the sustenance of your work or business. According to Seth’s Blog, it is best to study the needs of your audience and develop an excellent product instead of creating an average product for the mass. If you can thrill and captivate your minimum viable audience by giving them the product they want and need, you will observe that this group is not so small after all. You will also learn that even if it is just a small group of people, satisfied customers will share their stories (your product or service) with other people, and you can build your market in no time. You are not making a customer for your product. You are making a product for your customer.
Lesson #5: Love What You Do
Yes, passion is a buzzword that’s used far too often in the marketing world, but that’s because it’s immensely important. As a business leader, passion is mandatory. Your passion supplies your tribe with inspiration and energy to support your collective cause. Passion is so powerful because it can’t be faked. People know it when they see it and more importantly, they know when it’s not there.
Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it.
Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you’re going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with. The most successful leaders, from CEOs to even celebrity “fan girls,” have genuine passion that rubs off on their audience, their tribe. If you find yourself having to force your passion, you might not be part of the right tribe.
Once you decide to trust your self, you will have found your passion. You’re not born with it, and you don’t have just one passion. It’s not domain-specific: it’s a choice.
Our passion is simply the work we’ve trusted ourselves to do. This is worth deconstructing, because the strategy of “seeking your calling” gives you a marvelous place to hide. After all, who wants to do difficult work that doesn’t fulfill us? Who wants to commit to a journey before we know it’s what we were meant to do? The trap is this: only after we do the difficult work does it become our calling. Only after we trust the process does it become our passion. “Do what you love” is for amateurs. “Love what you do” is the mantra for professionals.
The best way to be successful is to love what you do. When you decide on doing something, you must put your whole heart into it.
When we love what we do we will never get tired of it. We won’t let failure ever be part of our goals. We would always aim for excellence and do the best we can every single time. Our passion makes us crave for constant improvement. Also, it’s our love for our work that encourages us to keep doing what we do even if we encounter several challenges. We don’t let setbacks stop us from being successful. We use those challenges to become better and improve ourselves. So find a job that you won’t only enjoy but you will love. Stick to that and continue to challenge yourself each time. Use your passion to produce excellent works. Don’t quit even if things get tough.
I am pretty sure that Jeff Bezos loves his work and that is why even though he has all the money in the world, he keeps working on creative and innovative ideas.
Tom Cruise gets a kick out of pushing the limits of innovation while performing his own stunts. And The Rolling Stones will never stop performing because they love being on stage! It is easy to work hard and put in the long hours and work through the frustrating moments when you love what you do. If you love what you’re doing, then it will turn into your passion and your work will be great, and your life will be great.
It’s incredible how much you can learn when you keep an open mind and try to look at things differently. If you can create a mindset to treat your work as art and just focus on doing the thing you love and create amazing art, then all the other issues like finding clients, getting paid, and competing with other business owners fade away.
There are countless ways to make a point. But making a point isn’t the same thing as making a difference.
To make a difference, we need the practical empathy to realize that the other person doesn’t know what you know, doesn’t believe what you believe and might not want what you want. We have to move from where we are and momentarily understand where they are. When we make a point, we reject all of this. When we make a point, we establish our power in one way or another, but we probably don’t change very much.
Do work that matters for people who care. Create change.
Don’t be afraid to innovate. It’s risky, Seth Godin concedes, but you must embrace the risk of failure. Without failure, you’ll never become successful. Creating a story that resonates with your audience will help create a sense of community, which is integral to your future success. Build a culture, a tribe. Figure out where your audience is and meet them where they are.
To start your tribe, whether it be of employees or customers, begin by sharing an idea with the world.
You don’t need permission or funding to build a community and find your tribe; you have a smartphone and passion. Create content that explains your vision or explains your thought process to an audience. If genuine, well-thought-out, and engaging, it will help you naturally attract and form a bond between your tribesmen. Effective leaders don’t mind messy, playful, creative, unorthodox, and counter-cultural if it’s in service of the right end, the higher propose, the ultimate value.
Be that purple cow. Be remarkable!
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you did, feel free to check out some of my other leadership posts on the blog and join us to get more help and insights on leadership and business alike. So those are my 5 lessons from Seth Godin. What are yours? Fell free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.