Seth Godin

Seth talks about how writer’s block is a myth, what it takes to be a professional, and why the world needs more artists who love what they do, despite the uncertain outcomes.

Deep Dive: How to be a professional
Deep Dive: How to be a professional

Deep Dive: How to be a professional

Ep
96
Aug
31
With
Seth Godin
Or Listen On:

Be a professional.

In this Deep Dive episode, we’re taking you back to 2018 where we got to chat with marketing legend, Seth Godin, during one of our livestreams. Seth is the author of eighteen best selling books and the founder of the acclaimed online workshop altMBA, so…we’re pretty sure you will love this episode.

In this value packed conversation, Seth talks about writer’s block, what it takes to be a professional, and why the world needs more artists who love what they do, despite the uncertain outcomes.

The conversation kicks off by Seth defining what he believes school is really for. Over the years, kids have gone into school with the promise of a solid career, financial stability, and a good quality of life.

But for this to happen, students have to follow a curriculum that rewards their ability to pay attention. It’s a system that has repeatedly limited the creative freedoms of students, so much to the point where we are seeing less and less problem solvers. Seth mentions that school should only teach you two things in particular: how to be a leader, and how to solve interesting problems. Measuring the experience of students, versus their grades/resumes, opens the door for more creative thinkers and leaders.

Speaking of solving interesting problems, what does Seth have to say about alleviating the problem of writer’s block? Surely, we’ve all experienced this; where we just can’t get the words down on paper and sit there completely and totally stumped.

Well, we’re sorry to burst your bubble, but writer’s block really is just a myth. Writer’s block is really just a feeling. When we say we “can't write,” that’s really the feeling we have when we say we can't write anything that's perfect.

For more from Seth, tune in to the full episode.

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Episode Transcript

Greg:
Hey, it's Greg. Welcome back to another deep dive episode of the Futur Podcast. This one comes from a 2018 live stream we did with acclaimed author, Seth Godin. I'm sure you've heard that name before, but if you haven't, you're in for a real treat. This might be my favorite live stream we've ever done and not just because it's with Seth, but because every moment of the conversation loses value. People ask some great questions and Seth, of course, provides some great answers. I'll skip the bullet point intro because I think Chris really nails it once the stream gets going.
Now, if you're wondering whether or not you should listen to this episode, the answer is you absolutely should. I think everyone should. Enjoy.

Chris:
What's up, everybody? Today could not have come sooner. As soon as I knew this guest, our next guest, coming on the show, I was super excited. And here we are, I'm not going to tell you who it is yet, but you're definitely not going to want to miss this episode. Stop what you're doing. Drop it, tell a friend. Tune in right now because on our show, we have Seth Godin.
I want to say two things before I run through my deck. First is I'm starting this episode with a little bit of regret and remorse in my heart because there are more questions, I'm going to have than the time permitted to do this. This one's going to be weird. The second thing is Seth has done an amazing job of sharing his thoughts making it visible in written form and doing videos and all that kind of stuff.
I'm going to be honest. There's probably no question that hasn't been asked of Seth at this point in time, but I feel like this could possibly be if I do my job well with the help of Ben Burns and the rest of the team and you, of course. This could be the best of. With that, let's jump into it. Let's look at my deck.
This episode is going to be epic. How epic? Well, let me tell you some facts about Seth Godin. He's a best-selling author of over... or I'm sorry of 18 books that have been translated into 35 languages. He's written and spoken on topics such as the post-industrial revolution ways, ideas, spread, marketing, of course, quitting, leadership. And he's written a bunch of books like Linchpin, All Marketers Are Liars/Tell Stories, Purple Cow which many of you, guys, probably know about already, the Dip, Permission Marketing, the Icarus Deception, and Tribes.
He's written a blog post a day every day like forever, guys. Forever. That's a lot of posts. Because of that, he's got one of the most popular blogs in the world. 2018, he was inducted into the marketing hall of fame. He's a mass of tremendous following on Twitter over 663,000 followers. He's credited as inventing commercial email, not spam. We can talk about that a little bit more. He's also been the first to develop educational games, raise something like over $225,000 for a Kickstarter book project.
He's created the altMBA. Again, we'll talk about that. He's described himself as a person who notices things for a living. We like to call him troublemaker because the things he does and talks about is truly remarkable. Well, who am I talking about? Of course, I already told you. We have Seth Godin on the show, you guys. Please welcome, Seth. All right. Seth, my brother from another mother, I've dressed up for you today.
I know that you like a little flare of color. You, guys, can't see it, but I'm wearing blue glasses. This is the closest I have to yellow, so my orange tie.

Seth:
I got a little purple trim on my jacket here.

Chris:
Beautiful. Beautiful. First of all, thank you for doing this. I know you're a busy person where to spend the next 60 minutes with you. And so, I'm going to just dive right in, if you don't mind. Okay. You did this TED Talk which really caught my eye and attention. It's something that I feel very passionate about. It's felt like you were speaking directly to me, a talk called Stop Stealing Dreams, and what is school really for?
Some of the summary notes just to get you guys caught up with speed and in case you guys want to, Ben's going to drop the link in the chat box and also in the description below, you guys. Some ideas that are kind of radical to some who don't know anything about Seth, he talks about maybe we should do homework during the day and lectures at night. It should be open book, open note all the time.
We should be able to take any course anytime and anywhere. And instead of doing math education, it should be precise focused education. He wants to end multiple choice exams. Instead, we should measure experience versus test scores and compliance as an outcome. You talk about resumes and what that's a form of. We'll get into that.
Cooperation versus isolation. To amplify the outliers, the people on the edge and teachers should be coaches. We want to create lifelong learners at an early stage and to put an end and death to the famous college. I'm going to start up and just tee you up for this one because I want to hear you pontificate on this. What is school for? You ask this question a lot in the TED Talk.

Seth:
Right. The core… First, thanks for the great intro.

Chris:
Thank you.

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:04:55] We need to ask that question. My answer isn't as important as every parent, every kid, every teacher asking the question, what is school for, because my answer might not be right. My answer is two things, teach kids how to lead, teach kids how to solve interesting problems. That's it, because if you know how to lead and how to solve interesting problems, you will always be able to find a job. You will always be able to create value, and you will never get bored.
That's the opposite of what school was for 100 years ago which is train compliant factory workers to do what they're told and work cheap. I don't think we need that so much anymore. I think we need the other thing.

Chris:
Well, there's an issue that's coming up a lot now with artificial intelligence and machine learning. It seems like what you're saying is even more relevant today. I got back recently from the Philippines. They're one of the world's largest call centers. They're already being replaced and displaced in ways that I think is going to cause massive disruption in their local economy. This idea of creating obedient compliant people is part of the system that was created to teach us in theory.
What are the alternatives right now? What would we do differently? If we could just start over and design school systems for the economy and the information age we live in, can you give us some ideas on that, please?

Seth:
Well, let's begin with this. If it's worth memorizing, it's worth not memorizing because the amount that you can look up online if you know what to look up is close to infinity. What's the purpose of knowing how old George Washington was when the revolutionary war happened? Just look it up. We begin with this. Competence is overrated. If we can write down your job, we can find someone cheaper than you to do it.
In fact, the thing we find to do it might not even be a person. That means we need to teach kids to eagerly do jobs that cannot be written down. The pressure in a universe with call centers is, top down, we're pushing people to do ever more menial labor. Bottom up, we're pushing computers to do that same job. People are getting squeezed in between.
The alternative is to be a linchpin to race to the top and to say, "I solve interesting problems," problems that no one solved before. If you can look it up, don't call me. I'm the person who can help you if you can't look it up.

Chris:
Wow. That sounds wonderful, but in such a large society, is that a realistic endeavor for everybody to be able to solve problems that can't be solved? [crosstalk 00:07:31]

Seth:
I'm not worried about it. I'm not worried about everybody. If it happens to everybody, that would be fascinating. Come back to me then. I'm worried about you and your kids and those kids and those kids, and those kids that to get five million people to take this leap would be unbelievable. [crosstalk 00:07:48] 50 million would be astonishing. The issue is not... It's like when someone says we should eat healthy, people don't show up and say, "Well, what will happen to the Doritos company," because the fact is you can talk about eating healthy all you want. McDonald's is still going to be busy.

Chris:
You do an interesting thing where you asked your audience, and I hope I'm not giving anything away to everybody to raise your hand as high as possible when they do so and then you say raise a little higher and they're able to do that. Why is it that we raise our hand, but we hold back? What is it about us how we're hardwired or what we're taught that makes us [crosstalk 00:08:23]-

Seth:
I don't think we're hardwired. I think we're brainwashed. We're brainwashed by the industrial economy. The industrialist and we've known this for 100 years. There's a [inaudible 00:08:33] more than that Karl Marx saw it. There's a tension between the boss who wants unlimited effort for no money and the worker who wants to do as little as possible.
The reason the worker wants to do as little as possible is she knows that the boss is going to ask for more. We took that model and took it to coaches and to teachers and to the system. Everyone holds back because they know the boss is going to ask for more. The people who don't hold back are artists. You don't see a playwright saying, "I had a really good line I could have put in this play, but I saved it for my next play."
That never happens because when we're doing art, we say, "How can I do more?" When we're doing work, we say, "How can I do less?" That's the difference between art and work.

Chris:
If you love what you do, does that make you an artist or is there more to that?

Seth:
I think there's more to it. I think it's possible to decide to love what you do.

Chris:
I see.

Seth:
If you're on the chain gang, and you know you're going to be there for a year, you can spend a whole year hating what you do or you could brainwash yourself into loving what you do because why not spend a year doing something you love. What I'm saying an artist does and a lot of artists I know hate what they do is you are staring into the void that you are doing work that might not work. You are doing work without a manual. You're showing up to make change happen in a generous way that you're not sure is going to work. That's really frightening.

Chris:
If you do things that are risky that things that might not work, then you're heading towards becoming an artist/

Seth:
I think that's true because what we got trained to do as compliant cogs in the system was find deniability, find authority, find the established protocol, take good notes and repeat back to the teacher what we learned. That's not what solving interesting problems are.
Solving interesting problems is, "I don't know the answer to this. Let's figure it out." I can't remember the last time we taught a kid how to do that in a typical school.

Chris:
Now, I don't think you do this often, but you don't really talk about your personal life too much, your wife. I believe you have a kid or multiple kids.

Seth:
Yeah, I don't talk about them. It's their life to have, not mine.

Chris:
Okay. Have you been able to incorporate some of your ideas into the way that you parent?

Seth:
Yeah.

Chris:
Can you expand on that a little bit?

Seth:
No.

Chris:
Okay. Asked and answered. Okay. Moving on, all right, there's something else that you talk about that I want to just highlight here a little bit in terms of mentors versus heroes. Can you speak about why you think maybe we don't need mentors so much?

Seth:
Well, so there's this trope, and it's pretty new, the hustle people. Go find yourself a mentor. That mentor will look out for you. That mentor will pull you along. That mentor can change everything. But if you can find someone like that, please by all means, but let's do the math. For every successful person in the public eye, there's 2000 people who want that person to be their mentor. How does that math work?
Mentors don't scale. The alternative is to find heroes. They don't even need to know you exist. You can ask yourself, "What would Susan do? What would Tracy do? What would Bob do?" And use their voice in your head as a compass to help you go on a path because heroes are easy to find. They scale like crazy. Before you hide by saying, "Well, the reason I'm stuck is I don't have a mentor," maybe what you ought to say is figure out the Shazam method, the strength of S and the diligence of H, and the persistence of A, and the inside of Z. Whatever heroes you want to assemble as your advisors, go find those heroes. Then, start. You don't need anyone's permission.

Chris:
Did you come to that thought out of any reaction to people, I imagine, constantly asking you to be their mentor?

Seth:
In fact, it's what prompted the thought, but I stand by it even if no one had ever asked me.

Chris:
I'm just curious as a person who's so visible, who's so prolific in writing and speaking, do people just mob you at these talks after you get off the stage?

Seth:
People are generally very respectful, and I'm thrilled at that. Every once in a while and, unfortunately, it's happening a little bit more now, people are in such pain that they forget that the other person they're dealing with is a person. It's interesting at Disney World, the stuffed animal characters have security guards. The reason is people were pinching Tigger and Mickey as if because that other creature is wearing a mask, you're invisible which is, of course, not true.
Often, what we do is if there's someone we see who we know from afar, we feel like there's an ability to connect with them in a different way, and it's not true. I am super open to having calm non-anonymous conversations with people. I prefer not to do it by email because it's asymmetrical. Most people are really respectful with me. If they're not, I just have to excuse myself.

Chris:
Does that happen often that people cross over boundaries that aren't respectful of your space?

Seth:
No. Not that often. I'm super lucky to be able to do what I do [crosstalk 00:14:07].

Chris:
Fantastic. Ben, do you do we want to hit the internet yet or the-

Ben:
Yeah.

Chris:
... [crosstalk 00:14:12] questions?

Ben:
Absolutely.

Chris:
Give me a good question, please.

Ben:
All right. This comes from [Jazzvir Sidhu 00:14:16]. He's asking what are some daily habits to unbrainwash yourself?

Chris:
Well, that's a good question.

Seth:
Why was the brainwashing so easy? I mean it took 12 years, but it works. It works on so many people. Why is that? Because the promise has two pieces, three pieces. Part one in the future, there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is how you will succeed. Promise number two, if you listen to what I say, I will not punish you.
The promise number three is this will make you less afraid that if you wait to be told what to do, it will make you less afraid. It's an irresistible set of promises. The habit, and there's just one, is regularly find generous work that scares you, not selfish work that scares you, generous work that scares you.
If you can dance with the fear, it won't go away. It will never go away, but you can learn to use it as a compass so that when the fear shows up, you can say, "Oh, that feeling I'm getting, that's reminding me I'm on the right path." That is the habit, once a day, five times a day, 50 times a day. This is why I'm so confirmed that everyone should blog every day even if no one reads it.
The act of blogging every day is a generous way to confront your fear. If you do it for 100 days in a row, you will be able to look back and see 100 signposts you laid out on the ground to say, "Here, I made this. I made this. I said this. I gave this. I showed this." Do that a hundred times in a row. That's a habit.

Chris:
Now, you've done things on the edge quite a bit. You've pushed boundaries. You've made some tremendous innovations. We talked about the earlier in the opening of the show. I'm curious what do you do today that scares you from time to time or are you constantly scared?

Seth:
Well, I'm getting older, so I'm not as good at scaring myself. The new book-

Chris:
Oh fantastic.

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:16:38] the inside is pictures of hundreds of my fans who sent in their picture to be on the inside of the book, but I did that once already. I did it inside a Tribes, so I knew it was going to [crosstalk 00:16:50]. You hit your 50s, and you start doing... you steal from yourself. But my work is to figure out how to share emotions and stories with people to turn lights on for them.
The part of it that scares me is wasting the privilege, wasting the leverage, wasting the opportunity. That's why I keep pioneering and pushing new ways to do it and encouraging people to copy me because if someone copies one of my methods, I don't have to do it anymore. I can go on to the next thing.

Chris:
I think you talked about in one of your lectures about how the cyclist was laying down and then is able to speed ahead of everybody else. Then, the guy on the moped sees the idea. Then, he copies it. You said, "Well, here's the scary part," is after you innovate, you can't just stop there. You have to keep innovating. You have to keep pushing towards that edge.

Seth:
But I also said, "And that's the good news," that are a lot of people who would like it to be once and done. You climb Mount Everest once, and you get to be famous for the rest of your life. That might have been true for Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa, but it's not true for the rest of us [crosstalk 00:18:08] catches up too fast.

Chris:
How do you balance that when you achieve something and you push the boundary and you surprise yourself and others and then you quickly realize that's... now, you have to go on to the next thing. How do you take in that moment to celebrate it and then move on without feeling depressed that now you have another thing to do?

Seth:
Well, I don't know how you feel about lunch, but the way I feel about lunch is I try to do it every day. When lunch is over, I don't get depressed. I just start [crosstalk 00:18:40] tomorrow's lunch.

Chris:
I think some of us could probably skip a lunch, but, yes, you're right. Fantastic. Okay.

Ben:
Well, I got to tell you guys, there's almost 400 people watching, and I'm going to say roughly about 75% have a new haircut now because they want to tap into the secrets of your success. Everybody's going out and buying razors and doing a new do.

Chris:
That's right. Only successful people are bald. That's just 100%. Yes. You have to have funky glasses too.

Ben:
That's right. Yeah.

Chris:
And possibly wear a suit, possibly. On a lighter note, lighter note so people can process what they've heard thus far because there's a lot of information that's very packed in here, on a lighter note, I know that you wear suits quite often. Do you have a favorite brain or tailor that you go to that you feel like this is the suit maker for me?

Seth:
I want to go through cycles? About six months ago, I decided to switch to Lululemon.

Chris:
Why did you do that?

Seth:
I don't know. Early on, there was an Armani cycle because the suits used to fit me right. Then, there's this company in New York called My Suit that's cheap, but custom. Did that for a little while, but I needed to wear a suit for a long time because I worked at home by myself. For 15 years, I went to work sort of naked.
I made a rule which is if I'm going to leave the house for work, I'm going to wear a suit like one extreme or the other.

Chris:
Naked or suit.

Seth:
But now, the whole world has gotten way more casual. I got [crosstalk 00:20:28] here in the office with me. It feels to me like there are audiences I speak to where it's not necessarily appropriate [crosstalk 00:20:36]. And I thought, "All right. Time for a shift." So, I shifted.

Chris:
Okay. My wife is a fan of Lululemon. She brings me there. I don't practice yoga or anything like that. I'm actually quite inflexible, but she showed me some of their jackets in their clothing. It seems like you can wear it in a casual place. You can go to the gym in it. You can also go to the board meeting which is fantastic if you travel a lot because you don't want to pack a lot of clothes with you. [crosstalk 00:21:02].

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:21:02] go out without even taking a shower in between.

Chris:
I would caution some of the young listeners to definitely shower. Some of you guys think a little bit. Okay. I have another question here. I guess you've touched on this and you've said this before, "Whoever fails the most wins." Are you a winner because you failed a lot?

Seth:
Well, if I'm a winner it's because I failed a lot. Yeah. Now, the key to that sentence is understanding that if you fail too big, you don't play anymore. That means you're not going to fail the most. Part of failing the most is strategically failing at the right scale.
When I was a book packager, I would send out a proposal, 30 proposals a month, 20 proposals a month, 40 proposals a month to different people. If any of them didn't work, I was only out 50 cents. That's really different than being a real estate developer betting everything you own on a building that sits vacant because now you're out of the game.
My mindset here is find a space where you get to play for a while long enough that you can get good at it by failing and make it so that your failures serve a purpose. They're not annoying other people. They're done in the service of generosity.

Chris:
I love that wow. The original sentiment was pretty powerful, but what you just did there to expand on that is to teach us to make small calculated risks, so you can be in the game long enough to succeed because I guess a failure is... A true failure is like your final failure where you have to end and give up, right?

Seth:
Fail small.

Chris:
Yeah. I love that. Okay. Let's see here. Ben, you have another good question from our audience on YouTube?

Ben:
Yeah. Seth, this comes from Chris Anthony. What is the biggest mistake that people make when they're trying to craft a story or storytelling?

Seth:
I would say two. The first one is they don't try to craft a story, but the second one is that they do it without empathy. They think people care about them. They think people believe what they believe, want what they want, know what they know.
What practical empathy is, is the generous act of realizing that other people don't know what you know, don't want what you want, and that's okay. Then, going to them based on their world view and telling them a story that fits into the way they see the world because if you can't get enrollment from them, they're not going to listen to you. That's the heart of telling a useful story, not an authentic story because I think authentic is way overrated, but useful, what a professional would do which is telling the story to a person in a way that they can use it to move forward.

Chris:
Well, that's a lot for me to process there. Usually, I'm pretty good on these shows, but it's too dense because [crosstalk 00:24:12]…

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:24:12].

Chris:
It's too heavy.

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:24:13] right into the deep end.

Chris:
Oh my god.

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:24:15] off the high dive.

Chris:
Well, because so many people talk about trying to be authentic. Now, he's like, "Hey, forget about authenticity. Just useful."

Seth:
Well, let me tell you what I mean by that.

Chris:
Okay. Please.

Seth:
If you need a haircut, I'm told, you have to go [crosstalk 00:24:31] If you get there and you've gone all the way across town, you don't want the barber to say, "I really don't feel like cutting your hair. I just had a fight with my girlfriend." No. Be a barber because you promised you were going to be a barber. I don't really care whether you're having a bad day. I hired you to have a good day right now with me. That is what it means to be a professional.
There is a tiny, tiny group of people on the internet who make a living bearing their soul. That's a form of entertainment, but that's not for the rest of us. For the rest of us, authenticity like what did you feel like this morning, I don't care. I just know you told me you could make a change happen for me. You promised me something might happen. I'm interested. Let's do it. That is a professional's work. That's not the work of, "I don't feel like it."

Chris:
Right. Well, that's a perfect segue into something I heard on your podcast which is you go in to tell us the history of like why writer's block or creator's block was... how it was invented. You say, "Well, plumber doesn't have that luxury. He doesn't have plumber's blog. He can't show up and say, 'I'm not feeling like unclogging your drain.'" Can you expand on this idea that's writer's block is just a thing that we got to get over?

Seth:
All right. I got to tell you. I went to see a movie this weekend called Can You Ever Forgive Me which is really good, really. In it, the main character goes to a party of a bunch of authors like an agent's party at a fancy apartment. There's this blowhard pontificating at the party on and on quoting me without using my exact words about how writer's block is a myth.
After about 30 seconds of it, she turns and says, "What a jackass." [crosstalk 00:26:23]

Chris:
This is on the movie?

Seth:
Yeah.

Chris:
Oh my god.

Seth:
My wife thought it was hysterical. Anyway, I may be a jackass, but I'm correct. Writer's block is a myth. What does that mean? It means that feeling that we have when we say we can't write is really the feeling we have when we say we can't write anything that's perfect, that we are certainly capable of writing poorly. No one has writing poorly blocked.
If you write poorly enough, your brain will give up and sooner or later, you will start writing well. I take umbrage to people who say, "I don't know how you do that." How do you write like, "No." No one says that to a plumber. No one says, "Ah, how did you find the energy to fix a toilet?" That's what you do.
Go ahead and write. If you want to write poorly, write poorly. If you want to tell me your writer's block, first, show me all your bad writing. If you can show me 50,000 words of bad writing, then, maybe I'll tell you you're not a writer, but until you've done 50,000 words of bad writing, you have no idea if you're a writer or not.

Chris:
We'll be right back with more from Seth Godin.

Greg:
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Seth:
I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of designers that are listening to this who and I've had part of my team tell me this, Chris. We just can't turn on the creativity whenever. I have to be inspired to make this thing, and I think part of that comes from their fear of I don't want to do something that you're going to judge me, and I'm only as good as my last piece of work. I'd rather sit here and do nothing. We've run experiments like this with groups that we coach where we say half you guys just make a piece of artwork every single day and the other half make one masterpiece.
And, of course, we already know the outcome of this, the people who do something every single day wind up making masterpieces in just the daily pursuit and most of the people who were asked to make a masterpiece missed the deadline. They never finished.

Chris:
Ben, you were like saying like somebody wants to comment on this.

Ben:
Yeah. This is a question from Darren By Design. He asked how do you overcome that fear of sharing what you know? How do you overcome this quest for perfection? Is it [crosstalk 00:29:52] Sorry. Go ahead.

Seth:
You cannot overcome it. You can dance with it. The harder you try to overcome it, the more you're giving it power because what it means to overcome it is you are saying, "I will be creative as soon as I get a standing ovation from my brain." Your brain will not give you a standing ovation because it's afraid.
What you have to say is, "I will be creative especially when my brain is freaking out that every day at four o'clock, I'm going to ship something." If you make that commitment and keep doing it, then, you will become creative.

Ben:
Perfect. Everybody in the comments is like, "#procrastinationarmy." I'm so guilty of this.

Chris:
It's touching a nerve for sure. You guys, you don't have any more excuses. You got to get over it. You got to stop using mentors as a crush and saying, "You aren't where you're supposed to be because nobody will help you." There are a lot of heroes out there that you can learn from today
Okay. I have to admit, in doing research for the show and watching a lot of your talks and I come across your conversation with Gary Vaynerchuk and from the outsider and also reading the comments, there's a lot of people Angry, Gary, for asking you questions and cutting you off, but I watched it several times.
At first, I thought, "I think Seth is pissed off." He says, "I'm going to walk out on you," but then, you're still smiling. You guys are still hugging and touching each other, and everything seems to be okay. Can you clear the air for us? Are you mad at Gary? What's going on there?

Seth:
Oh, oh I'm not mad at Gary, Gary being Gary, back to this idea of authenticity and being a professional. Do you think that Gary's like that all the time everywhere he goes? No. Gary is Gary playing the role of Gary. I know that, and he knows that. We're fine. It's great. It's not professional wrestling or, I guess, maybe it is [crosstalk 00:31:43] playing a role too.

Chris:
But there was one point in there he started talking about something where I did seem... I thought I saw a real reaction from you about when it came to science. No. Let's not get into superstition. This is science and that's science. That's it.

Seth:
Exactly, because that's not a laughing matter. That's not something to fool around with. It's a matter of life and death. People are totally entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts. And facts are what got us here. I mean you and I are 3000 miles away connected by satellite for free talking to each other on machines that would have cost $10 million 15 years ago all of which were based on facts.
I don't want to give facts up. I don't want to give up the facts that gave us clean water and they gave us all the benefits that we've gotten that people who are watching this did not wake up this morning wondering if their kids were going to die of food poisoning. I'm really glad that that's true.

Chris:
Okay. Perfect. Thanks for clearing that up because there was a lot of speculation and videos made after the fact analyzing play-by-play what was happening, not a very good analysis by the way. There you, guys, heard it from Seth's mouth.
Okay. There's a hard transition here. I want to ask you a different question, and I believe what you believe I think in this whole idea of education system being created like this factory thing to make compliant obedient workers to exploit them for their labor, I think. And I was asked this question during a talk, and I didn't have a great answer. I'm pretty sure you're going to have a much better answer than I did.
You went to Stanford. You're a well-studied person. You've gone through education. You read prolifically. If you are a part of that system, how would you have turned out if you weren't part of that system because we're talking about changing the system or at least asking the question of what school is for?

Seth:
Sure. Well, first, I'll say this. If you are super lucky like me and you have support from amazing parents and you get a pretty good head start which gets you the magic grades, which gets you into a super famous college that you can afford to go to knowing that you were going so you could get a job at Bain or McKinsey or Accenture or Goldman Sachs and that's what you want, then you should go that going to one of the top five business schools is the single highest yield way you can make a lot of money if you want to be a management consultant who flies around the world or someone who moves money from one pile to another.
But for everybody else, it's a massive waste of $250,000 in tuition and opportunity cost. You don't have to take my word for it. We've got tons of data about this. Here's one fascinating one that I got from, I believe, Malcolm Gladwell or a book about Harvard, one or the other, which is this. If you look at people who got into Harvard and went and you compare them to people who got into Harvard and didn't go, both groups are equally happy and equally well off.
What does that tell you? What it tells you is there's a sorting mechanism that's going on. Sometimes, an imprimatur can pay off, but four years is a really long time. Hundreds of thousands of dollars is a lot of money. What happened to me as an undergrad, the thing that mattered the most to me in college by far is I co-founded with three other people what became the largest student-run business in America.
We had 400 employees at a college with 4000 students in it. I started a new division every week. We had a birthday cake service and a ticket bureau and a coffee shop and a temporary employment agency, and a bagel delivery service and on and on and on. I only got paid 50 bucks a week to do it because it was semi-related to the school, the sense that we got their insurance and stuff, but that act of when I didn't have to pay rent and when I didn't have to support a family that I could start a new business all the time, that's when I got out of college more than anything.
What I say to people is if you're going because you think you can comply your way to success, keep getting an A until when you get to the placement office, you get the ultimate A which is you get picked for a great job. Then you do an A-level job there, and you move up and you move up and you move up. Well, you're living in 1961. That's left the building.
Instead, figure out how to build the life with low enough overhead where you can be a creator of ruckuses, the kind of person that goes into the world and makes things better by making better things over and over again because that's how you're going to learn how to fail. That's how you're going to learn how to solve interesting problems. Then, the world will start a line at your door instead of you having to get picked by them. They're going to say, "Please, help me with this problem." That's what we need to be known by. We need to be known by our work, not our resume.

Chris:
Ben, you got another question? I have more questions and I'm just a little nervous because I'm watching the timer countdown, and it feels like sand slipping through my fingers, Ben. I do want to talk about this a little bit. You talked about how Henry Ford was able to do something rather remarkable. He was able to take a person who was getting paid I think $5 a day at that time and got them to be paid $50 because he taught him a specific skill that they can make and learn how to make profit off of that.

Seth:
It was 50 cents to $5.

Chris:
I'm sorry, 50 cents to $5. It was a gigantic jump. Was that a good thing that has happened or is that not a good thing?

Seth:
Oh, it totally changed the world. It changed the world in a whole bunch of ways. The bad news is it paved the planet. The good news is it went to a whole bunch of people who were used to scraping by, and it made the middle class, not only did Ford's employees become middle class, able to send their kids to school through 12th grade, able to buy a house, but it raised the bar because it meant if you wanted to compete for those workers, you got to do the same thing.
Henry Ford more than anybody is responsible for inventing the middle class of America. That's really good. The magic of industrialism is how productive it made people. We went from a car needing, I don't know, 3000, $4000 worth of labor to a car needing $200 worth of labor because it was so efficient.
But the thing is that was a long time ago. Once you get to 200, you can't get to 20 until it's all robot based. At 20, that means there's no one to do the work. The industrial thing is over now, that everything is so cheap and so perfect it's really unlikely you're going to make a lot of money working on an assembly line doing industrial work because we found a computer to do it instead.
The new evolution is the one that says, "Wait a minute. Everyone has a keyboard. Everyone is one click away." Here you are talking to people around the world, and none of them have met you before. You've built this resource without a building, without millions of dollars. If you add a zero to that number, it will make an even bigger difference. Well, if you add two zeros to that number, you'll be independently wealthy.
The question is how will human beings enter this connection economy without too many scars left over from the industrial economy?

Ben:
This relates to a great question that we have from the comments. This again comes from Jazzvir Sidhu. He asked, "How do we integrate that education and learning into the workplace without disrupting things like deadlines and productivity, things like that?"

Seth:
Well, there's no chance you're not going to disrupt everything. Isn't that what happened when Henry Ford showed up. When Henry Ford showed up, there were 2300 car companies in the United States. Think about that. He killed them all because here he was selling $600 cars and his competitors were selling $3000 cars. Boom. They were all gone. Henry Ford was not a hero to the people who ran 2300 car companies.
The same thing is true if you look at what does a newsroom look like, go look at all the president's men or even spotlight. The newspaper used to be organized a certain way, but when you take away the paper and you take away the need for everyone to be in the same building, what does the newspaper look like today? I think it looks a lot like what we're doing right now.
All of a sudden, people say, "Well, you've disrupted everything." I'm like, "Yeah. We have."

Chris:
Do you get called upon by companies to help them to innovate their way out of a box like you were mentioning newspaper companies and traditional publishing companies are having a hard time making this digital jump? I see you out there saying, "Hey, guys, this is the problem. Everybody, wake up." Do they call you in and say, "Hey, help us out, Seth."

Seth:
Well, I don't do any consulting at all. That never happened. The reason is I would think if I took someone's money, I'd better be able to solve their problem. I don't think I can solve their problem. I think I can describe the problem. I didn't tell them how I would solve the problem, but it's up to them to solve it. Instead, I spoke to the Newspaper Publishers of America 22 years ago, and I described in detail how they were all going to disappear.
I didn't do it to be mean to them. I did it to them with them because it wasn't too late, and I'm not always successful because what we know from the innovator's dilemma is that successful companies are usually the last ones to do giant leaps because they don't want to give up what they already got. And by the time they don't have it anymore, it's too late.

Chris:
Well, as a person who talks about catering to the edge and paying attention to what happens on the edge, do you write and do you make content because you want to be that light tower for companies to say like, "Wow, he's seeing something, and you're connecting things like you notice things as what you've said before," so that they can hopefully save themselves and the many people that depend on them on making the right decisions?

Seth:
Yeah. Most of what I do is not on the edge. In '92, when I started an email company, I was on the edge because almost no one had email. In '98, '99, when I wrote permission marketing, it was super controversial. If you look at the response to the new book, there aren't very many people saying, "I'm a wild-eyed crazy person."
That's because, over time, innovators have the choice to move through the curve to reach more people or they can stay as innovators. If we look at a company like Apple, for 25 years, it was a company where their customers were nerds, early adopters, and edge cases. Since Steve has died, Tim has chosen to change the company to one that almost never innovates in a significant way but, instead, offers a different kind of upside to a different kind of user.
As I am shifting more and more to being a teacher, my goal is not to say something so revolutionary that no one ever thought of it before. My goal is to talk about things that are important in ways that people can understand in ways they haven't understood before.

Chris:
Okay. Is that the arc that you're out on the edge and then you say things that are pretty radical and eventually you take those ideas and you help to kind of spread them towards the middle? Is that what happens?

Seth:
Yeah, well, because I'm a teacher, I didn't take the posture of saying, "How do I always look for a new thing?" I believe the revolution started in 1990. We're only 28 years into it. This is our revolution, and I've been chronicling it for those many years. The revolution is getting a little less revolutionary because the revolution is connection. That's it.
I keep writing and talking about what does it mean that we can now connect to all the data in the world to all the people in the world, all the workers in the world, to all the customers in the world. That's my thesis. It might have been the same for 28 years.

Chris:
Well, I really admire how you're able to go out there and write and share what you know. I have a question as in terms of your process when you're giving a keynote because I've been watching many of them, I'm curious about how you prepare for these things. I have my own theories, but I'd like for you to talk about that if you can.

Seth:
Something I innovated about 25 years ago is a different way to use PowerPoint. I wrote a book called Really Bad PowerPoint booklet. In it, I said you should never put bullets in a PowerPoint presentation because if you want to give me words, send me a memo. PowerPoint is great at showing me pictures. Then, I can say the words with my voice or I can send you a memo.
Now, I can go to both parts of your brain, the part of your brain that's going to see the picture of the cow in the pasture and the part of brain that's going to hear the words about what that means. My presentation now, it changes every time, but it has between 150 and 250 slides in it that I cover in 45 or 50 minutes.
Everyone one of those pictures reminds me of a story and I tell the story differently every time depending on who I'm talking to. That's my template. Now, one out of every five times, that's not what I do. One out of every five times I either don't use any slides at all or do all new-ish material, but most of the people who hire me to give a talk would prefer I do something that works as opposed to something that has never been tested. That's what I do.
It doesn't bore me that I have greatest hits. It pleases me that I have greatest hits. I feel like I can deliver those greatest hits in a way that's coherent, that fits in with my new ideas and my old ones and that resonate with people. What I have found is even people who have seen my stuff more than once, and I will put you in that category, don't say to me it's boring the second time which is what they'd be saying if I was a comedian, but they say to me, "Oh, I saw something in this the second time I didn't realize that was there."
That's what I'm trying to do is open the door for people to have a conversation after I leave. I would like to change what happens around the conference room table after I'm done.

Chris:
I have so many questions because as a person, you're so prolific in writing and creating content. I see these slides, and you were able to find both obscure stories about people and some strange slides that get everybody to laugh like the sun with the bird, the seagull with the crossing like no seagulls. There's a seagull on top. Do you have an assistant that digs these things up or you just start to collect these images knowing that somewhere in your life, you're going to be able to tell a story about that?

Seth:
First of all, I need to make this really clear. I don't have an assistant. I have never had an assistant. If you see my words or my work, I did it. [crosstalk 00:48:24] important to me. Let me tell you a little bit about the seagull picture.
I don't know where I found the seagull picture. I fell in love with it immediately, and I've been using it ever since, but I wanted a higher resolution version of it because it's a little grainy. About five summers ago, I went and I made a commercially graded sign of the pigeon with the slash through it.
I put on a commercial grade stick and I went to the beach in New Jersey, and I covered the top of it with breadcrumbs, and I put the stick in the sand, and I took my camera, and I waited for a seagull to land on top and start eating the breadcrumbs. I sat there for half an hour, and I couldn't get a seagull [crosstalk 00:49:18].

Chris:
Seagulls don't like breadcrumbs or something. What happened?

Seth:
I still use the old ones.

Chris:
Oh my god. I tell you what, Seth, just as a token of our appreciation for you coming on the show, if you send me that sign, we will take care of that for you. I'll get a seagull on there one way or the other. With Photoshop magic or one way or the other, I will give you. I promise you a high-resolution image so that you can tell that joke in full high-resolution HD, quad HD fidelity. We can do that. That was fantastic.
The other thing is I noticed that that talk that you gave, the TED Talk, and I know TED Talks are very rehearsed, and they work on all this stuff with you.

Seth:
They didn't used to be.

Chris:
Is that right?

Seth:
We didn't know they were going to be on video. No one knew.

Chris:
It was like a secret like in the back room, they were filming you?

Seth:
No. There were cameras, but Richard Saul Wurman started TED 30 years ago. It was only for 300 people. It was a dinner party. All of the old ones, Sir Ken Robinson, the number one most popular one, my first TED Talk, I can name dozens of them. None of those people knew it was going to be broadcast because none of them had ever been broadcast. It wasn't until 2004 or '05 that Chris started putting on the internet. We all have such big egos that when someone saw their video on the internet like, "Good for me." No one complained.
But no one knew that they were being, that it was going to be a thing. [crosstalk 00:50:51]

Chris:
They filmed them for posterity. Then later on, they released it thinking, "Well, if it's an idea worth sharing or spreading, then we should share it and spread it." It goes beyond the 300 people. I'm watching that video Stop Stealing Dreams. Then, I searched for that because I was trying to recap for their show.
Then, I see that you have a medium post on that. It goes through the entire thing. One of my questions is I always... I mean all of writers, when they give a presentation because it feels like every word, every joke, every pause has been thought out and worked out in advance. Is that the case with you? Do you know the structure?

Seth:
What happened with that one is I wrote a 50 to 80,000 word rant which you can still read online for free. It's been downloaded four million times called Stop Stealing Dreams.

Chris:
Everybody download that. I'll include the link in the description later.

Seth:
Thanks. Then, I got a call from this school in Brooklyn doing a TEDx, "Will you come talk about it?"

Chris:
Oh, I see.

Seth:
I gave that talk exactly once. I've never given it since, and I practiced it for half an hour before I went.

Chris:
Wow.

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:52:02] The reason I'm telling you that is not because I'm bragging. I'm telling you that because a presentation is a transfer of emotion. If you're going to practice it, and practice it, and practice it, just send me a memo instead because people can tell.
I'd rather be present and explaining myself like I didn't rehearse this conversation with you today, but I don't regret what I've said because I'm present. I'm here. I see you. I see your team and I'm doing my best to communicate. That's what we need more of. We don't need polished timed punchlines.

Chris:
I love that you said that. I really do. It's even scarier now that you said that because I don't know if you helped me or hurt me because I was thinking, "My god, that's what all the professionals do. They show up. They're prepared, and they've written it all out." There's many people who teach this process and I don't want to start any beef between you and Simon Sinek because I look up to him as well.
I saw that you were on a show together, but Simon as I see him go from lecture venue to lecture venue, he has the exact same joke, the exact same pause, even the awkward phrasing and the stuttering is all built into it, and he's fantastic.
I was sitting there thinking, "I'm doing this all wrong." I'm using the slides, like you say. They're prompts for me to talk and tell the story, but then sometimes, I don't tell it exactly the way I thought it was going to play out in my mind.

Seth:
Yeah. Let me tell you. I'm going to interrupt because we don't have a lot of time [crosstalk 00:53:29] about Simon. Three things, first he's in this CIA. Don’t tell him I told you. Second, I've seen him give a talk with no notes that he did not prepare before until two minutes before he got there, and he's great at it. But the third thing is I gave 200 talks or 100 talks that I paid money to give before anyone ever hired me to give a speech. You're going to need to practice a lot, and that's okay.

Chris:
That's like your thing about blogging, writing every single day until you get something good. Okay. I know we're short on time, so I have to talk to you about the altMBA. Can you tell us what the altMBA and what you're trying to do with it?

Seth:
After the Stop Stealing Dreams, I started thinking really hard about how I could help change education. What would be a version that I could bring forward as an example? We launched the altMBA two years ago. It's a four-week intensive workshop. It's elite. It's hard. You have to apply to get in. It's not cheap. You can be in any one of the 44 countries we support.
We have coaches and video conferencing. We do not have me. I am not in it [crosstalk 00:54:40] video. It's project based, but what happens in those four weeks is you give more feedback than you've ever given in your life, you get more feedback. You learn to see things differently. You learn to [crosstalk 00:54:52]. You learn to be engaged with projects.
At the end of the month, you say, "I can't believe I got that much done." It changes the story you tell yourself which lets you change the story you tell other people. We were only going to run it once, but we've run it 26 times so far. We will keep running it as long as really passionate people show up hoping to level up.

Chris:
If I'm considering enrolling in the course and applying to the system, who is it for ideally? How much does it cost?

Seth:
It costs 3800 bucks.

Chris:
It's very reasonable.

Seth:
Well, yeah. I think so. I think it's a screaming bargain, but it's also more than a $12 Udemy course. It depends on what you're comparing it to. Who's it for? It doesn't matter where you live, how much money you make, how old you are, or what your job is.
We don't care about any of those things. What we care about is are you thirsty, are you passionate, are you generous, are you interested in getting to the next level. The application's really simple. It takes five minutes, but we can tell right away what kind of people you are and if you're our kind of people, we would love that.

Chris:
Somebody runs this part for you then, administrative process?

Seth:
[crosstalk 00:56:09] our provost is in Toronto. Our bursars and project organizer's here in New York. We have 80 coaches around the world. All of them are alumni, every single one of them. There isn't a place. We are everywhere, and I am still involved, but I am not present as a teacher.

Chris:
Fantastic. Okay. I know you have to run. I'm going to say a few things before we say goodbye to Seth. I also want to say he's a trooper because he's sick. I'm sick. We're both doing this show. This is what professionals do. We show up, and I didn't know that this dropped today, so I changed this. Book number 19, this is marketing written by Seth Godin drops today. This will be sold on Amazon or directly to your site, Seth?

Seth:
No. It's published by Penguin. It went to the top 25 on Amazon.

Chris:
Oh fantastic. Again, we'll include that link in the description below. I want to thank you, the sustaining members. This is how you get in touch with Seth. He's at ThisIsSethsBlog on Twitter. If you want to read some of his writing, you go to seth.blog and also sethgodin.com. Seth, thank you very much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.

Seth:
What a privilege. You guys are true professionals. It was really fun. Thank you.

Chris:
Thank you very much.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and want to know more about our educational mission, visit thefutur.com. You'll find more podcast episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design and business. We spell the Futur with no E.
The Futur podcast is hosted by Christ Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro with intro music by Adam Sanborn. If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there. Let us know what you like. Thanks again for listening. We will see you next time.

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