Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life | The Tim Ferriss Show".
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"Optimal minimal." "At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking." "And I also have a personal question." "Now what a sit-in approach I have." "What if I could be out of the way?" "I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over a metal extracellular." "Me too, Ferris, show." This episode is brought to you exclusively by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, the go-to tool for B2B marketers and advertisers who want to drive brand awareness, generate leads, or build long-term relationships that result in real business impact. Could be all of the above. I've had Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn on this podcast a number of times, often called the Oracle of Silicon Valley for many different reasons. And he, among other people and friends of mine, have made me more and more interested in LinkedIn as a platform, as an ecosystem in the last few years. And it's very nuanced. It's very subtle, but can be used in some very powerful ways. 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To redeem a free $100 LinkedIn ad credit and launch your first campaign, go to LinkedIn.com/TFS. That stands for Tim Ferriss Show. So that is LinkedIn.com/TFS. Check it out. That's where you can go to get your free $100 ad credit. LinkedIn.com/TFS. Terms and conditions apply. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to sit down with world-class performers of all different types to tease out the habits, routines, favorite books and so on, that you can apply and test in your own life. This episode features one of my favorite guests. He has been on before and he does not disappoint. He somehow manages to think and speak in finished prose. Seth Gooden on Twitter. You can find him at @ThisIsSethsBlog and online is one of the most popular blogs in the world. Seths.Blog is his website. Seth is the author of 18 best-selling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 2013, very rightly, very well deserved, I might add, and has founded several companies, including Yo-YoDine and Squidoo. His blog, which you can find by typing Seth into Google, is one of the most popular in the world and he has, I think, 7,000 plus posts at this point. Seth writes about marketing, strategic quitting, which we get into in this episode. Leadership, the way ideas spread and challenging the status quo in all areas. And he really walks the talk and does so in his personal and professional life. His books include "Linchpin, Tribes, the Dip and Purple Cow," among others. And Seth's newest book is "This Is Marketing," subtitle "You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See." You can find out more about that at Seths.Blog/Tim. In this case, Tim doesn't stand for my name. It stands for "This Is Marketing," where you can also find a free PDF excerpt from the book, as well as related videos. Last but not least, Seth is the founder of Alt-MBA, an intense four-week online leadership and management workshop. And you can learn more about that at alt-MBA.com. In this episode, we cover a lot. I really encourage you to listen to the whole thing. And I brought in questions from my own personal challenges right now, my own personal goals, also from friends and from many of you who have voiced certain patterns of challenges and problems and hopes and desires. So we talk about, among other things, how Seth personally deals with overwhelm and how he thinks about it, how Seth chooses projects right alongside that. How does he say no to the unimportant and set boundaries? The difference between long work and hard work, the world's worst boss, which is a very important portion of the conversation, how to find your smallest viable audience. Hugely important concept for all entrepreneurs, which pairs very well with 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, which is an essay I always recommend, which you can find at kk.org. Non-marketing books that are master classes in great marketing. And we also somehow managed to get to what it is like or how we think about crafting April Fool's jokes that was not expected and something that Seth brought up himself. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did. I had an absolute blast and could have gone for many, many more hours. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode with the incredibly talented polymath Seth Godin. Seth, welcome to the show.
Personal Development And Work Ethics
Dealing with overwhelm (05:35)
Thank you, Tim. It's such a privilege to be back. I am thrilled to have yet another opportunity to pick your brain and expression that I loathe, but nonetheless seems appropriate in this particular conversation. And in every conversation, we've had many chats since the last time we recorded, but I thought I would kick off with a topic that is very top of mind for me, and that is overwhelmed. And we're going to go all over the place as is my want in this conversation, but overwhelm has come up just today in multiple conversations with friends. And they range from people who are at the top of their fields to people who are trying to find an inflection point for themselves professionally to people who are struggling in their early stages of different projects. And they all mentioned to me that they felt overwhelmed. And even looking around me right now, my luggage from recent travel seems to have exploded into miles of paper and books all around me on this table where I'm sitting. And I can't help but feel a certain degree of maybe it is overwhelmed, a what to do with all of this. I'm not sure where to even begin. And I was curious to know how you experience, if you do experience overwhelm, because there's part of me that on my recent travels saw this documentary, "Will You Be My Neighbor About Fred Rogers?" Mr. Rogers. Sure. It's beautiful. It's a beautiful movie. And he weighed 143 for decades to the pound every day and seemed to have his life so cleanly dialed that only towards the end did you see some of the struggles he had. But I wonder does Seth Godin feel overwhelmed? Is that something you experience? Oh, I've definitely felt it and it's super painful. And I think one reason it's so painful is because it comes with shame. Yes. It's a shame of, well, there are so many people who don't have enough. There are so many people who have insufficient choices, insufficient inputs, insufficient leverage. And here I am feeling overwhelmed, underground, deluged by this thing that I asked for. And the thing is it's a systems problem because drinking from a fire hose is a really bad way to get hydration. It's a dumb choice to drink from a fire hose. And so what I have chosen to do to work my way out of it is not let the world erect boundaries for me but decide to erect my own boundaries. So the example is, you know, I remember the magical days when once a month wired magazine would show up and fast company would show up. And so I knew that in three hours I could be as informed as I needed to be just from two periodicals. And so the world was gating the information that was coming in front of me. But now all of us are one click away from all these people who are talking about us behind our back from political machinations that we need to worry about from environmental information and work related stuff. And if we don't figure out what's truly important to us, then we have this system breakdown because the boundary we used to rely on is gone. Are there other, could you give any particular examples of boundaries you've created or situations of overwhelm that you've found your way out of or resolved in some way? Well, the most useful thing I can say and then people don't have to listen to the rest of the podcast is if you can figure out how to clear six hours a day have for your life, that's an enormous ROI. So I don't go to meetings, I don't watch television, and I don't look at Facebook or Twitter. So if you got rid of those four things, how many hours a day would be freed up? And then you can say to yourself, all right, but what did I miss? And you can add back from a zero based budgeting method, which one you're missing. But for me, if I am challenged and forced to go to a meeting and I look around that room and I'm imagining that those people who are just sitting there in real time absorbing something that could have been summarized in a four minute memo, that they do that three, four, five, six times a day? Well, it's no wonder they feel overwhelmed by the important work because they've used up most of their day on unimportant work. And so that's the first step. And then the second thing is when, and I do feel overwhelmed when I have fallen behind, it could be that I forgot to catch up with a piece of software. And suddenly there's a new version that I need to learn. And they've changed the interface without asking my permission. Right? And so I know that I need to be able to use this software going forward. And I'm trapped because it's going to take me a long time to figure out the new Photoshop or a long time to replace macro media freehand when they discontinued it. And I'm not happy about that. But no one cares about my opinion. So at that point, it's back to emotional labor. My labor is not digging a ditch. My labor is do I care enough to experience discomfort to get to the other side? And if I don't, then I should turn off the input because sitting with an uncomfortable input when we don't care enough to make things better is just a formula to be unhappy. I want to, and this will seem like a segue, but I think it's layering perhaps a different direction on top of the same topic.
The world’s worst boss and the altMBA. (11:22)
And this is, you may recognize this, a piece titled The World's Worst Boss. And here's how it reads, The World's Worst Boss, that would be you, even if you're not self employed, your boss is you, you manage your career, your day, your responses, you manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself. Odds are you're doing it poorly. If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you'd quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they'd fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under. And there's a lot more to this. And then it closes with there are a few good books on being a good manager. If you were still on managing yourself, it's hard to think of a more essential thing to learn. And the reason, there are many reasons I want to bring this up. This is from your blog. And I think that's December 2010, is that it seems to me there are different species of overwhelm. Some are from not managing inputs. So you just are getting shot in the face with a fire hose. And it may not even be water. You're just not choosing the material nor the volume coming in. There's feeling behind. And then there's also managing yourself in so much as managing your priorities and choosing what to do, knowing what to do. How do you choose your projects? Are there times when you look at, I would have to imagine there are your well-known guy, even before you were kind of Seth Gooden in marquee lights would have multiple projects to which you dedicate your time. And I think people very often with that paradox of choice or feeling like there's going to be a huge opportunity cost no matter what they do, end up feeling overwhelmed or a high degree of stress. How have you navigated that yourself? Well, first, I'm so glad you brought this post up. I still remember the day I wrote it. And it was almost a mic drop moment. After I wrote that post, I was very close to turning off my blog just to say, I got nothing left. That's it. I got but instead we built the ALT MBA because the ALT MBA is about that very thing, which is these are mostly choices that free people get to make when they don't feel like free people. That we feel like we've made commitments or we are under someone's thumb or it's not up to us. But in the medium run, never mind the long run, it is up to us. And how we make those choices informs our days. So I get offered something to do. And it feels in the moment, like it's an easy yes or no question that the latest meme going around in unsolicited emails is this will take 45 seconds.
The CEO of you (14:18)
Right? Well, it will take 45 seconds to read it. But if I say yes, then it will take me a year and a half to get it done. Right? No, it's not a 45 second ask. It's a year and a half ask. And what's happened as each of us has become a freelancer, a marketer, a voice in social media or wherever we are, the number of places where you can do work for free is close to infinity. And the number of places where you can get paid a little to do work is large. And there are even some places where you can get paid to do work and get more than a little. But the question is, as the CEO of you, is that the commitment that you want to make? So I would say that when I look back at the last 28 years that I've been unemployed, the choices that I've made of saying yes or saying no, are at the heart of the career. It's not the work as much as it is deciding to do the work and deciding what work not to do. And I get it wrong often. One way I get it wrong is if someone offers me a speaking gig and I look at my calendar and there's no speaking gig for that whole month, I am way more likely to take it than if there's two speaking gigs that month. That's a really bad way to do the math, really bad way. And so I've gotten better at being super selective at those sorts of choices. Could you talk about expand on why that's a bad way to make the decision? And what a better way is to make the decision? Well, it's that's a choice made on a belief of insufficiency that I feel in that moment like I will never get asked to give a speaking gig again. Because here's the evidence. No one's asked me to give a speaking gig that month. This must be the end. And if it's the end and you get to play one more song on the guitar, sure, I'll play one more song. But I've been proven wrong a thousand times, a thousand times, that I thought I was never going to get another speaking gig. I've gotten another speaking gig. So I need to find this efficiency, the feeling of confidence, of enoughness to be able to say, you know what? Life is a series of short terms. That's what makes the long term. But if all you're doing is maximizing in the short term, you're going to break the system. Because the system is not the short term. The system is the life you've chosen to live. And you know, one of the books I've been thinking about a lot lately is a book called Stone Age Economics by Marshall Salons. And it made his career in the 1960s. And basically what he's an anthropologist, what he was able to show is that cavemen didn't work very hard. And our vision of cavemen is that they were always foraging, that they were always hunting, that it was a frantic long and tooth and claw dramatic lifestyle. But he says, actually, about four hours a day. And then they could get back to the business of living. And what's happened for people who are lucky enough to do what you and I do, who are lucky enough to listen to a podcast like this, because they have the freedom to invest an hour or two in getting better, is we get greedy. Because there's one more thing we could grab. But what we've discovered is if you grab too many things, you drop the whole basket and then you got nothing. Could you talk about the difference between, and this is coming back, yet to the well, the font of all good things, your blog, this is from I believe in May of 2011, long work versus hard work.
Long work vs. hard work (17:59)
Is that something that you could describe for people, the difference between long work and hard work? Well, you know, I think we've seen a lot of people blog about this lately. And it's about how we make these difficult choices. Right. So if you're a lawyer and you're building a lot of hours, if you are somebody who's making it up in piecemeal, then that's exhausting. Whereas hard work is different. Hard work is the emotional labor of confronting risk, the emotional labor of finding generosity when you don't feel like it, the emotional risk of seeing nuance where there isn't a lot of nuance. So if we look at the platforms that are the easiest to get on, whether it's five or medium or whatever, they reward long work, the extra hour, the hour after that, the hour after that, because there's no curve, the 12th hour doesn't get you more than the first hour did, it's just one more hour. Whereas people who are willing to do the hard work are the ones who are toiling with no obvious applause, who are doing something that doesn't make the crowd happy in the short run, who are confronting things that feel risky, because they understand that over time, they're not risky, they're actually generous and useful. Could you give any real life examples from your own experience of choosing hard work, something that perhaps feels risky or seems risky to others, or that is not a crowd pleaser in the short term? Are there any that come to mind? Well, I think just about all the successes I can point to would match that. I would say, first of all as a speaker, the first hundred speeches I gave I paid money to give them, and the first time I spoke at internet world, I was the number 800th ranked speaker on the list of speakers, that most people who would like the life of someone who gives speeches would like to start by getting invited to Davos or to a head talk. And you have to get boot off stage a whole bunch of times, or when you think about the difficult work of being in a new medium, when you started your podcast, no one listened to it. When I started the alt MBA and these other online things I do, it was, there weren't a lot of people who were saying exactly that's what we've been waiting for. And so you've got to be in this cycle of making a mess in order to slowly organize it into the thing that over time will feel like the right thing. But there are two pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. One pot of gold is you did something worth doing. And the other one is the extra hour at the end of the day is no longer necessary, because you've built an asset. You're no longer on the clock, which you are as someone who's creating value merely by the thing you produced, not because someone's got to stopwatch and measuring how many hours you're working. Right, it's the decision that removes 100 later decisions or 1000 later decisions perhaps in some capacity. The alt MBA in those early days, why did you have the conviction to build that specifically in just just so people have a window into your thought process, which might help them find the courage to also make some of these decisions to do hard work as opposed to the long work. And there's some very, very concrete examples of friends who are running into trouble with this right now in my world. But what gave you the conviction? Why did you have the confidence to persist when it wasn't greeted with thunderous standing ovation from the masses immediately upon release or developing it? Okay, so we all have so many more degrees of freedom. So I have to begin by, what am I not going to actively pursue? So I have an 18 page business plan right here for a software company that I think could be really successful. And I've run software companies, I think I know how to do it, but I have to get back to first principles and say, have I decided to dedicate the next cycle of my life to running a company with lots of people and the risks that go with that? Or do I want to persist at being a teacher? Because being a teacher is the arc I've had for a long time, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. So I got to start with that decision. So once I made the decision, I'm going to be a teacher. Then I'm saying, well, I know how to teach in one medium or another medium, but the world changes, and the forcing change agent here is what happens when we can deliver education via video. So I played with online video stuff, and I saw what was working. I saw what wasn't. And I wasn't thrilled at what I could do in that medium alone. So putting those two things together, I said, look, if my mission is to teach people, and I'm not a consultant, and I'm not a coach, what's my tool where I'm going to have the most impact on people? And so I literally went to the desert, and I sat there for a few days. I went with friends, but I wasn't much good at company, because I said, this is a creative moment for me. And I'm going to come back from this trip and either say, I have a thing, or I'm going to say, I'm walking away from that in medium entirely, because I needed to make a leap. And so I co-ordnered myself. And I said, you don't need more time, you just need to decide. Lay it out. What would it be if you had to do it? So by that acting as if, I built a thing out of paper that was, you know, three-dimensional, and you could show it to people, and I showed it to people, and at least half of them didn't get it. And I thought, now I'm onto something, because if everyone said it was a good idea, it was probably banal. And so we did a play testing, which is an old software development term, where I pretended I was the system and people engaged with me as the computer. And I said, yeah, I'll put my name on this. Let's see what happens. And so the first time we ran it, I knew that the people who would take it, the only people who would take it, were people who give me the benefit of the doubt, which I've earned by showing up and showing up. But you can't use the benefit of the doubt too often, because then you don't have it anymore. So that was my risk. My risk wasn't the many hours we put into building it, because those were replaceable. But the trust, that was serious. And so the first two or three days into it, there was a lot of nervousness, because I'm not in the Alt MBA. There's no videos of me. I'm not teaching it. I just built a system. And about the fifth day, some of the people, we had only 120 people in the first session, some of the people started to reach out to me describing the shifts that the projects were making in them. And in that moment, I said, ignoring some costs, knowing that canceling it at this point had no cost to me. It doesn't matter how much time I spent building it, walk away if it's not good. In that moment, I said, I'm going to stick with this as long as we can keep making changes like that happen. And now it's 26 sessions later. And each time we get more confident that it works. And each time we get a different kind of person who shows up, because the people who are showing up now are the people who needed to wait to see that it worked. Right. Three days in the desert, I can't just let that go in passing.
Desert sabbatical (26:22)
What did you do in the desert? What was the format of those days for you? Well, the most important thing was there was no internet. And so going for a walk, it was a beautiful place. It was 65 degrees. It was absolutely nothing to do. And you bring a pad and you bring a paper. And as Neil Gaiman taught me, the best way to defeat Miter's block is to get really bored. So that's what I tried to do. I got really bored. I knew I had a deadline. No one else was waiting on me for the deadline on my own boss. But I used that pressure that I invented for myself to say, there are things you are afraid to write down. There are things you are afraid to assert. But you have to do it. Or else you can't keep talking about this thing anymore.
Self-imposed deadlines (27:13)
How do you train yourself to take self-imposed deadlines seriously? Is it because you have a cost and a trip with a start and a finish in the form of this three day trip to the desert? Is it telling other people you respect that you're going to do this so that you have some shame if you don't deliver? Or is it just a conditioned response by doing it repeatedly somehow? But I'd love to know how you would explain that. Because people miss deadlines all the time that they share for themselves. Great question. I don't know many people with more willpower than me. I think you are one of them. I don't know how you do it. But my method is... I only talk about the deadlines I hit. But I made a decision a very, very long time ago. Probably when I was 18 or 20. Where I said, look, there's a whole bunch of work I'm just not willing to do. I'm not willing to be the person who takes good notes. I'm not willing to be the person who memorizes. I'm not willing to be the person who can sit there for eight hours doing what the boss says. I'm just not that person. That will kill me. So I got to do something else to be worth something. So here's what I'm going to be. I'm going to be the person who never misses a deadline. I'm going to be the person who has very strict rules about what I do and what I don't do. And so I became a vegetarian. I haven't had chicken in 20, 30 years. And it doesn't even tempt me. And I've never done drugs. It doesn't even tempt me because I made this decision once. And so I'm really careful about promising a deadline. I'm really careful about signing up for a project. But once I do, the deal's done and I don't have to revisit it. And I get that people wrestle with temptation all the time. And I'm not saying that the method I'm describing is easy. But I am saying when we talk about bosses, we admire when we talk about business leaders or political leaders who are states people, and we look to them with respect. I think you can look at yourself that same way if you choose. And a key part of it is to say, I'm not going to be situational about my decision making.
Authenticity is overrated. What’s better? (29:28)
I'm going to be strategic about my decision making. And that choice, you only have to make that choice once. And you're not going to be great at it at first. But you can stop acting like a 14 year old and start acting like a grown up and a professional, which means, and this is someplace I've gotten in trouble before, authenticity is totally overrated. Totally. That I don't want an authentic surgeon who says, I don't really feel like a knee surgery today. I want a professional who shows up whatever they feel like, right? Right. And so there are days that you will see me give a talk or see me write or something. Well, it is not my authentic monkey brain saying whatever pops into its head. This is me playing the role of Seth Godin, being the professional who does what he said he was going to do. And if that bothers people that I'm not always authentic, I'm sorry, but at least I'm consistent. I love that. I really do. Yes. Yes is my way of agreeing with that statement. I've never heard it put quite that way, but I really do not want an orthopedic surgeon who decides halfway through that he's, it's really just not his passion to finish my knee surgery. Closer related to that is something you've talked about. It's so closely related. Maybe it's just inescapable facet of all these things we're talking about.
Saying no (30:54)
It would seem is this lizard brain and you've written and spoken about the lizard brain before. And I want to say it was an interview with Josh Kaufman. You say that when you hear a quote, the lizard brain, the scared voice with Stephen Pressfield calls it the resistance. And I think in brackets here, we have you do precisely what it is afraid of. It's basically it's your compass, but backwards. And you have very clear boundaries, as you said, about what you do, what you will do and what you will not do. What would you say to people who are afraid of saying no, of turning things down, who know they don't want to take a speaking engagement or agree to some favor they're being asked to perform, but they they had they won't say no or they'll hedge and say, I'm not sure, ping me in a week, even though they know the answer should be no. What would you say to these people? Who may or may not be named Tim Ferriss sometimes. I you're certainly not the poster child for this. And I know that you are a scholar of no, but let me let me break this into a little bit first. When I talk about the lizard brain, what I'm acknowledging is that the vast majority, maybe 100% of what we choose to do is done in the subconscious. And we make up the narrative afterwards. Definitely. That voice in our head is a press secretary who's explaining to the media without knowing exactly how, why what we just did was very smart. And so if we can acknowledge that, then I can say to you, if you're not you, Tim, but you the listener, if you're having trouble with this idea of overwhelm or the bounty or saying no or focus, it's not because you're a defective human. It might simply be because you haven't trained for how to deal with the chemicals that run through your brain when you are confronted with things having to do with sufficiency, insufficiency, shame, fear, fitting in, standing out. All of these things flow through us like lightning. And all you have to do is go to the movies to see that a director can toy with us at any time they want. They bring in some violin music and all of a sudden we're scared. Like, no one ever got hurt by a violin. So why is violin music in a movie scary? It's because we've been hardwired to believe that just before the bad guy shows up, you hear the noise, right? Well, those things go really deep into us. It's Pavlovian. I don't know if that rings a bell or not, but the idea is, sorry, I can't resist. Oh, it's good. The idea is that, of course, that's happening to you. It happens to all of us. Great. It happens to all of us. Now, what will you choose to do about it? If you want, you can choose to be a professional. And so surgeons always wash their hands, even if they figured out they don't need to today because there are no germs, she still washes her hands because you always do because that's part of what it is to be a surgeon. So if your incoming that's non-productive is that you say yes to too many things, you've got to figure out what's the equivalent of the hand washing, what's the equivalent of the method that you're going to use to go back to letting your cognitive strategic brain have a say before you get sucked in by the emotional reaction. Or if it's difficult for you to say no, one thing that I find really helpful is write four paragraphs that are thoughtful and generous and insightful about why you're saying no. Copy it, put it into text expander, ampersand no. So anytime someone asks you this, you can write ampersand no and all four paragraphs will come to that person. It took you no effort whatsoever. They end up feeling okay. You end up feeling free and you can get back to your job, right? And that hack is just a hack, but it's the hack in the service of why are you here? What's the change you are seeking to make? Because we'd like to talk about the fact that we are meaningful specifics as Zig Ziglar would say that we are here to make an impact. But if you say those things, but then you act like a wandering generality, you're not going to have the impact you want. For people who are not aware, text expander is a software program that allows you to type out something in shorthand that then auto-populates something else that's been predetermined. So that ampersand or the end symbol no would then bring up the four paragraphs that you have carefully crafted once to be a polite decline. It's a great program. Yes. And I was talking, I was text expanding my explanation of text expander. What are some of your equivalents of hand washing and just to buy time or maybe just to hear myself talk, I'll share one that came to mind when you said that, which was as a rule, if anyone tries to rush me to make a decision very quickly, the answer is no.
Charging for your services (36:29)
So if someone is trying to use extreme time pressure to get me to make a decision, the answer is default no, which has saved me more times than it has in any way hindered me. And that was, I think, a product of necessity probably five years ago, particularly in the cortisol driven world of startups. And we're closing around in 47 minutes. Maybe we can squeeze you in for $47. Are you in? No, you're legal doesn't have time to review documents, that type of stuff. What are some of the any examples that come to mind yours or from other people of the hand washing? Well, I'll give you two edges. One is think I decided what I was going to do for a living, and I decided what I was willing to do for free. So if you want me to give a speech, you have to pay me. On the other hand, if you want to read my blog post, it's free. If you show up and ask me to endorse your sports team, I will say no. But if you ask me to blurb your book, I will consider it because for free, because it's done, been done for me and I appreciate it. If I can find a worthwhile book, I'm happy to put my voice behind it. But if you want me to endorse your singing career, no, I don't do that. Sorry. And so being clear about where the free stuff is and where the expensive stuff is eliminates 80% of the people who are hoping to have some sort of transaction with me. Because I get it that it would be really fun to come to your conference in Wisconsin. I understand that a vacation in Wisconsin would be really fun. And here's my problem with that. Number one, I would have to every day think about where I want to go on vacation next. And number two is I couldn't be fair to people who had hired me to give a speech, because why do some speeches go for free and some speeches not? So by being clear about that, the person in Wisconsin who has a great conference and I'm sorry I can't come, I don't have to negotiate with them because there's a price list. And interesting aside, price tags were only invented 120 years ago. And we needed them because we couldn't trust sales clerks to haggle. That before that the owner and the sales clerk were the same person. And haggling gives me no pleasure. Some people like to haggle. I hate to haggle. And so I don't haggle. I want to come back to book blurbs here in a second. This is a perfect example, I think, to explore some meta questions. And before I get there, I want to say that as it relates to speaking engagements specifically, speaking, I don't really do speaking anymore. It was sort of categorically one of the things I decided I did not want to apply much bandwidth to. Even though there are times when I enjoy it, but part of the reason I found it so stressful is, and I think you gave me some very good advice actually very, very early on many, many years ago as it related to speaking, because you're such a pro in that arena, is that every speaking engagement was a one off case by case negotiation and consideration, which just drained every calorie of decision making out of my brain each time it took place. And you have some really fascinating ways we don't necessarily have to get into if you don't want to about how you choose what to do or price what to do. A friend of mine, Josh Waitzgen, gave me great advice many years ago, which was, and he does, I don't think really any speaking anymore either, but he was the basis for searching for Bobby Fisher. Some people might think of him as a chess prodigy, brilliant guy. And he told me at one point that long ago he decided free or full price. And what he meant by that was only he only had two types of speaking, free for causes he felt were worthwhile, and absolute full price, no negotiation, no 20% discount, no will do it for half price because of X, Y, and Z. And I took that and implemented it as every time a company paid me a price that was a new high price for me, they set a new high watermark, and that became the new standard price. So it was free or whatever the highest price had been to date. And it worked really, really well. It was incredible how de-stressing that was. But book blurbs, you mentioned as it related to speaking engagements that you wanted to be fair or feel that it was fair, so you weren't picking and choosing. So I have categorically decided I don't do moderation very well with which often leads, I think in my mind, to this one off decision making. I'd like to make the one decision that removes 100 decisions. So the book blurbs I just decided I have so many friends ask me for book blurbs that I do not want to, I don't even want to consider the social cost of having to pick among them for book blurbs. So I don't do any. How do you handle that? You must get sent a mountain of books or at least get emails from people you know who are authors asking for book blurbs. How do you vet them and how do you gently let down people? All right, so let me go to the first part first and then we'll come back to book blurbs because I think we can broaden this to anyone who's a freelancer. Perfect.
Price is a story (42:32)
Okay, so freelancers have a long work problem which is that if you do work where I can find a substitute the only way to move up is to work more hours and that sucks because it ends up being erased to the bottom and then you're on five or bidding you know $10 for a day's labor. But some freelancers do great. Why do those freelancers do great? Number one they have better clients. Better clients challenges you to do better work. Better clients do take your better work and run with it. Better clients put you in front of better work and so if you're frustrated as a freelancer begin by getting better clients and the way you get better clients is by turning down lesser clients so that you're freed up enough to do the hard work necessary to be appealing to a better client. If you have a lousy client fire them even if it means you'll be doing nothing so that you can go back to looking for better clients. But then the other thing it's really important to understand and it's not just businesses it's human beings in their daily life as well. Price is a story it is not an absolute number so a Tiffany's ring $6,000 if you buy it brand new walk six blocks down to the diamond district and seventh avenue in New York you can sell that brand new Tiffany's ring that you paid $6,000 for $1,000. Where did the other money go? Right it's not used where the other money went is the person who bought it at Tiffany's was paying for the privilege of buying it at Tiffany's and so when I think about the market for in this case speaking there are tons of people who can give a very good speech but they are not famous and as a result the person who hires them cannot go to the people who they work with and say great news we hired Jimmy Bluestein because they would say who's Jimmy Bluestein so what's actually happening when they hire you to give a speech is they are hiring the story of they had enough money to pay Tim Ferriss's current high price to get Tim Ferriss to come on a plane and be in the room and there's a lot of value in selling that product because it's a signaling strategy and it's worthwhile so if you're melting Glazer and you want and someone wants Milton Glazer to make their logo for them Milton would say it's $250,000 and you say that's crazy I can hire some kid on five or for $12 and you might even get the same logo but what you wouldn't get is the ability to say to the board of directors we got Milton Glazer to make the logo so the hard work here of building a career as a freelancer where you're going to get paid fairly is having the willing doing the hard work to get better clients and then having the guts to turn down people who don't value your reputation when they want to hire you so that's my rant about pricing and in terms of well I'll leave that part aside and then in terms of blurbing here's what happened I do I have evidence to show that in almost every case blurbs do not sell books
Seth’s policy for writing book blurbs (45:40)
and so why do authors even want blurbs and here's what happened to me when I was shifting from being a book packager where I did 120 books in 10 years with a small team all Monax and things like that to being an author I sent a book called Get What You Deserve which I wrote and Jay Levinson was my co-author to Tom Peters and I had met Tom a couple times through the years but we weren't partners or golf buddies and Tom sent me back a blurb and that blurb changed my life because I started walking through the world as the kind of person that could have written a book that Tom Peters liked and Tom's point of view is is this book worth more than 30 dollars? Could someone's going to pay 15 for it and I think it's worth more than 30? Wow what a great thing I've done for the reader by pointing out a book that's worth more than it costs I'm not saying it's the best book ever written I'm just saying this book's probably worth your time so for me I've made a bunch of rules the first one which I have to live with though I'm not crazy about is if you don't have a publisher I'm not going to blurb your book and the reason is because otherwise I'd have to deal with infinity and if a publisher is getting behind a book the value of my blurb to you and your career is worth more because now your editor who's under the delusion that blurb's worth will will support your book more and thus it will work right right and the second thing is if you send me a note that is makes it clear your favorite trading scammer then like here I pre-wrote the blurb for you you don't even need to read the book I'm not going to blurb your book because that's disrespectful I read everything that I blurb and most of the time I have to say I don't have time to read your book and I mean it but if I have time to read your book I will either find things in it that are worth the time and energy you're asking the reader to put into it or I will tell you that I got very busy I will not send you an explaining why your book is no good because I've tried that even with people I care about it's a bad plan right I what is the wording for I got really busy look like if you remember I do remember it's I got really busy I'm very sorry that's it okay I mean here's it here's the deal first of all it's true right I am really busy and this wasn't didn't rise the level of I'm going to need to put even more time into this to be able to dig something out for you but the other thing is that more words don't make the person feel better people want to be seen but they don't want to be snowballed right they don't want a blizzard to come at them they just want to know you understand this isn't good news for them you're sorry that you don't have good news for them let's move on because it doesn't pay for anybody for me to go on and on and on because if I'm really busy I don't have time to go on and on and I am right sorry I'm too busy to read your book but here are three pages on why I'm too busy to read your book so the the topic of or directive of choosing better clients is I think part and parcel of thinking clearly and you are very very good at at I think thinking and communicating you're thinking clearly and in well first of all you you have a new book which would have been mentioned in the intro already but I like you to very briefly tell me about it and therefore the
Why Seth wrote his latest book (49:24)
listeners about it but the clarity of sort of purpose and thinking is reflected I think very well in a discussion you have in the book about the quarter inch drill bit and I'm not not sure whenever I read books sometimes it's like all right my book my books tend to be disturbingly unnecessarily long so I'm like oh Jesus did I write that what was that thing that I wrote about hope I can recall it but perhaps you could tell us a little bit about the new book why you wrote it and then the quarter inch drill bit well Ted Levitt was the godfather of marketing in the early 1960s he wrote a paper called marketing myopia that changed the game for a lot of people and in that paper in Harvard Business Review he wrote no one buys a quarter inch drill bit because they need a quarter inch drill bit what they need is a quarter inch hole that's what you should sell them in this book which is called this is marketing in which I'm hoping will be a seminal uh dividing line in how we view where we are as that paper was I'd point out no one needs a quarter inch hole what would you possibly need a quarter inch hole for what you need is a place to put the leg the expansion bolt so you can put a screw in the wall but actually you don't need that what you need is to put the shelf on the wall but you don't really need that what you need is a place to put the books that are cluttering your bedroom but you don't really even need that what you need is the way you will feel when your spouse thanks you for cleaning things up what you really need is safety and security and a feeling that you did something that was important that's what we sell and it turns out that's what we sell when we sell everything and the thesis of this is marketing is that there's been four revolutions in memory the industrial revolution of oh we can make stuff right and the stuff we've been making keeps getting better and better the second one was this revolution that computers can calculate things really well which puts a man on the moon or enables a robot to help build a car the third one is computers as databases moving information from far away to here and from here to far away the connection economy but this last one is the one that every one of us gets to touch and it's the revolution of marketing which is that now each one of us has more power than Procter and Gamble did 50 years ago each one of us with a keyboard is connected to more than a billion people and my thesis is that we're responsible for what we do with that power and that if we want to we can do work that matters for people who care that we can make things better by making better things and the people who regularly read my work will recognize this but I needed to put it in a book so they could share it with their team they could share it with the people around them because I think if we catch our breath right now we won't have to have this race to the bottom of privacy prying spammy every page on the web is looks a little bit like a porn page because we've tested it to death and maybe instead we can go in the other direction and say there's a group of people who need me who need my voice who need the change I want to make if I can find that group the smallest viable audience and delight them they will engage with me and they will tell the others and this none of this is in cotler none of this is in marketing 1970 1980 none of it so we are swimming in this water but we don't see the water and I wanted to be able to put a stake in the ground and say here you go I've been doing this for 30 years this is what I see and if you're working on things I care about I hope you will read this because this is my best shot at helping you do better so to help people do better I want to pull out three words that you just mentioned because you you and I have chatted about this not sure ever publicly but the smallest viable audience can you can you define what that means and why it's important if this isn't your first Tim Ferris podcast you are a fan of Tim and the way he engages with the world and yet 99% of the people on planet earth have never heard of Tim
Marketing And Business Strategies
Smallest viable audience (53:57)
Ferris they haven't bought any of his books they haven't listened to a word he's ever spoken so here's somebody who's successful beyond our wildest dreams who is unknown to 99% of the planet how can those two things coexist well the answer is that the mainstream media has pushed us to fit in to be average to reach the masses because masses and average are the same thing but everyone's trying to do that there's only room for one Kardashian right everyone else is sort of 80% down the list but if you can find the guts to say there are 250 people who care about tilt shift lenses as much as I do and I'm going to make a tilt shift lens for those 250 people that changes their life they will find you because that's their drive that's their mission and so the attention economy basically teaches us that you are not in charge of what people look at they are and if you go where they are looking you will do way better than if you insist that people look at you how does one begin to pull back from the the drive the temptation to make everyone their customer and define who their smallest viable audience might be if if someone is currently let's just take this may not be the best example so feel free to come up with a better example but let's say someone is creating a YouTube channel they've been doing it for a while it hasn't quite clicked they're not sure what they're doing wrong but they're trying to appeal to moms or they're trying to appeal to men between the ages of 20 and 30 I've this could be a terrible terrible example but how would you suggest someone start to niche down are there questions they should ask themselves any particular resources or otherwise that you would suggest oh it's a great example here's the thing it's not your problem is in greed your problem isn't that you are trying for more and more and more your problem is fear the fear of someone saying you're not as good as you say you are and the fear of once you've narrowed it down to the 500 people to be rejected by those people is really hurtful because there's no one left that's all there is and living with that fear is the hard work of the professional so that the way we niche it down is by committing to wanting to niche it down to not have false niches that are actually just excuses for reaching everyone but to be really really specific so if I think about I don't know a sushi place in New York City most of the sushi places in New York City are sushi places they're just they're in just they're interchangeable but if you were required to have a sushi place that could pay the rent only being open 12 hours a week or if the limit was we're going to charge $400 a meal now by default you've eliminated almost anyone who would want to engage with you the only people who are left are the people who want something that is not available in a traditional sushi bar you've gone to an edge and it's not an edge based on demographics on gender or age or income it's an edge based on psychographics and what does this person dream of which requires empathy and empathy is the other part that makes this difficult because here's the thing people don't know what you know they don't want what you want they don't believe what you believe and yet you want to serve them so what you have to do is acknowledge that they are right they are right in wanting what they want they are right in needing what they need and maybe you can earn their enrollment and teach them a new way to be but you can't succeed by insisting that people are you because they're not there are there any highly highly highly niche companies businesses could be small could be not so small that you are particularly fund of any that any that come to mind well in the book i talk about penguin magic so that's an easy example uh penguin magic almost no one listening to this has
Highly niche businesses (58:52)
ever bought anything from them and yet they're a multi-million dollar company magicians professional magicians don't need any more magic tricks because they do the same 12 tricks every night different audience same 12 tricks amateur magicians on the other hand have the same audience all the time the long suffering family members and co-hosts watch this trick again and again and so you need new tricks all the time so that's what penguin did is they said what would be the perfect website for someone who's exactly that person and that's what they built and there are a hundred little details if you visit penguin magic that you'll see that probably aren't interesting to you the outsider but to someone who's like this this is what they dream of and by obsessing about that niche and ignoring everyone else they have managed to succeed or an example totally the other end of the spectrum uh i'm talking to you and scott harrison's office at charity water charity water has raised a quarter of a billion dollars to bring water to people who don't have clean water and most philanthropists don't give them money and most foundations don't give them money and most individuals don't give them money and that's fine because for the people who wanted this kind of interaction it's exactly what they wanted so you have to shun the non-believers and say yes you want to give money the american cancer society please do that's not what we do we do this and this i this statement we do this and being clear about what this is and why it's totally different then the freelancer who says what do you need because what do you need works great if you're the local handyman but it stops working great if suddenly there are a thousand local handyman and everyone's a click away charity water is a really good example uh i'm familiar charity water uh spent time with scott and they did a number and do thing do a number of things very differently they were i suppose even more remarkable in the very beginning uh because at that point and many others hadn't started emulating them but very design driven aesthetic driven non-profit in a sense uh their collateral their approach to web design to experience design with events is uh very much targeted to a particular psychographic sort of the the mac book crowd for lack of a better description and uh they also made they distinguished themselves among the other ways by separating out the administrative costs and covering the team administrative costs of the non-profit from the building of actual wells and so on uh which very few people had seen done before even though they weren't the first to do it uh since i'm glad that you brought them up and that you also brought up constraints like you mentioned with this hypothetical sushi restaurant that applies constraints to arrive at a smallest viable audience could you talk to if possible and you can take this any way you want or anywhere you want the the importance
Charging appropriately (01:02:42)
of smallest viable audience as it relates to charging enough or charging more because i i know so many entrepreneurs uh or no of so many entrepreneurs who are really gifted doing things well and yet they just refuse to charge more than the bare minimum because they want everyone to be able to afford their product as one example there are many reasons they might cite but uh i would love to hear your thoughts on charging enough or charging more charging film the blank this this i i see this as one of the most common fatal errors uh or at least on a company or project basis fatal errors that entrepreneurs make is simply pricing incorrectly uh long question but uh very very much time limit yeah okay so let's begin here if you uh sell rent housing to low-income people if you sell health care to the masses please please lower your price for everybody else this idea that people can't afford it is crazy talk because let's look at dog food the price of dog food has gone just in the last 10 years from two or three dollars a pound which is the stuff at the supermarket to forty five dollars a pound which is the keto dog food that i bought on a lark from my dog the other day um now i get that a grown-up adult might be hooked on this whole keto thinking but as far as i can tell even though the price of dog food has gone up by a factor of twenty dogs are not any happier than they used to be so it's not that you're trying to make the dog happy you're trying to make the dog owner happy and the dog owner is happier spending more money not all dog owners just the dog owners who are happier by spending more money that's who the product is for and so what we think about when we are not building a public utility when we are an entrepreneur who's going to the marketplace with an innovation is we need to please a small group of people and one of the signals that is available to us is price and the signal says if you are looking for the lowest price and everything that comes with that we are not those people on the other hand if you're looking for a fair price and everything that comes with that the customer service the attention to decal the fit and finish the voluntary constraints where that so type four letters into duck duck go or google and oh m a just four letters and noma fills the screen right where did noma come from well if you want to open the world's most famous new restaurant Copenhagen is not a smart place to do it and making the rule that you're only going to serve food that you harvested from within a hundred kilometers not very smart either particularly if you need to charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars to do so but they voluntarily accepted all of those constraints knowing that they only needed to blow the socks off 10,000 people that if 10,000 people walked away from that experience thrilled to pieces then they would become famous to the family they would become noteworthy enough that people would fly there to engage with them if they had opened noma and said it's 18 dollars so that forgives us for cutting this corner and this corner and this corner and this corner you never would have heard of noma it's true yeah and i would this is just to put in perspective for people it's it's not just the price of the meal you have to consider that almost everyone who's going to nomas flying in internationally right so these meals end up costing five ten thousand dollars when you factor in all of the all the indirect and direct costs and yet as you pointed out or maybe not end yet and because in part because of that uh noma is what it is which is one of if not the most famous restaurant in the world much like el boule back in the day yeah or consider or consider a movie like 2001 a space odyssey right considered by everyone to be one of the 50 greatest movies ever made almost every single critic panned it that the first 45 minutes of the movie 45 minutes no words are spoken the first minute of the movie the screen is black that there is nothing about that movie that was designed to please the crowd that's not who he made it for and that's how he ended up with a movie that people still watch 50 years later what is the three sentence marketing promise template whereas the i guess it's a simple marketing promise and i can certainly read this if you would like if it makes it a little easier but there's a template that you have three sentence marketing
The three-sentence marketing promise template (01:08:08)
promise that you can run with uh and if if if you can pull it from memory we can do that or i can bring it up and we can explore each of these in turn do you have a preference tell me if i got it right it's uh for people who believe this and for people who want that this might be what you're looking for is it close to that it is close yeah my product is for people who believe blank i will focus on people who want blank i promise that engaging with what i make will help you get blank but i think both what you laid out and that are very very similar and intent what what is this why is it why is it important well what tends to happen is companies make a thing then they hand that thing to the marketing department and the marketing department reverse engineers what they're going to say about it to get people to buy it and then they come up with a mealy-mouthed mission statement that says nothing so that they can act universally so whenever the new next new product comes in they won't have to change their mission statement none of this is effective the alternative is to say we're not saying we made this please come by it we're saying we see you we see who you are and what you believe and we are assert assert right here right now we assert that if you're the kind of person that believes this and is looking for this we promise that if you engage with your time and money with us you will get that and if you can articulate that arc then you've got a shot at engaging with this smallest viable audience so when I think about you know we've been talking about marketing for over now we haven't mentioned apple
Hooking people without being unique (01:10:10)
once when I think about what do you apple promise when you pay extra for a smartphone that is demonstrably not better than the alternative that another company makes how do they get you to wait in line well what they're saying is for people who in some small way define their status among their peers by the device that they use who will get pleasure out of being able to demonstrate to their peers that they have the resources to get the latest one we have the latest one get in line if you want one that is Tim Cook's entire business model that's not what Steve Jobs business model is but that's Tim Cook's one which is they are selling a luxury good which raises the status of insiders and is of no interest whatsoever to people who don't get the joke are there any other companies that come to mind that do a particularly good job of this or any and by company that could be one person could be 10,000 sure I will I will stake my reputation by telling you that every successful company does this they don't do it on purpose necessarily but the thing that made them successful is that they did this that there is almost nothing that launched to the masses so I remember the first time I used uber and I did not use uber because I had no other way in New York City to get 20 blocks across town I used uber because I'm the kind of person that got pleasure out of taking a magical electronic device out of my pocket pressing a button and having my friends just a gog at the fact that a minute later a vehicle showed up right where we were standing that that feeling is what I bought when I bought uber so that at the beginning uber had almost no customers but the customers they had were people who liked that feeling and then it works its way through a curve which we can talk about it later if you want but at the beginning that's what we saw at Amazon that's what we saw at Airbnb if we're talking about offline businesses right that's what you see at a certain kind of hairdresser that's what you see at a certain kind of fashion label that there's a line up front of supreme where people are buying a t-shirt that costs three dollars to make for forty five dollars why
The yo-yo union (01:12:45)
are they waiting in line what do they get who wants a supreme t-shirt those questions aren't things you do after you decide to be in the t-shirt business you go the other way you figure out what are the needs and the dreams and the desires that are people are walking around with unfulfilled and you say hi I'm here to help you achieve what you already wanted do you have any idea what supreme is doing well why are people waiting in line to buy a three dollar t-shirt for forty five dollars if even if even if you just had to guess is there any so any stab you take we need to talk about the yo-yo union for a minute let's do it so yo-yos are regularly banned or frowned upon in elementary schools because of what happened last time but every once in a while maybe three or four years what happened last time i'm going to get to that so okay every three every three or four years a kid shows up with a yo-yo and if that kid is a low status kid that's the end of it but if that kid who shows up is one that other kids want to be near and like not all kids just certain other kids the next day there are three yo-yos and then there are seven yo-yos and then there are 50 yo-yos and within a week and a half yo-yos are everywhere and then yo-yos get out of hand so the administration passes a rule no more yo-yos and it takes three more years for it to come back again like the locusts exactly and so i've seen this happen firsthand i've seen it when it worked and i've seen it when it didn't work and so the secret is to make sure the right kid brings a yo-yo to school the first day because if it's not the right kid the status roles aren't at work and you don't get the yo-yo to spread so supreme's home run was that a certain kind of kid with a certain kind of status showed off his parents money by showing up with a t-shirt that was intentionally a aggressively obnoxiously designed and b ridiculously expensive because that moment of how ridiculous it was created all the value now if the wrong kid had shown up wearing a supreme t-shirt nothing but the right kid did and so other kids wanted it and in this moment supreme made a really smart choice which is they underproduced dramatically they always sold out they left money on the table this is the hard work part again they left it on the table they left it on the table they left it on the table they could have sold way more but they believed that they would be doing this for years and so they intentionally created this scarcity and scarcity creates a feeling of value and so now i was just researching this a couple weeks ago down there most of the people who are waiting in line are going to resell it within 10 minutes that they need the line to show up in photographs so that the person who buys it at a premium is relieved of how well off and smart they're that they didn't have to wait in line so the line is a tax that creates value for the people in the marketplace this cannot go on forever it never does but to create a fashion brand that is based on nothing but scarcity that's the method it's a story that makes me think of something right here in my backyard in austin texas which is franklin's barbecue and most people have never heard of franklin's barbecue nonetheless i i want to say they open at 10 a.m something along those lines and they sell out by 11 a.m everything that they have made all of the meat they have prepared and that's the end of the day they close when they sell out could they produce more of course they could produce more and people start lining up around 6 a.m there are cottage industries coffee shops and so on that have developed to capitalize on this line and early on it was predicted that this might last three months six months a year it's been going on for i want to say at least five or six years sure this line and the food is exceptional but there is exceptional barbecue all over texas and it is this incredible ludicrous on some levels scarcity that becomes the pr campaign in a way uh and the stories that people tell about it exactly the task rabbit they hire to stand in line or whatever it might be so there are two things that need to be understood here the first one is in a double blind taste test they would never win but that's okay because we're not
Clever Marketing And Audience Engagement
Ethically giving people what they want (01:17:48)
double blind no one is double blind we know where it came from and so if you know where it came from it might win because what you're actually tasting is what it took to get it and there's nothing wrong with that and this is another key part because you are not manipulating people you are serving them they are choosing to go through these steps because those steps make the barbecue taste better it's a placebo and placebos are wonderful because they don't have any side effects and because they actually work so we can be honest ethical generous marketers by saying my job is to put on a show i'm not simply a manufacturer someone can always manufacture cheaper than me but what people will pay for are trust and experience something to talk about scarcity and the way it feels to be part of something that's what we build and so what we have to figure out how to do is build it in a way that when people find out that's what we're doing they're still okay with it i love how encyclopedic your knowledges of case studies it's it's really one of the for me at least one of the things that immediately
Remembering Jackson Pollock and not his brother Charles (01:19:10)
leaves to mind as a uh distinguishing characteristic of a lot of your work is pulling in and dissecting in a way or at least observing case studies are there any other examples that come to mind where you think this is what we've been discussing is done particularly well well now that you've said that of course there's oh no no um you know i i think that when we think about the work of contemporary art it's really interesting to see that people who don't get the joke completely don't get the joke right they say oh i could have painted that painting that Jackson Pollock painted it how could it be worth forty five million dollars but Jackson Pollock had a brother and his brother's name was Charles and Charles Pollock was a painter not an artist Charles Pollock painted exactly like his teacher Thomas Hart Benton but we did need another painter to paint like Thomas Hart Benton because we already had one so the act number one that Jackson Pollock painted something no one else was painting that many people hated number two that he had gallery representation in New York City that enabled the gallery owner to say for the kind of collector that wants to earn the status with a certain set of peers that comes from owning a painting that no one else owns this is the kind of artist that you might like that's how you get your start and then the next step in the path is there are curators who understand that their career will be advanced if they're one of the early ones to hang this on the wall of their museum there are other curators who understand that their career will be advanced if they're one in the middle or late ones who hang it up and so this virtuous cycle is created and you go from you could have bought the painting for a thousand dollars to now it's worth 45 million and it is worth 45 million not because you can't see it for free of course you can on google it's that the act of owning it earns you a certain kind of status in your own head and with a certain circle of people that's worth something but right down the street there's a guy who collects guitars he doesn't want a jackson pollock he wants a signed you know eric clapton guitar and different people are making these decisions based on where they think it puts them in the pecking order of who eats first and who has better taste and who's an insider and who's an outsider and because we live in such a privileged world that's what people are spending all their time paying attention to i am so glad that you brought up jackson pollock uh i've i've a bunch of history with jackson pollock that you and i can talk about something i do not know you who have done the street i did i did indeed and in fact there's a grocery store before jackson pollock became jackson pollock in all caps there's a grocery store where he used to trade his paintings for bread and eggs and so on uh before he's in in some respects i suppose cracked the code and i recently found a book and there are other portions of it that are good i think a lot of it is is about what you would expect which is a lot of hyperbole and high concept confusion but 100 secrets of the art world i've become fascinated by the weirdness uh but also on some levels the the impeccable logic of how the art world works there's a lot of weirdness there certainly aspects i don't yet understand but i found this at a really cool festival that people may be interested in called the trans pakos i think it's music festival but it may just be the trans pakos p-e-c-o-s in marfa texas which the story of marfa texas in and of itself is a kind of a crazy marketing story in in some respects uh people can check it out it's in the middle of nowhere uh and found this book and here's a quote from jeff coons who's also from my native new york artist and sculptor and this elitist this elitist back to marketing as many things do here's the quote it's one of my favorites so the quote the journey of art starts with self-acceptance the subjective once you accept yourself you were able to move on to the objective the highest state which is the acceptance of others and i found that worth pondering oh that's beautiful which which leads me to a note that i took from your new book which is a chapter titled marketing to the most important person and i was i was wondering and i i took some additional notes on that chapter or at least
Marketing to the most important person (01:24:01)
a few lines but who's the most important person what is marketing to the most important person oh it's you right it's it we have so if we're in a post-industrial place where you're not spending all day working the punch press the person we spend most like where we started um the world's worth boss right in this case what we're talking about is who are you talking to when you talk to yourself about what you do and how do you come to grips with this self-acceptance that jeff coons is talking about and um i love that you're bringing these pieces together because that's exactly the way i'm thinking about it this all started with what i saw happening inside uh the alt mba where people with talent when they felt safe were very clear that they didn't believe in who they were where they were going or what they were creating and until they could come to grips with the fact that they had value to add it's really difficult to have the sufficiency to have empathy to have the sufficiency to see other people because if you're drowning you're a lousy lifeguard yes yes well said uh how does someone develop the feeling of sufficiency so that they are if not on land at least swimming comfortably as a lifeguard so they can have the empathy for others that's necessary to be good at then marketing the gifts they have what they can provide how does how does one develop that self compassion and that feeling of sufficiency here's my best take on it as soon as you can adopt the posture that you are needed to do a generous act that someone in worse shape than you is drowning and that you have something to offer them it shifts from a selfish act that is shameful to a generous act that is making a difference so it requires us not to be selfish people this is not double talk but that once we realize that there actually is somebody who would miss us if we were gone then we can get out of our head and realize we are not doing this to get in the light or to hyphen the light we are doing this because someone else needs us and so the big shift is to stop thinking of prospects stop thinking about people you are marketing to or at and instead say where are my students where are the people who are enrolled in this journey who I have a chance to teach because if I'm a teacher and the student is coming along for the ride I don't have to yell I don't have to interrupt I don't have to hit kids with a ruler all I need to do is take them to where they said they wanted to go and that fits into the person I think most of us would like to be which is the teacher we would remember years later the person who turned on a light for someone who didn't have a light. Seth I aspire to be half the communicator you are I am just constantly astonished how clear you were able to convey the thinking which of course in the first place must be clear to you before you can impart it to others does does very beautifully said and I think very very important so thank you well for that that means the world to me and I just want to insert here not that we're playing tennis but the single best written April Fool's joke in the history of the internet was written by you and there's a sort of elegance that's necessary that isn't in my wheelhouse that enables somebody to have enough awareness of the narrative of the reader and enough guts to go right to the edge but not go over to do it in that indirect form and that's not my milieu it's yours but it was beautiful and so I well well it's been a while it's been a long time since since since I did that so would you mind if you if you want to take a stab at it I can also take a stab at it but do you want to take a stab at describing what that
The single best-written April Fool’s joke on the Internet (01:28:08)
April Fool's joke was well so here's the I have now resigned from my annual April Fool's blog post because when it works people send me angry notes and when it doesn't work people send me angry I wasn't getting anything out of it but there was a tradition that if you were a blogger on April Fool's day you had to come up with something using just words that would not only get under people's skin and surprise them but make your point and your blog post if I remember it and it wasn't 10 years ago whatever eight years ago was I have a confession to make I don't write this blog I've outsourced it as part of my four-hour work week agenda and this blog is actually written by someone else and it has been for years and people were furious at you people lost their minds yeah I I made it very specific I was like this is actually you know Venkatesh from Mumbai who collaborates with person A and B and Manila who does mostly copy editing and we've actually been crafting this at the behest of Tim Ferriss to prove a point which is you can outsource anything with the right set of instructions if you vet the right people and people lost their minds it was it was wild also to see the response because I put it out I happened to be I think I was in London at the time and I used that time difference as a way to be somewhat sneaky and publish it the day before April 1st in the US which made it extra confusing very deliberately and I went to sleep not thinking much of it just having a chuckle after a glass or two of wine and woke up to just mayhem I mean arms and legs in the streets of the internet it was just complete mayhem and it was it was also funny this is going to be very politically incorrect but how I bifurcated a lot of the responses were seemingly by gender like the men were like you fucking dick and then a handful on both sides were like okay that's pretty funny and then the women were like how can I ever trust you again I could never trust you again but it was a mess it created a real mess now I didn't bring this up but it's in my notes so you are not a junior varsity April Fool's joke person yourself so can you talk about I'll start us off actually let me let me just read this so you wrote okay dot dot dot I said it would never happen but now in April 2018 after so many blog posts after 18 books dozens of projects and a bunch of ebooks and videos and podcasts I'm now completely out of ideas big ideas small ideas any ideas all gone used up I have none left so what happened when you publish that so here's this goes back to the empathy thing I got a lot of email that at first really annoyed me and what the email said was you're right you're out of ideas I've been out of ideas for a long time too I feel terrible for you here are some tips I have on how you can find the ideas again don't feel too badly and what I realized was they weren't writing the note to me they were writing the note to themselves and they weren't angry but there was a lot of pathos involved in it because they still believed in writer's block they still believed in this myth that they were out of ideas and they were getting a lot of schadenfreude and pleasure out of the fact that I also had their affliction now because I was the arrogant guy who said it could never happen and it happened to me and they were sort of gloating about it and here's the thing writer's block is a myth what people get stuck on is not that they're out of ideas it's that they think they're out of good ideas that everyone has bad ideas and my only argument is if you put enough bad ideas into the world sooner or later your brain will wake up and good ideas will come and that the bad boss problem is your bad boss won't let you ship anything because he or she is insisting on perfect and I've been 7,400 blog posts and I've done four perfect ones so you just got to keep making the work with generosity because then your lizard brain will give up on censoring you because it realizes you're not going to give up and at that point I'll just say well we might as well make it better and that volume comes from putting one foot after the other as you've done 7,400 blog posts that is just incredible and I took some notes on later discussion of this April Fool's joke that you put out and just to underscore something you already said about writer's block and feel free to correct me if this is incorrect but roughly quote no one gets plumbers block they simply do plumbing creativity is work it's not the muse or lightning or the result of burning incense I write daily because I'm a professional and this is what I do and I think it's a it's a it's a strong it seems to me to be a strong commitment and then holding yourself to that commitment whether it's doing the work daily whether it's having the boundaries that you have whether it's having deadlines that you do not miss because you decide that that's going to be a defining characteristic of you and your life because you don't want to be many other things and to force yourself as a square peg into a round hole as many people do attempt for their entire lives very impressive and I think a very important point that the authenticity of maybe suffering from the the changing winds of how you feel minute to minute can be overrided in many respects by viewing yourself as a professional even if you're just getting started deciding that that you are going to do the work and even through dozens of bad ideas or not even through have faith that through coming up with many ideas you will eventually have to come up with a few good ones yeah I think that's brilliant and if I'm gonna you know to quote razander and the the butt versus and you can say to yourself I'm a writer but no one's reading my work I'm an artist but no one's buying my paintings and the butt becomes the essence of your day or you can say I get to write and no one is buying my painting and no one
But” versus “and” (01:35:34)
is buying my work yet I get to paint and no one is buying my paintings yet the and is true you get both things are true so what are you going to do about it well one thing you can do about it is stop or the other thing you can do about it is get better and you don't get better and I spent a bunch of pages in the book talking about what better means you don't get better by getting rid of typographical errors you don't get better by being more realistic in your painting you get better by serving the needs and wants and desires and dreams of the smallest viable audience you sought to serve and if you're not serving them by offering them a way forward with status with tension with where they want to go then it's no wonder there's no line out the door but if you can turn that and into now I see them and I can give them what they want then your work is going to get seen well I think this is a very complete arc of a conversation Seth and remember someone told me once I can't remember who it was but
General Discussions And Conclusions
Current events, book recs, parting thoughts (01:36:57)
it was someone said the what distinguishes the amateur from the professional this was in the context of writing short stories and it wasn't only what to write about it was when to end the story so I want to start to wrap up with no particular emergency rush because I think we've really covered more than I could have hoped for in a very cohesive way are there any other and certainly I'll mention a few places where people can find you and we can mention many more things but are there any other particular resources or recommendations that you would have requests of people listening for things they should do any any parting comments or or last comments for this conversation that come to mind? Well I have to say that once you're on my agenda and my calendar I spent a lot of hours thinking about making sure we get the most out of these conversations because you dig so deep and it's really a privilege to do it so I have a couple completely irrelevant slightly related probably on topic things I would point people to so here we go check out what's happening in the EU about the balkanization of copyright and how a land grab is happening that could very well break the internet Corey Doctorow has written brilliantly about this I thought it would be worth highlighting the fact that five people who I know have written books about their nonprofit work or close to nonprofit work that mattered and had an impact on me I'll read them to you quick Scott Harrison's new book is called thirst and it's the autobiography of charity water Kat Hoke who you know and her book a second chance was magnificent a walk in their shoes by a leader named Jim Zalkowski was about how Jim from a job at GE built an institution that's in countries around the world changing the lives of underprivileged kids the blue sweater by my friend Jacqueline Novigrats about her journey in now a couple hundred million dollars at Acumen Fund and Sean ask an Ozzy who is not running a nonprofit he's run to chocolate company and his book meaningful work I find that all five of these p books fit together and when you read them you can apply 90 percent of what they're talking about to building your for-profit enterprise because it's all the same it's value who are you creating value for and why you're creating that value I love it I can I can second a number of those books and where would you suggest people learn more about you more about the new book where would you suggest they go well all the blog posts are at Seth's dot blog and if you go to Seth's dot blog slash t i m not named after Tim Ferris you'll find this is marketing which is where I put a couple videos about the new book I did not know it stood for Tim when I wrote the book and the alt mba has some sessions signing up now for January it's at alt mba.com and between all that that's enough to keep people busy for a while wonderful and people can find the twitter repost of your blog if they want to keep up with the blog post at at this is Seth's blog Seth it's always such a pleasure and I always learned so much and have taken so many notes for myself I really appreciate you taking the time thanks boss it was fun all right to be continued and to everybody listening thank you for listening and you can find show notes links to everything including Seth's new book and everything that we've discussed in the show notes as per usual at tim.blog/podcast and until next time keep experimenting stay safe and have fun hey guys this is Tim again just a few more things before you take off number one this is five bullet friday do you want to get a short email from me would you enjoy getting a short email from me every friday that provides a little more soul of fun before the weekend and five bullet fridays a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered it could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do it could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends for instance and it's very short it's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend so if you want to receive that check it out just go to four hour work week dot com that's four hour work week dot com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you'll get the very next one and if you sign up I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you exclusively by LinkedIn marketing solutions the go-to tool for BB marketers and advertisers who want to drive brand awareness generate leads will build long-term relationships that result in real business impact could be all of the above I've had read Hoffman co-founder of LinkedIn on this podcast a number of times often called the Oracle of Silicon Valley for many different reasons and he among other people and friends of mine have made me more and more interested in LinkedIn as a platform as an ecosystem in the last few years and it's it's very nuanced it's very subtle but can be used in some very powerful ways with a community of more than 575 million professionals LinkedIn is gigantic but it can be hyper specific you have access to a very diverse group of people all searching for things they need to grow professionally that is explicitly the purpose of LinkedIn and four out of five users are on LinkedIn are decision makers at their companies so you can build relationships that really matter that can drive your business objectives forward that can also have a high LTV lifetime value LinkedIn has the marketing tools to help you target your customers with precision right down to among other things their job pedal company name industry etc this is important because better targeting equals a message that your customers actually care about and it also means your advertising is more effective and cost effective so why spray and pray with your marketing dollars when you can be surgical it just makes sense to redeem a free $100 LinkedIn ad credit and launch your first campaign go to linkedin.com/TFS that stands for Tim Ferris Show so that is linkedin.com/TFS check it out that's where you can go to get your free $100 ad credit linkedin.com forward slash TFS terms and conditions apply