How to Be a Linchpin | Seth Godin on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How to Be a Linchpin | Seth Godin on Impact Theory".
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I think mentors are way overrated. They don't scale. It's an unequal relationship, and it's an easy way to let yourself off the hook. I wish I had a mentor. Heroes are an enormously large supply. You can say, what would Bill Gates do? What would Elon Musk do? What would Jacqueline Novogratz do? And you can study their work enough that even from afar without them knowing you exist. Because they're your hero, you can start to model it. - Everybody, welcome to Impact Goo. You hear my friends because you believe that human potential is nearly limitless, but you know that having potential is not the same is actually doing something with it. So our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. All right, today's guest is one of the most prolific authors of our time. He's written 18 international bestsellers, including Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow, which have been translated into more than 35 languages. And when he was a book packager, he wrote a book per month every month for 10 years. He's also written more than 7,100 blog posts, which he publishes at a rate of one per day every day. Unless you think these are cheap, throw away posts that no one reads. His blog is one of the most popular blogs on the planet. In fact, it's so popular that if you wanna find it, you need only type four single letters into Google. S-E-T-H, that's madness. There are companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and marketing that don't have that kind of visibility. In addition to his writing, he's been an entrepreneur since the age of 14, creating numerous companies, including Squadoo and Yo-Yo Dine, which he sold to Yahoo for $30 million. He is a true iconic class to over the course of a staggeringly varied career, has helped invent children's educational games, commercial email, and he's routinely disrupted the publishing industry with radically divergent tactics, such as free books, ebooks, books with wordless covers, and books that ship in milk cartons. His book, "Spreading the Idea Virus," was the most successful e-book of all time, and when he launched a series of four books on Kickstarter, he reached his goal in just three hours, becoming the most successful book project ever launched that way. He's also revolutionizing the education system by creating some of the top performing online classes on platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare, as well as running his own successful online course called Alt MBA, which seeks to provide the best post-industrial revolution era education possible. So please, help me in welcoming one of the most sought-after speakers in the world, the creator of the brand new podcast, "A Kimbo," the man who has been called the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age, Seth Godin. - Well, I know, I'm going to be serious for coming on the show.
Flying Closer to the Sun (02:43)
- After that intro, I'm like, who is he talking about? It doesn't sound like anyone I know. - The frustrating thing about writing your intro was I kept having to leave things off. - I was very generous of you. - It is really incredible what you've managed to accomplish in your life. And what I found fascinating, 'cause I know you, as an author, have read a lot of your books, which really and truly, by the way, have influenced me as an entrepreneur. And I didn't know as much about your entrepreneurial journey. So diving into that and seeing how many risks you took there, how many successful and unsuccessful things you attempted was staggering. And then I think the favorite thing I came across in researching you was this concept where you told people to fly closer to the sun, and I promise nothing bad will happen to you. What do you mean by that? - Well, I'm not sure I want to promise anything, but I know many back guarantees here. The story of Icarus is fascinating to look at from a cultural perspective. It's been around for thousands of years. We all know it. Daedalus and Icarus go to a desert island. Daedalus the dad makes wings out of feathers. Gives him to his son, puts him on with wax. Says to his son, "Obey your father. We're flying out of here. Don't fly too high, because if you fly too high, the wax will melt and you'll die." And we all know what happened. Icarus got uppity. He had hubris. He disobeyed his father, and he died. Except that's not what the myth said in 1700 or 1500 or 1200. They changed it. It used to say, but more important, don't fly too low. 'Cause if you fly too low, the water and the mist will weigh down your wings and you will surely perish. It took that part out. - Why do you think they took that out? - It took it out because the people in power of the industrialists want us to fly lower. 'Cause it's easier to ignore us. It's easier to keep us in line. It's easier to get a factory job that way. People who have the hubris to dream of something bigger change the status quo. And the people who are in charge aren't in favor of that. And I'm not a conspiracy theorist at all, but I do know where a public school came from. And public school was invented by factory owners who didn't have enough compliant factory workers. And it worked great. For 100 years, we had this wonderful system. Do what you're told. Go to the placement office. You'll get a job for 50 years. You won't like the job, but you'll be able to go home and watch TV, buy enough stuff. You'll need a storage unit, and then you'll die. And the deal was straightforward and kept on both sides. And during our lifetime, in the last 20 years, deals off. And the mistake, the problem, is that people are still seduced into thinking that what they're supposed to do is fit in more. And social media's made it worse, because there's this whole pack mentality of how do I fit in more. With small bursts of, here's one quick tip for a flat stomach and three different ways to get rich.
Job Outlooks: Then & Now (05:35)
And you can learn to flip houses today and be a millionaire tomorrow, none of which work. But the combination of those two mean that people are starting to feel broken and bitter, because the promise isn't being kept. So what does it look like then? And you said something which I thought was pretty racy in the best way possible, which is that in the 1600s, the unemployment rate was zero, because they were wondering jobs. So we're going, you said, that we're going back to that. What does that look like? And how do people fly closer to the sun in that scenario? So let's think about a job where you have to train 12 years to be good at it, radiology. You and I could never read an x-ray and figure out if someone's got a broken leg or not. Well, a few years ago, they figured out that x-rays are digital. So you don't need the person to read them here. Scan them, send them someplace overseas where someone's cheaper. They don't have to do that anymore, because now a computer can do it. And a computer can do it better than an average radiologist. So what jobs are left for radiologists? The job of being so expert at something and doing something so beyond competence that a computer isn't going to be able to learn how to do it. Then all we've got left are jobs where you're doing something someone can't tell you what to do. Because if someone can tell you how to do your job, we can find someone cheaper than you to do it. Do you have a process for that? So that's so powerful. When I read Lynchpin, it changed me. And it changed me at a point in my life where I had a lot of employees. And I struggled with this notion of, OK, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started doing that. And then I would make a terrible employee. But how do I have 1,400 employees and preach like everyone should be an entrepreneur? I'm like, the math doesn't add up. It literally would make my own comfortable part. For sure. The math doesn't add up. Quest was this huge home run, and you owned a factory. You may not have had a building with steam coming out the top, but it was a factory. You needed people to do factory jobs. And those people probably had a good job. But the point is that going forward, most organizations are going to get smaller and smaller per dollar in sales. Because you don't need as many people. If you think about how many people worked at Sears Roadbox, versus how many people work at Amazon now. If you think about how many people it takes a Tesla to make a car compared to how many Henry Ford needed to make a car. We're all going in the same direction. So you have a choice. And the choice is one of three things. Either you're the replaceable cog in the pyramid who's going to get paid as little as possible. Or you're the founder, the owner, the person who runs the thing. But for most of us, the best choice is to be the linchpin, the one we can't live without. The person who figures out what to do next. And I'm betting that of the 1,400 people who worked for you, you had 50 linchpins. And those people made the place work. The other 1,000 you could have replaced on a week's notice. But those 50 people, what they knew, how they cared, how they worked through the world, there would have been no company without them. Do you think at all how do we get people inspired to become a linchpin?
Making Learning a Choice (08:48)
OK. So now we're getting, I think, to the core of what you're trying to build here. And what's open to so many of us. Mandatory education makes no sense. Nobody ever learned anything against their will. Sooner or later, it becomes voluntary. You need enrollment. Not enrollment from the legal sense of you're not true in, but enrollment in the sense that you are leaning into it and want to learn it. So if we want to teach someone to be a baseball fan, here's what we don't do. We don't say, here's the baseball textbook. There'll be a test tomorrow. And if you do well, you can take another test. And if you do 10 tests in a row really well, we'll take you to a game. That's how it happens. But yet, kids memorize all these statistics, and they know all this stuff because they wanted to know it. So we must begin by gaining enrollment. And there are a couple ways to do it. One way is to promise a quick win. Just read these six paragraphs and you will lose 30 pounds. And it's easy to get the masses to pay a dollar for that. But that doesn't work. It's a debt. And the other way to do it is to say to people, being in ABCL or being physically fit or being smart at business, these are endeavors. They take effort. If you're ready to pay the price to get the benefit, there are people who will teach you. So it's the opposite of the question, will this be on the test? If you're asking, will this be on the test from an online course or from a school, what you're basically saying to the teacher is, without a certificate, I don't need to be here. I'm only here to prove that I was here. And in this post-educational institution world that we're entering, certificates are worth less than less. What's actually worth something is, did you sign up to learn something where you opened yourself up to possible failure, opened yourself up to the stress of becoming someone else in a way that made you better? And not everyone wants to do that. But my mission is to work with the people who do so that I can help them open those doors. - And how, so the concept of, let's make sure I pronounce this right, sultomotale?
Saut dans le vide-Leap into the void (Soulter motale) (10:58)
- I guess I'm not familiar with this. - I've only heard you say it, so. - I think you have to roll the sultomotale. - That's much better. - There you go. - So how do we get, how do we, knowing that that's staring into the void and that uh-oh moment of like this could fail and am I really gonna jump and dive forward, how do we train people through that? And God, maybe that's the wrong question, but like, so I grew up in the standard education system, so I try to cram everything into process, which by the way, as a leader would make it so much easier, if I could just like push the cattle through the shoe, and that they would come out the other side, awoken and excited and excitable, but it may not work like that. But how close can we get to making people thirsty for that moment? So sultomotale refers to an important work of art by Eve Klein from the early 1960s. He went to a small suburb outside of Paris and did basically the first Photoshop picture. And he's standing there like this, falling out of a building. And he's literally falling, and they did it with a double exposure. There's mattresses under him that they were then removed. So he didn't die or anything, but you feel in the pit of your stomach, that sort of six flags feeling. The question is, where do we go in our life for those six flags feeling? And what they discovered in the social media world is knowing that there are people talking about you behind your back, it's a good way to simulate that. Oh, I wonder what they're saying. I'm gonna go check my status and check. But it's not productive. So the question is, where can it be productive? Let's say you're a server in a restaurant. Well, if your job is only to bring the food from the kitchen to the front table, we've already figured out how to replace that. It's the buffet or the fast food restaurant. Your job is to make people feel welcome and to connect with them. So there's this space between you and them. And the question is, will you risk entering the space? Putting yourself forward, even though in that moment, the person might say, you totally misjudged what was happening here. I don't want your smile and I don't want your connection. But when you do it well, not only is it addictive, it creates enormous amounts of possibility. And so that leap into the void doesn't mean mortgage your house and put everything you've got on one business project. It means, are you hooked on that feeling of this might not work and this might work? We'll find out.
Having a choice in feeling powerless and agency over your own life (13:37)
- One of the most beautiful things I've ever heard you talk about, and I always try to give people examples of, you know, look, if you wanna play in a world stage, I'm the guy to follow. Like, I will paint that picture for how you get there. But it doesn't have to be entrepreneurial-y. It doesn't have to be that you wanna be an athlete. You could wanna be a great parent. But I've never had the words to explain what that would look like, and you do. And you've used this incredible story of the woman, I think she was at 7-Eleven, who sells like more coffee than any other 7-Eleven in the country or something. What's that whole concept about, like, bringing this down to something that's really tangible for people other than the one that you just gave, where people can really see how this plays out in their lives. - So, the system wants you to feel mostly powerless because they have power, you don't. And it also wants you to feel inadequate until you buy more stuff. Because that's what marketers sell us, is the idea that until you buy this, you're incomplete. It turns out those two things don't make people happy. What makes us happy is agency, knowing that we have some sort of control over what's going to happen in our life. And unfortunately, the economic structure that we live in isn't gonna be easy for most people to fix, not in the short run. But what we can fix right now, is how we respond or react to what's happening in front of us. And my friend, Kat Hoke, says you can't be curious and angry at the same time. - That's interesting. - So you get a choice, right? You get a choice in the traffic jam, you get a choice when you're dealing with an angry clerk, you get a choice with a bureaucrat. Am I gonna be curious about how this person got to this moment? Am I gonna be angry at this situation? And what we find is that as a parent, as a clerk at 7-Eleven, as a third grade teacher, we could dig deep into emotional labor, not the physical labor of digging to the tree, but the emotional labor of sitting when we feel like running, of whispering when we feel like yelling. We could dig deep and say, in this moment, I'm gonna choose to be the best version of myself and seek possibility. And it turns out that that's a life, that you can build an entire life merely doing that. And then what happens more often than not, is the world responds by inviting you to play on a bigger stage. So this is not about hustling, I'm not a fan of hustling. I'm a fan of a generous hustle. And the generous hustle says, "How can I do things in the world "to leave a better trail and to help other people not? "How do I do things so I get my fair share?" Because the world doesn't respond well to hustlers. They don't like being hustled. But the world responds really well to people who take responsibility and give away credit. And that boundary there is totally different. And if you work in an organization that can't respect that, there's another one that wants you. - The way you've crafted your life is utterly fascinating to me.
Chasing what could be vs. what is (16:38)
And when you talk about not being a fan of hustling and talk about generosity and things. So we've obviously been trying to get you on the show forever. And I remember the first time Christopher who books the show, 'cause people always, they dance, right? And it's like, oh, well, maybe not now, whatever. And he goes, "Oh no, Seth Godin was a hard no." I had to laugh 'cause it was so, it was so clear. And he said, "Look, he has these guidelines about traveling "and all that stuff." And I thought, well, that's really interesting. And then as I dug into your, and it was interesting to me because I was so on the climb of trying to build a community, build the following, which you'd obviously already done very successfully. - Well, and you're hitting home months every day. - Overly kind from you, but thank you. And it was so interesting to me then to see your entrepreneurial career and realize, oh, he could have kept going. Like you, after the success of Yo-Yo Dine, I know you, there were other huge offers, equity offers that were made to you. And you turned them down. One why, and how is that for you, the version of flying closer to the sun versus the safe path? - Right. So I haven't talked about this much. After, in '91, I helped invent commercial email. So if you've ever gotten an email from any company that you wanted to get, not spam. 'Cause I was loud and proud against spam from an early age. I got kicked out of the direct marketing association for my behavior. But permission marketing, that was my invention, years before I wrote the book. And we built a company that was getting more email every day than any company in the world. It was only 75 employees. So that was a fascinating ride and it was energizing. And I sold it to Yahoo, right at the peak of the bubble. And then I got a call from Bill Gross, who's a great entrepreneur. And he said, "Ideally, I have needs "a vice president of marketing. "We're gonna go public in six months. "Would you like a billion dollars in stock options "to take the job?" And I looked at my little kids and I looked at my life and I said, "I know how to do that, "but what would change for the better if I did?" And so I turned it down. And once you turned down a billion dollars in stock options, it becomes really easy to prioritize the rest of your life. 'Cause you say to yourself, "Well, don't do it for money "because you didn't do that for money." And so the model has been, I see myself as a teacher. That's really incredible.
Living without fine print (19:06)
And I think everybody judges their life by metrics, even if not by standard metrics. What are the metrics by which you judge the success of your life, judge what you do next? That kind of thing. - Well, so, you know, I'm fortunate because I've shown up a lot longer than most people thought I would show up, that there's a lot of people who trust me. And my goal is to build that trust, not to trade in on that trust. And that means putting things into the world that match the promise that I've made. And the promise I've made is, this might surprise you, this might not work. There are no shortcuts, but you might be able to see a different way through. That puts a lot of pressure on me to not do the safe thing. So, you know, we wrote, at Goyo Dye, one of the first privacy policies ever on the internet, we won't rent or sell your email address. Now you see those everywhere. I don't need that policy anymore. 'Cause the people who trust me know that I would never do that. And that's the goal, is how can you engage with people so that you don't even need a lawyer, so you don't even need to find print? 'Cause you can live a life with no find print.
- Yeah, that's really interesting, very hard to do. And when I look at you referring to yourself as a teacher, coming out of being an entrepreneur, building things, realizing that this is somebody who's doing this purely out of choice, it's really fascinating, especially in our culture today, where the entrepreneurs become the new rock star, buildings like unless you're building something, like you're just not living up to your potential. It takes a real level of self-discipline, not to get caught up in cultural pressure. Yeah, what other people think about you, the just lizard brain amygdala, desire to fit in. And so it's really tempting to look at you. And in fact, if I'm honest, I did look at you as somebody that just sort of naturally had an easier time with that than others. But then in researching, you realizing that you really grew to understand self-narrative, self-talk, that you actually struggled with negative self-talk. Walk us through that. What's your relationship with cognitive behavioral therapy? Like how did you unwind the self-talk to be able to make such clear decisions for yourself? - Well, as you mentioned earlier, I've been a small-time entrepreneur since I was 14, and never did it for the money. I did it 'cause it was interesting, because I saw a problem and I wanted to help change it. I saw a project, I wanted to see if it would work. And it was a fun ride through college, I went to business school briefly, and then I had my one and only real job at a software company, which was a great one, because I was making mistakes and somebody else's dime. But I left there in '84, and proceeded to just fail, and fail and fail. I sold my first book, The First Day, to Warner Books for $5,000, Chip Conley and I wrote it together. And when we were 24, and then I got, they're 86, 26 years old, and then I got 800 rejection letters in a row. I got rejected by every well-known publisher again and again and again, 'cause all you needed to send out a book proposal was stamps. You had to go down to the local laser printing place 'cause I couldn't afford a laser printer, and you'd print out the proposals, and you'd just mail 'em, and if they liked it, they'd send you money, but they didn't like it. Then they didn't like it, and they just kept not liking it. And I was doing projects that were sort of, like in those days, you couldn't find a recipe for fortune cookies. Wasn't it a Chinese cookbook, wasn't it an enjoyer cooking? How do you make fortune cookies? So I was gonna do a cookbook with a recipe for fortune cookies, but what are the other 200 pages? The other 200 pages were little tiny perforated fortunes, some by Kenny Youngman and others that we were just gonna make up, so the fortune cooking construction set. What a great idea, and I like it. And then big bucks, little bucks, no one liked the books. And so the question is, how do you hustle harder? How do you get in front of more people? How do you, and I was bringing in spreadsheets, and I was wearing a suit, and I realized that the frustration was turning into anger, and I was almost daring people to reject it, so my number could get even higher than 800, right? Once I could relax into the idea that maybe I could do something for other people, things started to go a little bit better, and one project led to another. So there's 120 bucks, I didn't write them, I put together teams, I wrote parts of them, really complicated, Almanacs, 600 page books that were basically the internet before the internet, but then a speed bump would come, right? 'Cause you'd spend a million dollars, or half a million dollars to make a book, and then it didn't come through, or whatever. And when they did, that whole talk would come back, and I'd be afraid to answer the telephone, and it's all caving in again. And that was the first time I discovered CBT, which for those who haven't explored it is the single most proven form of therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (23:52)
You don't have to go very many times, three, four times, it's a series of techniques. We had a family friend whose kid at the age of four had significant OCD, he was washing his hands for hours every day, which if you have a four year old, there's a very scary thing to watch. Just after three sessions, he never did it again. And the trick, 'cause it's a trick, is, oh, your brain has a loop going on. When that loop gets started is when it's at its weakest. How do you train the kid that when that happens, there's a little intervention? Oh, put a gold coin over here, instead of over here. That's a signal, it starts this other thing, a prize occurs, you've completely forgotten that you wanna wash your hands, things like that. So for me, there were certain triggers, and it's like, oh, when I feel that trigger, instead of launching this, then launching this, and launching this, why don't I do that instead? And about the same time, I had this horrible crackling in my ears, and I went to the ear nose and throw it in hospital in New York, and I explained to them, and they listened, and they say, yeah, you have a horrible crackling in your ears, it really bothers me. And they gave me some serious suit of fed, and I slept for a week, 'cause I'm very sensitive to that, and I went, I say, I can't take the same work. And the crackling came back, and they said, well, what makes the crackling start? I go in like, oh, I like this. And they said, don't do that. So I stopped, 'cause the crackling was bothering me. I just made the crackling come back right now, but I just stopped making that move, and the crackling went away. Well, the same thing is true with so many of the stories we tell ourselves, about business, about sales, about relationships, about customers, about employees. Here we go again. Well, the minute you start saying, here we go again. You have a moment when you could say, well, what if I said something else right now? But if every time I felt that way, instead of pushing someone away, I gave them a hug, right? That you reprogram that cycle, and it doesn't work every time. People have very serious issues that I'm not minimizing at all. I'm just saying, for me, it made a huge shift in how I decided to be present in the moment and not run away from the lizard, not run away from those things that scared me, but dance with them instead. - I love that you brought that up.
Dancing with fear through the process of becoming an artist (26:16)
That notion of dancing with the fear is something you've talked really eloquently about. What is that, what's that process look like, and how does it end up serving somebody who wants to become an artist in the way that you mean it from Lynchpin, the artistry of the person who walks up to your table and greets you with a smile and does things that can't be outsourced? - You know, there's a really good reason to be afraid. And if you look at a lizard or a wolf or a fox, they spend most of their time afraid. That's why they're alive. That what makes a wild animal a wild animal is that they're good at having grandchildren staying alive in the wild. That involves a little bit of reproduction and sort of almost an anger thing, but mostly it's fear. Get out of trouble right now. - Well, we evolved from that and it worked when we were cavemen or in the jungle. 'Cause if you hear a twig snap and you don't run away, that's it, it's over. If you're in the circle in the village around the campfire and you offend the chief and they banish you from the tribe, you're gonna die. And so there's a lot of things that evolve for a really good reason about how we behave. And now they're all wrong. That the thing that you're trying to avoid with saber tooth tigers or the campfire, the opposite is true. If you wanna do public speaking, make a presentation, do sales, invent something new, write all of the, where did writer's block come from, right? Writer's block is a glitch that we think we're in the jungle when we're actually in front of our keyboard. So when it shows up, we can't deny it's there. The harder we make it go away, the more powerful it becomes 'cause it's at our brainstem or amygdala. It's very powerful. So the alternative is say, oh, welcome back. Thanks for letting me know I'm onto something. And that narrative is something that we can learn to do. And we now have such an easy time to put our ideas into the world if we can do it generously and we can do it with fear, not without fear, but do it with fear. Because over time, it's like athletics. We can train ourselves to get better. - One thing that I love, I was literally floored by the fact that you've written more than 7,100 blog posts.
7,100 blog posts (28:40)
I was freaking out. I was like, how is that number real? I made sure that you hadn't misspoke so that I was hearing it multiple times. It's like, Jesus, that's scary. And then you said, but the law of statistics says that over half of them are below average. And I thought, wow, that's really interesting. And you couple that with the 800 rejections one after the other after the other, it gets to be really interesting. And what I wanna know, so I get the technique of cognitive behavioral therapy, but why did you care enough to keep going? Like when you got that many rejections, why not just go for a typical job or why one a day? Like why not? - Exactly. Well, you just gave it away when you rolled your eyes when you said typical job, right? 'Cause I knew what the typical job was. And I knew I would be stuck in it and I would be bad at it. That I still have trouble not speaking up when I see things that are broken. You're not paid to speak up about broken things when you're a bank teller or when you're a junior trainee. And so I knew that I would view that for the rest of my life as a really significant failure. So the idea was how do I cost reduce macaroni and cheese for dinner, window shopping at restaurants so that I could just make it one more day? How can I cycle this so I get to keep playing? And the magic of the book business when I was in it was you didn't need any cash to get started. The publisher funded the work and then paid you a loyalty. So it looked like it could work. And there were people who were making it work. And I talk about this in the dip. That there's a difference, totally in favor of radicals who do something that's never been done before. But if you don't have the resources to support that, better to do something that's been done before. Better to follow down a path where there's a path. Because the work is the point, the process is the point, not being able to brag that you were the first one. - One thing that I really think is interesting is if you're gonna be writing the blog posts, you're gonna be doing that many.
Turning Getting Better into a Process (30:52)
You know that some are gonna be below average or your Isaac Asimov and you're writing until noon, just every day, even if it's not good. How do you turn getting better into a process? Do you think that we're born with it? Do you think that we can increase our talent? - Right. So people who talk to me about writer's block, who talk to me about being stuck, I say, show me your bad writing. And they never have any. Show me the six novels you've written that are terrible. They don't have them. Show me the 18 screenplays. They don't have them. Because what they're really saying is, I wanna have really good writing, then I'll have some. And in my experience, it begins with really bad writing. If you have enough bad writing, someone can help you make it better. If you have bad taste, you can learn to get better taste. So I don't believe that there's any genetics associated whatsoever with what most people call talent. I think there's an enormous amount of culture associated with it. And I think there's learning associated with it that you get better at this craft because you're in a culture that rewards you for getting better at it. Like here we are in LA surrounded by some of the greatest sounding camera people in the industry. Most of the sounding camera people in LA are better than the sound and camera people in Guadalajara. Why? Because there's a cultural loop here that says, if you get a little bit better, you're gonna get more work, which will get you a little bit better, which will get you more working around and around it goes. It's no one's born being good at manual focus. That's something that you develop a knack for and the same thing's true with writing. Some people get lucky out of the gate, but they compound that luck because they keep going and they edit, they develop good taste. I'm good at direct mail copywriting. Partly because I've written 3000 direct mail letters. And until you've written 2000, it's not fair to say you're not good at it. - That is so powerful. I literally didn't wanna breathe 'cause I wanted to make sure that we got that whole thing. That's so powerful and I really hope everybody at home is listening to that. What was your process? How did you, were there people that you sought feedback from specifically, like how did you go through to get better? - I'm gonna put a little sidebar here about the Alt MBA because what I've found is some people can bootstrap their way into this. And I think you're one of those people. I know I'm one of those people. And other people, because of school and lots of other things, need a support system to do it. So the Alt MBA, the seminar I run, I'm not in it. There's no video of me. There's no video of anybody. There's 75 resources, but it's projects and giving and getting feedback. And what happens is the people in it, there's 125 people, there's live coaches, give more feedback in 30 days than they've ever given in their whole life. And get more feedback than they've ever gotten in their whole life. And it keeps cycling and cycling and cycling and cycling because you can simulate that bootstrap situation if you're surrounded by other people who are on the same path as you. I used to go to Barnes & Noble every Sunday and by every one of the five important business books that were published that week. They were only five a week that were worth buying. Now it's five every 10 minutes, but it's five a week. You could read them all. I used to listen and map and look and chart and say, well, how did this work and how did that work? When I was gonna be a thriller writer, I took six James Bond novels and decoded them chapter by chapter. Is there a rhythm to the... There's lots of ways you can do that stuff. But the fact you haven't done it already might mean you need somebody to help you. And a mastermind group that you organize yourself is a great way to do it. There's 20 great ways to do it, 50 great ways. But it begins by accepting, you can get better. And if you think there's a shortcut, you're wrong. - That breaking down the James Bond thing is so smart.
Influences And Personal Inspirations
Benjamin Franklin (35:02)
Did you know that that was how Benjamin Franklin got better at writing? - By reading James Bond? - Not by reading James Bond necessarily. - You certainly got it on, yeah. - But yeah, he used to deconstruct the people that he thought were the best and try to read it and then from memory write what they were saying so that he could figure out, do I understand sentence structure? Do I understand paragraphs? And I thought that was so fascinating at a time where you couldn't just go take a course on creative writing that people still found ways to do it, that it's like the most tried and true method, which is essentially to have a mentor, somebody that's walking you through this stuff.
Creative Writing (35:25)
But even in the absence of that, that there are ways, especially now with social media and being online, you can get in contact with people even if it's just their work.
- So you're keying into one of my favorite blog posts ever which is about mentors and heroes. I am in the minority here, I think mentors are way overrated. They don't scale, it's an unequal relationship and it's an easy way to let yourself off the hook. I wish I had a mentor. Heroes are an enormously large supply. You can say what would Bill Gates do? What would Elon Musk do? What would Jacqueline Overgratz do? And you can study their work enough that even from afar without them knowing you exist because they're your hero, you can start to model it. Years ago, when I was a book packager, I did a series of novels for Scholastic and the idea was 12 year old boys, even back then, weren't reading. And there was the Baby Sitter's Club in Sweet Valley High but mostly for girls, what, for boys. So I licensed the rights to a bunch of Nintendo games and I invented the idea of novelizing Nintendo games. How do you get from that idea to a million books sold? And the answer was there are people who novelize movies for a living so that when you, the Black Panther movie is gonna be coming out, there's gonna be a little Black Panther novel, I'm sure that someone's gonna write. It turns out they do them in two weeks. There's a craft to it, the people who know how to do this. But you gotta give them the screenplay. Well, I didn't have the screenplay 'cause it was a computer game. So I developed this process. I said, well, I know how to take a 12 year old and give them a video cassette player and have them play the game to the end. Then I can take that cassette and have somebody write out and think, then I can turn it into a Bible, 20 pages long. Who are the characters? What do they look like? What are the sources of tension? Which I'm just stealing from, you know, six different kinds of script development books. Then I can hand it to somebody who writes novels based on movies. And two weeks after we started, we had a novel. And it wasn't a great novel, but it cost 99 cents and it was for a 12 year old. And it got them to a lifetime of reading. The point of that process was there was not one single act of genius in the entire thing. But as a packager, my job was to be that person who could produce something from afar that all fit together. And this economy we live in isn't an industrial one, it's a connection economy. Not based on who you know, but on who trusts you and what you have access to. So the possibilities, right this moment, not for long, are enormous for a human being who wants to take a threat of this, a threat of this, a threat of this, weave them together, braid them up and say, I made this. And I think that's being ignored by too many people who are looking for a shortcut. - Do that example, you say there was not an act of genius in it?
- And I'll take that genius maybe is simplifying things or at least seeing that a process can be created, I don't need it to be Einstein. And I really want people to understand this. So at Quest we went from, I don't know how to make a shelf stable, like literally people would not believe how ignorant we were to the process. We had no idea how you could do it. Right, we didn't even know that water would make it rot, right, like that's how bad we were. And then had to figure out the equipment and then now starting a studio, right? It's the same thing. But what we do is we sit down and we go, okay, it's a game we play called no bullshit, what would it take? So no bullshit, what would it take to build Disney now? Knowing that now I have to compete against Disney, right? So at least he didn't have to do that. So you start breaking it down to these survivable failures, right, that's how I look at it. So I never want to bet the farm, so I need to be able to lose a lot. And so where do I go that's a natural part of the runway, - Exactly. - Where I can fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, iterate, figure it out and then go. And if people could have watched this and I've tried to give it to them, but if they could have watched that process, like entrepreneurs in my way of defining, it would be born because they would see, oh, like there's no magic, it's fumbling through, but it's getting that path. How did you guys break down the problem with education that you're trying to solve? And then the actual way, 'cause I'm shocked, when you said there were no videos, I assumed all MBA was you in videos. So how did you guys figure out that wouldn't work? And I'm really looking for that process. Like what were some of those early ahas that you had about problem solution? - Okay, so I won't make up a convenient answer, I'll tell you exactly how these things work for me. About six times in my life, I have met somebody who in the moment prodded me, provoked me, and encouraged me, and something came out at the other side. So my friend Lisa Gansky helped invent the World Wide Web. When she and I met, I was busy building my email company, she was busy running the first web crawler search engine kind of thing. And just being in the room with her caused me to invent a whole bunch of things, click through ads, stuff that is still around. Because she understood what I needed to keep going and kept saying, but that's not gonna work and then I would need to top that. These are priceless things when they happen to me, they don't happen very often. What happened with the ALT MBA is I saw the Skillshare courses working, I saw the Udemy courses working, but I also knew that the typical online course has a 96% dropout rate. And I knew that a bunch of money could be made, taking money from people by making promises and then having them dropout. I had no interest in that whatsoever. So I said to myself, what would a course that had a 2% dropout rate be like? And then I went to the desert and I just sat there with my problem until I figured it out. And that's hard work, it's much harder work than when you find a magical person to dance with. But I came back and I said, here are the 13 projects and we're gonna use Slack and Zoom and WordPress and this and this and this. And we're gonna, so I'm gonna look on the patch until it works and let's go build that.
The Magic of Tribes (41:44)
- So one of the things that I find propels people through times like that where they're off in the desert and they're trying to figure this out and it's hard as hell. And it might even be scary and I don't know if this is gonna work kicks in. And the thing that I always tell people you need is to have something that gives you more energy than it takes. And we'll shorthand that and say, it's passion. What do you think about passion, a calling? - Yeah. - What's your take on that? - So another controversial thing for me. A lot of people hide behind the expression. If I could just find something I love, then I could do great work. And I think it's way more powerful to be able to say, I choose to love the thing I do. And that idea that we can become passionate about our work as opposed to expecting our work to give us passion makes us way more flexible, gives us way more leverage, allows us to move forward. And it gets back to the narrative, the self-talk we have about this work we get to do as opposed to having to treat it as something we have to do. - I am absolutely ablaze with agreement on I really think that it's a process to create a passion and it drives me nuts 'cause even I slip into saying, "Find your passion." And I'm like, you don't find it, you create it. So what advice do you have for people that are like, okay, I get it intellectually, but I don't, like what does a process look like? Like how do I decide to love something? - I don't know who said it first, but it turns out that if you smile, you're gonna be in a better mood, not the other way around, right? That when you watch people trudging through the mall, spending hundreds of dollars just before Christmas, they're miserable, right? What a privilege to spend hundreds of dollars. If you don't wanna do it, there's some really worthy causes that you ought to send it to. This choice of saying, "I made the decision to be here today. I made the decision to live." If you really wanna make money, go work for Goldman Sachs. It's the single best way to get really rich. If that's not what you're doing, then you've already decided you're not doing it for the money. So why are you doing it? And coming back to that, you know, and Tony Robbins is a master of this, of reorganizing our brain chemistry around the signals that come to us, that deciding to smile and pause every time we see our kid, right? Even if we're in the middle of seven other things, that you can burn that in and it will persist for years. And so this isn't my area of expertise. I've done it for myself. I don't teach people how to do this. But what I can tell you is it's mostly triggered by fear. Our fear of death, our fear of being alone, our fear of failure. So we invent all these narratives to protect ourselves from the thing that's gonna happen to us one day anyway. And so there's an enormous amount to be said for accepting the fact that you're gonna die, accepting the fact that it's all gonna go away. What are you gonna do in the meantime, right? The tongue-young Trump or Impeche said, "We're falling and we're falling and we're falling." But the good news is there's nothing to hold on to. - Yeah. In doing the research, there was one thing, more than, and I actually thought about starting the interview here, but I have no idea where it was gonna go. - Okay.
Why Seth cried when Leonard Nimoy died (45:15)
- So I thought I really wanted to get to the, flying closer to the sun. You cried when Leonard Nimoy died. That caught my attention in a way that like, I can't explain. Why? - I'm getting choked up right now. I never met him. I think there are a few reasons. One is the human he was and the work that he did behind the scenes. So, small example, when the TV show went off the air, it was failure, and they decided to make the Saturday morning cartoon. And the deal was they would bring back three of the characters, but then they'd have anonymous people do all the other voices. And Nimoy Spock said, "If you don't bring back Sulu "and check off and the rest, Enu Hurra, I'm not doing it." No upside for him doing that. And it enabled those humans to make a living going forward so that we got all the other stuff that came from it. In terms of his work as a professional, I blogged about the day on the set. He actually became Spock because, you know, there's all that stuff. Every time the ship gets into trouble and the ship gets into trouble and he's gonna do what everybody else does. And the director says, "Be the different one." And so while everyone else is throwing themselves across the deck, he says, "Fascinating," and just raises one eyebrow. And that is what genius looks like. That's what an artist does. An artist says, "Oh, right now, someone tossed me the ball. "What am I gonna do with the ball? "And how can I do it for other people "not to get more screen time, right?" So that's part of it. And then the other part of it is, I think that what Gene Roddenberry created in the Spock character is this combination of Buddhism, rationality, and the best of what an emotional human is. And when I think about the culture that I wanna be part of, I'd rather have more Spock's than Kirk's, right? Kirk's just wanna blow shit up. But Spock was living, weaving together something. And I know he's a fictional character, but it felt to me like part of the family was leaving us. It's really incredible.
Seth'S Online Presence And Perspective On Success
Seth online (47:40)
Before I asked my last question, where can these guys find you online, beyond just typing Seth into Google, which is, I had to test it, by the way. I was like, there's no way, and it works. - My mom was gonna name me Scott, and if that had happened, none of this would have worked. But my grandfather said, that's the brand of toilet paper, don't do that. That didn't happen. - Thanks to Grandpa. I blog every day at my blog, which is currently at SethGoden.typehead.com. Again, you can find him at typing in Seth. The altmba's at altmba.com. And now I'm working with my team to reinvigorate and expand the marketing seminar that we also run. But no new books, because people wanna go deeper. And so that's what we're focusing on. - What about a Kimbo? I listened to your first episode, it's good. - You had a very busy morning, 'cause it went live today. Kimbo is a new podcast for me. You can find it at a Kimbo.link. It's not like other podcasts. There's no guests. I don't read the ads. There's Q&A at the end. It's an experiment, it might not work, we'll see. - I'm gonna tell you this right now. It is going to crush. Episode one, which will almost certainly be your worst, is already fantastic, because I can feel you blogging in the podcast. And so it's like the same idiosyncratic, incredibly like cut through the noise insights. But wonderfully longer than the blog post, which of course is the only crushing problem with your blog post, you just want them to last forever. - That's so kind of you, thank you. - Dude, I'm telling you, you've impacted my life, so first of all, let's just start with that. I don't know if you know, but I have a book list of the most important books any human being should read in order, and Lynchpin is on there. It was transformative for me, I think it would be transformative for many others. Obviously seeing you adapt the way that you do is so incredible and that you haven't gotten stuck in books, which would be so easy for you, 'cause you've been so successful. And to see you shift over into podcasts, it's gonna be incredible, I'll just say that right now.
Seths definition of real success (49:43)
And then my final question, what is the impact that you wanna have on the world? - I thought about this a little bit, and it's a little meta, but here we go. I would like to be known by what the people who learned from me taught other people. Because I'm not trying to teach for my own sake, I'm trying to teach so that other people can help the culture around them level up, 'cause it's all we got. - That's incredible, Seth, thank you so much for being here.
- Thank you, thank you. - Guys, the world that he has created is absolutely astonishing, and really think about the choices that we all make in our life. I believe this to the core of my being, that's what defines us. It isn't our intentions, it isn't what we end up having at the end of the day in terms of financial success. It is entirely the choices that we make that show what our value system is, that show what we prioritize, and when he says he views himself as a teacher, he holds true to that in everything that he does, I literally just got the chills. From the books that he's written to the nearly infinite wealth of information in his blog, to his podcast, "Everything, The Generosity of Spirits, Incredible," and we didn't even talk about what he's like on stage, which go through yourself in favor right now. It is absolutely incredibly, it has 150 slides. In his presentation, he never looks at the clicker, which I was very impressed by. So they just seamlessly, magically changes, he's going through, it is absolutely incredible. It's some of the best stage presentation I've ever seen. In my life, absolutely incredible, it's all available online. But the thing I want you guys to see, doesn't believe that we're born with anything, it's all created, writer's block is total BS, you don't have a passion, you create a passion. This is all coming from somebody who has built one of the most magnificent examples of the life designed from the ground up to deliver fulfillment. Fulfillment at the end of the day is the only thing that matters. And so to see him craft success and fulfillment in equal measure is breathtaking. Dive in, check it out, and I'm begging you, let it change you forever and for the better. All right, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe and until next time, my friends, be legendary, take care. That was so beautiful. So generous. Hey everybody, thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're gonna get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit and unlocking your full potential.