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Archive for the ‘Triiibes / Seth Godin’ Category

More than a week since Seth Godin’s latest book “We Are All Weird” came out, and I still can’t get myself to buy or read it. It’s been reduced to $ 2.99 on Amazon (e-book version) so not even price is an excuse. If you know me, that’s weird! I’ve been an admirer of Seth’s work for many years, I am a first generation member of his online club “Triiibes”, and his work has greatly inspired and helped both my business and the way I look at this world in general. So what happened?

Ever since “Linchpin”, a monumental turning point in Seth’s focus, he has carpet-bombed the world with more of the same: the “Domino Project” illuminating every aspect of his topic, workbooks, e-books, “Graceful” – a book that blew by me unnoticed – and now “We are all Weird”.

My issue with all this is: Linchpins have always existed, they aren’t Seth’s or anybody else’s invention, and repeating the message over and over again won’t change a thing: being special cannot be learned. If you don’t have the virus already you won’t even know about these books. It’s in you or it isn’t. It is a combination of character, pain level and a spark. You don’t need another book to bring out the Linchpin you already are. And that’s all that needs to be said about it.

My final turnoff was Seth’s blog advertising the new book: I kept on reading his synopsis waiting for ANYTHING new, a new angle, a new topic, a new idea. But: nada, it read like a summary of “Linchpin” followed by raving reviews written by some of my fellow Triiibes-folks (in other words: his most loyal fans). Adding those reviews sunk the whole blog from a level of “personal, heartfelt and urgent” straight to the bottom of “buy my book” advertising. All of his own lessons forgotten?

I continue to admire Seth for his earlier work, and for his always brilliant and creative mind, but he has lost me on his current path. The world didn’t stop turning two years ago, important transformations are taking place and I am waiting for the day when Seth will emerge from fighting his demon to contribute thoughts and inspiration to the things that really matter right now.

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Published as the second book of the “Domino Project” series, “Do the work” re-emphasizes in a concise and easy to read way the theme of resistance that Pressfield wrote about in “The War of Art” so impressively. While the latter is still a must-read, “Do the Work” may serve as either a teaser for the real thing or as your second building block to start off on your path as a “Linchpin” – an analogy used by Seth Godin in his book of the same name urging us all to live more self-determined and fulfilled lives than we do today.

“Linchpin” is leaning heavily on Pressfield’s picture of the lizard, a symbol of the reptilian brain, that is holding us back by creating fear of change in us all the time, and so it makes sense to have him provide the second booklet of the series. Other than Godin, Pressfield does, however, tackle the aspect of failure and how to deal with it, which makes “Do the Work” special to me. In a recent discussion I asked Seth about why he is apparently ignoring the fallout of failure (see also my previous review on “Linchpin” on this blog to get the details of my argument), and he answered that – given a choice between my gloomy hyperbole of having to deal with failure and his hyperbole of looking forward to eventual success, he’d prefer his. Fair enough, but the issue remains and if Seth probed this “hyperbole” among his most faithful followers in his “Triiibes” club he might change his point of view.

Either way, Steven Pressfield helps us stare failure in the eye, and despite is brevity  “Do the work” provides a clear view of how to be considerate of the possibility of failure, and how to deal with it when it happens – without falling victim to the lizard brain. As such, “Do the Work” is a necessary and useful addition or even a missing chapter of “Linchpin” you should definitely read.

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Last night I spoke to a group of chemical engineers about the importance of social medial to professional success. Being faced with a very diverse audience in terms of age, computer literacy and field of profession I decided to go with a shotgun approach rather than a sniper rifle and ended up leaving a number of questions unanswered. So let me add some beef to the bone.

I hope it became clear that the determination of the tools you use depends on the target audience you are addressing. No point “tweeting” into the forest, and no point sending letters to “Generation i” (as in iPhone) either. Looking at the portfolio of communication methods available, LinkedIN and blogging seem to be the most promising ones to this particular group. Here is why.

LinkedIN

Lets you create a profile that is searchable by employers, recruiters and potential business partners. Of course, the LinkedIN population is much larger than the readership of, say, the New York Times so the pool of names returned from each search is proportionally bigger. Which is why it is a big mistake to generalize:

  • Do not declare that you have such broad experience you are practically qualified for anything. People skimming profiles are digging deep these days (is that an oxymoron?), and they will search for very particular skills. Make sure you list these skills.
  • Stand out: many profiles are sterile; they are “copy-and-paste” resumes saying nothing about who you really are, and what drives you. Fact is that your social compatibility with your new employer or partner is at least equally important as your qualification. If you don’t fit in the corporate culture, if the “chemistry” is off, you won’t succeed.
  • As part of this, put a nice picture of yourself on your profile page. Not the ¾ shot showing you wearing your nicest suit – a picture that says all about you.
  • A lot of people are concerned that their age might disqualify them. I believe that’s wrong. With age comes experience, and most great organizations feature a mix of young talent AND experienced experts. If a company discriminates on age, they’ll find out sooner or later, anyway, and you don’t want to work for them in the first place.
  • Tailor your approach: nobody says you can have only one LinkedIN profile. If you are talking to more than one target audience, rather than cramming it all into one text box, consider creating two separate profiles.

The same goes for any written material you may send out in response to inquiries. Always customize it to suit the recipient. After so many years in the business you have many stories to tell. Do your research and decide which one is most relevant to the recipient of the document. Be truthful but highlight different aspects of your skills, always with a focus on “this is why you should hire me” rather than “look what a great guy I am”. Few people really care about your past; they are trying to figure out what you can do for them in the future.

Careful with numbers: I’ve seen many profiles stating not only the name of a previous employer but also proclaiming success by “increasing turnover for product line X from Y to Z dollars”. While that’s a good thing you are not only in breach of your obligations of secrecy towards your old company but you also suggest that your new employer might find its business data on your profile as well one day – not a good start.

LinkedIN isn’t just your Yellow Pages, it is also a social network. Find and join LinkedIN groups relevant to your business and be an active member. Whenever you contribute to a discussion on LinkedIN or start a new one, the number of visitors to your profile will go up (you can see that in your statistics). This will grow your network and extend your reach into new companies, areas of activity and to like-minded people. Also, groups serve as “pegs” to show your affiliation with a specific tribe or topic. Recruiters will skim the group directory to find great candidates for a particular task.

Blogging

To take this a step further, consider blogging. Blogging lets you write on technical topics, assessments of current affairs related to your specialty, or about your visions and views of the future. Setting up a blog is easy. I recommend WordPress because it is easy to use, free of charge, and they let you create a website, too. You can blog about anything but the point of a blog is to offer relevant content to an audience. There are no rules for how often you have to blog. Some people blog daily, others (like me) about once a month. People who subscribe to your blog will be notified automatically so you don’t lose anyone if you keep quiet for a bit. Plus, applications like LinkedIN and Facebook let you link to your blog so your new blog will automatically be visible to your LinkedIN contacts.

A blog can serve as a manifestation of your skills, your level of connectedness with your tribe and current events, and it is an invitation to start a conversation with you. Remember: if you are irrelevant, boring, offensive or too loud, people will turn you off. If, however, you are engaging, provocative, brief in making a point and fun to read then your reward will be an inbox full of comments, questions, criticism….  and a bit of spam which you can delete.

It’s OK to advertise your blog when it’s new, and when it’s appropriate. Don’t frequently participate in online discussions by posting “as I said in my blog [link]….”. It is pretentious, it’s not cool, and people will turn you off. Instead, ask your friends, peers and other people you know to give you feedback. If they like your blog, they will take care of spreading the word for you.

Finally: be patient with everything you do. Remember: the spider builds its web well in advance of being hungry. Flies have no flight schedules.

Good luck! Reminder: you can still download the reading list HERE.

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Seth Godin just launched the first part of a new series of manifestos expanding on the idea of “Linchpin”. It is titled “Poke the Box” and written by Seth himself; from what I understand more manifestos will be contributed by other authors and will follow in short succession.

The book is leaning heavily on the “Linchpin” theme and its message is probably best summarized as: Don’t be afraid of failing. It matters that you start things, and that you go all the way; some will fail but some will succeed. Then build on what works but when you reach the point where things shift from “adventure” mode into “routine” then go and do something else.

I think I never disagreed with Seth so much as on this message. His thesis culminates in borrowing the analogy of a dandelion, a flower relentlessly spreading its spores all over the place with the effect that some of them will make it, just as a matter of statistics. This works for dandelions receiving sunlight and water for free, but I’m afraid it does not work for humans. To their credit, dandelions don’t have a brain so they deserve a break.

Seth also touches on the aspect of capital; and while relentlessness and passion are important assets to succeed in business, without resources and money it is just not going to work that often. Retelling anecdotes of the few that made it doesn’t help either. There is always the story of the cancer patient who became a Tour de France winner, the small town acting talent who became a Broadway star, or the iconic dish washer turned millionaire. Fact is: while this is true for a fortunate 2%, the “rest” is left in the dust, ends up in poverty or with a second class career. Not for lack of starting but because EVERYBODY started. We’re not the dandelions, we are the spores. Making yourself visible in an environment like this without the right connections or the boost of “right circumstances” Malcolm Gladwell describes in “Outliers“, the question of whether or not you succeed is down to quite a bit of luck. There is a very thin line between winning and failing in life, and it is only partly in our control.

Luckily, we have a brain.

Pardon my Taekwondo analogies, but if you want to break a board with your bare hand you better get it right the first time. Not because your brain can not be brought to reset and build enough confidence for a second strike, but because after the first strike your hand is battered, and you are starting to feel pain and physical exhaustion. Maybe you even broke a bone.

When you start a new business, whatever it is, you will probably need some money. Fail and your financial resources diminish. Fail again and you’re broke. More importantly, your credibility gets invested in each of your endeavors. Without people who believe in you succeeding is not possible, be it as customers or investors. Even a satisfied customer from your first business will be irritated if you shut down on him / her, perhaps leaving a product unserviced or an urgent demand unmet. Shut down twice and you’ll be labeled as unreliable. And even Seth would think twice about investing in a person approaching him for funds for the fifth time, telling him dandelion stories. It just doesn’t work that way. And to decide to just forget about the audience you just disappointed and look for a new one is not everyone’s game, either.

So what about poking the box then? Poke it, but don’t poke it like a baby would. Take one step at a time, but remember your last step and reverse it if the result isn’t what you want. Look under the hood – who says you can’t open the damn thing and check it out?

Check it out because your box might be a bomb – and you don’t want it to go off in your face.

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In his recent blog “The non-optimized life” Seth Godin points out that an obsession with optimizing what you already do will make you neglect or forget to create new things, new ways and new angles in life. I get the point but I believe the opposite of this issue is what we are currently suffering from more.

In business in particular, companies try to make us forget sub-optimal products or services by quickly offering new ones containing a new set of flaws. For instance, rather than perfecting Windows XP, an operating system most people were quite content with, Mircosoft tried to convince us that the ultimate fix for all of its remaining imperfections was Vista – we all know how that ended. We don’t need “all new” cars every few years if performance and functionality were the drivers. Why not evolve them, why not gradually push them nearer to perfection rather than throwing out something that really works well for people? Like the Mercedes G, a car that isn’t for everyone but a car that’s been in the market for about 20 years now without boring its customers.

The things, products and services I admire most are those that don’t get replaced by a new creation next week: Nutella, my mechanical watch, a Steinway piano, the pyramids of Giza, a Sacher tart, a Mozart piano concerto. They are pieces of art in varying degrees of industrialization, and they are as perfect as this world will ever be. Perfect in a way that we even forgive minor flaws and accept them as part of the item’s nature. Finding the level of skill and craftsmanship to push something further up into the asymptote that is perfection is, of course, incredibly hard which is why so many people take the easy way out: throw it out and make something new.

My advice: if you are onto something with the potential of being more than “good enough”, if you are a true artist, if what you want is greatness, time spent on perfecting what you do is never wasted.

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Linchpin cover I am grateful for the opportunity to review an advance copy of “Linchpin” by Seth Godin, marketing visionary and bestselling author of books like “Permission Marketing”, “Purple Cow” and “Tribes”.

At first glance, Seth Godin’s new book “Linchpin” is one for the self-improvement section rather than the marketing shelf. But then, marketing is all about interaction, communication and relationships. Each of Seth’s books is about the essence of marketing AND people at the same time, two things that are inseparable. This one just zooms in a lot more on you, the reader.

Written in bite size chapters like all of his more recent books it is easy to read, although the weight of Seth’s words suggests that you spend more time on each chapter than with the previous ones. This particular style of writing is common to quite a few authors these days, Americans in particular, and I am not a big fan of it, especially as the key phrases of the book are being repeated quite often, mantra style.

Just ignore it and you will discover a work of art that is an impressive humanitarian statement as well, a book containing much of Seth’s personal life experience, a book that comes across as very authentic and honest. I have the privilege of knowing Seth and experienced first hand that the generosity he describes as a key factor of life in “Linchpin” is part of his own nature as well. Seth is not only giving examples of his (and other people’s) success stories, he openly talks about his defeats, too. Examples of “art” are ranging from Richard Branson to a man few people know who is serving coffee at a restaurant, both of which are equally relevant.

You should further ignore scientific inaccuracies concerning the reptilian (“lizard”) brain which Seth urges us to switch off as it fights our efforts to move forward and leave the comfort zones of our lives. I am not a scientist either but this part of our brain is there for a reason; it warns us of danger and triggers basic decisions such as “run” or “fight” subconsciously. I don’t think we can afford to live without these instincts and would prefer a concept in which we acknowledge and respect our reptilian brain and seek balance with it, knowing when to listen and when to overrule it. This doesn’t take away from the book’s message, though: Seth is more generally speaking of the “Resistance” as the phenomenon in our heads we need to fight, and I can go with that perfectly well.

The word “happiness” is not in the book per se but that’s what it is all about. Its vision of our future is an optimistic one, it does actually give you the tools to become a happy person but it also holds you accountable for creating the roadmap to your individual happiness by yourself – there is no other way, and I am sure he is right. The beauty also lies in the prospect of receiving kindness and gifts from other people including businesses and companies of all sizes who will benefit from having Linchpins like you as employees, or fade into mediocrity. Uninspired companies make average products, commodities, which customers buy at the lowest price, forcing companies to cut cost and become even more average. Rather than pushing a rock uphill, there is a fascinating way for each of us to start from the top of the mountain, like an avalanche gaining momentum with every step.

“Linchpin” will be available in everywhere on January 26, 2009.

ISBN 978-1-59184-316-0

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