Much in the same way that the internet as a whole both reflects and feeds our collective consciousness, Seth Godin has a knack for both synthesising the digital zeitgeist and influencing it directly.
Godin has used many of his bestselling books to coin and spread a specific (high) concept. Those concepts have often gone on to be rapidly adopted into common parlance amongst his many supporters.
In addition, all of Godin’s ideas complement and build on each other like pieces of a jigsaw.
In the book Unleashing the Ideavirus, which was released as a free download in 2000 and is still available for free here, Godin says:
“An idea that just sits there is worthless. But an idea that moves and grows and infects everyone it touches… that’s an ideavirus.”
He also declares that
“The future belongs to the people who unleash ideaviruses.”
which he defines as
“…a big idea that runs amok across the target audience. It’s a fashionable idea that propagates through a section of the population, teaching and changing and influencing everyone it touches. And in our rapidly/instantly changing world, the art and science of building, launching and profiting from ideaviruses is the next frontier.”
That book itself amassed more than 400,000 downloads in 30 days, which pretty much proved his point in of itself.
Here are a few of the (other) most potent ideaviruses unleashed by Godin.
Published in 1999, the purpose of Permission Marketing was to encourage marketers to build what Godin calls ‘a permission asset’ instead of spamming people with ‘interruption marketing'(i.e. traditional forms of advertising like TV and radio and magazines, plus aggressive and annoying tactics online). He says in an updated introduction:
“Anticipated, Personal and Relevant messages delivered to people who want to get them is the core of marketing for the foreseeable future”. #Sethisms
The thinking behind this book is the reason why I, and thousands of other bloggers, businesses and artists only send our newsletters to those people who sign up voluntarily.
But some people are still in the dark about this concept. I still get emails sent to me by people who haven’t asked my permission first, and don’t provide an easy way to subscribe. What can you do? I just sigh, delete the email and think ‘haven’t they read this f**king book yet?”.
This is the big un. The big purple one, to be specific (oo-er missus).
In this book, Godin argues that marketing tactics aren’t enough – you have to have something remarkable to share in the first place.
As he says:
“Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they’re still boring.
A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting. (For a while.)”
There’s no doubt that the internet has given us a massive opportunity to be part of hitherto nonexistent communities, both online and off, made up of like-minded people across the globe.
In this book, Godin challenges readers to also take up the opportunity to create their own community or tribe, and lead it.
“There are organisations everywhere now, inside and outside of organisations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection. This is an opportunity for you – an opportunity to find or assemble a tribe and lead it. The question isn’t, Is it possible for me to do that? Now, the question is, Will I choose to do it?”
The Dip is probably my favourite Seth Godin book. It deals with the thorny issue of giving up – and it’s not as clear cut as those inspirational quotes you see all too frequently on Facebook and Pinterest would have you believe.
Sometimes, in fact, the best thing to do is to give up, especially if you realise that you are ‘flogging a dead horse’. Occasionally though, you need to keep going through the tough times that are inevitable with any worthwhile goal, in order to get through to the other side.
The trick, Godin explains, is knowing when to quit and when to persevere.
“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new. In both cases, it’s about being the best in the world. About getting through the hard stuff and coming out on the other side.”
You won’t find any concrete guidance for your own situation in this very short book, but it will help you to consider whether what you are currently doing is a good use of your time or not.
Linchpin is the Godin book that’s perhaps most relevant to the Mad Genius Career Masterplan. The book’s intro even begins with the sub-heading:
“You are a genius.”
and goes on to say that
“The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability”.
This book, he says, is his personal manifesto to encourage individuals to become indispensable at what they do:
“Becoming a linchpin is a step-wise process, a path in which you develop the attributes that make you indispensable. You can train yourself to matter. The first step is the most difficult, the step where you acknowledge that this is a skill, and like all skills, you can (and will) get better at it. Every day, if you focus on the gifts, art, and connections that characterise the linchpin, you’ll become a little more indispensable.”
Stop Stealing Dreams
In another free manifesto (Godin is nothing if not generous with his work), the subject of school and education comes up again. As we saw in the Design Your Own Curriculum Micro-Guide, the current school system has horribly failed creative people. This manifesto seeks to create change by getting both teachers and students to speak up about what’s needed in today’s world.
“If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well. The mission used to be to create homogenized, obedient, satisfied workers and pliant, eager consumers.
This is just a small selection from Godin’s body of work and Godin has also founded a number of notable companies and projects including Squidoo.com and The Domino Project. To find out more go to sethgodin.com.
And don’t forget to enter my competition to win a copy of his latest book, The Icarus Deception. I’ve included 11 Sethisms in this article alone to help inspire you!
Please note: links to books are usually Amazon affiliate links. I’m still waiting for my massive cheque from those buggers. I’m betting your local library will have the books too.