A Remarkable Story
My first impression of Seth Godin upon meeting him was that he is an extraordinarily efficient person. You wouldn’t think of a “creative” as efficient in the sense that a supply chain manager, hamburger flipper, accountant, or the Octomom are efficient. But Seth conducted interviews with about thirty candidates for the SAMBA program in under three hours. He made up his mind on who fit perfectly soon after and, it turns out, he picked an amazing group.
How amazing? That remains to be seen. Everyone in the group was so remarkable, I felt like the straggler who needed to keep up, especially when falling countless times skate skiing. Of the SAMBA crew, I was probably the least familiar with Seth’s ideas.
My talented SAMBA fellows are all immensely grateful to Seth for the time and energy he gifted to us. We all want to thank him in some way. But I think the greatest thanks we can give to a teacher who is so generous is to take what he taught us, practice it in the real world, change the world for the better, and succeed beyond his wildest imagination. Then we can extend the change he initiated by teaching others. So we’ll see just how amazing we can be.
Here are a few lessons that made the greatest change in me and they have little to do with an MBA:
Be Brave. You can start off a little clueless. You can even start off as a complete outsider. You can lack the resources others more fortunate start out with. But you must have courage – this is the foundation of it all. Everything else can be made up for right?
Be Purposeful. Some might say this is the foundation, even more important than bravery. Maybe. I think that if you’re brave and you’re willing to venture out and explore, you’ll find your purpose eventually. So instead of sitting there trying to come up with the perfect and grand purpose for your life, get a little gumption and get in the mix! You’ll find your purpose if you’re looking for it and doing something.
Seek Change. Change yourself. Change others. Change the world. Change is painful but necessary for growth. Real, substantive change has the potential to create the greatest value. This is good advice whether you’re a college senior, corporate warrior, first-time entrepreneur, business mogul, parent, or spouse. Back to the foundation – serious change requires bravery and purpose.
Be Generous. This depends on if you fundamentally believe that generosity produces value and surplus. Does generosity produce economic value and surplus? Does generosity produce reputation value and surplus? Does generosity produce influence value and surplus? We believe it does – but you’d have to practice it to find out for yourself.
Be Persuasive. How? Learn to tell good stories. Paint stories that capture the imagination because they are artistic, empathetic, emotional, exciting, incredible, overwhelming, unique, unexpected. Use your new-found persuasion powers to sell your vision, your product, your service, your point of view. Wield this superpower to cause massive change.
Keep Promises. We saw Seth do this every single day. We live in a world where intangible assets are often far more valuable than material assets. One of these intangible assets is reputation or credit, before it became primarily a financial measurement. If you’re striving to increase your value as a person, keep your promises – especially when it becomes uncomfortable to do so.
My Promise on the six principles above: Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve in any field of endeavor you choose to engage yourself, you’ll increase your chances of success exponentially if you practice the six principles above. You already knew that deep inside.
Bonus Grab Bag! Here are some of the more tactical things we learned relevant to today’s changing business environment. Should satisfy the MBA in all of us. You’ll notice that they all tie back to the big principles:
– Recognize the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur. Either one works but you should figure out which you want to be. This ties back to purpose.
– You can generate a lot of business ideas if you try. The trick is in choosing the right one for yourself. Seeking change and having a purpose will help here.
– When writing a business plan, work backwards from success with concrete steps. Concrete steps imply some level of control, that you can exert influence on. No miracles allowed. Each step should have more than one pathway to success. This should not turn into a gigantic document. Business plans that seek change have a greater chance to succeed.
– Marketing is a whole new game. The old ways don’t work much anymore. The power belongs to the people. You cannot simply buy attention anymore. You have to build permission assets, tribes, communities, ideas that spread. Learn to tell great stories and your ability to persuade will help you thrive in new marketing.
– When working in a team, be first to spread the credit for success around. When failure happens, be first to take responsibility. If this doesn’t feel natural, you’re not doing it right. It may feel painful in the short term but you’re building a long term reputation that everyone will want to associate with in the future. This is related to keeping promises and being generous.
– Design is the last great competitive advantage. You can design everything – not just your logo or website. You can design the way your customers interact with the company. You can design the way talent interacts within the company. You can design your company culture. This is more art than science and that’s why it’ll remain a source of competitive advantage for a long while. It is also much harder than it looks, which is another reason why it works and is so valuable. Design is persuasive.
– When writing press releases, make it more about the customers than about your own company. Most press releases are ego-stroking exercises for company executives. Don’t be that executive. Why is your release important to the market? Not why is it important to your company. Check persuasion.
– Pricing tells a story! It is a signaling strategy that is a marketing discipline. You don’t have to just mark your costs up by 100%-200% as a rote formula. Don’t price in the middle of the market. Be the most expensive luxurious offering or be the cheapest most disposable solution. Interestingly, this requires bravery to not price with your crowd of competitors.
– Sales has changed little. It is still mostly an emotional process. You simply need to learn to close. Always be opening; always be closing. Sales isn’t the tough slimy racket it is often portrayed. When what you have to offer can improve someone’s personal or business life, you have the noble duty to change his life! Every venture needs good salespeople and good sales processes. Be persuasive and brave.
Seth, thank you for your time and attention. I am truly grateful for the special experience and change of the last six months. I am also grateful for the people who gifted us SAMBA fellows their attention by reading our posts and sending encouraging words. I am going to set out to give thanks to Seth now by doing something remarkable. I hope everyone reading this will choose to do something remarkable too. This is only the beginning.