Big Questions with Cal Fussman: Seth Godin on Seeing the World Through a Different Frame


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Are marketers born as marketers? or are they formed into one?
  • Almost everything is made, there are very few skills that you are born with
  • Everything is marketing – the product we make, the price, the location, the way we talk about it, the way we treat our employees
  • Marketing is the art of telling a story, that’s true, to other people to cause them to change their behavior
  • It helps to have intention, to do it on purpose, and to work with people who want to be marketed to – all these make you a better marketer
Tell stories that change people
  • When Seth gives talks, he uses slides without words
  • He tells stories about the images – the combination of the story and image is marketing, he changes the way you think about the image
  • When Cal interviews someone, he aims to show who he’s interviewing in a new light
Leading gives you charisma, charisma doesn’t make you a leader
  • You gain charisma through your generous acts of leadership
  • “Act as if…” – and over time, people ascribe charisma to you
Stop manipulating the moment
  • Seth always asks himself – “What would my mom mom do?”
  • Seth’s mom had a knack for making everybody feel like they were the only person in the world when speaking to her
    • It’s hard to do this nowadays, many people would rather check their email than focus intently on a conversation
Design Thinking
  • “Who’s it for and what’s it for”
    • If you can’t identify those, you can’t do important work – you’re just a wandering generality, not a meaningful specific
  • Engineers and designers have to do this on purpose
Push the manipulation out of marketing
There’s no such thing as authenticity
  • We act in ways that work for us
  • “We haven’t been authentic since we were 90 years old, lying in a diaper with poop in it.”
  • We make choices – authenticity is the consistency of these choices
  • You want the authentic version of you, to be aligned with the public version of you
  • Ask yourself – Why do people come to your website? What did they believe before they got there?
  • Your goal – to a visitor, you should remind them of something that’s already in their brain 
  • What do you want your visitors to do? – Subscribe to your email? Read our notes?
  • What we need – We need the people who want to hear from us …to hear from us, and the people we want to hear from … to reach us
    • Build a website that converts those people into people who are eager to go to the next step with you, then the website will be successful
  • Seth’s blog – “I’ve written a blog post every day for many many many years. It’s a privilege, and I would write it even if no one read it”
Seth doesn’t buy writer’s block
  • Writing block is invented, it’s make believe
  • “Plumber’s don’t get plumbers block, writer’s shouldn’t get writer’s block”
  • “If you just keep typing, sooner or later your brain wil lsay ‘stop with the bad stuff, I’ll give you some good stuff’ because it’s not going to talk you out of not typing”
    • This is why he blogs every day – “I don’t blog because I have something to say, I have something to say because I blog”
Survival is not enough: Why smart companies abandon worry and embrace change
  • This book by Seth had a forward by Charles Darwin, it’s about evolutionary thinking applied to business
  • It took him 8 hours a day for a year to write
  • It was a flop – it came out right after 9/11
    • It was not best time to talk to people about how change and fear are good things
    • What he learned – “The real win is to find a simple idea, that many people will say is obvious, but to describe it with enough depth that despite saying it’s obvious, people learn a lot”
You have more power than you think
  • The largest slum in Kenya is Kibera (more than 1 million people live there) – it’s easy to imagine that if you live in a slum, that you can be powerless
    • There’s a woman in Kibera who started a medical clinical, and as a result, thousands of people are alive today that otherwise wouldn’t be
  • “It’s easy to hide by telling ourselves we have less power. All of us are connected to 2 billion people online. We all have the power to put people together, make videos, write articles, organize meetups…whatever.”
    • “If you know there’s a kid drowning in a pond, and you don’t save him, you killed him”
    • We all have this power, but we’d rather not admit we do. Because if we have the power, we’re also responsible.
  • “A small group of well organized people can shift an enormous culture, because most people in the middle don’t care that much”
    • Organize people who care, rather than trying to convert people who are meh/in the middle
AI and work
  • In 29 states, the top employment job is “driver”
    • There are more than 3 million people who drive for a full time living, In 5-6 years, Seth thinks these jobs will be completely gone
  • But jobs have always been changing/shifting over time…
  • Soon computer’s will be teaching each other to do things. This will make the race to do a job a computer can’t do, evermore challenging. If you can write down what needs to be done, a computer will be able to do it.
  • Seth’s book, Linchpin:Are You Indispensable? is about doing the job that’s not in the manual
  • As productivity increases with computers, we need to rethink a few things
    • The money made shouldn’t go to the software owners, it should be distributed
    • Right now – our roads, drinking fountains, and public bathrooms are all free 
    • Maybe as productivity increases with computers, our food and housing should be free as well
  • As we move forward we need to ask – “Is the purpose of civilization to enable capitalism, or the purpose of capitalism to enable civilization”
    • Seth thinks its the later – “Our job is to use capitalism so people don’t suffer, not suffer for capitalism”
  • People in Norway and Copenhagen are happier than people in the US
    • This is because they don’t spend a lot of time fretting about how they’re going to do to pay for maternity leave or how they’ll deal with paying for a grandparents broken hip
  • “When we can create enough of a net, we actually make the world better, and why wouldn’t we do that”
  • Cal – What’s going to happen when people don’t have to work
    • Seth to Cal – “You’ve interviewed around 2,000 great people. How many of them did what they did because they had to work. All of them had enough money to stop – they did it anyway to make them feel alive.”
    • Cavemen on average worked an hour a day
    • “The people we hold up as our heroes, aren’t rich retired people. No one says I want to be a rich retired person”
  • We are sold a story….
    • Henry Ford didn’t have enough workers – so people left a farm (where they had an excellent quality of life) to move to a city and work in a factory
      • Factory workers worked for 11 hours a day at risk of life and limb and were constantly told what to do… all the while performing mind numbing work
    • Public schools were eventually formed by industrialists to train kids to do well on tests, sit in straight rows, and put up with it for 8 hours a day
      • With this came a devaluation of asking questions
    • A tweet of Naval’s is relevant here
  • Don’t email high performers asking for things
  • Instead email someone who isn’t known, not asking for something, but giving them something (like advice, or a thank you)
    • “The practice of using email as a positive signaling device, instead of a ‘will you help me’ signaling device, changes everything”
  • Start weaving circles of people together, do it with your circle of 5-10 friends, again and again and again – that’s how you become a Cal Fussman or Seth Godin
    • “Weave together the tribe you seek”


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