How Seth Godin Manages His Life — Rules, Principles, and Obsessions (Tim Ferriss Show)

Tim Ferriss is not associated or affiliated with PodcastNotes in any way. All notes are independently created by PodcastNotes and do not imply any sponsorship or endorsement by, or affiliation with, Mr. Ferriss.


Seth’s Books:

Seth’s Blog

How Do You Prepare Coffee?

  • Seth doesn’t drink coffee, but he likes making it.
  • He doesn’t measure, he uses intuition.
  • He used to have a fancy machine, but he sold it.
  • He then started using a completely manual machine.
  • He roasts his own beans – this is the most important step to making coffee.
  • “You can spend a lot of time trying to fix stuff later, but … garbage in, garbage out.””

Why Don’t You Drink Coffee?

  • It hurts his stomach.
  • He is intolerant of many foods.

How to Prepare Vodka?

  • He heard of honey-oatmeal vodka, so he makes a version in his basement.
  • Get a middle-class bottle of vodka.
  • Pour it over pound of plain, uncooked oatmeal, and half a jar of honey.
  • Let it sit in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
  • Strain it into original bottle and serve.

Have you always been meticulous?

  • Seth says he is meticulous compared to an amateur, but a slob compared to Tim.
  • The amount of oatmeal and honey is not measured in his oatmeal-honey vodka recipe.
  • He does not enjoy being meticulous, he likes to learn as he goes.

Have you always been thoughtful?

  • Yes, because he isn’t good at sports.

Why Do You Have Such an Impressive Book Collection?

  • Seth used to be a book packager, someone who makes ideas for books.
  • He made a lot of books in a lot of different subjects.
  • He worked with an expert (e.g. on spot and stain removal)
  • They split the profits 50/50 and he did all of the work.
  • If you don’t have an expert, you buy all the books you can on a topic.
  • Books are still a screaming bargain
  • He bought any cookbook that seemed like he could get 3 good insights from and that’s how it started

What Books Does Seth Recommend for Someone Learning to Cook?

  • The 4-Hour Chef
  • He took a cooking class that taught him to taste the food as he goes and that salt and olive oil always work, but it is cheating.
  • He thinks of cooking as a metaphor for what Tim taught in his book: “It costs very little to find out.”, lots of people are afraid to find out and so they don’t
  • Cooking lasts for a short time and results in something tangible.

Story Time: Grocery Shopping

  • Seth used to go grocery shopping every night at the Korean Deli.
  • He became friends with the owner.
  • The store was bought out by an evil drugstore corporation.
  • So to commemorate it, Seth bought a black architectural plaque to honor the Korean Deli and it has been on the store wall for five years.

Why So Interested in Audio Equipment? Because it is Tactile?

  • Seth has seen “art” being turned into media, corporate, and educational industrial complexes.
  • His friend had a magazine that included segments of people arguing about the best audio equipment and this is the antithesis of corporatization of something
  • Seth began to buy high quality, used audio equipment from Audiogon.

Preferred Type of Media? Hardcopy or Digital?

  • He doesn’t watch any live television, and doesn’t think most people should.
  • This allows for you to explore other media at those times.
  • He does not have the patience for reading literature, he is more into engineering.
  • People send him books in the mail before they are published, so sometimes he reads them and likes those.
  • He prefers to read books on paper instead of the Kindle, unless he is traveling.
  • He is afraid that future generations don’t have a place for books in their culture except in school.

Rules for Making Decisions for Agreeing to Speaking Engagements?

  • He will not do more than 30 per year that require travel.
  • He loves to speak publicly, but does not like to fly all the time.
  • He thinks about what impact he will make and if the speaking gig will move him forward.
  • He wants to make a certain kind of change happen, to get people to see the world differently, and to connect to each other and make things better.
  • He does not want to be a television personality, but wants to bring teaching to a lot of people.
  • People become eager to hear what you have to say and they pay attention because you are new.
  • It is possible for you to change people’s lives.
  • He seeks to change the conversation.

Why Does Seth Have Rules?

  • A lot of people call him for something, but it might not align with what he wants, and then he might become a “wandering generality” rather than a “meaningful specific” if he is only helping others and not following his own goals.
  • Everyone has more power than they think they do, but it comes with responsibility.
  • You will make change happen, and that is on you.

Are You Listening?

  • Tim is wondering about the listeners.
  • Going from a baby to an adult is astonishing.
  • Seth applauds Tim for taking the well-rounded, hard-working, consistent route towards success.
  • Tim appreciates the compliment. The question for success is, where do you apply your effort?

How Does Seth Navigate Big Transitions in His Own Life?

  • For example, Tim got burnt out from publishing, so the podcast became a side-project that because its own thing.
  • Seth applauds Tim for going against the grain, choosing something that may not be successful over something he knows is already successful.
  • Seth has had a lot of failures, and he is more proud of those.
  • He wants to do work that is generous and will change people for the better.
  • His transitions are not easy.
  • He is regularly unemployed and in-between projects.
  • He publicly quit the book business.
  • He wants to do something that the people he serves want him to do, so he stopped writing because they don’t want to read his books anymore.
  • He designed his books so that people would share them.

 How Did Seth Decide to Write Daily Blogs?

  • His blog has evolved.
  • He says it is in his top 5 career decisions that he made.
  • His blog allows him to resonate with others.
  • It leaves a trail behind, like a journal.
  • It used to be intermittent, then it was five-times a day.
  • He now writes five posts a day, but does not publish all five.
  • He does not have a strict ritual, but he does always write his blogs through the blogging platform to keep himself focused.

Story Time: Business School w/ Chip Connelly

  • Seth and Chip went to business school together, and they were two of the youngest in the class.
  • Chip had a friend in the anthropology department that got him a conference room that he and Seth could use to brainstorm business ideas.
  • It became the only place for them to brainstorm business ideas so that they associate that room with the act of brainstorming.
  • The idea is the same when he writes his blog, he stays focused by writing in the platform.
  • They came up with over 5,000 business ideas.

Story Time: Stephen King’s Pencil

  • Stephen King goes to writer’s conferences.
  • Someone always asks him what kind of pencil he uses.
  • Seth thinks talking about personal writing methods is a way to hide because it does not matter.
  • The quality of the work is what matters.
  • Tim has felt blocked, and someone told him to write about what makes him angry. That cured his writer’s block.
  • Seth agrees that that can help, but that is different than a particular ritual.
  • Seth says the solution is to just write, even if it is not good writing, and eventually it will become good writing.
  • It is good to have bad ideas, because then you will eventually get good ideas.
  • Seth says there is a difference between starting the flow of writing and having a strict ritual to follow what other people do.

 Other Top Business Decisions?

  • Sell something that people want to buy.
  • He had a friend who sold soft toys, the companies did not work with her very well, so Seth invited her to the book business.
  • People in the book business are eager to buy what you have to sell.
  • She designed cards and sold millions of decks of cards.
  • Start a business you can push downhill. Not like Sisyphus.
  • Know when you are wrong.
  • A lot of people have trouble knowing if their work is good or not.
  • Seth worked with a company that invented commercial email.
  • Seth thought the world wide web was a horrible idea at first.
  • He switched perspectives one day, and the business changed.
  • He changed the cover of his book, “All Marketers are Liars”.
  • If you try a lot, you will fail a lot.
  • Figure out the failures of your judgement and the failures of not persisting long enough.

How to Determine if an Idea is Worth Sticking or Should Be Dropped if it Has Been Rejected Many Times?

  • There is a difference between free-lancers and entrepreneurs.
  • Free-Lancers do good work and get paid for it.
  • Entrepreneurs start a business and don’t do the work. They can sell their company one day. Their job is to think about what needs to be done and then hire someone else to do it.
  • Determine if you are an entrepreneur or a free-lancer.
  • If you are an entrepreneur, you will have a certain set of challenges.
  • Sell something people want to buy. Don’t invent a need when there are already so many.
  • Blog Post: First Ten; A Simple theory of marketing. Share your idea with 10 people, if they don’t tell anyone else, you should start over. If they do, you are on your way.

Fan Question: How Can Someone Go From Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur?

  • One kind of entrepreneur will ask, “Whose need am I satisfying? How can I do it in a realistic way?”
  • For example, snow shoveling is easy. You can win because you can get to customers better, faster, more efficiently.
  • The other kind of entrepreneur will ask, “How can I change people?”
  • For example, Harley Davidson turned disrespected outsiders into respected family members, insiders. No one gets a Suzuki tattoo.
  • You can decide to change a population. It is not unattainable. It is a higher-stakes game than applying thinking to a clear need.

Are There Any Check Boxes That People Can Use to Determine if They Should Not Be an Entrepreneur?

  • It seems like everyone is being encouraged to start their own company. When would you discourage someone?
  • In business magazines, there are articles written for voyeurs and some written for entrepreneurs. Skip the covers, skip the highlight stories that make others seem better than you.
  • The same thing that causes writer’s block is what causes entrepreneurial block.
  • Stephen Pressfield wrote a book, “The War of Art”.
  • Seth published a sequel, called, “Do the Work”.
  • Entrepreneurial block is only because someone is afraid.
  • Be clear about what you are afraid of, why, and if you are prepared to handle it because it will not go away.
  • Negative and positive emotions are constant companions.

How Does Seth Process Email?

  • Seth tells listeners that 1/300 people who email him will spontaneously combust, you have been warned.
  • He wanted to use email to connect with others.
  • He responded to non-anonymous, thoughtful emails.
  • The only problem with sending a lot of emails is that he isn’t bringing in a lot of value.
  • He is good at emailing, but he has to take a step back because it becomes too time-consuming.

Do People Go to Him, or Will He Go to Others?

  • Seth wants to go to L.A. to have lunch with Rick, but he doesn’t normally fly somewhere to do something other than his speaking engagement.
  • Seth usually ends up in NYC because he is close.

What Activities Does Seth Say, “No” To?

How Do You Stay Focused & Not Scattered or Dispersed?

  • He does not use Twitter because he would have less time for his blog and too much exposure to anonymous comments.
  • Neal Gaimon makes himself bored in order to write a book. Seth does the opposite. (watch Make Good Art)
  • Social media was invented to make companies money, but can it help you make the impact you are trying to make?
  • New things cannot be quantified. To be good at something is not to quantify it.
  • You are left with the change you want to make in the world.
  • Quality is more important than quantity, always.

If Seth Had a Bestseller Now, Would He Use Social Media?

  • Everyone should blog, even not under their name, every single day
  • Are you able to say one 1 thing every day that you can stand behind
  • “Trust and Attention” 2 things that are scarce today
    • Attention: We’re not making more of it, but there are ever more tools to interrupt ever more people
      • We have to earn attention
    • If we earn attention over time, we gain Trust
  • Book industry used to have books picked from publishers and then bookstores that select – but that is hacked and hacked to let everyone do it which reduced the trust
  • Now the challenge is to provide social media platform to earn attention and get trust

Opportunities you were glad to have turned down?

  • Saving no to TV, those are the moments you decide who you want to be
  • While at Yahoo, offered Options to be head of marketing on company with Stephen Spielberg that could be worth a billion dollars
  • If I said yes to the money, then I would have to say yes to the game for the next 10 years as I didn’t need it to buy cilantro and vodka
  • Proudest of saying no to this, even though the options didn’t come around, but he’d be prouder if they did
  • Once you have enough money for beans, rice and taking care of your family, Money is a story
    • You can tell yourself any story you want to about money, but better to tell yourself one you can live with

What is Your Story?

  • Take a $10 bill to bus station and offer to sell for $1. Nobody will buy it from you
    • No one goes to bus station for financial system
    • Only insane person would do this
  • Put $10 bill in mailbox of neighbor and run away. Keep doing it
    • On 4th day, ring door bell, tell him you’ve given the $10 for past 3 days and offer to sell him another for $1 – He’ll buy it
      • He knows your crazy, but you’ve heard trust in this kind of crazy
    • A $10 bill is only worth $10 if we have a mutual belief about its value
  • Is money a reflection of your worth as a human?
    • Money is not a great signal of the value you’ve created for other humans
    • Lots of ways to make value to humans and most don’t involve money
  • How much more money and what do I want to trade for it?


  • Parents, Jacylyn from Acumen Fund – because they matter a lot of other people
  • People who shovel elderly neighbor’s walk after the snow

Changed your mind?

  • About book industry mattering a few times
  • Big companies in center or our internet, went from profoundly public goods to traded companies with tons of pressure to reap profits

Contrarian Belief:

  • Certain that people are plastic, flexible and able to grow

Gifted Books:

  • Your Turn: I wrote this so I could give it away (this is rare, most books are not written for this goal)
  • Cory Doctorow: Makers, Little Brother
  • The Right Kind of Science Fiction
    • Wrong: Violent dystopian that you see in movies
    • Right: Fundamentally rewiring your brain
  • Audio Books: You can listen to it again and again, when you don’t think you are paying attention.
    • [If you need to see a new path] Zig Zigler: Fundamental principles of goal setting and sales
      1. Goal Setting
      2. Staying Motivated
      3. Closing the Sale: Just listen to this 10 times and you’ll be a different kind of sales person
    • [If you are feeling Stressed] Recorded works of Pema Chodron – Buddhist Nun in Nova Scotia
      • “We are falling falling with nothing to hold onto and nothing to slow us down. The good news is there is no ground to land on
    • Leap First (Godin)
    • [If you are feeling stuck] The Art of Possibility: Roz/Ben Zander (hard to find on audio)
      • Change how you think about possibility and leadership
      • 1x/month
    • The War of Art
    • [If you want to cry a little] Just Kids: best audiobook on by Patty Smith
      • Love and loss and art
      • Non-confidence and confidence
      • About having a best friend
    • [Closet to reading a book, no need to relisten 10x] Debt: David Graber
      • Yale, co-founder Occupy
      • Theory on where money came from: All econ textbooks were wrong
        • Not to trade things, but to record debt and that debt predates money
        • Rewired the way I thought the way our world works and what money is

$100 of less purchase:

  • Artisanal Bean to Bar Chocolate- Rogue Chocolate ($12/bar)
  • Askinosie: Owner is living a life worth emulating and creates a worthwhile luxry good that DIRECTLY benefits those who make in
  • How to make chocolate: Crack pod, let ferment, roast before remove shell, then raw nibs, grind them as they get smoother (up to 96 hours), add sugar in tempering machine to get all molecules to align in 1 direction – why they snap and don’t turn grey in the air


  • I don’t eat wheat, diary, cilantro, meat
  • Each time I adjust what I eat, I feel better

Morning routine:

  • Breakfast: Frozen banana, almond milk, hemp powder,, waltnuts blended
  • Coffee for others
  • .5 hours online before 730am
    • Did the blog work
    • Clear inbox
  • Get to work with a free brain

Rant on Education:

  • Sooner or later, parents have to take responsibility for putting kids in a system that is indebting them and teaching them to be cogs in an economy that doesn’t want cogs anymore
  • Parents get to decide
  • Huge fan of public school, but 3-10 they are homeschooled either with the Flintstones or how to solve interesting problems. We need to learn to LEAD
    • People in other countries are learning to follow better and for less money, so we can’t out obedient the competition
    • Therefore, we have to out-solve and out-Lead them
    • Give them interesting problems to SOLVE, and then don’t criticize them when they fail.
      • Otherwise they’ll back to getting an A by memorizing the textbook
      • I don’t care how to did on your vocab test, I CARE if you have something to say
    • Anything worth memorizing is worth looking up now
    • Famous colleges don’t work anymore
    • The point is, is there an entity that can’t live without you when you seek to make a living – then you’ll find a job
      • If you’re waiting in the placement office for someone to pick you, you’ll be consistently undervalued

Daily Writing Practices:

  • Busy is a trap and a myth
  • Don’t play the busy card with your kids, nothing matters more
  • If you spend 2 hours a day looking your kid in the eye, talking to them and solving interesting problems you will raise a very different child than someone who doesn’t
    • One of the ways I cook dinner every night- semi distracted time to get kid to share real details with you that are actually very important
    • Get home from work, grab sneakers and go for a walk with your kid

 Alt MBA:

  • The single most educational thing I’ve even done
  • Tried great courses for Skillshare/Udemy, but dropout rate was so high
    • When it gets hard and no social pressure
      • Social Pressure: Some people have enough self discipline in some areas that is great
        • All of us have 12-20 years of brainwashing in education, epitomized this terrible phrase “Will this be on the test”
      • Then try an online course with no test, the second it gets hard and there is no test, you quit
    • Went to create the opposite:
      • 100 people (not a million)
      • Expensive (not Free)
      • Have to apply (not open)
      • Hard (not easy)
      • Group (not alone) with coaches
      • 100% projects (not lectures)
    • For people at big/small companies
    • 1 coach/10 people
    • Slack and WordPress
    • 28 day period and sprint as past as we can
    • I don’t do every session, I just watch and it’s UNBELIEVABLE

Who Helps Tell You, You’re Wrong in Your Life?

  • 2 kinds of people:
    • Skeptical people are easier to find (outside of San Fran)
    • Someone who gets you and sees your soul and tell you to try again
      • So rare and sooo valuable
      • So hard to find and preciuous

Advice to 30 year old self:

  • Replay: Best time travel book ever
  • I wouldn’t tell my 30 year old self anything, b/c if I didn’t have those bumps I would be me, and I’m glad I’m me

Getting through hard times:

  • I’m better with Pema and meditation to sit with it and not insist the tension goes away
  • After sold my company, I had to decide if I wanted to continue to face new existential crises, or not
    • I do like the game, there is a thrill to it and lots of people get right back in
    • But I’m not willing to put it all on the line that might not work – I don’t want to do that – risk violate the trust I’ve built with people
  • Meditation: Susan Piver- Largest online meditation center in the world, Shambhala Center in NYC, but usually just sit and breath
  • I quantify pretty much nothing in my life

Billboard: Jay Levinson wrote Guerilla Marketing –“Free Coffee, Next Exit”

Commencement Speeches: A whole bunch of people who don’t want to hear from you, waiting for you to be done

  • 1 of 3 days, my blog is a commencement speech
  • What we really want to say to actual graduates is what they should have heard 3/x a day: “You are more powerful than you think you are, act accordingly”

Requests for Audience: Send someone a thank you note tomorrow

By The Way in Hastings on Hudson and NYC (Seth’s wife’s gluten/dairy free bakery)

  • If you only try one thing, try the Almond Cookies, you have to try them
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