Seth Godin’s Manifesto for Small Teams Doing Important Work

File under: Things I wish I had written & Things to print and have up on the wall.

The question this makes me ask is: is there ever a time that I’m not part of a small team? Is there ever a time when I’m not working on a tight deadline? Is there ever a time when the work isn’t important?

And, if no, then here are the rules of the road around communication, making and keeping promises, having a real Plan B, and keeping it personal, all while remembering not to question goodwill, effort or intent.

Thanks Seth.

A Manifesto for Small Teams Doing Important Work, by Seth Godin

We are always under tight deadlines, because time is our most valuable asset.

If you make a promise, set a date. No date, no promise.

If you set a date, meet it.

If you can’t make a date, tell us early and often. Plan B well prepared is a better strategy than hope.

Clean up your own mess.

Clean up other people’s messes.


Question premises and strategy.

Don’t question goodwill, effort or intent.

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is not a professional thing to say. Describing and discussing in the abstract is what we do.

Big projects are not nearly as important as scary commitments.

If what you’re working on right now doesn’t matter to the mission, help someone else with their work.

Make mistakes, own them, fix them, share the learning.

Cheap, reliable, public software might be boring, but it’s usually better. Because it’s cheap and reliable.

Yesterday’s hierarchy is not nearly as important as today’s project structure.

Lock in the things that must be locked in, leave the implementation loose until you figure out how it can get done.

Mostly, we do things that haven’t been done before, so don’t be surprised when you’re surprised.

Care more.

If an outsider can do it faster and cheaper than we can, don’t hesitate.

Always be seeking outside resources. A better rolodex is better, even if we don’t have rolodexes any more.

Talk to everyone as if they were your boss, your customer, the founder, your employee. It’s all the same.

It works because it’s personal.

Gifts – The Icarus Deception

The other day I received a massive, 40 pound box full of goodies from Seth Godin.

I was one of the 4,242 people who happily jumped in to support Seth’s Kickstarter project to fund his next book, The Icarus Deception.

Of course, for $111 I didn’t just get the book.  And I didn’t just get 8 copies of the hardcover book (to give away), which itself would have been a steal.  Those 8 books took up a tiny corner of this massive box, which also contained two copies of V is for Vulnerable, a alphabet book for grown-ups, with wild, wacky, beautiful illustrations by Hugh MacLeod, about leaning in, creating art, and having the courage to ship; a delicate, hand-made mug by Lori Koop, with a hand-written note from Lori that reads “Seth asked me to make this for you….this is my art. –Lori;”  an LP (yes, as in a record) whose contents I have yet to discover….I just need to get my hands on a record player; and a totally massive, 11 x 16 inch 800+ page full-color book that, impishly, has a bunch of rubber ducklings on the front cover.  It is a collection of Seth’s best online writing from 2006 to 2012, and it’s literally the heaviest book I’ve ever laid my hands on.

Icarus Kickstarter goodies

My experience of this whole thing is joy.  I can see Seth smiling as I smile; I’m wowed by the beauty and the irreverence of each and every piece, as well as the chance that each of them gives someone else – not just Seth – to shine.   And the whole undertaking is, literally, delightful – my high expectations are blown out of the water; even with inklings of what might have been in the box I was surprised time and again.

It really is possible to delight our customers, to thank our greatest fans, to make them feel special not out of a sense of obligation but because you want to and you can.

And going back to the massive, 800+ page book, I also think back to my many experiences of sharing Seth’s advice with others – whether on publishing or on courage or on pushing through the resistance.  Yes, tons of people get it and live it.  And then there are the folks who  say something like, “Well yeah, that’s interesting and that probably works for Seth because he’s Seth.”

When I take this book, which physically holds just a small portion of what Seth has produced in the last six years, the only thing I can think is: he’s Seth because he produced all of this.  He’s Seth because any bit of advice he’s giving is something he’s already been doing for years; he’s Seth because he ships; he’s Seth because he’s not afraid to take risk, to show up, to fail, to shine, or even to look a little silly.

Finally, as homage to all of this (especially the silly part) here’s a little video that gives you a sense of the mega-tome.  Of course it’s not just heavy, it’s also beautiful and it will transform the conversations you have around your coffee table.  And it will remind you not of what Seth can do, but of what you can do if you show up fully every day.

Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?

There is power in asking the right question, and Seth Godin’s new book, “Linchpin” hits you over the head with a question that it’s impossible to run away from:

Are you Indispensable?

Because, now, for a short period of time, you can be (Seth explains why in the book).  And since you can be, why aren’t you?  There are lots of reasons, and the book gets to the guts of them, digging into fear and our lizard brains and the misconceptions that we need a map and that we’re here to do jobs rather than to do the work.  This book will grab you and shake you and open doors to all the things you know in your heart you can do.

This isn’t your everyday book, so it’s fitting that Seth isn’t doing an everyday book launch.  Instead, the book is being launched with a web ring of blog interviews with Seth instead of a typical media tour.  You can see all the posts from the ring on Squidoo.

Here’s why Seth’s doing it this way, in his own words:

I’m not reaching out to any radio stations, any television, any newspapers. Not one.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the long tail is longer and more powerful than ever before, and the engine of that tail is us, the bloggers…I think it’s going to be an interesting experiment in momentarily coordinating the threads of the net, flowing traffic in and around an idea as it travels from one blog to another.

Like so many people, I learn from Seth every day, so it’s exciting to be able to share my interview with Seth here, and more exciting still to be able to share this amazing book with my readers.  This book is a keeper, so why not get yourself a copy?

Here’s the interview:

Sasha:  Do you remember the first really big thing you ever gave away?  How did it feel?

Seth: When I was in college, I co-founded a business that grew to be the biggest student run business in the country… 10% of the students at my college worked for our temporary employment agency. We had all these crazy businesses: birthday cake delivery, a snack bar, a concert bureau. And did it basically for free, working 40 hours a week for $50. People said I was crazy, that work was work and I should get paid. But for me, the act of generosity that came from showing up all the time for free transformed it from a job to a mission. That sense of mission, of making change because it’s important, of doing work because others benefit–I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

Sasha: Why do you think it’s so hard for people to bring their whole selves to work?

Seth: Bringing your whole self to anything… work, a relationship, even cooking dinner… is dangerous because failure or rejection is real. You can’t say, “I wasn’t really trying,” because you were. You can’t say, “it doesn’t really matter,” because it does. The resistance, the pre-historic lizard brain voice in the back of your head, the part that’s responsible for survival and fear… that little voice insists that you hold back, because holding back feels safe. And in the days of the saber tooth tiger, that was probably smart. But today, in a competitive world where holding back means failure, it’s just stupid.

Sasha: Say there are 100,000 people acting like linchpins today.  What does the world look like when that number jumps to 10 million or 100 million?

Seth: The old, “but if everyone does this” problem! Trust me, we’re not going to have a crowded surplus of generous artists any time soon. Just as Purple Cow didn’t make every product remarkable, and The Dip didn’t transform everyone into a smart quitter, Linchpin is not going to be so successful that the economy turns upside down. There’s a window that’s open, and it’s going to be open for a little while: the world desperately needs people willing to stand up and be counted, willing to do work that matters, willing to invent instead of following the rules. That’s my message. There’s a moment, and it’s here for a while. Take it or leave it…

Sasha: People are more empowered than ever to be linchpins.  But it also feels like fear and greed are more rewarded than ever.  Which wins?

Seth: Fear is not rewarded, not at all. Fear gets you laid off. Fear leads to small thinking. Greed has always been a smart short-term strategy, but my sense is that the short term is getting shorter than ever. Greed used to be a valid strategy for a lifetime or a decade. But as we’re seeing in one industry after another, the half-life for greed keeps getting shorter. Plus, and it’s a big plus, it feels better to be generous.

Sasha: If you could rewrite the 1st grade curriculum, what would it look like?  6th grade? 11th grade?  College?

Seth: All the same: solve interesting problems. When was the last time you saw a classroom of students solving interesting problems?

Check out the rest of the interviews here.

What Matters Now

What if you could peek into the brains of 70 of the smartest, most accomplished, groundbreaking authors and bloggers and thinkers around?

And what if you could ask them, “What word matters most to you of all?  Can you explain what and why?”  People like Arianna Huffington and Elizabeth Gilbert and Chris Anderson and Karen Armstrong and Tom Peters.

That would be worth your time, wouldn’t it?  …if you could only get to all of those people.

Voilà, enter Seth Godin and his new free PDF,  What Matters Now.  It just came out today, and you can download it here, for free, or here on Scribd.  Because Seth knows more than anyone that what matters most is spreading powerful ideas.

So go ahead, download it, read it, share it.

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Too good to pass up – Seth Godin’s alternative MBA

“If you could change your life,” Seth asks, “would you?”

Seth Godin just announced an alternative MBA that he’s personally giving to a small group — application deadline is December 14, program starts January 19th, six months with Seth and a select group of people.  It sounds amazing.  You should tell amazing people you know about it.

Hats off to Seth for caring only about things that are valuable (as opposed to what’s conventional and expected), and for his being totally willing to put his money where his mouth is in terms of creativity, innovation, and break-all-the rules ideas.  I’ve no doubt this will be incredible.

Here’s the full scoop:

Spread the word.