Seth Godin: Practice of Creativity | E87

#87: Practice of Creativity with Seth Godin

Hear from the GOAT of marketing! Our guest this week is Seth Godin, marketing mastermind, public speaker and best-selling author. You may know him for one of his 20 books, including his newest book, The Practice. He is also the founder of Akimbo, hosts the Akimbo podcast, and creates some of the most sought-after marketing courses online, including the altMBA. Today, we talk with Seth about some of the core principles of marketing and how they apply to everyone – not just marketers! We also dive into his inspiration behind his newest book, The Practice, how to approach creativity as a professional, the importance of generosity with ideas, and why people may be holding themselves back from success without knowing it. This is an episode you won’t want to miss!

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Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


01:21 – Seth’s Failures over his Career 

03:36 – Why Imposter Syndrome is Widespread 

05:25 – What is Permission Marketing? 

07:51 – How to Know When Content is Relevant 

10:13 – Explanation of Smallest Viable Audience

14:39 – Why We are Addicted to Stories 

19:57 – What are Marketers Doing Wrong in 2020 

22:27 – Personalization vs. Permission Marketing 

24:16 – Seth’s Opinion on Automation Tools 

27:22 – Why Seth Decided to Write His New Book, The Practice 

29:09 – Problem on Focusing on Outcomes 

31:10 – The Juggling Analogy 

33:20 – Definition of a Leader 

34:23 – Definition of Art 

35:17 – The Importance of Generosity 

37:05 – Why People Hold Their Work Back 

38:03 – Why Writers’ Block Doesn’t Exist 

40:58 – Profession vs. Hobby 

42:20 – Seth’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Seth’s Website: 

Seth’s New Book, The Practice: 

Seth’s Blog: 

Seth’s Podcast, Akimbo: 

Seth’s Workshops: 

#87: Practice of Creativity with Seth Godin

[00:00:00] Hala Taha: [00:00:00] Hey, young and profiters! Hala here and I've got some exciting news. I'm partnering with Podyssey Podcasts, an online community where you can track, discover and discuss your favorite podcasts with other podcasts lovers. Podyssey  basically is like the good reads for podcasts. And this week I'll be taking over their podcast recommendations, newsletter, Podyssey picks.

Download Podyssey  to see my curated playlist of top self-improvement podcasts episodes from YAP and my favorite legendary and up and coming podcasters. Get ready to listen, learn and profit. Follow the link in my show notes to check out my guests, takeover of Podyssey  picks.

 Your listening to YAP, Young And Profiting podcast.

A place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host Hala Taha. And on Young And Profiting podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday [00:01:00] life.

No matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guests by doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires, CEOs, and bestselling authors.

Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain influence, the art of entrepreneurship, and more. If you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love it here at Young And Profiting podcast. Today on the show, we're chatting with Seth Godin known as the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age and a demigod on the web.

Seth is an entrepreneur, marketer, speaker, educator, and the author of 19 best-selling books, soon to be 20 bestselling books with the release of The Practice: Shipping Creative Work out tomorrow, November 3rd, Seth is one of the top marketers [00:02:00] of our generation. Someone I personally look up to and in 2018, Seth was inducted into the marketing hall of fame. Throughout his career,

Seth founded several companies, most famously Yoyodyne, one of the first internet based direct marketing brand. Which was sold to Yahoo for $30 million and squeeze , which was one of the 500 most visited websites in the world. Back in 2008, Seth now records is a Kimball podcast discussing changing culture, and he also runs multiple courses and workshops that are actively creating the future of learning, including his highly rated alt MBA. Tune into this episode to learn the definition of permission-based marketing.

Understand how to approach creativity as a professional and discover why being generous with your ideas is key to your success. Hey Seth, welcome to Young And Profiting podcast. 

Seth Godin: [00:02:53] Thanks for having me. It's great. 

Hala Taha: [00:02:55] Yeah, I am very excited. Honestly, I've been trying to get you on the podcast for [00:03:00] a couple of years now, since I started my podcast.

And it's very exciting that we've gotten to a point where we have thought leaders like you and Robert Green and Mark Manson on our show. Absolutely honored to have you on you are the GOAT of marketing. So thank you so much for being on it. 

Seth Godin: [00:03:15] It's very kind of you, a lot of people don't understand what marketing is, but I think you get that.

Hala Taha: [00:03:19] Yeah. Yeah. You are about to put out your 20th book, it's called The Practice. You've wrote 19 other bestsellers. You had a founding company which was sold to Yahoo for $30 million. You were inducted into the direct marketing hall of fame. You've educated millions of people worldwide with these, your courses.

So many different accolades, you are, world famous author, very impressive guy. And some of my listeners may think, Seth 19 best-selling books, 30 something year career, he's just been hitting home, runs this whole time. I know because I'm a fan of your work that really it's been based on a lot of failures and, you've [00:04:00] stepped to your success by stepping on your failures.

So tell us about, your career journey, what it took to get to where you are today. And some of the things that people may not know in terms of the failures that you've had along. 

Seth Godin: [00:04:12] We could play failure, Olympics games all day long. It's interesting to think about why we need to do that.

So I got 800 rejection letters in a row after I sold my first book for $5,000. I have gone window shopping and restaurants for years at a time and gone home and had macaroni and cheese. I could go on and on. I have failed definitely more than anybody who's listening to this cause I'm older than most, but why is it even interesting?

And the reason it's interesting is because when we're in our work, it's tempting to say it's not worth it unless it works. We become attached to the outcome. And as soon as you become attached to the outcome, you start really getting angry at the people who don't get the joke, who aren't into it. You get frustrated [00:05:00] when you are rejected because you take it personally.

But no one is rejecting you. No one knows you. No one cares about you. They're rejecting your work. They're rejecting what you thought to produce and you can learn from that. It's a gift. And so if you ask me, what would I change about all those failures? The answer is nothing because I ended up being who I am because of all the stuff that didn't work, things that I worked on for years, the book that took me the most time to write sold the fewest copies, and there's just no rhythm to the universe.

Other than if we do generous work without hustling people. And we show up in a way that's generous where we say maybe they don't get the joke, but I made it anyway. We do better work and it's actually more likely to. 

Hala Taha: [00:05:49] Something. I want to touch on your new book. It's called The Practice. So we're going to get into all of that.

We're going to talk about focusing on the process rather than the outcome, like you just mentioned, but something that I've [00:06:00] read in your book that I want to touch on early in this conversation is the fact that you feel like you've been an imposter and that you suffer from imposter syndrome. And then actually when you feel like an imposter, You believe that it's when you're doing your best work.

So tell us about that feeling because you've done so many things, you've jumped as to so many different lanes in your career. So tell us about how you feel comfortable with starting something new and get over this feeling of imposter syndrome. 

Seth Godin: [00:06:26] So to be clear, I don't suffer from imposter syndrome. I enjoy imposter syndrome and they're different.

Lots of people think they're the only ones who have imposter syndrome that feeling of being a fraud of not being qualified. What do I have to be up here is unique. It's not unique. It's only shared by people who are doing important work. It's only shared by people who are leading because leading

is an act of being an imposter. You're announcing the truth before it happens. Hey, we're going to Cleveland. You want to come? You're not sure you're going to make it to Cleveland. You're just going to try, Hey, I'm [00:07:00] a comedian. Oh, that means you think tonight's performance is going to be funny. Have you done it before to these people know that?

How do you know you're being an imposter? Imposter syndrome is a symptom that you're about to try to make things better and you're not sure. And when it shows up, it's tempting to make it want to go away. But you can't make it go away. You can instead welcome it and say, oh, thanks for reminding me. I'm onto something.

Thanks for reminding me. I'm about to do something generous. So yeah, that feeling of being an imposter, it only shows up if I'm having a good. 

Hala Taha: [00:07:32] I love that. I think that's a great thing for our listeners to keep in mind as they tackle new things, especially women, because I think a lot of women really suffer from imposter syndrome.

So before we get into the book, I definitely want to get some foundational knowledge out to my listeners. A lot of my listeners are not in marketing. And so they don't have some of the foundational basics. One of the things that you coined or pioneered I should say is permission-based marketing. So tell us a little [00:08:00] bit about permission based marketing, what that is, and how the world worked in terms of marketing in the 1990s, before you put out this concept to the world. 

Seth Godin: [00:08:09] First, your listeners are all in marketing.

They just don't know it. Marketing is what we do when we interact with the market. So if you show up anywhere with anything, you're a marketer. Marketing isn't hype and it's not advertising. So yeah, I did coin the term permission marketing I'm in the Oxford English dictionary for coining it, permission marketing is anticipated personal and relevant messages that people want to get.

It is the opposite of spam and the opposite of hustle. And the simple test is this. If you didn't show up on Insta or you didn't send out that email blast, would people reach out and say, where are you? Cause if they're not missing you, when you're gone, then you're not doing permission marketing. It has nothing to do with your privacy policy has nothing to do with opt-in or opt-out it has to do with, would they miss [00:09:00] you if you were gone right.

People say to me yeah, but I sell insurance. No one wants to hear from me. And I say, so sell something else that in a world where attention is so precious and scarce, just because you can't steal my attention, doesn't mean you have a right to steal my attention, attention and trust, go hand in hand.

And what we need is not more attention. We need more trust. Couple of times a day, I get an email from somebody that goes, something like this. I love your podcast. I've listened to lots of episodes. I would like to be a guest on your podcast. Here's why I should be on your podcast. They are just writing to a list cause I've done 140 episodes and I've never had one guest, not one they're spamming me and I would not miss them.

If they were gone, I want them to be gone. And now I don't trust them because they've already lied to me. And so the opportunity we have now that all of us have a megaphone, all of us are connected to anyone who wants to connect with us is to make [00:10:00] promises and keep them is to show up with the anticipated personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

And when I started my blog, I had 50 readers. And when I started my podcast, I had seven listeners. That's the way they all start. And then the question is, will people tell their friends? 

Hala Taha: [00:10:20] So let's touch on that trust piece a little bit. How do we get our audience to start to trust us and how do we know when our content may be relevant to them?

Seth Godin: [00:10:30] Okay. We'll start with the second part first. Relevant, the internet is not a mass media. Television is a mass media. It used to be back when you were a kid that the typical television show reached 40 million people. Now, there is nothing on the internet that reaches 40 million people at the same time.

Nothing. What the difference is that there's 40 million channels that he each reach a hundred people. So it reaches more people. It's [00:11:00] micro. It is not mass. So finding people who are interested in what you're doing, isn't that hard because they're already grouping up by what they're interested in. But then the question is how do you earn their trust, not their attention, but their trust.

And part of the problem is we've been indoctrinated into believing that people who look like us or who match certain tropes are smarter or wiser or richer or better than we are. We've been indoctrinated into thinking we're not allowed to speak up or that people who don't look like us are somehow inferior.

So getting the benefit of the doubt is really important. And people like me who grew up with privilege, who grew up with so many advantages, got the benefit of the doubt when we didn't deserve it. And lots of people who deserves the benefit of the doubt aren't getting it. And so we must begin by making small promises and keeping them, making them for people who are open [00:12:00] to being able to trust us, not hustling people and showing up with giant flat belly diet instant, overnight let's change everything promises, but small people, small groups of people, the smallest viable audience show up and say, I'm going to offer you this.

And then do it. And then do it and then do it and then overdo it. And if you do that, they learn to expect it from you. That is what a brand is. A brand is an expectation, not a logo. And so you have this opportunity because everyone starts with almost nothing. Everyone starts small. Who will you start with and how can you do something with, and for that person that they will tell the others.

Hala Taha: [00:12:41] Yeah, let's take into that concept of a smallest viable audience. I know it's something that you talk often about. Tell our listeners what that means exactly. And how they can recruit a smallest viable audience. 

Seth Godin: [00:12:53] When we think about the name of your podcast and stuff, there is a condition.

Yeah. That the only way to win is to [00:13:00] win that you want the biggest possible audience, that if you listen to the hype and you read the business plans and I'm going to crush this and we're going to revolutionize that, but that's not ever never how it actually works. That the way it works is you find the smallest group of people who, if they trusted you, it would be enough.

And then you overwhelm them with delight. Because if you overwhelm that small group with delight, which you can do, because they all want the same thing, they will tell the others. So name any brand you want. And I will tell you how they did that because Starbucks or Supreme or JetBlue, I don't care which one you need.

That's how they did it. The smallest group that could sustain them. And then they delighted them. Even Google, even Facebook started serving 100 people, 100 Harvard students who needed a date that was Facebook. That's [00:14:00] all it was for. It didn't talk about what was happening in new Haven and they didn't talk about what's happening in the life.

They talked about you're at Harvard and you need a date, smallest viable audience. 

Hala Taha: [00:14:10] Could you tell us the yeast case of Starbucks and how they use that to grow? 

Seth Godin: [00:14:14] Howard Schultz did not start Starbucks. Starbucks had two or three stores in Seattle and you could not buy a cup of coffee there. They would only sell you beans.

And Howard went to Italy. And when he came back, he had fallen in love with standing at the counter and drinking in espresso. And he couldn't find a place in the United States where he could do that. And he persuaded the people at Starbucks to give him a chance. And so Starbucks began really began with one place in one little corner of one city where you could stand there and have an espresso.

That's all it was. And then the word began to spread and it began to spread, but it happened slowly compared to internet time. [00:15:00] But Howard did not come back from Italy saying I'm going to revolutionize the United States and caffeinate a hundred million people a day. He came back and said, I need there to be a neighborhood espresso bar.

Hala Taha: [00:15:10] Now, do you have an example of when a company maybe went too wide and failed because they were targeting too broad of an. 

Seth Godin: [00:15:17] There's a semi famous one from Silicon Valley startup called Colors that raised $40 million before they even launched. And they launched a giant kind of social networky thing and it lasted 15 minutes and went away because if it's for everyone, it's for no.

And, if we go down the list of the giant web failures, whether it's web van, which was going to be the next Amazon, they launched with a lot of fanfare and then they disappear. If we think about Twitter, Twitter failed and failed for a long time until they optimized it for one conference in Austin, Texas, to make [00:16:00] 500 people delight.

That's all it was for. And it's hard to do this as an entrepreneur or a small business person. Cause you think not that's too small for me, but you think if I pick the specific people and I fail at that, then I'm really bad. They have no one had come to Howard Schultz, his one and only espresso.

He's toast. If people would Austin, south by Southwest hadn't used Twitter, they were going to go bankrupt. You got to pick something and put yourself on the hook because being on the hook is exactly where you want to be.

Hala Taha: [00:16:34] Yeah, totally. And if you spread yourself teeth, then you can't really maximize anything.

Cause it's you're trying to chase two rabbits. You'll never catch either one that has that old 

adage goes. 

Okay. So another foundational marketing topic I want to cover is stories. So we all know that stories are really important. It's how humans learn. Humans are just like addicted to stories. So tell us more [00:17:00] about why we're so addicted to hearing stories, why we learn so well by hearing stories and how we can tell compelling stories.

Seth Godin: [00:17:08] So stories are the oldest human technology. Let me ask you a question when you were growing up, did someone in your house make Nestle's toll house cookies, chocolate chip cookies?

Hala Taha: [00:17:18] Yeah. 

Seth Godin: [00:17:18] So if you smelled that smell right now, how would it make you feel hungry, but also loved, right? That smell is a story that smell reminds us of something very comforting.

It reminds us of home. It reminds us of being seen. It reminds us of possibility and it's just to smell. That's what  a story isn't once upon a time and happily ever after a story is a set of hints and shortcuts and an innuendo and rhyming that gets us to an emotional place. So the story we were talking about Facebook before, the story of Facebook is people are talking about you behind [00:18:00] your back.

Do you want to hear what they're saying? That's their story. And so every time people see that Facebook UI stuff, they go, oh, I wonder what they're saying. And they have to go look and then they solve their problem in about a minute later, they go, have they said anything new, and then they go, look, that is the story of Facebook.

And so you got to figure out which basic human emotion are you trying to tap into with the story of what you're doing. And being inconsistent and erratic means that people are going to trust you less being blurry because you want the biggest possible audience means that you're probably going to mess up.

So I'll give you one more example, 40 years ago, Coca-Cola for reasons that we can get into if you want, but aren't that interesting change the formula and they launched new Coke and new Coke in every taste test tasted better than Coke. It was the biggest marketing failure in the history of the United States.

Why did it fail? [00:19:00] It failed because the story of Coke is this is what your mom served you for breakfast. The story of Coke is this is stable. This is us. This is tradition. You can't put the word new in front of the word Coke. They don't go together. So people, the reason people are drinking it is because it's old Coke.

Hala Taha: [00:19:18] It's a classic. Yeah. 

Seth Godin: [00:19:19] And so changing story is what cost them a billion dollar. 

Hala Taha: [00:19:26] Yeah. So do you suggest that when somebody is coming out with a product or service, that they should create a brand story and how would somebody go about that? 

Seth Godin: [00:19:34] You're creating a brand story whether you want to or not. So you might as well do it on purpose.

And I think different people have different approaches to doing things on purpose. I interviewed Diane Von Furstenberg a bunch of years ago. She was functionally illiterate in her ability to talk about how she did things. She was unable to tell you or me why one dress was better than another. She did not [00:20:00] have words for her good taste.

She just did it. And there are other people who have lots of words to describe how they're going to approach something. I would put myself in that category because the words A, are useful boundary and B, to help me teach other people what I'm doing. And so it really helps to be able to say, this is like that except this way.

So this is the equivalent of chocolate chip cookies, but it's a car that helps me understand how to design something. So let's look at Tesla. The Tesla model S tells a story, which is if you bought a Mercedes, because you thought you were smart. And taking care of your family. Now you feel stupid because this is that car that you should have bought.

And as soon as the Mercedes driver in California saw the model totally ruined their day, because now they were driving the wrong car and they had to go solve their problem. That's the design of the model S so then they decided to come out with that pickup [00:21:00] truck and they blew it because Elan lost discipline.

What should the pickup truck have looked like? Who buys the pickup? Why is the Ford, F-150 the single most popular vehicle in America? Why do pickup trucks keep looking like pickup trucks? Because the story we tell ourselves, if we're going to be the kind of person who buys a pickup truck is this is utility.

I'm not trying to stand out. I am just a hard work and fellow or woman, who's trying to do their best. That's a pickup truck. So when you make the cyber truck look like that weird thing that was carved out of a piece of whatever. They blew it. That's not the story of a pickup truck. What they should've done is built the most boring Ford F-150 knockoff ever.

But with just enough of a twist that it says, I'm the kind of person who buys it, the pickup truck, but I'm smarter than you. That was the opportunity. And they missed [00:22:00] it because they didn't understand the story. 

Hala Taha: [00:22:01] Yeah. So I'm hearing a couple of things here. One of the things that I'm hearing is that it's not enough to just like, create your own story.

You have to align to the stories and the beliefs that are already out there. 

Seth Godin: [00:22:12] Yes.

Hala Taha: [00:22:12] Right? 

Seth Godin: [00:22:12] Yes. 

Hala Taha: [00:22:14] Yeah. Okay. So a couple more general marketing questions before we move on to the main topic of the show, which is your new book, The Practice, what do you think that marketers are doing wrong today in 2020?

If you could call out a few things that marketers do wrong today, what would they be? 

Seth Godin: [00:22:29] Yeah, it hasn't changed in my whole life. Selfish, short-term, narcissistic, lying, cheating, short-cutting, profit seeking. That's what they're doing wrong. Anytime you do any of those things, you're burning trust and marketing is a race to earn and preserve trust because we live in a TRO, a low trust, low attention world.

And if you can earn and maintain trust, then everything else takes care of itself. 

Hala Taha: [00:22:59] I [00:23:00] see a lot of that in like the paid acquisition space, especially like Facebook ads, YouTube ads, Google ads, they just care about the clicks and things like that. But a lot of them are really generating a lot of revenue and profiting off of this.

But are you saying that's really like shortsighted? 

Seth Godin: [00:23:16] So I've been doing this online thing now for 30 years. And every time I do an interview like this, someone brings up a shortcut or a hustle that someone's doing. It's working. What about listicles? Why aren't you having 12 fights on your blog?

What are you doing about ads on my space and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And every time I say the people who were doing that two years ago, where are they now? And they're gone, it's not sustaining. There's always going to be someone who profits from racing to the bottom, always. So always going to be someone who can out hustle you always, and then there'll be gone.

And, have you ever gotten any of that spam that says, I know the prince of whoever, and if you click on this, [00:24:00] you'll get $40 million. Have you noticed it's filled with typos? It's really poorly written. These people are making millions of dollars. You think they could have hire a copy editor and make it grammatically correct?

Why is it filled with typos and read so stupid? The answer is simple because if smart people answer their emails, they won't be able to afford to keep up with everybody who ultimately will not give them money. The purpose of the first email is to attract the stupid. Because only the stupid people are the ones where they're going to be able to rip off.

And the same thing is true of the people who are seeking clicks and Facebook and Google for this kind of hustle, which is they need to come off this way because people like you and me would never click on it and they don't want to pay for us. They're just trying to get people who are looking for a get rich, quick scheme and people who sell get rich quick schemes.

Don't get rich. 

Hala Taha: [00:24:51] Yeah. So I know that we talked earlier. One of the first questions I asked was, the definition of permission marketing and what that means. [00:25:00] So I think we're all clear on that. How has that evolved? Because I know now everybody's just talking about like personalization. Is that really the same as permission marketing or is it different?

Seth Godin: [00:25:09] Totally different. When I wrote the book, I did not realize how much pressure would be on marketers to become spammers. And, the amount of spam I got as an email user in 2000 was for a day. And now I get 400 a day. And some of them from like banks and reputable organizations, they've socially acceptable.

It doesn't work, but at least you don't get fired. They think personalization is different than personal personalization is something you do to somebody you buy some mailing lists to do a mail merge. You throw some data points in there. You pretend you're a data mining. That doesn't work. It worked for a little while.

Cause it tricks people, but it didn't earn trust. People don't want personalized stuff. They want personal stuff. They don't want email. They want me mail. And so when you show up and pull some stunt, it [00:26:00] says, welcome back, Mr. X, we know that you like this drink and we turned your bed down this way. And we did that.

That's not personal. That's personally. But if you pay your people well enough that they stick with you and I come back and I remember the person and they remember me now I'm sticking with your institution because you're sticking with me. 

Hala Taha: [00:26:20] Yeah, I think that totally makes sense. So how do you feel about like direct message automation and things like that?

So I'm sure that where on LinkedIn and Instagram people, like they've got these tools and they can plug in first name and make it seem like it's personal. I've used it. And people honestly believe it because I don't think a lot of people really know what's going on and what's available. So right now I think people can still get away with

seeming at least the first message seeming like it's authentic. So how do you feel about these kinds of like automation tools? Do you just not suggest them at all? Or do you think that there's a place for them? 

Seth Godin: [00:26:54] So it's not that they don't realize it's that they don't realize it yet. [00:27:00] Again, we're getting back to the fact that if you're in a hurry and you keep taking shortcuts, you're always going to be on the first step.

On the other hand, in the same amount of time, it takes you to do 10 shortcuts and be on the first step. You could do 10 long cuts and be somewhere else. And it's this step wise process of earning trust of being missed if you will. After you've done that if you want to use personalization is fine with me, but that's not the secret.

So when I go back to, it knows my name. That's not why I'm going back. I'm going back because 1200 orders later, they have written me off. They haven't screwed me over. If they make a mistake, they give me my money back. That's why I trust them. And so the personalization is just a tiny little frosting.

They're out in the personalization business. They're in the promise business. And I'll just ask people, why are you doing this in the first place? There are better ways to make a [00:28:00] living than hustling around hoping no one notices they're using technology, right? They, you should do things that really benefit people that you get paid for fairly so that you can do it again.

Hala Taha: [00:28:12] Totally. And also because it's more financially viable to do that. Cause if you're always just starting from scratch and tricking people to download or click, you have no retention, and you have no real following or subscribers. And that's why I find a lot of like clients and people that I know, like they, they do paid ads for their YouTube channel or podcast.

And then, on a daily basis they have no views, no downloads. And they look silly when they put out an episode when it has zero. And then there are other videos, like a million views, I have no, no real audience. 

Seth Godin: [00:28:43] Yeah. Yeah. I had a friend. Who was obsessed with how many Instagram followers she had.

She had 800 followers in one day. She said, I have to go negative. And I said, what does it mean to go negative? And she said I have to follow more people than are following me because there's interesting people, but I [00:29:00] feel terrible because I don't want to look like I'm out. So for her birthday, I bought her 15,000 Instagram followers.

And it made a ding sound. Every time she got one, this was no days. And so she's just sitting there. He was ding, ding, meaning, and she immediately knows me. What kind of pop followers do you get for $149? They're not real people. They're not really, that's the purpose. It's just a story we tell ourselves.

Why don't we just instead tell ourselves the story that I'd like to be of service. 

Hala Taha: [00:29:28] Exactly. It's way better to grow organically, have a real community, grow it from the ground up and have that trust and just build it organically than it is to just pay for the visibility. I totally agree.

So let's talk about your new book, The Practice from my understanding, you're talking about the process of creativity and that is what The Practice says. Can you explain to us really what this title, The Practice means and why you decided to write this book? 

Seth Godin: [00:29:54] The subtitle is shipping creative work. So I would ask people, [00:30:00] are you in the business of shipping creative work? Are you rewarded for showing up in the marketplace with something new, something that hasn't been done before?

Something generous, something that might make a difference. If you're not, this book will be of no help whatsoever. And I think you need to find a new job as well, because if you're not, you're going to get replaced by a computer or be outsourced. But if you are. Where all the books teaching us how to ship creative work, right?

There are books that teach us how to build bridges in their books that teach us how to do SEO. But the core of what we do all day is shipped creative work. How just when you feel like it, when you're in the flow, when you have, when you're in the mood, when you feel like being authentic, which is a term I hate, right?

No, you need a practice. You need a method. You need a way to be a professional, to show up and show up and do work. You're proud of. And so The Practice is not about how do you hustle the market to move up on some ranking. It is in fact about forgetting about [00:31:00] measuring the outcome and focus instead, and the pattern and the process learn to trust yourself so that you can do the work you want.

Hala Taha: [00:31:09] I'm going to quote something that I read in your book. You say the industrial system we all live in is outcome based. It's about guaranteed productivity in exchange for soul numbing, predicted labor. But if we choose to look for it, there's a different journey available to us. This is the path followed by those who seek change, who want to make things better.

So tell us what is the problem about focusing on outcomes and what's really the alternative there. 

Seth Godin: [00:31:35] If you watch a two year old fall and skin, their knee, they'll quickly look up to see if any adults saw them. And then the adult saw them. They'll cry and look right. And if no adults are, then they'll just move on because the audience changes the experience.

And the thing about creative work is we don't have an audience until we've had the experience. The audience [00:32:00] doesn't show up until we've made it. So the question is. After we've made it, should the first person who gives us feedback, decide if we get to do it again? What about the eighth person that if you are working super hard on your play or you're a standup, or if you've designed a user interface, is it all worthless?

If the first person who sees it didn't get the junk. Maybe they just are the wrong person. Maybe you learned a lot doing this with the right spirit and the feedback you get about why it didn't work. We'll help you do it better next time. But the thing is we shouldn't judge our practice only on did we get an a, that's not what it's for.

It's for the journey and our ability to get better next time. Most podcasts, every podcast, I'm guessing your podcast. How many people listened to the first episode 10, right? How did that, [00:33:00] why did you keep going? Everyone hated it. 7 million people did not listen to your podcast. Yeah. Was your first podcast that much worse than your 10th one?

No, but over time people told other people to change the culture means to go first to help people become uncomfortable, to turn on lights. We don't know what the artist is going to do. We don't own it. Their response is up to them. Our work is to guess who they are, what they need, and then learn from what works and what doesn't.

But we have to have a practice together. 

Hala Taha: [00:33:34] Yeah. In your book, you have this analogy about juggling and you say that you teach people how to juggle. So tell us about juggling. Oh, this is great. Cause we have them on video with a ball, throwing it around, telling us, tell us why like throwing is more important than catching.

And tell us about this analogy of juggling. I'm so happy. 

Seth Godin: [00:33:57] So I've taught more people how to juggle them. I'm [00:34:00] not a very good juggler, but I'm a very good teacher of juggling and they're different. If you go to see a juggler, a good job. You will notice it. They almost never dropped the ball. That's what you're paying attention to.

And that if you're enamored with them and they do drop the ball, you feel badly, we are paying attention to balls dropped. And the reason it's so hard to learn how to juggle is because that's how people try to learn how to juggle. And at first they're catching and they're throwing and then a ball goes errand.

It goes in one direction or another, and we lunged to try to catch it. And maybe we do. And now we are out of position. And no matter what we're going to miss the next one, the reason is because we're focusing on catching. The way to juggle is to focus on throwing. If you are good at throwing. The catching is easy.

The catching takes care of itself. Throw, throw, throw. It's fine. So the way I teach people how to juggle is all we do for half an hour is [00:35:00] throw, we do no catching whatsoever. We just get good at throwing. And if you get good at throwing, catching is not such a big deal. And the same thing is true. That most of the people who are trying to make it in social media, even the dreaded influencers who I think are misguided, most of the time are all focused on catching are focused on what was their yield today, all focused on easy to measure metrics.

They're not focused on important to measure metrics they're not focused on. Did I change the life of one person today instead they're saying, did I get a thousand clicks screw, a thousand clicks, lots of people can do that. What's hard is to show up as a human and make things better.

Hala Taha: [00:35:43] I love that. So let's get into some definitions.

Cause I think they're important. What is your definition of a leader? 

Seth Godin: [00:35:50] So leaders are imposters and frauds and the reason that they are is they're doing something that might not work. They're doing something where there is no manual they're announcing in [00:36:00] advance. What's going to happen, even though they can't prove it's going down.

And so when you feel that way, you should know that you're onto something and leaders are different than managers. Managers tell people what to do with authority. Managers are important. You can't have fast food without a fast food manager, managers demand certain results, and they know it as possible. Leaders

that's voluntary to lead voluntary to follow and leaders show up with a different posture and a different point of view. 

Hala Taha: [00:36:31] So leaders basically, they don't necessarily know what the outcome will be. They, yeah they're envisioning the future and trying to bring people along that journey.

And that's what makes them a leader. They're not told what to do. They don't know exactly what's going to happen. That's why they're leaders. 

Seth Godin: [00:36:47] Correct. 

Hala Taha: [00:36:49] How about art? What is your definition of art?

Seth Godin: [00:36:52] So I wish I had a better word. And if you could help me with this highlight, appreciate it. I think. We can all agree that Jackson Pollock was an artist.

[00:37:00] We can all agree that free to Callow was an artist. We can all agree that Marcel Duchamp was an artist, but wait a minute. What about William Shakespeare? He was definitely an artist. And so was Neil Gaiman, right? So it might be art painting. It might be writing, but you can also be an artist as an architect.

And I think you could be an artist as a child's therapist showing up with a kid who hasn't been able to engage with someone and you got them to engage. So I need to say art is what happens when a human being does something generous that might not work. Designed to change somebody else. That's my definition of art.

Hala Taha: [00:37:37] Yeah. I thought it was really interesting that you kept talking about generosity in your book in relation to being a creative, being an artist, being a leader. Tell us about how generosity interplays with all of this. 

Seth Godin: [00:37:50] Okay. So there are two ways to get at this. The first way is this. If I have $6 and I give you $3 generous.

I don't have it [00:38:00] anymore. You have it. So if I give it out to everybody, I'm Brooke, but if I have an idea and I give it to you, I still have it. In fact, the more people have my idea, the more it's worth. And so the world has changed from the scarcity mindset of, I don't have it anymore to the abundant mindset of connection creates value.

So that's one reason to be generous. We live in that world. And the second reason to be generous is because a lot of people are trained correctly to not want to take or steal or hustle, or just put stuff out there that they're not proud of. And so we hold back our good idea, but imagine that you're standing on the boardwalk in Venice beach or something, and someone is drowning a couple feet away from you.

Will you jump in and save them? Or will you say I can't be sure I can save them. Will you say someone else here? It might be more qualified than me where you say I'll just [00:39:00] hide. I'm guessing you would jump in and save them. I'd try. Cause you're generous. And that makes it way easier to do our art.

If we realize we're not doing our art for links or clicks or money, we're doing our art. Cause the other person will benefit. Suddenly it's selfish to hold it back. It's generous to say here, I made this and that's an extraordinary opportunity in a great way to hack your brain and get out of your own way to trust yourself.

Hala Taha: [00:39:30] Yeah. And I think this relates a lot to you. Shipping your work and the importance of actually delivering, sharing your work. Tell us about that. And maybe some of the reasons why people hold back when it comes to shipping their work. 

Seth Godin: [00:39:43] If you don't ship it, you can't get criticized, right? If you don't ship it, there's no defects.

If you don't ship it, you get to tell people you're still working on it. I know someone has been working on his new business idea for 34 years and he keeps telling me I'd soon, I'm still working on it. If you ship it, it might not work. If you ship it, [00:40:00] people might look at it and say, you're not going to amount to anything, but if you don't ship it, you're not being generous.

And so I think it doesn't count if you don't ship it, it's not art. If no one else sees it. 

Hala Taha: [00:40:11] Yeah. And it's not throwing you not throwing enough. And if you don't throw enough, you're not going to get anything that catches. Yeah. Okay. So I know we're up on time. I want to be respectful of your time. We've got a few minutes left.

Let's talk about writer's block because from my understanding, you believe that writer's block does not exist. So tell us why you believe that's true. And I know that you have an example with Aretha Franklin and the book that may relate that my listeners might find interesting. 

Seth Godin: [00:40:45] Writer's block is real and it doesn't exist.

What people actually have is fear of bad writing that if you show me all of your bad writing, you will prove to me, you don't have writer's block, but you're holding [00:41:00] back from writing anything because you're afraid something bad will show up. And the most successful artists I know, get through this.

By having a lot of bad writing, a bad, a lot of bad painting, a lot of bad symphonies, a lot of bad SEO, a lot of bad, whatever it is you do, because if you do enough, not so good stuff, some good stuff will slip through. And so good tastes involves knowing the difference between the two. But you're not blocked.

You're just afraid. And no one gets talker's block. No one gets plumber's block. No one gets jugglers block. There's no such thing as writer's block. In the book, I tell the story of Risa Franklins purse. Is that what you're asking about? So the great Aretha Franklin queen of soul. If you look at any of the videos of her online, performing live, what you will notice is that in the piano is her hand.

And it's because when she was coming up in the sixties, artists, particularly black artists, particularly black women [00:42:00] got stiffed a lot. They didn't get paid. So she developed the habit of getting paid before she walked on stage. If you didn't hinder the cash, she didn't walk on stage. And then she kept that in her purse, law time.

This is part of the reason I think she died without a will, but that's a whole other discussion. The interesting thing about it is that Aretha understood that she was able to do her craft. She could've made it her hobby, but she made it her profession. And by making it her profession and she said, yeah, I'll show up at eight o'clock I'll show up at eight o'clock.

You show up with a piano and a bag full of cash, and we can make that transaction. And then in that moment, you will get the best version of Aretha Franklin that is available to me that day. Not the authentic Aretha. She might not have felt like playing that day. Doesn't matter. She's a professional, here's the piano, here's the bag of cash.

Play the piano. [00:43:00] And that's what it means to be a professional on top of many other things is we make a promise and we keep it. 

Hala Taha: [00:43:05] Yeah. Sticking on the professional aspect of everything. A lot of times when people think of creatives, they think it's a hobby. I'm an artist. I paint, I sculpture, whatever it's, it might not make money.

It could make money. Why do we have to think of ourselves as professionals when we're being creative and being a creative? 

Seth Godin: [00:43:23] You can be. I have hobbies. Just don't get confused. Don't try to sell your hobby. Don't try to make your hobby something that makes other people happy. Don't expect that your hobby is going to pay your rent.

It's your hobby. Don't moon. It ruined your hobby, just cause the internet is filled with people who are trying to make money from your hobby. Doesn't mean you have to. Like I have lots of hobbies that I don't make any money from. And, I love listening to jazz. I have a decent stereo. Yeah. I wrote a column for an audio magazine and I wouldn't take a penny from [00:44:00] Paul because the minute I got a dollar to write a column on music, I would be a professional music critic.

Not me, that's my hobby. And on the other hand, I don't show up and give a talk to a company for fun. It's my job. And I don't care what kind of mood I'm in. When I get hired to give a gig, I show up as Seth Godin and Seth Godin is playing a role. And that role is that person who's giving that talk.

That's what a professional does. And you should. 

Hala Taha: [00:44:32] Got it. And the last question that I ask all my guests on the show is what is your secret to profiting in life?

Seth Godin: [00:44:42] Words matter. And I think getting really clear about what the word profit means is super important. After I sold my company to Yahoo bill gross, the great entrepreneur was putting together a company that was just a few months away from going.

And Steven Spielberg was on the board. It was a big deal. And he [00:45:00] called me up and asked if I would be the vice president of marketing of this company. And he offered me a billion dollars in stock options. And I turned him down because I needed to be with my family. I needed to have my life. And I got to tell you, once you turned down a billion dollars, it gets easy to be really clear about what profit means, because profit is not more clicks.

Profit is not more alikes and profit is not more money. Profit is deciding what's important to you and going and doing that and not playing somebody else's game, just because it's easy to measure. 

Hala Taha: [00:45:36] I love that. That's beautiful. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?

Seth Godin: [00:45:42] 7,000 blog posts had, You're going to be about the book at And our workshops, including the Altima, BA 

Hala Taha: [00:45:56] Awesome. We are going to stick all of those links in the show notes, [00:46:00] Seth, you are a legend. I am so happy. We had you on the show.

I'm going to promote the heck out of this episode. I can't wait to put it out. I'm going to bump you up in front of some other people and get this episode out as soon as possible or to align with your book, but we'll figure it out. But thank you so much for coming on the show. 

Seth Godin: [00:46:18] Thank you. You're great at this.

It was really a pleasure. Thank you. 

Hala Taha: [00:46:21] Thank you so much. Listening to Young And Profiting podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please write us a review or comment on your favorite platform. Nothing makes us happier than reading your review. We'd love to hear what you think about the show. And don't forget to share this podcast with your friends, family, and on social media.

I always repost, reshare and support those who support us. You can find me on Instagram at yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name. It's Hala Taha. Big thanks to the YAP team as always. This is Hala signing off.

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