On today’s show, Seth Godin, the iconic entrepreneur, best-selling author of 18 books including Purple Cow and the man who in 1998 sold his company Yoyodyne to Yahoo! for $30 million dollars shares about:
On today’s show, Seth Godin, the iconic entrepreneur, New York Times best selling author, and the man who in 1998, he sold his company Yoyodyne to Yahoo for $30, million dollar.
Wow. Now that’s a lot of money if you’re ever around it up. Yeah. Joins us to share how he started his first business out of New York City Studio apartment. Why he believes that instead of wondering where your next vacation should be, you should set up a life that you don’t want to escape from. Why nobody bought one of the first books that he wrote. While he doesn’t own a television, his process for writing books his criteria for what he says no and yes to his mantra of pick your customers. Pick your life why he rails about industrial complexes, our shared love for Patina and much, much more.
Some shows don’t need a celebrity and a writer to introduce the show, but the show tomorrow, eight kids cocreated by two different women. Thirteen multimillion dollar businesses. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the thrive time show.
Oh yes. Thrive nation. Welcome back to another exciting edition of the thrive time. Show on your radio and podcast, download Mr Seth Godin. We’ll come onto the thrive time show. How are you sir?
I’m fantastic, but getting better. Thank you for having me.
Well, Seth, you’ve written now over 15 books. I believe 17 is the official count. Do you have a favorite book?
Uh, it’s a little like asking about your favorite kid, but I will tell you, uh, you know, the new one is my 19th, the one that I tend to talk about when people ask me that question is the second or third one which was called survival is not enough. And the reason is because no one bought it. It was a total failure. There are two reasons for that. One reason is because it came out right after nine slash 11, which was tragic for so many people. Um, and then the second reason is because it’s about evolutionary theory. I worked out at eight hours a day for a year. I love that book, but it didn’t work. So you learn a lesson,
you know, Seth Godin, you have written a lot about finding your vocation. I don’t know if you’ve ever used those specific words, but the word vocation originally in the Latin means you’re calling and vacation means to retreat from, but you have a notable quotable where I’ve read that you once wrote, instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from. Can you share what what you mean by this?
Well, you know, I think we begin with this. Everyone should have something that they love to do, something that feels to them like they’re truly connected to it, but that doesn’t have to be the thing you get paid for. It’s just a very happy moment if they turn out to be the same thing, but rather than forcing that thing you do to also be the thing you love. If we give ourselves permission to do both, to say there’s this, you know, I love opera and I’m going to work in my spare time and I’m not going to try to make money from that. And then when I do my job, I’m going to do my job with care and grace, but I’m not going to expect it to feel like opera. We let ourselves off a dangerous hook. Would we do that? Because then we can go to work and act as if act as if our work matters, act as if we are making a contribution, act as if our energy will come back to us many times over. And what I’ve found when people do that is they can turn almost any job into a job where they can thrive. And when you take that attitude, suddenly you’re not in such a hurry to run away from it.
You know, I, I feel like you’ve been running towards your vocation for many years and a lot of people know you now as the, as the bestselling author, as one of the most influential entrepreneurial authors of the past decade. Some could argue, but you started out of a New York City Studio apartment with a book packaging company. Can you share with us of what it was like to start that book packaging company? And, and really, when did you start to develop some type of traction
as an entrepreneur? Well, you’re being really generous because for somebody to be a company it needs to have revenue. And so for a year I, I didn’t have revenue, um, you know, I was getting close to selling my stuff to the pawn shop, but that’s all I was selling because what book packagers do is they invent ideas for books, bring them into the book publishing world if someone likes them to give you money that you will make the book. And I started the company with a project I did with chip Conley who also went off to become successful. We sold that book for $5,000 on the first day. But then I started the company and I didn’t sell anything for a year for rejection, rejection, rejection for a whole year. I was working 12 hours a day shipping out proposals, 850 or so proposals, not one thing sold. And that was really, really hard. And it wasn’t just that I wasn’t getting revenue, it was that the people around me didn’t get what I was trying to do. So not only did in the world understand my vision to people who cared about me, didn’t understand it either. And that took a lot of reserve to get through.
You know, Dr Zoellner and I both started from the bottom. He is an optometrist turned entrepreneurial tycoon. Uh, I started a company called Dj connection out of my dorm room that grew into the largest wedding entertainment company in the country. And we’ve gone on to grow 13 multimillion dollar companies together. And we love stories about guys like you that started from the bottom, uh, and sort of grew to the next level. And I think one of the things you have to do to be successful, you have to build a foundation of your daily mantra, your daily rituals, your daily flow state, your normal. Can you walk us through the first three hours of your typical day? I mean, what does that look like, my friend? Because you’re the master of saying no. Um, what, what are the first three hours of your, what does that look like? How do you organize your day? What? Walk us through your routine?
Well, you know, I think it’s important to not get confused by the specifics. Right. So, you know, as you know, Dr Elder went to school in Buffalo, I went to school in Buffalo. Does that mean that you have to go to school in Buffalo in order to be successful? I don’t think so, right? That that’s an irrelevant a coincidence. What’s relevant is what’s the story you tell yourself about the work you’re going to try to do. And for me, I was telling myself a really negative story, particularly halfway through the first year to phone would ring and I say, Oh, here comes someone ready to reject me. And the mail would come and I say, up here comes some more rejection than I as if I was hoping that it would happen. Right? And Yeah, I spent a lot of time listening to zig ziglar a lot of time making sure I was feeding myself a different story.
And the big shift for me happened when I made the decision that I was now doing work that I get to do, not that I have to do. And that’s the biggest thing about my daily ritual. I don’t have an alarm clock, I just leap out of bed because I can’t believe I get to do this again. And there is not one part of my day where I roll my eyes and go, oh, I can’t believe I have to do that because if I’m going to do it, it’s a choice. And if I don’t want to do it, then I can arrange my life. So I don’t have to. I don’t go to meetings and a nun, I don’t have a television because those were things that were winding me down. And instead of trying to organize a day where I can’t believe I get to do this, tell me about the process you go through in creating a new book.
What, uh, where do you start and what does it look like? And then how do you, how do you finish it? So the way it used to work is I made a commitment that I was going to a book a year because I liked the rhythm and the process, so every once in awhile I would say, hmm, I’m going to have a book coming out next year. I better have something ready to go soon. And I would look at what the world was saying to me where I saw whole happening, where the opportunity was. But I haven’t done that in about eight or nine books. Now. It’s so painful to bring a book to market that I only write a book if the book demands that I do. So my blog lets me off the hook. If I can just write a blog post and I don’t have to write the book done, but if the.
If the idea keeps knocking on my door and won’t let me go, I say, all right, well you just have this idea, demands this format. And because I’m not saying to the world, read this book, buy this book because it’s time for me to sell you a book. My posture is different. I don’t have to go out and say, oh, time to sell a book. Again, it’s a different sort of process. Then what I do a generally is a right the whole thing in three weeks and then spend a six months or so rewriting it, thinking about it, throwing parts of it out. There are five books. I’ve written the whole book and no one’s ever read it because it wasn’t good enough when I was done. So I sort of put that in place, see how out of fits together. And if I think it’s something that I can be proud of 10 years from now, then I’ll share it with people.
You know, seth Godin, one of the things I think is remarkable about you is that you say no to a lot of things, and I’ve heard you in previous interviews talk about this. Um, and you say no to speaking events routinely, which, uh, Jonathan Kelly, who and who works closely with me in my office who I believe are arranged our interview, uh, Jonathan Kelly knows this. Whenever someone reaches out to me for a speaking event, I almost immediately say, no, unless x, YZ, is the case. Can you explain your criteria for what you say no to because that’s why you have the time freedom to focus on the things that you’re excited about. I mean, just [inaudible] you say no. Can you talk about what are the, what’s your criteria for the things you say no to and what do you say yes to?
Well, I would begin with this. The mantra that I think is true for everyone is pick your customers, pick your future. The people that you are serving, the people who are paying you are the ones who are going to determine how you’re going to spend your day. And uh, so I don’t have a staff, I don’t have a team. It’s just me. And if I don’t spend today doing x that I, then I could do y but I can’t do x and y at the same time. So I used to limit myself to about 30 speaking gigs a year. Now it’s 15 and I think hard about how far is this going to be, how many people are going to be able to impact is the audience’s biggest one enrolled in where I want to go, so I mistakenly took a gig six or seven years ago to 3000 men and women, mostly men who own car repairs, a big chain of car repair franchises.
So there were 3000 people there. Many of my criteria, except they had no interest in what I had to say. Wait, what was your speech? What did what? What was your speech about that day? What would they do? Remember it? Yeah, I’d totally buy speech was the one with the speech I give is if I were in their in their shoes, what would I need to hear? What would I want to hear? How could I open the door for them? So I. I imagined what I would do if I owned a goodyear goodrich tire and rubber kind of facility. How could I be significantly above average? What would it mean to have a different relationship with my customers? What would it mean to do work that they would miss if it were gone to not be in a commodity business? And I was right, except for one thing, which is that’s not why they were in the business and they were in the business for something that I would never be in the business for. They liked owning a car repair shop and they didn’t want it to be one that was exceptional. They just wanted it to be the one that had pills. I just want to pay the bills and that’s fine. That’s great. But I shouldn’t be the person to talk to you today.
Oh, well no. They’ll say the one asking this because you have said, oh, there’s an interview you did with Tim Ferriss and uh, Tim Rowe listeners out there who don’t know Tim Ferriss, one of the top podcasters on the planet. And you talked about how you typically rail against industrial complexes. Can you please explain why you rail against industrial complexes? And if you have time, I want you to talk about Patina because you and I share a love for the Patina. So talk to me about railing against industrial complexes and if you have a moment, I’d love for you to share your, your, your, uh, your focus on Patina.
So a general eisenhower famously warned the public that there was a military industrial complex being built that was pushing us to be in the Vietnam War. And what it means is you have a company that makes weapons. You used some of that money to lobby the government to get into war so you can sell more weapons to military industrial complex. It works in tandem. And what’s happened as various industries have grown is dave also turned into complex, the educational industrial complex, which is a for profit system that’s constantly chewing kids up, putting them to test prep, putting them into a debt, et Cetera, et cetera. You have the social media industrial complex where people are basically going to work for their phones, not vice versa. That if you’re on a social network and you’re not paying for it, that’s because you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
And we have these engines that push us to be cogs in a machine. Push us to be part of the cash system, not part of the make a different system and so whenever I see one of these working, my disruption is to say to the people who were willing to listen to me, wait a minute. You have more power than you think you do. You have more freedom you think you do. It’s worth standing up and saying, I care enough about this, that I didn’t want to be a pawn in the system. I just want to make something better instead. And so I’m against cogs. I’m against people who check their imagination at the door when they get to work and who you know, work for the weekend, work for the self storage unit, work for the TV and the six pack because life, I think it’s too valuable to waste spending nine hours at work so that you can spend an hour and a half watching Netflix at night.
Can you talk to me about Patina because I think you and I share A. I think we have a vest like a pisces. I think we have an intersection of our, of our two values. I love Patina. Can you talk to the listeners out there? What is Patina? Why are you into it?
So there’s a Japanese term Wabi Sabi, Wabi Sabi is the decay of nature and its intersection with the rest of us. Wabi Sabi Patina. It’s the, the disorganized bookshelf. It’s the, uh, the fingerprints we leave behind. And so my office has a Patina of 25 years of making stuff that Patina has a Patina. I can tell when I walk into my office, if someone’s moved a few of the books because they’re not in any order whatsoever, except there’s my order. Right. And Patina is the sort of cruft that stuff behind of a life well lived. So I don’t, I don’t have a lot of patients for people who want it to be industrial and pristine. I would like to see that someone was here before me and I’d like to leave behind this set of fingerprints.
Seth Godin, if I could, if I could ask you this question, this isn’t a self health question for me personally and then I’ll let you hang up on us because I know you have other things to do and you’re choosing. You’re good at this. I appreciate this because this is like, I want you to. I’ve read your books and I thought to myself, I would love to meet Seth and because I built multimillion dollar companies that doesn’t take away my boyish excitement to have you on the show and it. It’s going to go down as one of those like I want to put it on my tombstone. I once interviewed Seth Goden. It’s so exciting. So I want to ask this question. You’ve been interviewed by some of the top podcasters and publications on the planet. In your mind, who was your favorite interviewer? The person who interviewed you where you thought that was a good interviewer because I want to get better. So what was the best interviewer you’ve ever had and why?
Well, I would say minute by minute youtube are up there because it’s almost impossible to do an interview in 10 or 15 minutes that actually gets to something of substance and I applaud you for being crazy enough to try. And this has been thrilling. Uh, the interviews that on my all time list are much, much, much longer than this because you need to get into sync with people. Uh, my friend Brian Koppelman has done five with me. My friend Krista Tippett, did an interview that made me cry that I recommend to people because that’s my best version of myself when I was on, on, on being, um, and what I’m doing with my podcast to Kimbo is interviewing myself and I’ve done that for 25 episodes so far and I really think that’s resonating with people. So those are three that I would mention. And as we’re wrapping this up, I just want to point out that you’ve had great success and I would say the secret of your success is work that matters for people who care. And that’s the untitled subtitle of my new book. Um, because if any of us get the chance to do work that matters for people who care, that’s all we can ever hope for.
I love naked. One more question. Can you tell us about your new book, your new thing? Because I, I’m excited as a, as a consumer and I know that if I buy her book after you pay this guy, who pays that guy? Who pays that guy? I don’t know what you make. Let’s say I buy a book for $20, which I always buy her books. So let’s just say you get what you get. If I buy a book for $20, you get two bucks. I mean how much less? Less than $1. Dollar 50. I’d probably have to buy four of your books there. I’m not kidding. I have bought at least 50 of the Purple Cow Book and I’ve given it away.
Well, what I wanted you to, but let’s be really clear. If anyone thinks they’re going to make a living writing books, they’re crazy. I do not write books to make a living. I write books and make a difference. I go through all the hassle of cutting out all those trees and going through all these steps, not because it’s a good way to make a living, but because some people benefit from having that object in their hand like I’ve written 7,500 blog posts for free if you want to read those, read those, but if a book helps you, then my new book’s called. This is marketing, and the idea of this is marketing is when you appeal to the smallest viable audience, not the biggest one with work that matters. When you see people for fear, when you see them for status, when you understand that some people measure affiliation at some people measured, dominance, that when you get to the humanity of the story we tell ourselves, then you can finally get down to making the work that you care about.
Seth Godin, I appreciate you for writing a content that matters. Books that matter for people who care like myself, and I hope I didn’t screw up this interview so much that you never want to come on again, but I want you to know your book. Purple cow helped me launch a company called epic photography. It helped me a absolutely changed the way I ran Dj connection and our company elephant in the room that we’re franchising and a brand called Oxi fresh that has over 400 locations have all been impacted by the book purple cow, and so I’m honored and humbled to have you on the show and thank you for not saying no to me because I know that you are the master saying no, and it means the world to me and I’m probably going to go into my forest here behind my man cave studio and probably cry to celebrate this moment so prophetically
it perfectly chop down a tree because you said you chucked of all the streets chopped out to produce it.
Highlight in my life, so thank you so much.
Being here to feel great about it. I’m glad we got to connect. Thank you both. Good luck with the show. Thank you. It’s a lot of fun. Let’s have a blessed day. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Bye Bye. Thrive nation. If you are looking for a gift for somebody in your life who loves business growing businesses and the idea of achieving success in the world of entrepreneurship, you got to go by Seth Goden, his newest book called this is marketing. You can’t be seen until you learn to see I again, I repeat. This is marketing. You can’t be seen until you learn to see. Pick it up today and bookstores or on Amazon.com. Also, if you’re out there and you have yet to attend our in person, thrive time show workshops. I would encourage you to purchase your tickets for our December conference. This thing is going to be hot. It’s December seventh and eighth, and we’re going to be featuring the best selling author and the public relations expert of choice, the PR consultant of choice for Nike, for Pizza Hut, for Prince, for Michael Jackson, for a George Michael, for President Bush for President Clinton. Michael Levine will be attending the workshop and we’re going to actually be speaking at the workshop and Ken Schmidt, the man responsible for the turnaround at Harley Davidson. We’ll also be speaking at the workshop if you’ve yet to attend to thrive time workshops. I’m telling you, you owe it to yourself, to your family, into your financial future. Get your tickets today at thrive time, show.com, and now without any further ado, we’d like to end each and every show with a boom. And so here we go. Three, two, one. Whoa.