Welcome to Eventual Millionaire. I’m Jaime Tardy and today I am lucky to have Seth Godin on the show. I am super excited. He has written a new book called The Icarus Deception. It was all through kick starter. Did an amazing job on that and I am really excited. Thank you so much for coming on, Seth.
SETH GODIN: Thanks for having me and thanks for the generosity in the work you do.
JAIME TARDY: Thank you. That’s the first time someone has ever thanked me, as I’ve had them show. Thank you very much. Tell me first a little bit about Icarus Deception, because I know my friend Natalie Sisson took pictures of it, because I don’t have it yet. She took pictures of it so I could read and get a gist more about what I wanted. Go ahead and tell us a little bit more about it.
SG: I don’t know if I can give you a gist, but I can give you a rant.
SG: We all grew up and our parents grew up and our grandparents grew up with an industrial mindset. Industrialists make a lot of money. They made us all rich. Industrialism is about polishing the systems that exist to make them a little faster, a little cheaper and a little bit more reliable. Black Friday and buying a lot of stuff for Christmas and getting a raise and getting a good parking space and going to a famous college and making yes a million dollars, those are all industrial outputs and we’ve been doing it for so long we think it’s normal.
I wrote this rant for several reasons. The first is it’s not normal. It has only been going on for 100 years. Second it’s ending. It’s ending really in quite a crash the way all old eras end and there is a new revolution right here, our revolution, that has nothing to do with calmly and repeatedly churning out a little bit more of what we used to do and everything to do about connection and art and making a ruckus and making a difference and mattering and doing work that we’re proud of and so what drives me every day and has for a long time is what sort of impact do we have the privilege to make.
JT: Tell me what is this new revolution? How can we know what this next trend is so we can be a part of it?
SG: Matt Ridley has a great riff. This is a computer mouse and he points out that there is no one on earth who knows how to make one; no one. If it weren’t for the organized efforts of 50,000 people, you could not make a mouse. Between getting the metal, creating the plastic, understanding the software, understanding the hardware, understanding the operations and then shipping it to your house, this is the work of a team of people and that team of people coordinated everything with nothing but this.
When we think about how rich and detailed our interactions are now compared to what they were when all we had was a telephone and a fax machine, it’s unbelievable. It’s a huge step up. It’s the difference between making pottery in your house and having a factory that makes plates. That leap is what led to the industrial revolution. That leap of we know how to harness power to make stuff is now happening thanks to the internet and now we know how to harness computers to make connection. If you look at who is creating value, it is not the obedient people nor is it the people who are measuring bank balances.
In fact, differences are now being made by people who figure out how to be trusted and figure out how to make something that other people choose to talk about that other people choose to care about. All the old dummies guide, Wiley model of even thinking we’re rich, all the way back to there is all based on a false premise, which is that being an industrialist or even cooler, working at a high level for an industrialist is the shortcut and also disbelief that the way you measure your success is with your bank balance.
But if you talk to people who are happy and you talk to people who are making a difference, that’s not what they’re doing and it’s not what they are measuring. So this mass hypnosis, we have to wake up from it because the opportunity we have right now is the chance of a lifetime but so many people are missing it.
JT: Tell me more about this because you are telling us exactly what we need to hear that we don’t believe right now, which is hard, right, it’s hard to hear. Like everything that we have been doing is all wrong thanks. I just want to say too, I love how you have a corded phone. Nobody has a corded phone anymore but I love that you have a corded phone. Tell me, specifically, should we not be setting goals of this is how much money we want to make? Do you set goals based on any measurement at all or is it just about creating art?
SG: A few things; first of all, the best part of the name of your operation is eventual. That eventual is magical because eventual implies a journey. Eventual implies drip, drip, drip. The overnight ten-year success. My kick starter was fully funded in 182 minutes but it really wasn’t 182 minutes. It was 7.5 years it took me. It was the eventual kick starter, right? I learned goal setting from the king, from Zig Ziglar himself and I was privileged to bring back the Zig Ziglar goal setting program last year with the domino project into a little spiral thing.
I am huge fan of goal setting but the purpose of goal setting to be really clear is to overcome fear. The reason you make written goals is because you are more afraid of letting yourself down once you write down the goal than you are of doing the thing you have to do. That’s the purpose of goals. That one we write down I will publish whatever I have written on May 3 in a PDF to the world, if you write that down, what gets published will be better because in the back of your head the resistance, the medulla, the lizard brain, will be aware of the fact that on May 3, whatever is in the world is either going to embarrass you or make you proud.
The question is what do you want to not be afraid of. That’s what you should write down. If you think that writing down, doing this, manipulating that, creating this so I can have another pile of money, is the thing that you are actually afraid of and it really means a lot to you to have what that money stands for, then I am not going to tell you not to do that, it’s your choice. Generally, what people are afraid of is being vulnerable, dealing with feelings of being a fraud, making true and honest connections to people, putting work into the world and saying here I made this, what do you think?
If you talk to Chuck Close, the artist who makes a million dollars a month, and you say, “Did you make that painting because it would make you more money?” he would laugh at you. If you talk to Jacqueline Novogratz, who runs the Acumen Fund and has grown it to almost $100 million in just ten years, and said, “What’s the thing you’re most proud of” she would never say well we’ve raised almost $100 million. Never in a million years. It would be on her Top 97 list, 90s somewhere. What she’s proud of is being in a slum in Kubira at night in the rain and looking at someone who comes from a completely different background and saying, “I see you” and being seen when she says that.
This money thing is just a stand in. The thing that frustrates me the most about it is that people are using it to hide from the things they are actually afraid of. They use this quest for a bank balance to hide from actually making work worth doing. They can hide but the side effects of their work by saying, “But I did it for money.” In our culture, that apparently is an all purpose.
JT: That’s an okay reason.
SG: Trump, who disturbs me at so many levels, it’s a pass for only one reason, right? The only reason he gets to be on TV and the only reason he gets to say ridiculous things and the only reason he gets to be a selfish jerk is because people say, “Oh yeah, but he has got a lot of money.” That’s a side effect of other things. It’s not the point.
JT: Let me tell you a little bit about Eventual Millionaire and I want your opinion on it, if you don’t mind. A lot of this stuff and a lot of the people listening, they might be working day jobs they don’t like. They might be really struggling to get their own business. It’s not about the money so we say. It’s about loving what you do and having a business that you love. Using the millionaire goal, at the end of it all, is mostly about changing your mindset to be able to reach that because a lot of us think really, really small.
When we think that small, it’s very hard to accomplish anything big, whatever the mission is. To me, the reason behind Eventual Millionaire is to make it so that way we are talking to people that have done amazing incredible things and seeing that they are just normal people so that way we can sort of go oh we can do amazing and incredible things too and using the term millionaire as the way of showing that. I’ve affected this many people, not sleezy, not sly, that sort of stuff. What do you think about something like that?
SG: For 8 or 9 years, Jaime, I was on the verge of bankruptcy and my wife and I would go window shopping at restaurants and then go home and eat macaroni and cheese. I used to have to go down the street and pay a dollar to print something out on a laser printer because I couldn’t afford a printer to run my business with so I fully understand what happens when there isn’t sufficient resources to do the work that you want to do. What I remember though about that time is I met lots of people who were measuring a certain sort of income and what I did relentlessly, even when there was nothing really to rely on, is never made a choice based on reaching the goal of having enough money to not worry about money.
The choice was always will I be able to show this to my mom? Is this a piece of work that someone else couldn’t do, didn’t have the guts to do? Is this project I am working on generous and beneficial and connected? After I did Permission Marketing, it would have been easy to do Permission Marketing Handbook, Dummies for Permission Marketing, Permission Marketing for social media, blah, blah, blah. Those would have made me a lot more money, right. If I look at where I’ve been on the internet since 2000, after I left Yahoo!, I keep doing things that don’t make sense financially and I am constantly pleased that I did those things.
I agree that using an audacious goal to force oneself to think bigger is essential. What I want to call bullshit on is the mistaking the goal for the destination. It might take you 50 years to become a “millionaire”. If you are not going to enjoy those 50 years, if those 50 years don’t leave the right trail behind, what’s the point of that, right? In the Bootstrapper’s Bible, which people can get for free, it’s a new book I wrote, just Google it, I talk about how you start a business with no money. I wrote it ten years ago.
It’s easier now than ever before to do that. It’s easier now than ever before to organize something, while you keep your day job, that creates enormous amounts of value for people. The more value you create for people, the more likely it is you get paid. That’s different than saying how will I get paid and by the way can I create some value?
JT: I have a couple different questions. One is that we are in an age of way too much. It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Like you said, you can create a book one day and have it up on Amazon the next day. It’s kind of amazing what we can do thankfully, right. I am so glad I live in this time and not before. But because of that, there are so many solutions, so many options, so many everything, opinions from everybody, how can we manage all of that especially if we don’t have the hardcore mission that you have? A lot of people don’t have this hardcore mission ? in 50 years I want to have created amazing things to do with this. Like you have an amazing mission but a lot of people don’t so we go like this and we don’t know what’s right. What do you say to that?
SG: You’re asking me two things. Let me try to answer them one at a time. The reason people don’t have amazing missions is because they are afraid. That’s the only reason. Once you stake out your claim, you’re responsible for what happens. As Zig would say, if you are a wondering generality, it’s really hard to criticize you. If you’re just doing what the man tells you to do, if you’re just getting by, by getting on, then it’s not your fault. The biggest most important thing is to choose to matter, to choose to stand for something.
I don’t know how old you are but you’re not 40. You’ve like taken this deep breath and said I am going to stand for something. I am going to stake out this claim and I am going to make these recordings. I’m going to do this writing. I am going to lead this tribe of people. Why didn’t everyone do that? Who gave you the ticket and the blessing to say go do this? My guess is nobody, you just decided. You get criticized for what you’ve done, not by everyone but by a couple people, which is good, because if no one is criticizing what you’re doing and you’re not doing anything that’s important and that leap is what I am pushing for and then once you make the leap, suddenly the world gets way clearer.
For me, the decision to not go on Twitter was trivially easy because I know what I am trying to accomplish and Twitter wasn’t going to help me do that so next, right. Once you get clear then you are not going to discover that you spent the last three hours doing nothing but following a web of links where you are looking at pictures you’re tagged in to see how you look on camera. That’s not part of where you’re going, you’re not going to spend the time doing it. We’re surrounded by so many people; I have one class here in my office for 8 or 10 or 12 people sometimes for as long as six months in a row. Ten percent of what I do in those classes is teach people tactics and 90 percent of what I do is help them come to grips with the fact that they are afraid.
We’re in the richest, best educated, most spectacular moment in the history of the world and we’ve got nothing to be afraid of. There are no saber tooth tigers left. I mean one day the world is going to melt and that’s not going to matter. Between now and tomorrow, the question is where is your fear and how are you going to use it as opposed to hide from it.
JT: How can we use it? Like how can we use our fear to propel us?
SG: The way I do it and, as Steve Pressfield has written about the resistance, when I heard that voice in the back of my head saying this might not work, that’s what I do. That’s my compass. That the voice telling me and I have some of these projects sitting here behind me and around me, what business do I have making a 19 pound 800 page book that costs me way more than people pay for it and just sending it around the world. It would cost me $100,000 just for the shipping.
When I am inventing that project, the resistance is screaming don’t do that. That’s stupid, which is why I did it. When you do the things you are afraid of, you will often screw up. You’ll land on your face and you’ll regret it, but that’s part of the deal because it’s the only way you’re going to do work that’s actually important.
JT: How can someone who maybe has a day job then that has been working their butt off trying to get something off the ground maybe for a long period of time too, because they don’t have a lot of time to invest to it, and they fall flat on their face and they fail, I know failing is good. You said something like if I fail more I win, which I love, but when somebody is new and they fail, it hurts a hell of a lot more than failing for someone like you. So what does that person do with that failure to just sort of come back from that?
SG: Well, in my defense, a small bit anyway being selfish here, the first year I was a book packager I got 900 rejection letters in a row and I can tell you that none of them hurt nearly as badly as falling on my face in front of a million people who read my work now. In fact, it may feel like it hurts more but it doesn’t. The important thing to understand is this; you got to build the right thing. If you have been working in your spare time to build an oil refinery that every single piece of this giant oil refinery, so that five years from now, after it’s built, it better work, you have made the wrong choice.
When you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t have a lot of resources, you should be working on scary, simple projects because those keep you from stalling. A great example; years ago, when I was working with AOL, they were my biggest customer, they used to have a conference every year where they would bring their 250 biggest vendors all together to teach them, because AOL was the internet in those days, to teach them what they were going to introduce next, etc. A guy name Tom Riley, at that event, organized, without permission or authority from AOL, a party every night in his suite for 25 handpicked people where we would bring our contracts and compare who was getting better royalties from AOL and trade secrets and stuff like that.
That act only took him ten minutes but it was really frightening because if Ted Leonsis walked in on him he could have been booted. But that person leaning forward connecting people saying I’m bringing these six people together and we’re going to do that, if it doesn’t work it’s going to hurt, it’s going to sting but it’s not going to wipe out nine months of your life. You’re just going to go do the next one. Yes, I did 900 proposals in one year. I couldn’t do that today because today, after awhile, people would say, “Seth, you’re sending me too much stuff.” You got this platform already. But then, I had nothing to lose so I was learning by putting things into the world.
If all of your blogging and tweeting and social media stuff is merely an echo of other people’s, you are not learning a thing, you’re just running with the pack. The whole South by Southwest, let’s all run to this party and let’s all run to this party is silly; but organizing something at South by Southwest, being the host of something that might not work, right, chartering a bus and having people go all around town together, that would be interesting. It might not work and you might lose $1,250 or you could lose $1,250 on bar tabs following everybody around trying to be part of the pack. Which is going to benefit you?
JT: What we talked about, what you were mentioning before, I want to bring up. I have some friends who created a viral video online. It was called Diet Coke and Mentos. Their name was EepyBird.
JT: Good, you’ve heard of them. They live like 10 minutes from me.
SG: I did that in the backyard years ago.
JT: Yes, exactly. It was 10 minutes up the road. They created this thing. My husband wrote the music for it. They thought it was just going to be for a contest. It got really big. They were on David Letterman a couple days later. I got to go to Letterman with them so I was all happy, but in that, they went hey we have no business model. We want to do this and this is absolutely amazing, yeah everybody loves us, we’re broke. We have no money. What do we do for stuff like that because they were creating and the reason why is there is a theater near my house or there was and they used to create things all the time. Small, small audiences in Maine, amazing work, but there was no business model for all that. What do you do from that?
SG: Okay, so now we switch to tactic right. Now we’re moving from this to this. The tactics are when they say we want to do this, what is this? Be famous? What is this? Make videos that involve carbonated beverages and not very good candies? I mean there is a lot of this involved. The opportunity they missed is they didn’t get permission from millions of people to follow up. You Tube got all the benefit, they didn’t get the benefit. So the act of going to market, in the connection economy, is who wants to hear from me next time.
I would contrast your friends with the guys at Ok Go. If the guys at Ok Go said, “Okay, great, lightening struck, can we do this on purpose and if we do it on purpose how do we combine permission from the audience to go do stuff for them, sponsors who don’t have anything interesting to say so they need us to be the middlemen and live events that we can charge money for.” By putting those three pieces together and then organizing the tribe of Ok Go fans, they’ve made millions of dollars, from the same foundation that your friends did, right.
The key was not misunderstanding what this is. So this, in the case of your friends was, well, what we really like doing is putting on a surprising show. Once it went viral, but we can’t make money at a $1.00 per thousand CPM selling ads because it would take a big M to make money at a dollar. That means if a million people show up, you make $1,000. That’s silly. Their attention is worth more than a dollar or a thousand. That’s a penny a person, right? I probably did the math wrong ? a tenth of a penny a person.
What you have to figure out is what this attention, which is so much more precious than it used to be, where does that lead? If they had figured out how to create 10 chapters around the country where people came together to execute stunts that they invented and those chapters all integrated with each other and those people, in those chapters, were creating content and it was circling around and suddenly it was the 4H for a new generation and they were the leaders of this group of 12,000 or 20,000 people who were at the cutting edge of this sort of work, there’s a huge business there.
JT: It’s funny; they did. They are doing a lot of that stuff now. They just actually came out with a new book, because they’ve done it more than once. But it’s interesting to go and create art and not have some idea of what you are going to do with it, if it does hit, which seems like a bad idea. Since we are talking about this and I have you on the line, right, my husband creates art. He’s a performer. He does crazy, kind of like Blue Man Group stuff and they go around and they do shows all over the U.S.
But for them I am trying to get them online to try and have them build more of a following online because we’re from Maine and he travels and that makes it really tough. What do you say for somebody who has an amazing show. They have performed at the White House, they’ve done a whole bunch of crazy stuff, they have a good show; what do you do with that?
SG: The first thing, what’s his name?
SG: The first thing I would say to Matt is how do we think about your work in such a way that people don’t say it’s Blue Man Group type stuff, they say it’s Matt type stuff. Because that’s the first challenge is to be one of a kind, not like the other thing.
JT: Can I say one thing to that? Yes, they are so nothing like anything and I can’t explain it. So people will ask me, at a conference, my husband is a contortionist. They have weird suits where they have triggers and they have a 17-foot wide drum set. I mean it’s not Blue Man Group, but that’s the only thing I can say where people will get it. Do you know what I mean?
SG: That’s my point. My point is the hook matters a lot. When people talk about me, most of them don’t say he’s a bald version of Malcolm Gladwell. They just say you know who he is because I do this thing and I’m pretty much the only person who does it the way I do it. I’m certainly not criticizing Matt. I’ve never seen his stuff. I am not saying Matt is a copycat of Blue Man Group. I’m saying that the first challenge is to be the thing as opposed to need a hook.
Now, that said; a lot of things don’t belong online if your goal is to monetize them because online people are takers. They will watch this conversation between you and me they aren’t going to send you any money and they aren’t going to send me any money. I’m not doing this because I am going to sell books because most of the people who are watching you and I talking are not going to go type in The Icarus Deception and go buy a copy. I learned that a long time ago.
JT: Go buy it right now. Prove him wrong.
SG: I don’t write books because I want people to buy them. I write books because they give me an opportunity to have a conversation with you. My goal is to make an impact on people, not to sell books. Matt is in a different position because he needs to make a living to pay for the house and everything else. The question is what’s going to happen in that place where he is that’s worth paying to be on the inside. The online stuff, it’s only function is to make it that people want to be in the tent. The only purpose and the model here is the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead gave away thousands and thousands of hours of live concert.
You can listen to it whenever you want for free. Why? Part of it was their ethos but a big part of it was it made it more likely that you would go to the capital center and hear them play a live event because they’ve prepared you for it and it taught you why it was worth it. That’s the challenge is how do you change the act enough and I put Amanda Palmer in this category, that Amanda Palmer’s live show is so engaging compared to a video of the live show that once people see the video they give her their email address. They loan it to her, they don’t give it to her and they say please tell me the next time I can come to the live show and that list is the only asset.
That list is how you generate the profit. When I think about my blog, the question is you haven’t missed a day in 5, 7 years something, if I miss today, how many people would email me and say, “Where are you? Is everything okay?” That gap, that vacuum is what I have built with the people who, if I haven’t actually created a generous connection with them, that’s my asset. I have the privilege, it’s a privilege of whispering to a lot of people every day and say what about this. The question I would say to Matt is what’s going to happen in the tent so that when you do have to go on the road ten times as many people come paying three times as much money so you don’t have to go on the road when you don’t want to. How do you create virtual connections for free that lead to more important paid connections?
JT: Interesting. I love that. I know we don’t, I have a whole lot of pages of questions but I know it’s a day that you probably actually need to yourself too so why don’t we start wrapping up with the last question that I always ask. It’s what is one action and of course it’s a little different because we’ve been talking all about how it’s not about the money, what’s one action that listeners can take this week to help move them forward towards their goal of changing the world? How’s that? That’s better.
SG: Well, there’s one action that you can take in the next 30 seconds, which is to write down what you’re afraid of and to be vulnerable about it, to confront your shame and to be aware of the fact that if you’re not finding it difficult to write it down it’s probably not what you’re afraid of. That act leads to you taking responsibility for the next set of choices as opposed to blaming the outside world that is stacked against you because of what you look like, who your parents are, where you were born, how you speak, how old you are, who you know, who you don’t know and what cards you were dealt. That’s all a given, right, but if we take that and put it right next to what are you afraid of, then I think you can chart a course that isn’t filled with excuses and deniability. Well of course it didn’t work because I have this whole list, which I used to carry around on a piece of paper in the back of my head before I finally got rid of it. This whole list of why it wasn’t fair. You say all right that’s all a given but given that, I chose to make this, what do you think and the act of doing that is really, really difficult. No other creature on earth knows how to do it. Most humans are afraid to do it and if you can figure out what part of that process you are afraid of, I think you are going to discover your life changes. I would be more popular if I gave more practical advice that was less scary but this is the thing I can tell you is the most effective.
JT: Okay, so we write this down too. Should we carry it around with us or is it just something we need to remind ourselves of it or anything or does that act in itself of recognizing it?
SG: I think I will settle for you just writing down and then you can burn it if you want.
JT: Maybe we should. Maybe that will make us feel better. Thank you so much for coming on today, Seth. Everybody should check out The Icarus Deception. I think it’s mailing the 31st of this month. You can preorder it right now. Prove him wrong. You’re going to buy the books anyway. Seth, I’ve heard that actually this is the best book he’s ever written from three different people. So thank you so much for doing the work that you do, Seth.
SG: A pleasure. Thank you so much.
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