Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big (#177)

Photo credit: Jared Goralnick

“The lessons we remember are the lessons we learn the hard way.” – Seth Godin

Seth Godin (@thisissethsblog) is the author of 17 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the way ideas spread, marketing, strategic quitting, leadership, and — most of all — challenging the status quo in all areas. His books include Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, and What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn).

Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “Seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. In 2013, Godin was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. Recently, Godin turned the book publishing world on its ear by launching a series of four books via Kickstarter. The campaign reached its goal in just three hours and became the most successful book project in Kickstarter history.

His last episode was quite a bit longer and dug deep into his bio, routines, philosophies, and suggestions.

This one is much shorter — think of it as philosophical steroids. It may take a few minutes to get into, so be patient. Here, you’ll find pithy, actionable things that you can implement, such has how to keep track of the right things and how to create a narrative that serves you best. It’s very simple, but it’s a foundational skill and mindset that I try to practice myself. This was a fantastic reminder.

If you only have 5 minutes, you won’t want to miss Seth’s thoughts on the one thing that most marketers do wrong.

Please enjoy round two with Seth Godin!

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#177: Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big

Want to hear another podcast related to leadership and marketing? — Listen to my conversation with Derek Sivers. In my first conversation with Seth Godin, he mentioned that this is his favorite episode. “I love Derek,” were his exact words. In this podcast, Derek discusses developing confidence, finding happiness, and saying “no” to millions (stream below or right-click here to download):

Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big (#177)

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Seth Godin:

Website | Twitter

Show Notes

  • In an economy based on connection, real connection comes from people who seek to contribute to the community first. [05:20]
  • What’s the one thing most marketers do wrong? [06:26]
  • How do you build a tribe from scratch? [07:26]
  • What limiting self-beliefs did Seth change in order to become successful — and how did he change them? [08:57]
  • Seth’s opinion about quality versus quantity in the age of the constant hustle mindset in online marketing. Can you win without being everywhere? [11:11]
  • We already know about shortcuts. Seth explains the longcut. [13:10]
  • Seth talks about mastermind groups, why our industrialist education models are failing, and what his altMBA workshop might look like for grades K-12. [14:39]
  • How does Seth deal with fear — and does it ever stop? [20:48]
  • If Seth didn’t have his blog, email list, books, and network, how would he go about building a tribe and making a ruckus today? [22:25]
  • Seth defines “brand” as the story of you — and explains why you need to tell it in your words instead of letting it be told by someone else. [27:27]
  • How do we decide what’s essential, indispensable, and useless? [32:19]
  • What Seth has against online comments. [35:37]
  • How will marketing change as more people leave full-time and get into the gig economy? How are we supposed to remain remarkable? [36:06]
  • How does Seth recommend we choose projects? [38:17]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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42 Replies to “Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big (#177)”

  1. That 40 minutes flew by like it was 5. I will be listening to this episode many times. I appreciate the fresh, counterculture advice concerning social media and finding very small markets. Love it.

  2. Thanks Seth! Thanks Tim! This new economy based on connection is fascinating! It opens us a new world of experiments and startups. Seth might have illustrated it a little bit more.This new economy forces established players to fight for more “meaningful connections”. Taxis never thought that people would share their personal car at Uber, same for hotels about apartment sharing at Airbnb… Google never thought that people would share their personal plans when searching. AskJelly and now tell Google and other search engines that they prefer recommended genuine plans, rather than advertised ones, even if they have to pay for it. Happn is redefining meaningful dating (vs. Tinder), Blablacar is redefining meaningful carsharing (vs. Uber)…I like this quote of Seith Godin: “Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.”

  3. Seth,

    You are a Gorgeous Soul on my planet. I am so blessed to be present during your lifetime. I know you’re not a fan of random comments but I want you to know that you have changed me.

    I have loathed and despised all things sales and marketing for most of my life. It was just “icky” no matter how people tried to help me frame it. You were the one who made the difference, who helped me make the switch in previous interviews.

    This one was more Seth goodness, wisdom, and beautiful philosophy that I hope to see the entire planet shift into similar over time.

    I humbly and graciously thank you for making my world a better place.

  4. Great podcast, Tim! Seth–as per usual–has the incredible ability to make an incredibly complicated world seem simple and rational. I really enjoyed his lesson about consciously aiming for the smallest possible project that one can make a difference with. From a young age, so many of us are told to dream big or shoot for the stars, which–at least for me–has often led to focusing on achieving the great big goal before doing the minor thing (often leading to unnecessary difficulty). Following Seth’s advice, I will do my best to aim for the simple, actionable goals.

  5. Wonderful and I think one of my fav podcasts of yours. Really helped me focus and get back to what I need to be doing.

  6. No matter who many times you hear Seth Godin, when he talks it’s always captivating. So much incredible knowledge stored up in that shiny noggin..

  7. QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode?

    “Do what yours and yours only” – that is a great question to ask ourselves when we want to decide what to do to make an impact. Don’t do what you are good at, do what only you can do.

    Another big one for me:

    Find the smallest market, the smallest niche, the smallest tribe and serve them. – That’s where fulfillment and success lies.

    Seth is amazing! I read his blogs daily first thing in the morning, re-post them, read and re-read his book, take online courses – whatever I can get that Seth creates – I’m getting it 🙂 Amazing mind!

    Thank you Tim and Seth! You ROCK my days!!!

  8. Tim, give the Bruce Lee Podcast a try. There’s only 4 episodes but his daughter and a coworker talk about his philosophies. Very interesting.

  9. The wisdom that comes from this man is incredible. And he seems to be at his wisest whenever he’s on Tim’s show. Love it.

  10. Favorite Quote from Seth in this Podcast: “You can use fear as a compass…You can say ‘Why is this making me nervous? Maybe that nervousness is pointing me where I need to go.’ ” Thanks for having Seth back on, Tim!

  11. I Have to say, i listen to lots of selfhelp podcast, and never EVER a 30 second part of a podcast opened my eyes like the ” Short is Risky, Infinity is Safe ” i Never realised that before today. Thank you Tim and Seth, thank you ♥

  12. Cool! Your interviews are the best! People open their hearts and their minds to you and of course to us. One of my favorite podcasts.

  13. Wow, I have to listen to that episode again. It really felt like I was 10 minutes in when it was over already 🙂

  14. Thanks to both you guys! I love this work through and through. Seth’s ideas on education are really interesting to me. The bit on trying to raise the C to fit in with the rest of the grades, I’d never thought it that way. It makes me think of Bucky Fuller’s insights on education in Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth. Cheers!

  15. Thanks Tim for this episode really good one. Seth Godin is surely one of the most creative authors I have come across and he makes very valid points here. Linchpin is one of my favorite books on how to stand out. It is going to be the triumph of connection going forward and the only way to be noticed is to be remarkable. Yes all of us are a brand and building our own stories can help us. Looking for the long cut is the best way to go just like what Michael Jordan did or Roger Federer does. Basically we have to be in it for the long haul. He takes about dancing with fear which is surely not easy but worth considering.

  16. Profound. This is a listen and listen-again-er. Tim and Seth – thank you. I took reams of notes. But, what most resonated was the comment on making choices between projects and paths “does this advance me in the change I am trying to make to the community? Does this help my customers because it makes it easier for me to keep my promises?”.

    I’ll be pinning this on my desk at work!

  17. Really enjoyed this episode, lovely concise advice. I really liked the emphasis on going small and trying to solve just one person, or a small group of people’s problems first. I’m going to give it a re-listen very soon.

  18. “This is easy. We’re selfish. We are narcissists. Infantile narcissists who believe that our need for more and our desire for attention trumps everything else. We justify and rationalize our work and interrupt people, spam people, yell at people, deceive people, and play the short term game again, and again, and again. Successful marketers are successful because they don’t do that. And it turns out, that is scarce. The folks who are willing to build a story that’s true — to earn permission, to build a product or service that spreads merely because it is remarkable — that mindset almost never shows up.”

  19. A bit off topic I know but I would like some help with dreamlining in the four hour workweek. In order to finish my set list I need to understand How does one get a 136k Aston Martin in a 6 month goal list for $2003 per month? You would surely only have $12018 to put down without a loan or winning the lotto in between? I must be missing something. Can someone please inform me? Thanks

  20. There is so much great content in the episode, I had to keep back tracking just to process it all. Thanks Seth and Tim.

  21. Best ever – like that monastery booze that I can’t afford. But hey – this was free! Thanks Seth and Tim.

  22. Having thoughts like these rule your mind is a great way of staying smart.

    Appreciate the work Tim and Seth! Good job.

  23. I’m at 22:20 of Seth’s talk and paused the podcast to run over here to say that even half-way through this is one of the best podcasts in the repertoire. I love your chats with Derek Sivers and thought he was my favorite of your guests, but Seth Godin has so much actionable stuff based on such a beautiful worldview (a world I see myself happily being part of) that I now put Seth above Derek. Ok, that sounds funny. It’s not like it’s a competition but didn’t want to wait too long before applauding Seth (and you) and cheering on such a wondrous and beautiful presentation.

    Carl Kruse

    1. I hear you, Carl. I agree with Sivers, say %95 and with Godin %98, but it doesn’t matter. Both are great. If you didn’t listen to Alain de Botton’s episode yet, you should. It is as good.

  24. Geez, I’m in love with this man’s mind. Fave lesson was about turning off comments because they’re from the masses and not the people that can give useful feedback.

  25. Seth Godin never fails to deliver. If only people really followed his advice…

    Tim Ferris, in one of my previous comments I asked you how you deal with anger. Well it turns out you have the same problem. You mentioned it a couple of times and you asked the question to BJ Miller, and he said he goes out to take a walk and relax. That wasn’t a satisfying answer for me, but it didn’t matter, because I figured mine is not really anger. In fact, I don’t get angry easily. What I have is strong dislikes. I have a sophisticated bs detector with antennas wide-open. A lot of people are passive aggressive, I am just the other way around. I am confrontational. I speak up when I see bs and unfairness.

    Here is an example: To the person who keeps recycling my comments here as her own ideas, stalking me on twitter (unfortunately for her, it is private now ), and claiming my qualifications (whatever info she gathered here and there) as her own, stop doing all that. You know what I am talking about very well. Pretending to be someone doesn’t magically turn you into that person. Believe me, it doesn’t. Will you dye your hair to black and start wearing brown contact lenses too? I don’t want some mosquito sucking my blood when I visit this page for fun. The difference is mosquitoes stop sucking eventually, people like you don’t. It is extremely annoying. You can’t take short cuts to wisdom, ok? You need to live, suffer and most importantly get over yourself.

    Just to be clear: there is a huge difference between bitter copy cats and those who are genuinely inspired. I have solid proof of serious bitterness in this case. This happens everywhere I go, both online and in person. And there are many other genuine people I inspire who appreciate me openly.

    Anyway, so yeah, it is not anger. It is honesty. Telling the truth might be perceived as anger by those who live with lies themselves. I am quite happy with the way I am. I am aware of every word I write here and their effect.

    Here is a different version of that question “what makes you angry?” or “what frustrates you the most?” If you think about the current political and social events, it is a critical question. If answered honestly, this question can tell a lot about someone.

    Best x

  26. One of my favorite episodes. I have listened to the episode a few times now and it’s going to be my ‘pump up’ song (sort of). ‘If you can’t sell to one person, what makes you think you can sell to 1000’ – so simple and so true.

    Well, Tim, you did it again. Always brining us the goods.

    So what’s this book you have been talking about? Any hints on what you are working on? Can’t wait…

  27. My husband and I were at a fire department funeral last week, a heart breaking one at that, and on our drive out we listened to this episode. Seth Godin’s comment “you will remember the conversations you had with someone” really stuck with me. At a funeral (and as a 30 something parent now) I have been thinking so much of late about legacy and what we do with this precious time we have.

    We read massive tomes, long books to learn, but sometimes the real gems – the most profound lessons or points in life – are literally 9 words. Thank you for a podcast that was like a gemstone mine, beauties everywhere.

  28. Favorite Quote: “People like us do this.” This is a helpful way to identify tribes.

    Favorite Lesson: Make sure to provide value to those closest to you. Helping people on a larger scale only gets harder, so you can’t expect to have a broad impact without first helping those closest to you.

  29. Seth is so effective! No bullshit approach. I know his ideas very well now. But each time he gets me again and again. I don’t even see how that is possible. Great job.

  30. Some great insights here Seth! I loved the part about “dancing with fear” and learning to associate it with great work and progress. Amazing stuff, thanks for doing this!

  31. Thanks for this article, Tim. Great insights with Seth Godin. I was just wondering if I can get your e-mail. I have something special to send you. 🙂