Seth Godin is an author and former dot com business executive who is known for his marketing expertise.

Here are just a few of his accomplishments:

  • Many appearances on top podcasts like the Tim Ferriss Show
  • Over 18 books published like Tribes and Permission Marketing
  • Established his own school program, “The Alt MBA”
  • Sold his company, Yoyodyne, to Yahoo for $30 million and became their vice president of direct marketing
  • Built a HUGE blog following
  • Launched Squidoo which was one of the 500 most visited sites in the world in 2008
  • Gave multiple TED Talks that have gotten millions of views

Yeah, I'd say Seth has been pretty successful.

Here I will share the top lessons I've learned from studying him in relation to succeeding in life:

Lesson 1: Don't keep track of failures

In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Seth talked about how you need to not keep track of the wrong things. Don't keep track of how many times you failed, got rejected, said the wrong thing, etc.

“We hurt ourselves with self-limiting beliefs. We can't keep telling ourselves that life is unfair.”

“I'm more proud of the failures than the successes, because I like trying to do things that aren't easy but could make a big, positive impact.”

Lesson 2: The right way to do marketing…

When it comes to marketing, Seth has said in an interview with Tim Ferriss that most marketers are too selfish and narcissistic. We interrupt and spam people.

Successful marketers don't do that. They tell the truth, earn permission, etc.

Find a small tribe

“Nike did not invent the running tribe. You don't have to start a new tribe. You can just service a tribe that already exists.”

To find a tribe to market to, think of how you would be if you fit in a certain group. Seth mentions the phrase, “People like us do things like this.”

Godin seems to encourage starting out in a small niche and being known for it.

What is the smallest group of people that you can impact? What are you known for? Ask yourself these questions to have a better chance of success.

You don't need to be everywhere in marketing.

“Don't wait for the perfect tribe or product or idea. The big opportunity is to change one person or find one small tribe that you can solve a problem for.”

Read Seth's book, “Tribes,” for more on this topic.

The purpose of your company

Seth says, “The purpose is not to go public, it's to engage with people who trust you, delivering value to them, and making enough to do it again.”

Your brand

“You have a brand whether you want one or not.”

“Brands are not logos because people aren't logos.” 

“Your brand needs to keep promises. Your brand is the story people tell themselves about you. They're never true though. Only you know your true story.”

“Be a meaningful specific and not a wondering generality.”

“Before you do something, ask yourself if it fits the story you're telling people about your brand.”

“Know what your brand stands for and what it doesn't and do things that fit those boundaries.”

Is it the right business?

“If you find it really hard to push a business uphill, maybe you should pick a different business you can push downhill.”

Seth also mentions that finding the difference between a bad idea and not persisting long enough is very important.

Trust = Good Marketing

“If you earn attention, you gain trust. If you gain trust, people will want to buy your books, see you speak, and follow you.”

“Keep earning more permission and more trust so you can make the change you want to see in the world.”

“Don't risk the trust you've earned with people.”

Lesson 3: How to be successful

He likes the “long-cut better than the shortcut.” 

Seth, in his interviews with Tim Ferriss, seems to believe that a lot of success is luck. Your parents, country you're born in, etc.

“Almost everything is made not born in people. People are flexible and can develop.”

“You can do a lot of things to fix stuff later but starting with the right raw materials makes a huge difference.” Seth Godin

In their interview, Tim Ferriss also added that you need a punishment and a reward to accomplish something.

For instance, to lose weight, you might put money in a pool with your friends and whoever loses the most wins it.

Lesson 4: What kind of work you should do

“How do I do a kind of work that matters, that is difficult and that I can do well?”

“Fear is useful. It helps us survive. But we aren't in a lot of survival situations anymore. We need to use what we fear to find skills we need to work on.”

Public speaking is an example.

Know your ultimate goal and make everything align with it

Seth also believes that you should be the change you want to see in the world.

He wants to help people and teach them to benefit the world. He doesn't really enjoy doing things that lead up to speaking engagements, although he does enjoy the part where he's on stage.

He referenced how his mentor Zig Ziglar would say that he probably won't change someone's life with a speaking gig, but if they go to a speaking gig, they might buy his cassettes which probably will change their lives.

“Do opportunities help your customers because they help you keep your promises to them? If not don't do them.”

Seth also mentions that if you don't align with something and you say yes to it, then it's their mission. You probably won't make the change you seek to make this way.

Don't do too many things

Seth Godin decided Twitter wasn't worth it for him. It would increase cognitive load and not really help with the things he wanted to be good at.

In their interview, Godin and Ferriss seemed to agree that it may be better to just say “no” to everything and create your own opportunities that align with your mission.

Seth also mentioned that when you get a bunch of opportunities like TV shows and stuff, saying “yes” or “no” is when you decide who you're going to be.

“Don't do something you wouldn't be proud of.”

Tim Ferriss, during one of their interviews said that once you do something like a bestselling book that takes off and you get a bunch of new opportunities, if you say “yes” to them, you can get burnt out very quickly. Even if you say “yes” to the top 1% of them, you still have to filter them and use up a lot of time.

As someone who has been through that process, Tim knows what he's talking about.

Lesson 5: How to find business ideas

“There's no reason to invent a need when there are so many needs already out there.”

Larry Ellison of Oracle doesn't do most of the coding or sales calls, he finds problems, comes up with solutions and hires people to create and maintain it.

“One form of entrepreneurship is to find people's needs and wants, figure out what connections you can use to fulfill those, and grow more and more. The other form is to change people. Its higher stakes. Like Harley Davidson vs Suzuki. People don't get Suzuki tattoos.”

“People get entrepreneurial block because they're afraid.”

Lesson 6: Education

“Public school was established in the industrial age to create industrial workers. And its positive impact is fading.”

How school should be

Seth believes we should create an environment where people would miss school if there was a snow day.

“The school system teaches people to be cogs in a system that doesn't want cogs anymore.”

He does admit that public school is helpful for being around different people though.

“Kids need to be taught how to lead and to solve interesting problems.” He also mentions that they shouldn't spend so much time memorizing things to score well on a test.

“Famous colleges don't work anymore.”

The problem with online courses

Online courses have a high drop out rate of like 80%.

So he made the opposite. It's in person and is for small groups of kids and is difficult. It's called the altMBA.

Seth's altMBA

Seth actually created his own education program that he calls the “Alt MBA.” It's a way for him to help people get educated in what he believes is the ideal way. He believes it better prepares you for today's world than public school.

“With the Alt MBA, enrollment is because you want to be there. It's not accredited. There's no certificate.”

Lesson 7: Parenting for success

For parenting, Seth mentions you shouldn't tolerate but embrace the idea of free range kids that learn what doesn't work by doing it.

Encourage kids to explore things. To find problems to solve and learn many different things.

“Spend 2 hours a day looking your kid in the eye and helping them solve interesting problems. Just spend time with them daily.”

Lesson 8: Invest in books

“A book is a bargain. You pay $15-$20 and it can change your life.”

Tim: garbage in garbage out

Seth's recommended books and audio:

Lesson 9: His thoughts on blogging and writing

He doesn't like online comments because they're anonymous and they aren't necessarily from people you seek to change.

Daily blog is one of the top 5 career decisions he ever made. He writes 5 posts a day or so but only publishes one. Seth doesn't look at analytics or any of that. He just shares what he notices that day.

All writers are different

Seth also says how writers write doesn't matter. Great writers don't all write the same way.

“Write badly until you get good. You have to come out with bad ideas before good ideas come out.”

Tim Ferriss also recommended in their interview that you write what makes you angry when there is a writer's block problem.

Another example is Neil Gaiman, who would make himself really bored and then write a book because he needed to entertain himself. It's worked out pretty well for him so far.

He says everyone should blog every day. Are you able to say one thing every day that's new? Are you making observations anyway?

Lesson 10: Thoughts on money

“Money is a story. Once you have enough for beans and rice and taking care of your family and a few other things, money is a story. You can tell yourself anything you want about money and it's better to tell yourself a story that you can happily live with.”

“There are a lot of ways to create value for people that don't involve money.”

Seth thought his parents were successful because they mattered to a lot of people.

“Responsibility is taken, authority is given.”

Lesson 11: Don't just be busy

“Busy is a trap and a myth.”

He responds to emails that he can get to, but he doesn't think that you're creating much value if you spend all day on them.

He also recommends meditation.

This can be a great way to slow down, clear your mind, and improve focus.

Many successful people seem to have a meditation practice of some sort.

Books written by Seth Godin:

Seth Godin's 11 lessons for success


Justin Bryant
Justin Bryant

I'm an entrepreneur, fitness freak, artist, car enthusiast, sports fan and self improvement addict. My goal is to help people be their best and create incredible businesses that change the world.

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