Thursday, November 15, 2012

Seth Godin Lecture at Tufts University

I was a nerdy little Marketing fangirl when I heard that Seth Godin was delivering a lecture - free to Tufts students and alumni - this month. I registered immediately. He's authored some of my favorite marketing books, like The Purple Cow and All Marketers are Liars. I also subscribe to his blog, and read it every day when it lands in my inbox. Naturally, I wasn't disappointed when he delivered his talk yesterday evening on campus.

What I love about Seth is that all of what he says makes perfect sense to me - I've had more than one "duh" moment when reading his stuff - and especially when I heard him talk. The problem is getting it into motion, into practice. Maybe my lower-level-not-quite-Tuftsy-brain just boils all of his content down to - "just be awesome, and everything will be good."

So when this bald little guy with great bold glasses came up to the podium (he referred to himself later as a tortoise, and I was like - why, yes. Yes you are.) I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up taking notes during his lecture - mostly one-liners about points he made with stories he told. I liked hearing about when he was at Tufts and started a million businesses, and most of them failed. (Though my bitter student-loan brain got irritated when he said how fortunate he was that his dad paid for his rent and tuition costs...that he "just" had to pay for food. As dampering it is to think about money, I'm sure being in debt or worrying about more bills makes it a lot more difficult to put it all out there and fail) From his failed businesses, he learned to say "This might not work." He got lots of practice in building things that were greater than himself, businesses that have stood the test of time. He also took as many classes as he could to learn a little about a lot, and was awarded his degree based on the classes he passed.

Another thing I found really interesting - and that embarassingly, rang true to me - was that what got us into Tufts will not get us out. You can get perfect grades, get into a perfect school, do everything you are supposed to do, but being perfect will get you no where in life. Instead, you'll be looking for perfect in your job, looking to see how you can be perfect - when it's just mediocrity. I was so sure that if I did everything right, got good grades, went to the school I was supposed to go to - that everything would work out for me. And it hasn't. The reason being is that we are in the middle of a revolution right now - the Connection Revolution - and revolutions destroy the perfect. Seth used the example of the record industry - which was perfect, until it wasn't. Now there is a very limited amount of record labels, yet more people are recording music and more people are listening to music than ever before - because they are more connected.

There are no college exams on trust, on making rules, or on solving problems. Maybe we can address all these problems in creative ways - and maybe they won't work. I definitely think the institution of college education is heading towards a revolution - especially when students graduate and don't have that job they felt was promised to them because of their degree. I liked his story about Icarus, which we all know as "don't fly too close to the sun, or the wax on your wings will melt and you will perish". What's interesting about that is there is more to that story that no one ever tells - after the sun, Icarus is told "do not fly too low, or your wings will be caught in the mist, you will lose your lift and surely perish." So - don't fly too high, but also, don't fly too low. Don't be lazy and compliant.

Another fact he brought up was that the "disease" of writer's block started in 1942. Before that, anyone who wanted to write a book, did. Now, there's this overwhelming awareness of resistance, of our internal editors, afraid of approaching other people and saying "I made this". It's funny - I worked all day yesterday - that same day I saw Seth - on a new website design for my company, and I delayed sending it for hours. When I finally did, I prefaced it with "this can be changed"! and "this is just a first pass!". What kind of BS is that? I made something I was proud of - why couldn't I just send it to my boss? It's the fear of not being good enough, of a past rejection of my work at the forefront of my mind. But I've also gotten past praise - so why isn't that something that I'm thinking about?

The last point he made which also applies to me was the difference between a professional and an amateur. An amateur sees resistance to himself or an idea, and is paralyzed by it. A professional is aware of resistance , and overcomes it. Building your personal brand is all about building your reputation and confidence in what you have to say, as it's valuable. And definitely shouldn't be thrown away. So, just be awesome.

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