Volition and placebos

If a placebo heals your illness, does that mean it was all in your head in the first place? That you weren’t really sick, or didn’t really want to get better? If expensive wine tastes better to you, but you can’t tell wine apart in a double-blind taste test, does that mean it doe … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 2 days ago

Productive assets and useful flows

Assets are ownable. They are devices, skills, connections or properties that allow us to amplify our effort and do our work with more impact. A drill press is an asset, so is your law degree. The permission you have to talk with your customers, the benefit of the doubt you get fr … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 3 days ago

Consider the WordWindow

Computer adventure games were possible in the 1980s because of a bit of code called a ‘parser’. You could type, “pick up the axe” and the computer would understand the phrase and follow your commands. In italics, because it didn’t understand anything, it simple broke your sentenc … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 4 days ago

The swag is here

To celebrate the new book, here are some limited edition swag options to benefit good causes and independent craftspeople. You can find them all at seths.store. I went to Brooklyn and worked with Dan at the Arm to create a set of five handmade letterpress posters. They’re 12 inch … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 5 days ago

The 77% threshold

When the gas car was first introduced, it couldn’t compete with horses. After all, we’d had thousands of years to optimize our systems around horseback, and this new technology was still nascent. Roads were rare, gas stations were scarce and the cars themselves were unreliable. T … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 5 days ago

Who cares?

A question we don’t ask ourselves very often, but a choice we make every day. It’s tempting to not care. If you choose to not care, you’re off the hook. It’s simply to do as little as possible, avoid too much trouble, ask if it will be on the test, try to stay off the […]       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 6 days ago

The spark

No matter how big your backpack is, you can’t carry a bonfire with you when you go on a camping trip. A match is sufficient. Conversations are like that. Conversations are the tools that change our culture. Someone who cares talking with and teaching and learning from someone who … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 7 days ago

Your preference is not universal

You’re entitled to it, and we will do our best to help you find what you want. But it’s unlikely that what you want is what everyone wants. It’s hard to believe that there is only one appropriate standard for value, observance, speed or performance. The easiest way for us to help … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 8 days ago

On reading it in a book

Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation, said of his career, “This is not stuff you can read in a book,” he said. “This is stuff that you have to experience.” I think it’s also useful to flip it around. There are things you will have trouble experiencing until you read the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 9 days ago

Captives of memetic desire

How much of what we want, really want, is due to the ideas that culture has given us, and how much is truly what we need? If memetic desire isn’t making us happy, perhaps we can find some new ideas.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 10 days ago

Survivor bias and the mistake of stability

An asteroid has never destroyed the Earth, therefore an asteroid never will. This brand has been involved in scandals before, and it has always come back stronger, so there’s nothing to worry about. There have been technology changes before, but we’ve always managed to find clien … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 11 days ago

The first person

“I” is first person. “You” is second person. “She” “They” “It” are all third person. So far, so good. But how can ChatGPT use the word “I”? And when we talk about ChatGPT, is it “he” or “she” or “they” or “it”? Because anything that is an “it” shouldn’t be able to say “I”. We […] … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 12 days ago

When Marvin Gaye joined Motown, he went with his strengths. He wanted to work only in the studio. He hated touring and was sure he lacked the charisma and other gifts that made some musicians great… | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 13 days ago

Conversations, an early review… (and the free class)

“I have trained companies to treat people better, and SONG is the guidebook I wished I had when doing this work. Now, I will now give it to the enlightened and brutes alike, with a recommendation to take immediate action.  Seth Godin has been carefully documenting the end of the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 13 days ago

It’s not easy

…to make it look easy. Sometimes, you don’t need to bother. Making it look hard might be a plus. The important part is how it makes the recipient feel.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 13 days ago

Stevie and Marvin

When Marvin Gaye joined Motown, he went with his strengths. He wanted to work only in the studio. He hated touring and was sure he lacked the charisma and other gifts that made some musicians great onstage. This didn’t really fit the label’s strengths, and he struggled to find hi … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 14 days ago

Compounding head starts

When a six-year-old kid beats the other kids at tennis, that kid is more likely to be encouraged to play more, or to get a coach, and pretty soon, they’re much better at tennis than the others. When a musical group has a single that gets some buzz on Spotify, they’re more likely … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 15 days ago

Which sort of sinecure?

Sooner or later, we find a place to hide. A place of security or sustenance. A place of safety. That sort of foundation can give us peace of mind and open the door to possibility. But, it’s possible that we can turn it into a trap as well. A situation so perfectly created that we … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 16 days ago

More is More

More hope. More health. More security. More innovation. More breakthroughs. More connection. More creation. More joy. The climate movement doesn’t have to be about asking individuals to bear the burden of systemic problems. It’s not about living with less.  It’s about demanding m … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 17 days ago

Our homunculus is showing

The little person at the control panel, the one who sees what the retina produces, the one who decides, the one who speaks up… (This is the dualist solution to the free will problem–yes, I have a physical body, they say, but I also have a little human inside of me that gets to ma … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 18 days ago


Marketers seek to make an impact, and that takes interest. Three ways to spell the key word: Peak interest can’t get any higher. It never happens at launch. It’s the result of cultural change and an idea moving through the population. Peek interest happens when there’s scarcity o … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 19 days ago

When the sun is shining

Our job as professionals is to show up and do the work. Not simply respond to incoming or do the chores, but to create and innovate. And yet, some days feel more conducive than others. There are moments when it simply flows. When the surf’s up, cancel everything else. Don’t waste … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 20 days ago

Ideas shared are exponential

If everyone visits a factory and takes a sample, it goes out of business. But if everyone in the community takes an idea, that idea goes up in value. The best marketing advice I have for someone writing a book is simple: Write a book that people want to share with others. And the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 21 days ago

The missing post

I had a great idea for a post, my best blogging of the year, in fact. I worked it all out when I was driving, but when I arrived, it was gone. Vanished. So I went searching for it, trying out dozens of possible ideas. I never found it. But I did find five other […]       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 22 days ago

The good china

Once you use your plates every day, they cease to be the good china. Of course, the plates didn’t change. Your story did. The way you treat them did. The same goes for the red carpet. If you roll it out for every visitor or every customer, it ceases to be red.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 23 days ago


They’re essential. The house begins to stink if we don’t take out the garbage. But at work, while they might be essential, they may not be important. At least, not important enough for us to spend a lot of focus on. Chores are: The bills have to get paid. But they might not have … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 24 days ago

What’s a “techie”?

A friend’s email said, “I know many of my readers aren’t techies and you’re thinking of putting this newsletter aside…” We should get clear about what we’re talking about when we say “techie.” I’m going to argue that involves a combination of two things: But someone who says, “I’ … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 25 days ago

Useful assumptions for teachers

Not simply in the classroom, but anywhere we hope to inform, inspire or educate: Assume enrollment. Either someone is committed to learning or they’re not. While many situations place people into a spot where they are compelled to show up (exhibit A: learning arithmetic in grade … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 26 days ago

Skipping the good days

Part of the luxury of living near the ocean or the mountains is that you can be picky. If the surf or the powder isn’t great, leave it for the tourists. Good is insufficient, wait for the great moments… When we’re young, or the project is going really well, it’s easy to waste the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 26 days ago

Choosing your pacemaker

Roger Bannister ran a four-minute mile by having a relay race of pace runners next to him. If he could keep up with his pacer, he’d finish the run in record time. If you work in an office where people are regularly shipping breakthrough work, it’s likely your work will ship as we … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 27 days ago

What comes after trust?

Walk into a bank with a stocking on your head and you’re probably going to get arrested. Civil society as we know it is dependent on identity and responsibility. A person does something and owns the consequences. This requirement of identity leads to the dynamic of the free marke … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 28 days ago

The thing about decay

One reason we have so much trouble fixing chronic degenerative conditions is that we need to remove elements before we can start building new functions. If we simply put effort on top of a shaky foundation, it’ll all be wasted. The best way forward might be to take a few steps ba … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 29 days ago

In search of chatoyancy

A cat’s eye is smooth but doesn’t seem to be… there’s a mystery of depth. That illusion is called chatoyancy. The same is true for some sorts of woods (cedar is an exception). The digital age makes it more and more likely we’re experiencing things through a flat screen, and as a … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Nihil hic deest

This page intentionally left blank has a long history. I thought it was an IBM thing from the 1960s, but I was off by a thousand or more years. There are good reasons for a page to be blank. Folding signatures, printing processes, having chapters start on the right or the left… B … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The new way of work

Amazon is the last one. They are probably the last huge company where hundreds of thousands of people will be surveilled, measured and ordered to follow the rule book. The pandemic didn’t create distributed work, the laptop did. Human interaction is critical, but the office isn’t … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The price of salt

Salt is essentially free. A bag of salted nuts is the same price (or less) as an unsalted one. But salt used to be expensive. Truly expensive, like gold. We keep seeing the deflation of things we were sure would remain expensive. Computer chips, disk storage and now, content. Onc … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The house painter and the architect

We don’t design a book until after it’s written. Or cast the movie until the screenplay is complete. The house painter has an important job, but it makes no sense to plan for the painting before the house is designed. This makes a lot of sense because some parts of a project have … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The list of compromises

All the no-compromise solutions have failed. If there was a way to solve our problem without giving something up, we would have done that already. So, if a persistent problem important, the question is not: Should we compromise or not? The question is: Which changes are we going … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

On to the next thing

Vitally important, rarely taught, easily messed up. In order to go onto the next thing, which we all do (unless you’re still wearing pajamas with feet and taking ballet lessons), we need to walk away from the last thing. Wrap it up, learn from it, leave it in good hands. And we a … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

An end to pop

Pop culture depends on scarcity. When there are only a few TV stations or a dozen radio stations, it’s likely that many of us watch or hear the same thing at the same time. And so a popular TV show or song from fifty years ago probably reached twenty times as many people as a […] … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

We probably can’t buy our way out of it

That’s what we usually try to do. When technology, comfort, convenience, efficiency and price line up, the market takes care of itself. On the other hand, seatbelts would never have happened if they weren’t required. But pizza grew to dominate our diets with no centralized action … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The magic of placebos

One of two things is true: A placebo is a force beyond understanding, one that is capable of disappearing when we do the appropriate double-blind tests and has mechanisms that defy our knowledge of the laws of physics. Or… A placebo is a prompt for our subconscious to do the hard … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The braid out of balance

There are three strands, present for most everyone: Power (sometimes seen as status, or the appearance of status) Safety (survival and peace of mind) Meaning (hope and the path forward) The changes in our media structure, public health and economy have pushed some people to overd … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Explaining it to a kid

It can be difficult. Explaining atoms or molecules, or decision making, or what you do at your job… The reason that it’s difficult is that in order to explain something, we need to really understand it first. Not simply be able to do the task or ace the test. But understand. And … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The unwritten rules get written

…when someone decides to selfishly push. There’s an assumption of civility and fairness in all of our interactions. When a harsh competitor unilaterally breaks unwritten rules (because it’s “not technically against the rules”) the community then writes down a new rule. The best w … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The Cliffs Notes paradox

For a decade, Cliffs Notes were the bestselling section of the bookstore. They were a simple way for any high school student to get insight, examples and answers about the books they were assigned and read (or didn’t read). When Cliffs published a list of their thirty bestselling … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The search tax

Amazon took in more than $30 billion in ad revenue last year, money spent to elevate some products over others in the hierarchy of attention. It’s probably true that someone shopping on Amazon is going to either buy something or not… the purpose of the “ads” isn’t to amplify cons … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

“But what if it doesn’t work?”

The best way to win a short-term game is to bet it all on one strategy. Someone is going to get lucky and it might be you. But we rarely thrive in the long run if we persist in playing a series of short-term games. Instead, organizations, individuals and teams do better when they … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago