“What’s next?”

The way we think about our priorities makes a huge difference. Leaders of every stripe make one thing more than any other: decisions. In any environment with constraints (which is, actually, any environment), the decisions about time and resources–about what to do next–change eve … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 3 hours ago

“No photos”

That’s what it said at the florist shop. I’m guessing because ‘taking’ a photo sometimes feels like a taking. The creativity, skill and effort that goes into making a distinctive arrangement might feel uncompensated when someone simply takes the work and posts it. This misses the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 day ago

Confusion about performance

The thing that your product or service delivers could be called performance, and it’s made of two components: –The story and expectations and cultural impact of what you do (the story). –The deliverables that are objectively measured (the spec). It helps to have both. Many hard-w … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 2 days ago

Reimagining cities in a few simple questions

What would happen if public transportation were free? What if it were paid for by congestion pricing, digitally implemented? What if public toilets were safe, beautiful, well-appointed and consistently maintained? What if there were a tax on empty storefronts, payable after three … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 3 days ago

Don’t know, don’t care

Clients and customers can be frustrating. Perhaps they don’t know what you know. Perhaps they don’t care. It’s possible to educate and inspire. It might be more productive to find the few that want to go where you do.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 4 days ago

Get/Want/Have To

Get to, want to and have to are an endless braid. How much of our time do we spend on each? Have to is often up to someone else. The things we’re required to do by the system or the people in it. Get to is a matter of perspective. Trust and health and leverage […]       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 5 days ago

Population and big innovations

It’s tempting to embrace the meme that the best way for humans to solve the big problems in front of us is to increase the population, perhaps dramatically. The thinking goes that people are the ones who can solve problems, and more people give us more problem-solvers. This doesn … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 6 days ago

The coming ubiquity

The fuss about AI might be mis-focused. It’s easy to point to a computer-created essay, song or illustration and find the defects or errors. Given hard work by 1,000 trained people, it’s likely that a human could make something more useful or inspired than a computer could. But t … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 7 days ago

New ways to codify purpose

And then what happens? Many small businesses start with generosity and good intent at their core. But it’s a rough ride, and especially when outside funding is involved, it’s easy to get seduced by the bright lights of Milton Friedman and an obsession with short-term profits. Ove … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 8 days ago

Hobson’s choice

…is no choice at all. The stable owner gets to pick which horse you get. Take it or leave it. Some people prefer this. It means that we’re off the hook and not responsible. It relieves us of the emotional labor of choice. Let someone else worry about it… And so we give up our […] … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 8 days ago

Pay what you want

It’s a fascinating payment model. For digital goods and other transactions where the marginal cost of one more sale approaches zero, “pay what you want” exposes how complicated the story we tell about money can be. When we add in the charity component, it becomes even more layere … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 9 days ago

Grandiosity as a form of hiding

A business that says its mission is to, “reinvent local commerce to better serve our customers and neighborhoods,” can spend a lot of time doing not much of anything before they realize that they’re not actually creating value. A non-profit that seeks to create “fairness and equi … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 10 days ago

“What do you do around here?”

There are lots of useful, honest answers. Some might include: I do what I’m told I challenge the status quo I show up on time I solve complicate problems I absorb nonsense and create calm for others I raise our standards I help people feel seen I’m steady I don’t cause trouble I … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 11 days ago

Culture, care and typography

I’ve been fascinated by the way we set type since I did my first packaging forty years ago. It’s a combination of tech, art, systems, culture and most of all, deciding to put in the effort to get it right. [This is a long post, it would have been a podcast, but it doesn’t really … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 12 days ago

The lonely zone

For many, the goal is to be the deciding vote, the donation that gets a cause over the goal, the person who counts. And often, we enjoy piling on. Once the cause or fashion or tech is clearly working, it’s easy and fun to say “me too.” More rare, more vulnerable and more importan … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 13 days ago

Overconfidence and AI

Human beings are often more effective when we’re a bit self-effacing. “I think,” “Perhaps,” or “I might be missing something, but…” are fine ways to give our assertions a chance to be considered. The solar-powered LED calculator we used in school did no such thing. 6 x 7 is 42, n … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 14 days ago

Bitterness is consistent

It will never let you down. Bitterness is never-ending, impenetrable and refuses to negotiate. If you give it a chance, it will persist. It lacks nuance or surprise. It’s simply a wall you can lean against, whenever you choose. Consistency is all it has to offer, actually.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 15 days ago

Amazon Smile gets a frown

I’m pretty sure how the first meetings went almost a decade ago: “Well, we’re paying our affiliates 5% for referrals. If we pay charities a tenth of that and call it a donation, it’ll be great PR and we’ll also make a profit on every sale because we won’t need to pay a full commi … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 16 days ago


Not that long ago, you could make a living as a typist. Technology keeps changing the world. Now, you’re more likely to find a job doing something that seems a lot less mechanized. But that too will be programmatic soon enough. PS here’s an important new book about perfectionism. … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 17 days ago

There are no stupid mistakes

There are mistakes. These are moments when reality teaches us something. And there’s stupid. This is what happens when we refuse to learn from our mistakes. “Don’t be stupid” is a fine mantra. It’s particularly apt when talking about cultural forces, political agendas and our tho … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 18 days ago

Jumping to conclusions

Maybe one piece of information is insufficient to get from where you were to where you just ended up. When we gradually walk our way to conclusions, we’re a lot more likely to find something useful. Leaping is best reserved for generous acts.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 19 days ago

Generous and selfish

We’re often reminded that the best way to get what we want is to help other people get what they want. That opening the door for others makes it more likely that others will open the door for us. What makes it odd is the implication that if we don’t get, it’s hardly worth giving. … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 20 days ago

Your secret recipe

Perhaps it’s a proprietary manufacturing technique, or the fact that you add a little chickpea flour to your dosa batter. Professionals often develop secret approaches and recipes that they use in their work. It doesn’t matter. Even famous ones. If it really matters to your compe … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 21 days ago

An event or a journey?

They’re easy to confuse. An event happens at date certain, then it’s over, nothing more to be done. A journey might include an event, but it’s bigger than that, and ongoing. A wedding is an event, a marriage is a journey. The week a book is published is an event, while the creati … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 22 days ago

The platform and the curator

Who has their hand on the dial? Talk with someone who works at Apple, Amazon, Google, Linkedin, Facebook, etc, and they’ll be happy to give you tips on how to work the platform to your advantage. How to get a bit more attention for your podcast or your website or your photos… Uns … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 23 days ago

Three more questions

Pronouncements are more common than ever. It might be an insurgent announcing a way to change the government, a CEO with a bold new plan or an entrepreneur seeking funds. Or perhaps it’s a pundit or a critic, hard at work. Pronouncements are bold, definitive and dramatic, but the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 24 days ago

And also convenient

If you want a breakthrough, or something at the top of the rankings, or a skill that few have, or the chance to build something you’re proud of… It doesn’t pay to also require that it be convenient.       | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 25 days ago

The end of the high school essay

Good riddance. There’s not a lot of evidence that getting good at writing book reports or regurgitated essays under typical high school conditions leads people to success or happiness later in life. When typing became commonplace, handwriting was suddenly no longer a useful clue … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 26 days ago

The myth of luxury goods

Luxury goods are items that are worth more (to some) because they cost more. The cost itself is the benefit that is being sold. There used to be a correlation between superior performance and price. In 1900, an Hermes saddle or a Louis Vuitton trunk was arguably better built for … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 27 days ago

Build a new one

Entrenched cultural organizations and icons feel more permanent than they are. Network effects, brand power and the status quo can seduce us into believing that we’re stuck with what we have, but things are rarely as permanent as they appear. James Bond is bloated and dated. Idri … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 28 days ago

Just in time

You may have noticed that when you eventually find something, it’s in the last place you looked. Mostly because after that, you stop looking. And when a long-awaited moment finally arrives, the respite comes just in time, when we’re at the end of our rope. That’s largely because … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 29 days ago

Patterns, culture and theft

AI is here, and it can (or soon will) be able to draw, code, or write with more skill than most of us. It’s tireless, very fast and very cheap. Understandably, some creators are up in arms. They say that if an AI is trained on their photographs, their architectural designs or the … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

On this date

Something extraordinary happened. A record became a hit, a new technology was proven to work, someone raised their hand and asked an important question… On this date, someone took a chance, connected, opened a door or showed up with generosity. We can celebrate each of these mome … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Pareto optimality

It’s easier to understand than it is to say. The baker and the blacksmith should trade. The baker can make a loaf of bread more easily and efficiently than the blacksmith, and the blacksmith would ruin her productivity if she stopped making rakes and horseshoes in order to put a … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Hustles end badly

“They can always say no” is the mantra of someone who is hustling for attention, promo or a sale. But when you hustle a colleague or a friend, they can tell. They can tell that you’re being selfish, angling for a short-term win and trading something precious for something now. Wh … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Virtually no one

Compared to the overall population, virtually no one built Wikipedia, virtually no one voted for that senator and virtually no one starts a business. Virtually no one cares enough to help a stranger in need, and virtually no one leads the way. And that’s okay. Because virtually n … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Arguing for inaction

…is surprisingly easy. “We’ve done all this work and things haven’t gotten better,” so, apparently, we should stop trying and go back to what we were doing. “We’ve done all this work and things are getting better,” so that means that there’s no need to keep trying and we can go b … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

The world as it is

No one sees reality. It’s worth repeating: No one accurately sees the world as it is. A person with hearing loss doesn’t experience the world the same way a synesthete does. A rock climber doesn’t see a steep slope the same way an elderly person does. And an optimist and a pessim … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Learning in the new year

86,000 people have taken my Udemy courses over the last few years, and the first week of January is always a good time to lean in and learn. These are self-paced, video lectures. Udemy is offering the Modern Marketing course at 25% off for the next few weeks. The course for freel … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Logic is a special case

We agree on so many things. Productive arguments are scarce, because they depend on shared constructs of reality. And arguments are a luxury, because they allow people to engage around ideas without resorting to external forces or authorities for resolution. An argument might be … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Insightful data is called information

Data is everywhere around us, and most of it is simply noise. The purpose of information is to inform, to help us change our minds. Information has a point of view, it’s useful. It turns data into actionable truth. Getting more data isn’t the hard part. Turning it into informatio … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

All jokes are inside jokes

Someone’s not going to get it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t funny to you. It simply means that culture works because, for a moment, a group of people share a history, an understanding and a point of view. When a design or a song or a riff fails, it might be because there weren’t e … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Scale and the small business (freelancer grid)

The industry giants want tonnage. Undifferentiated, commodity-priced, regularly delivered, consistent work for hire. They’re not going out of their way for freelancers that are bespoke, artisanal or even ‘better.’ They simply want to meet spec at the best price. They can keep you … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

How long is forever?

And how soon is never? Most organizations are fundamentally incapable of planning ten years out. When a company promises to be carbon neutral by 2030, they’re actually saying that they may never be. That’s because almost all the pressures on them are short-term pressures. And it … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Our dreaming opportunity

School and work push us to avoid real dreams. Dreamers are dangerous, impatient and unwilling to tolerate the status quo. Existing systems would prefer we simply fit in. The dreams we need to teach are the dreams of self-reliance and generosity. The only way for us to move forwar … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Stories, standards, and the point

What’s a car for? Transportation. With reliability. Status. A transaction with the bank. A transaction with the dealer. Your relationship with the neighbors. A statement about your style and belief in design. Your sense of quality. A statement about how you walk on this planet. W … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

Protecting the sore spot

Everyone has one. It’s the part of ourselves we won’t look at, acknowledge or risk disturbing. It’s the story or trauma or situation that must be avoided at all costs. People will choose careers, families and opportunities simply to avoid confronting the little tiny voice that is … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago

It’s not what you deserve, but it is what it is

The time we spend fretting over what just happened is time we’re not spending on addressing the problem itself. When your client or your boss turns down a great idea, it’s tempting to focus on the idea and how right you were. It might make more sense to try to find empathy for th … | Continue reading

@seths.blog | 1 month ago