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Fear of failure is overrated.

You’re likely not going to get fired over trying something new and radical.  So it’s not really failure that people are afraid of, it’s blame, criticism.

This is another great topic that Seth Godin elaborates on in his book Tribes.

He says that we’re afraid to launch that new idea or product or presentation because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it.  “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” “What a waste of money.” “Who’s responsible for this?”

Sometimes the criticism doesn’t have to be that obvious.  The fear of hearing “I’m surprised you launched this without doing more research” is enough to get many people to do a lot more research, to study something to death, and then kill it.  Hey, at least you didn’t get criticized.

Seth admits, getting a bad book review hurts his feelings, and it is about enough to ruin his day.  But it’s not enough.  It’s not enough to ruin his day because his book got noticed.   He realizes that a bad review is a badge of honor because it means that he confounded expectations – he did something worth remarking on.

So the challenge, as you contemplate your next opportunity to be boring or remarkable, is to answer these two questions:

1.  If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impact other than feeling bad about the criticism?  If so, how does that feeling compare with the benefits from actually doing something worth doing?  Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable, and great for your career.  Feeling bad wears off.  If you’ve decided to take the remarkable path, answer this one:

2.  How can I create something that critics will criticize?

I like this section of Seth Godin’s book, Tribes.

“If you hear my idea but don’t believe it, that’s not your fault; it’s mine.

If you see my new product but don’t buy it, that’s my failure, not yours.

If you attend my presentation and you’re bored, that’s my fault too.

If I fail to persuade you to implement a policy that supports my tribe, that’s due to my lack of passion or skill, not your shortsightedness.

If you are a student in my class and you don’t learn what I’m teaching, I’ve let you down.

It’s really easy to insist that people read the manual.  It’s really easy to blame the user/student/prospect/customer for not trying hard, for being too stupid to get it, or for not caring enough to pay attention.  It might even be tempting to blame those in your tribe who aren’t working as hard at following as you are at leading.  But none of this is helpful.

What’s helpful is to realize that you have  a choice when you communicate.  You can design your products to be easy to use.  You can write so your audience hears you.  You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you.  Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won’t).”

That piece of advice would go a long way to improving attitudes by encouraging people to take responsibility for what happens and not immediately blame others.  That’s true leadership, which is why it is still scarce.

I really liked what Seth said in his blog here.

Many business and marketers think the effeciency of communication through the web allows them exploit it by capitalizing on the quantity of messages they produce.  It is so prevelant that we have a word for it – spamming – and it is not a nice word.  Everyone hates spam, so why does it still exist?  Because the old marketing paradigm still exists, and when this (not so) new tool is applied to the old paradigm, it appears as something that can produce results for free.

But we know that the old paradigm is fading, not really working anymore, and being replaced by a new paradigm, which is actually a reprise of a really old paradigm – actual personal human connection.

What people are finding out is that the web communication efficiency is allowing them to have personal human interaction and connection with a lot more people than they could in person (which was the really old paradigm of small town personal service, where everybody knows everybody.)  This is actually way more effective for spreading ideas, getting things done, starting a movement, accumulating customers, or anything you want to do, than impersonal, cookie cutter broadcast messages to the world.  Those kind of messages don’t talk to directly to me, so I don’t really want to respond.  But if a real person who I have a relationship with is talking to me, I listen, I respond.

So how this relates to Seth’s post is that you can be you, and nice, and personal on the web, which helps you to have positive relationships with a lot more people.

And if you have that, well, you can do anything.

If you want to learn something, might as well follow the best. Check out Seth Godin’s blog at sethgodin.typepad.com

Then buy his latest book, “Tribes: we need you to lead us”