Saturday, November 01, 2008

I broke down and read something by Seth Godin

Back in the 80s and early 90s you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a movie or tv show that Christian Slater was in. Somehow I managed to miss everything he was in for years. The first time I saw him was in Pump up the Volume and it was on video. I don't know what year it was, but back then videos didn't come out as fast as they do now after theatrical release so it was late in his career.

Enter Seth Godin on the Internet. Every business, managerial, productivity, marketing blogger out there mentioned Seth Godin with the same breathy enthusiasm as a Beatles fan at one of their concerts back in the day... with much squealing, waving of hands, and tearful adulation of all things Sethy. He was so popular I wouldn't go near him. "Purple Cow?" Yeah... I don't think so. I'm sure it's yet another manager book full of trite crap that's easy to say, incredibly obvious, but so hard to do in real life outside the confines of the trade-paperback sized hard-cover book with over-sized type that makes up 98% of all those business books that airports are full of. I was sure he had all the buzz words and said them in a great way with stunningly exciting anecdotes so everybody was sure they could go right out and do it. He built an empire out of that sort of stuff. I assiduously avoided everthing he wrote. If a blogger quoted him I'd mark the post read and move on. He was too popular to be that good. If he WERE that good, and what he wrote WERE that great then everybody should be up to their eyeballs in money. Banks would all be full, and everybody would be in business for themselves crapping hundred dollar bills and taking six month vacation to the islands. I wasn't seeing anybody crapping hundreds except Seth from his book sales. I had him pinned as a modern day snake-oil salesman milking the business men for all they were worth.

You get my feelings right? Here's the best part. I'd never read anything he wrote. Not a word. Maybe a quote of his made it across the Quote of the Day and I didn't notice it w†as him that said it until it was too late but honestly. Never read anything he wrote.

Then he gave away his newest book, Tribes, on itunes for less than a buck. Crap! How's he milking people at under a dollar? What snake-oil salesman GIVES his snake oil away?!? I decided to see if he was worth a damn after all. I'd made up my mind about him so let's see what he had going for him. He was certainly worth what was it? Eighty-five cents? I was willing to spend that much for trite crap that would be completely forgetable like most of all the rest of the business feel-good garbage out there. (You may notice a certain disdain for much of the stuff out there right now for business readers. That doesn't apply to all business books at all. I will only link to and recommend stuff I like. If I mention a book and don't link to it that means I don't recommend it.)

Some personal background. I've been fatigued with my job lately. I don't remember much of last month. I was going through the motions, performing check-lists, and making an appearance and punching a time clock. I was NOT excited about it. There was no passion in it. I didn't love it, hell, many days I didn't even like it any more. I was waiting to be down-sized and looking forward to it. Waiting for it... hoping for it to end the misery that my job had become. I was NOT in a good place. It's a lot of why my last blog didn't come back. I felt like a fraud writing about management when I wasn't managing at all but just sort of putting in time.  So, when I read Tribes it was really going to be a hard-sell. I was fed up with management, I disliked Seth Godin precisely because everybody else in the world seemed to worship the water he walked on, and I was considering looking for jobs as a bag-boy at a grocery store because I didn't want responsibility, creativity, authority, or calls after my shift was done.  I was completely checked out.

And the book didn't give me any secrets. It really didn't. There was no top five action items to do every day or magic checkbox format to use to guarantee success. No secret hand-shake, mesh the thumb webs, tilt to the left and down with firm squeeze, nope, not in here. There wasn't a formula to find and apply to every situation that would guarantee me anything.  What it DID do was remind me what I had loved about my job. Back in the day I was a manager of a store and I built the store and customers into a community. Everybody knew everybody else, and everybody knew me. I loved hearing them saying things like "I'll come back when you're here and I'll bring a friend..." That's my passion. Not because they loved me, but because they loved what I was doing and so did I. I built a community and built a place people liked to come. Customers would visit with each other, and if I was visiting with some I'd bring others into the conversation and we'd all talk and that I loved. That's what I was great at. Seth reminded me of that.

I can still do that. It may well be that I will at some point be downsized. I may lose my job and I might get demoted. I have no way of knowing. What I do know though is that I loved building community and I am good at it so I'm going to do that again... some more. I can do it within the confines of my job description as well as the tedious parts of my job (I'm sorry, but there's no exciting way to verify proper inventory is on hand in the stores and notify buyers' etc that I need more. There's no love for that and that's what my job had become at the expense of the part of the job that I'd loved.).

Now, I have no intention of going back to read anything else Seth has written. The odds of him cranking out two books that will hit me in the sweet spot in a row are pretty slim. Not to mention my November is busy enough already. I want to go about making my job something I like again rather than reading about jobs. So If you like community building. If you're part of a community or want to start one either in your workplace, family, town, city, state, world, internet... Tribes is the book you need to read now. I can't recommend it highly enough. If you've never heard of Seth Godin this is a good introduction to him. I can't recommend any of his other stuff because I've never read it. I'm sure it's fine. 

Just as songs we grew up listening to in High School are better because of where we are then in our lives... this book is hitting me at the perfect time for it to have an impact on me. I don't know if it would have been as great a year or two years ago. But at this time in this place it's a great book and I recommend it whole-heartedly.

Oh... after loving his book and looking up his blog to link to him here... I STILL won't subscribe to his feed. I'm a fan but can't be a fanboi. I'll give you the links. I'll let you follow his blog if you like. He's really a good writer and probably a great and charming guy. I'm sure there's a zillion people out there who would swear he is. I've been avoiding him too long to start subscribing now. :)
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