Authors in August: A Foolish Chat With Marketing Maven Seth Godin
Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner may spend a lot of time working for his goal of helping us all invest better, but that's just part of his ambition. Really, he wants to help us all live better, and financial security is just one piece of that. Another piece: introducing us to fascinating new ideas and the authors who share them.
So this month, the Rule Breaker Investing podcast's theme is "Authors in August," and to lead off, he's got author, entrepreneur, blogger, and marketing guru Seth Godin, whose books include The Dip , Purple Cow , and Free Prize Inside . Godin discusses his writing "secrets," a raft of his ideas on how marketing does (and does not) work, why you should be blogging, why businesses should be "cheating," and much more.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Aug. 1, 2018.
David Gardner: Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing ! I'm David Gardner. Very pleased that you've joined me. I'm really excited that you've joined me, not just for this podcast, but, I hope you'll be with me all throughout August. As I mentioned on last week's mailbag, this is the Authors in August month for this podcast.
A lot of people think about the beach in summer. August is just beginning. Summer reading happens. You might be casting about, asking, "What should I read? What would improve my life? What would make me better? What could I crack open to add a little bit of magic or Foolishness to my life here in August?"
I'm really excited about who I'm introducing you to today on this podcast. That's Seth Godin, the celebrated blogger and certainly the author, specifically most frequently of books about marketing, and unmarketing books, if you will. If you went through college and never thought you'd ever read a marketing book, that means you're like me. I could never have imagined doing such a thing. Yet, now having read a number of Seth's books, I know how wonderful they are and how much I've learned, as a businessman myself, from Seth Godin. So, I'm really excited to be bringing Seth Godin to you.
Before we get to Seth, I want to preview the rest of the month. If you're like me, you like to read, but you're not the fastest reader. It might be helpful -- if we're going to dedicate an entire month on this podcast to authors -- if I told you ahead of time our reading list. So, here's who's going to be hanging with Rule Breaker Investing this August.
August 1st, that's today, or, maybe you're hearing this a few days later, Seth Godin.
August 8th, a new author, Priya Parker. Her book, The Art of Gathering . If you've ever wondered, "How could I make anything from my next business meeting to my next wedding more thoughtful, more intentional, more creative, more daring?" Any time humans gather together, there's an art that, when practiced well, can truly create memorable experiences. I'm really excited to have Priya Parker share her art of gathering next week.
On August 15th, how would you like to spend a portion of your career on Wall Street, and then, mid-course -- let's say you're in your 40s -- what if you decided, all of the sudden, to throw it all away and start to write novels? And, what if your novels became critically praised? You'd written a few of them? What if your name was Amor Towles, the author of A Gentleman in Moscow , a novel I really enjoyed reading fully, allowed, in my case, to my wife, who's tolerant enough, well she's cooking our supper, to listen to me read most nights of the week. I loved reading Amor Towles' novel, A Gentleman in Moscow . He also wrote Rules for Civility . We have a talented novelist in the middle of the month who came from, yep, Wall Street.
On August 22nd, speaking of interesting lives that lead to books, how would you like to be chief strategy officer for Microsoft during golden years, the Bill Gates years, and then leave that in order to run a successful presidential campaign in the mid-1990s, and then go over to England and help Tony Blair get elected in 2005, and then take over the lead for Harris Polling, and start to watch for trends that are happening in our society that can help us think forward and ask, where are things headed? Well, there's at least one person I know who actually did want to do those things and has, and his name is Mark Penn. His book, Microtrends , which I believe was written in 2007, about 10 years ago, is credited by many with helping us understand the state of our country today by looking for the small trends that became bigger over the course of time. Mark has written his newest book, Microtrends Squared . I recently completed it in July. It's outstanding. 50 micro-trends to be watching for -- everything from the world of business, certainly politics as well, but, love, the internet, all of these things, thinking forward about the microtrends that will shape our lives. That's August 22nd.
Then, finally, August 29th, which be partly shared with your mailbag, I have Edward Glaeser, the author of the book, The Triumph of the City . Glaeser's profound thinking as a Harvard economist, looking at the economics of cities, why, darn it, it seems our fellow humans just keep moving to them, and how powerful they've become. It's one of Tony Hsieh's, the founder of Zappos, ten favorite books. Outstanding book. Really exciting to have Dr. Glaeser, as well.
There you have it. A pretty awesome August. Without further ado, I want to bring on our first guest, Seth Godin.
Seth Godin is an internet entrepreneur, best-selling author, renowned speaker, and marketing, sure, expert. In addition to launching one of the great blogs in the world, he's written, I think, 18 best-selling books, including The Dip , Linchpin , Purple Cow , Tribes , Free Prize Inside! , What To Do When It's Your Turn [and it's always your turn] , welcome to my friend Seth Godin!
Seth Godin: Thanks! You and I go back so far, there were dinosaurs on the face of the earth when we first met.
Gardner: Do you remember there was this thing before the World Wide Web called America Online? Do you remember that, Seth?
Godin: There was this conference that we were at that AOL invited all of its content partners to. And the guy who planned it out undermined the whole thing by renting a suite and inviting you and me and 15 other people to come and bring our contracts, and we all shared our best terms with each other, so the ratchet moved in the right direction.
Gardner: [laughs] What a great memory that was. It's hard not to want to be a little bit nostalgic. The vast majority of our time together will be present or forward-looking, but, Seth, thanks for taking me back to that place, before there was an internet. To think what the internet has become. I remember back in those days, I would go on television and be asked questions like, "Will people really give their credit cards over the internet? Back after this, we're going to have somebody who thinks they will." It's amazing to think, e-commerce itself was highly in doubt, suspect, for a few years there.
Godin: Even, email. Will people send email? That was a real question that people asked me at VC meetings when I was raising money for [...] in 1992 or '93.
Gardner: Seth, I told you this is my Authors in August theme for the podcast this month. You are a prolific writer. I'm not just talking about books. The daily content on your blog is something that you pretty much flawlessly, thoughtfully provide every single day. I can not start by asking somebody who's a wonderful and prolific author, what's the process that you use, both for sourcing the ideas that you write about, but also in terms of writing itself?
Godin: Stephen King, one of the great novelists of our life, goes to writer's conferences all the time. Regularly, someone raises their hand and says to him, "What kind of pencil do you use?" He's very patient. But the thing is, it doesn't matter what kind of pencil you use. That's not the issue. For me, there are several parts about this.
Now, I need to make it really clear, I only took one English class in college. My high school English teacher wrote in my yearbook that I was the bane of her existence and I would never amount to anything. When I got in the book business, I got 800 rejection letters in a row over the course of 11.5 months. I have no gift. I'm not even ready to call it a talent.
I do think that several things are true, though. No. 1, perhaps the greatest achievement in any culture on the face of this Earth that's filled with humans is when we shift to be able to read and write. Reading and writing are asynchronous and permanent, and they enable us to be rational in how we describe things. We all have the same 26 letters to use, and we can leave behind, even if it's just one day, this message to somebody else that they can read when they want to read it, about where we are and what we know. I think that's magnificent.
What I brought to writing is this: write poorly. Write poorly, write more. Write more, write more. Sooner or later, if you write poorly long enough, you will write well.
Gardner: Have you ever read Brenda Ueland's book, If You Want To Write ?
Godin: I have not. I'm worried that'll jinx me.
Gardner: [laughs] She has the same message. She taught writing last century. It's a book that's often suggested for people on creativity. She spent a lot of time with adults who were in writing classes, maybe remedial, or just professional people who hadn't written. At the end of the book -- no spoilers here, feel free to blow this one off -- she basically says, "If you want to write, then darn it, just write." [laughs] You read about 220 lovely pages in order to hear what you basically just pounded home right there. It's just the act. It's getting those reps in. It's a muscle. If you're using it, it gets stronger. If you don't, it gets weaker. Is that fair?
Godin: It is. Isaac Asimov was a friend of mine years ago. He wrote 400 books that got published. Try to imagine that. The way he did it was, every morning, he sat down in front of his manual typewriter and he typed until noon. It didn't matter if it was good, he just typed. Once your brain knows you're doing that, it can't help but want to do it better.
It's similar to the advice you'd give somebody who wants to do investing -- invest in make-believe portfolios for a long time. You'll learn the act of doing it. Well, you don't have to have anyone read your blog. You don't have to put your real name on your blog. But blogging every day is the most important thing that I can imagine telling someone to do if they want to be cogent and clear about how they're being in the world.
Gardner: Seth, if it's OK, if you're going to let us get into your process a little bit more, is that what you're doing? Do you wake up every morning and it's blog time?
Godin: I used to blog live. Once I made the commitment to be the Lou Gehrig of blogging, I didn't want to leave that up to the winds of the internet and whether I had a cold or not. I do blog every single day. For every blog that I post, I write four or five blogs that you don't see. They all end up in the queue. Every night before I go to bed, I look at tomorrow's blog post and often rewrite it. Knowing that a blog post is going to appear tomorrow causes me to think really hard about whether I'm happy with that, and it also causes me to write another blog post, because either you're falling behind on your queue, or you're not.
Gardner: Since you mentioned email earlier, and whether it would even be a thing back in the day, how much email do you get? How do you handle email? Does email interrupt your creative process? Do you let it or not?
Godin: E-mail is my worst vice. I don't drink, I don't do drugs, but I do email, and that's a mistake. I hope no one who listens to this sends me one. The last time I checked, I'd answered 137,000 emails, one at a time. It doesn't make me more productive. If someone cares enough to raise their hand and non-anonymously talk to me, I'm willing to listen, but it doesn't scale. If I had to get rid of a bad habit, that would be one of them.
Gardner: I once heard email described by AWAG as open permission to the world at large to add to your own to-do list. Is that a fairly cynical and appropriate definition of email?
Godin: [laughs] Yeah. It's a little technical, there's this thing called an API, which is software that talks to other software. When you have an API, you can make really sophisticated pieces of software work. The problem is, email is the original open API. Anyone can plug into your email. You can't stop them. That's why we have spam. That's why, if you want to be productive, you're going to have to figure out a way to live with that.
Gardner: I'm pretty confident that many of our Rule Breaker Investing podcast listeners already know Seth Godin, probably have already read at least one of his books. No doubt reads his blogs, or has them forwarded from time to time, ones that have really touched somebody else. I know you get a lot of shares out there.
I'm wondering specifically about your style. You're so terse, you're so economical with your words. It sounds like part of the reason is, you've written so much, and you do a 4:1 ratio of what you write to what you publish. I'm wondering, where did that terseness come from? In my own case, I had Mr. Carrick in 11th grade, who basically started striking out three out of every five words I was writing. It was an incredibly great experience. Did you have that in your life? How did you get to be the tersest writer that I know?
Godin: It's expensive. The extra time I put into blog posts is always to make them shorter. This is something I will be happy to teach people how to do. It comes down to this. There's this concept of design thinking. Design thinking is, what's it for and who's it for? Everything that we do. You got in the car and went to the supermarket, why did you do that? You put a sink in your house, what's it for? If you can ask yourself the "what it's for?" question on a regular basis, you'll do better work.
The question is, this blog post, what's it for? This sentence, what's it for? This word, what's it for? If it doesn't pass the "what's it for?" test, what's it there for? Get rid of it. Often, what it's there for is to defend myself, to hide, to not be clear. If I'm not clear, no one can be angry at me. I can show people how smart I am. All of those what's it fors aren't interesting to me.
If you read a scholarly journal, if you read a medical journal, the what's it for is, to let other doctors know that you're as smart as they are. You have to use certain kinds of words and certain kinds of terms and certain kinds of sentence structure. But, if the what's it for was, to explain myself, I probably wouldn't write it like that.
Gardner: Seth, do you feel, because you're such an economical writer, pressure when you speak, that people expect that you are just as perfect with your spoken word?
Godin: Well, my writing isn't perfect at all. It's rife with typos and sloppy and repetitive. That doesn't mean I'm not trying. The thing is, I write like I talk. That makes it easier to write. I don't have to adopt a new voice. Often, I talk in complete sentences. I think that's something anyone can learn to do, and I try to do it in real life, when I'm brainstorming or when I'm with a friend or when I'm teaching something. If you can teach yourself to speak in complete sentences, it's much more likely that you're thinking is going to be organized, and you're probably going to get better results.
Gardner: One more question about your books, Seth. Of all the Seth Godin books, two questions. Which is, A, the Seth Godin book to start with for somebody who's just hearing about you for the first time? B, which is the Seth Godin book that, most confidently you'll say -- I know you're too humble to even claim this would ever be the case -- 100 years from now, people will be reading?
Godin: My new book comes out in November. It's called This Is Marketing . My publisher would like me to tell you that that's the book people will be reading in a hundred years.
Gardner: [laughs] I'll even add the subtitle, because it's, This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See .
Godin: It's about work that matters for people who care. It gets at, people like us do things like this. It's the book I would have people who haven't read my work and want my professional insight to read first. Purple Cow is certainly the book most people read first. I stand by every word in it.
In terms of a hundred years from now, historically, Permission Marketing represented a substantial shift in our economy. I didn't cause it, but I was there at the right time. You can look at the before and after, of the stock market, of the economy, of our culture. Permission Marketing was in that moment there, for sure. Then, I would say, Linchpin is the book that I am the proudest of as a testament to what human beings are capable of.
Gardner: Let's move into marketing now. Can't not go there. Get Seth Godin on the podcast, have to talk marketing. Seth, I'm going to spot you up with a few what I'll call Godinisms, and I'd love you to riff a little. I assume you stand by most of these, but I always love hearing how you think about it, maybe updated for 2018, in some cases.
Let's kick it off with, "Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations."
Godin: There's horizontal and vertical movement of ideas. Vertical movement is the kind we think actually happens, where a politician or a corporation or a TV host forces us to take action. That almost never actually occurs. Horizontal is, "Oh, you're not a cannibal, she's not a cannibal, I'll stop being a cannibal." Horizontal is, people like us do things like this. We're constantly victims of and creators of peer pressure. That's how we built our culture. It's all it is.
Given that all of the people you seek to serve are going to talk about something, the question is, are you building something they're going to choose to talk about? You can't force them to. I think the same thing is true when you think about, will some stock get more attention than another one? Well, it tends to happen because a piece of information gets spread from person to person, which causes action to occur. What that means is, we can't force people to do something, but we can set the stage that they choose to do it.
Gardner: Such a great insight. The next one -- "A product for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone."
Godin: Average stuff for average people. It worked for Heinz Ketchup, but that was 80 years ago. If you look at almost every single success of the last decade, it started for the weird. It didn't start in the middle. Airbnb and Facebook and little tiny companies that have a line out the door in your little town, all of them are on the edges. They don't optimize for the middle, they optimize for the edge, and then the edge tells the rest. If you optimize for mediocre, you're going to end up with mediocre, and that's not going to help you very much.
Gardner: Any time I hear Seth use the word "edge," I think back to Free Prize Inside! , one of the books I've really appreciated from you, Seth. That's where I first heard you articulate that, whatever your product is, whatever your company's about, find your edge and then make sure you take your edge to the edge, which has always been pretty good advice for us here at The Motley Fool.
Godin: I mean, I'm taking full credit for you, and you're taking full credit for the stock market, everyone's happy.
Gardner: [laughs] Another one -- "One disappointed customer is worth ten delighted ones."
Godin: This one has nuance to it, so let me try to break it apart. Today, it's easier than ever for someone who's pissed off at you to talk about it. If they get sufficiently upset, they'll talk about it more and more, because it becomes pleasurable for them to take you down. Whereas, in our economy, where FedEx isn't fast enough, an economy where perfect isn't good enough, satisfied customers mostly just sit there and do nothing. They're not busy bragging about you. They might be satisfied, but they're not super delighted.
What we have to figure out how to do is get rid of customers who we can't keep our promise to. Say to those people, "It's not for you." Don't keep making bigger and bigger promises because we're trying to please everyone. Then, what we have to do with the people who we can please, is stop trying to please them and start working to delight them, to overwhelm them with delight, so they can't even go to bed tonight without telling eight people about the extra effort we put into them. That's worth six billboards in Times Square.
Gardner: You just put me in mind of a blog you wrote last week. This one was forwarded to me by my friend, Lauren Horst, because Lauren loved it. I'm going to read it, because Seth's blogs are brief. I hope this is OK. A dramatic reading of Two ways to solve a problem and provide a service . Here's how it goes. This was written on July 23rd, it already has over 3,500 likes just on Seth's site, to say nothing of social media. These things get passed around a lot. I love this one. Here's how it goes.
With drama. Make sure the customer knows just how hard you're working, what extent you're going to in order to serve. Make a big deal out of the special order, the additional cost, the sweat and the tears.
Without drama. Make it look effortless. Either can work. Depends on the customer and the situation. But it's a choice. We can make it with intention.
In a lot of ways, it feels like what you just said to us, Seth. I was just connecting that in. This idea that, those customers that we do find, if we focused our product or service, and we've excluded others and said, "It's not for you," we really need to hold on to them and make them feel special.
Godin: We do. People feel special for different reasons. It's the narrative they tell themselves. If you think about, James Brown in concert at the Apollo Theater, his aides have to come out and catch him because he's working so hard. Compare that to Brad Mehldau playing the piano. It's just effortless. Well, they both made music. The question is, what kind did you want to hear? And how did you want it delivered?
If we're going to distinguish between a 4-star restaurant where it just seems magic, vs. the pizza place where the guy looks like he's going to drop dead of a heart attack, he's working so hard for you. Different people want different things. We just should be really clear that we're putting on a show, all the time, we're putting on a show. The question is, is that the show they came to see?
Gardner: Seth, looking back now over at your career -- I expect it will continue indefinitely, so I'm looking forward to future Godin for the next 30 years -- but for now, just looking back over the last 30 years, what's been the biggest shift in how you think about marketing?
Godin: I came up in the old days, and I thought marketing was something we did to people. Now, it's really clear to me we do it for people.
Gardner: Another friend of mine here at The Motley Fool, Troy Springer, dropped a note in. He said, "Building tribes on the internet sounded like a great idea when Seth first wrote his book Tribes in 2008. Recently, though, all that tribe-building may have backfired a little with the internet and companies like Facebook being called out for leaving social and entering the news business, sometimes the fake news business. Seth, what are your thoughts about the building of tribes on the internet today? Is social media a net positive or a net negative for society?"
Godin: I'm easily calling it a net negative. In my book, I was really clear that tribes aren't always a good thing. I was really clear that it's probably not your tribe. The tribe already exists. The question is, will you choose to lead them? The thing is, it doesn't matter if you're a public company or not. If you show up to make change happen, which is what marketers do, you're responsible for the change. So, the question is, you have all these people who want to connect, you have all these people who want to have various kinds of interactions and sometimes drama -- what will you, as the referee, as the organizer, as the media company, do? And, what will you be responsible for? So, when I look at this, I say, did you make things better? Did you show up in a way that people are glad to have that interaction?
My biggest problem with social media -- when we say it, we mean corporatized, weaponized social media -- is, they made it addictive because the humans involved are not the customer. If you are using Facebook or Twitter , you are not the customer. You are the product. You need to be really aware that it is you and your activity that's being sold. They're not there for you. And, winning at social media is not the same at winning at life. We've unfortunately lost many years and many people to that misunderstanding.
Gardner: Let's shift now a little bit from marketing to business, just some thoughts. I think that was a nice transition right there, helping us along. Seth, your blog, I'm thinking about your blog, maybe the first popular blog that I learned about. When did you officially start Seth's Blog, and what are your reflections on it?
Godin: My recollection is, it was an email newsletter in 1990 or '91. I had a little bit of a head start, 27 years. It didn't reach its official current form until maybe 15 years ago.
For me, what it represents is, anyone can be a columnist now. They give Pulitzer prizes to newspaper columnists, but anyone can be one. Anyone who has something to say or share can put that into the world. If you're not doing it, I think you're being selfish, because there are people who want to hear from you, there are people who want to be connected by you. If you're not showing up to do that, I feel like you're taking things from people.
Gardner: Does blogging pay?
Godin: Pay cash money?
Godin: Using a StairMaster pays, because you're not going to have a heart attack, and that's really expensive. I think having a blog will get you a better job in the long run, it will help you make better decisions, it will do countless things for you. But if you're trying to run a blog on Tuesday so you make money on Wednesday, you're going to be a lousy blogger and not a very good citizen, either.
Gardner: Seth, I want to go to a page. We're going to stick with business here. I'm thinking of page 38 from Purple Cow , which you mentioned. Besides your book coming out this November, This is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See , but, you mentioned Purple Cow in addition, being a great one to start with, and I agree. On page 38, at least of my edition, you write a short chapter, I think it's about one page, and it's called Cheating. I've always loved this concept.
Cheating, for me, as an investor, I'm looking for businesses, in your words, that cheat -- basically finding businesses that have some unfair competitive advantage. I'll give two quick examples. Old Dominion Freight Lines , which is a less than truckload trucking company, and a very fine one for more than a century, basically doesn't have any unionized workforce in an industry that's dominated by unionized workforces. They're cheating, in your parlance. Or, Netflix being able to bid on TV show content based on its voluminous customer data that its competitors simply lack. Netflix is cheating. And so on.
First off, I love the concept. It's always helped me pick stocks. Second, do you have some newer examples today that you think of when you're thinking about the good form of cheating?
Godin: What I mean by cheating is, what business is supposed to do, which is to create an asset that, when they use it, gives them leverage over everyone else. Otherwise, everyone's in the commodity business. So, most of the people who pump oil out of the ground are pumping oil out of ground the same as everybody else. It's a commodity. You don't care, when you fill your car up with gas, what kind of gas you're putting in. The goal here is to find an institution that has that asset and can put it to work.
Think about the ratchets that Amazon has been turning for the last ten years. Now, they have two or three ratchets all working in the same direction. They have a brand that people trust. They have the lowest cost of doing certain kinds of operations. They have the most efficient web services. When you add those things up, that's an unfair advantage.
But it's also a kind of cheating if you have permission to talk to people. If I can send an email to a million people and say, "My new book is ready," I'm cheating. I can put my new book in front of 50 times as many people as an author who waited until the last minute before they started to build an audience. So, what my books are about is, which assets will we choose to build? Not just because we're good humans and good citizens, but because once we build one of those assets, then we have the privilege of doing ever-better work, and we can use that asset to advance our head start.
Gardner: That's tremendous. Let's stay with some of the cheaters of our time. In this case, some of my favorite stocks. Not just my favorite stocks, forget about me, these are some of the world's best-known and most admired companies, in some cases. Seth, I'm always curious, who do you admire and what for? I wanted to ask you if you see any big challenges when it comes to marketing for these companies. I have five in mind. Feel free to give me 15-second stingers for each, or whatever you'd like to say. Let's kick it off with Facebook.
Godin: I think day-trading Facebook is a great way to end up in an insane asylum. The long-term view is, do humans want to be digitally connected with a large number of other humans who might be talking about them behind their back? The answer is yes. So, then, the question is, is there a significant disruptor that's going to make it so a different company other than Facebook is going to do that? I don't know. I don't see one coming.
Gardner: Next, No. 2. Any advice or thoughts about Apple ?
Godin: Apple used to be an early adopter company for people who had good taste about digital electronics and wanted to use a tool to make things better. They have become the largest and most profitable luxury goods company in history. They've left behind the people who made the thing actually work. So, the opening question for me is, can they keep riding that luxury ratchet when other people are working so hard to bring utility for less to the masses? I'm dubious.
Godin: Jeff's one of the smartest people I've ever met. The site was going to be called relentless.com. His relentless approach to turning those three or four ratchets he has is never-ending. They still only sell one out of $X worth of stuff. Again, I don't see something interrupting that, other than an economic cataclysm, in the short run.
Gardner: If you were the head of marketing for the next company, I'm curious what you'd be doing -- Tesla .
Godin: I think, once you move away from the hobbyists and the early adopters, the rest of the market demands a level of maturity and consistency that is difficult for the current CEO to deliver on a daily basis. He's a brilliant inventor and a raconteur and a maker of change. But, if you want everyone to drive a Tesla, that would be fine with me, they're going to have to figure out how to make it palatable to people for whom $55,000 is a very significant investment.
Gardner: Well put. Last, let's go with Netflix.
Godin: Netflix cleared the table. They figured out how to beat Hollywood at its own game. No one has done that successfully in a hundred years, and they did it. I don't know what happens after that. But you have to give them a bow. They reinvented the company three times. Most companies can't even do it once. Three times! The question is, do you spend $5 billion a year on content? When do you stop? We know people want to watch it. The question is the microeconomics of the interactions that you're having with your members.
Gardner: Seth, earlier in the interview, you said -- and I love this, I'm definitely going to be remembering this question that you asked rhetorically earlier -- of you or me or anyone, let's go with corporations -- did you make things better? Of those five companies -- Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Netflix -- I won't ask you to rank them by who made things better. You could if you wanted to. But, of those five, which do you think most has made things better?
Godin: The problem with "most" is, now you're multiplying two factors, the number of people and the amount of change. The way the world is most likely to end is, it gets too warm. A billion people in the next 30 years are going to lose their homes. Shifting to solar and electricity, as an idea, is mammothly important to all of us. Have they sold enough cars to do that? Not yet. But, the more people copy them, the more likely it is we go in that direction, then I think we're making good progress.
It's interesting, the idea of making things better. What I'm trying to do as a teacher is go beyond saying, "Seth said this," to, how do I create environments where people want to level up, and then they do level up? The altMBA, the workshop that I run, lasts a month. People in 45 countries have taken it. What we do is get cohorts of 125 people together, and they work for two or three hours a day for a month to transform themselves, the same way Netflix transformed itself. How do we change the way we look at the world? How do we open ourselves up to giving and getting feedback? I just wanted to point out, since we're talking in August, we're only going to have one more session this year. If people are into it, I hope they'll check out altmba.com, because we built it for people like the people who are listening today.
Gardner: That's awesome, and this is a great target audience for you. Thank you very much for sharing that out, and for that work that you've been doing. It's spectacular. It reminds me that you're operating across -- forgive the military metaphor -- so many fronts. It's inspiring, I know to me, and I'm sure to many listening.
My closing two questions for my Authors in August, the first one is, who's awesome? Who's out there that you admire today? Somebody that might be very well-known, somebody who might not be well-known at all -- who's awesome?
Godin: I've been profiling a bunch of people in this new book, and they're all over the spectrum. From Sarah Jones, an actress who has radical empathy in the way she performs on stage, to Keytar Bear, a guy in Boston who wears a bear suit and plays the keytar on the street corner, to Danny Meyer, who runs restaurants where he's trying to persuade privileged people not to tip anymore. There's this huge array of people who aren't on Oprah, who aren't on the front page of the paper, who are doing work that matters for people who care. I could talk about them all day, because that's what keeps each of us going. There's somebody who said, "I'm not going to settle for the status quo. How do I make something better?"
Gardner: That fits in really well in the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, because we're always looking for the Rule Breakers, those who come along, look at the status quo, and say, "I can do better. Watch me!" Especially when they turn that vision into a product or service, and then miraculously, in some cases, maybe 10 years later go public, and actually then add value and create multi-baggers for us as investors over time. I'll always love the Rule Breakers. You're certainly a favorite Rule Breaker of mine within your field. Thank you, Seth Godin!
Let me close by asking, why not, what are you reading? I'm curious. What should I be reading?
Godin: I don't know what you should be reading. I try to push myself not to just read the hundreds of books that show up on my desk, but explore some fringes. Here's a book by Donald Hall, which has the best book title of any book I've touched this year. It' called String too short to be saved . It's a series of reflections on growing up in New England by a poet. The reflection of the title is, they were cleaning out a recluse's house, probably a hoarder, somebody who had lived there for many, many years. In one of the rooms, there was a box, and the box was labelled, "String too short to be saved."
Gardner: [laughs] Spectacular! Donald Hall, the acclaimed American poet, no longer living. I think it's wonderful to imagine, Seth, you sitting there reading poetry, and helping us toward that here in August. Seth, thank you so much for joining with me! It's always a pleasure, the brief time that we get to spend with each other once every four or five years. I sure hope you'll be around, maybe, a year from now, and I can call you back up and we can talk again on this podcast. This was spectacular!
Godin: Deal! Count me in.
Gardner: Thank you, sir!
Godin: A pleasure, thanks.
Gardner: Alright, what a treat that was. Thank you, Seth Godin!
Coming up next week, as I mentioned, Priya Parker. Her book, The Art of Gathering . I realize I'm only giving you about seven days to read it. It took me longer than seven days to read it, but this is not one of those 400-page books. It's about 220 pages, and it's a page-turner. Spectacular! Even just the first couple of chapters will have you thinking differently about all those gatherings that you're having on a daily, weekly, monthly basis in your life. Priya Parker will help you change your mind, starting next week.
What better way to close than simply to ask rhetorically, one more time, along with my friend, Seth Godin, how will you make things better? Fool on!
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. David Gardner owns shares of AMZN, AAPL, FB, FDX, NFLX, and TSLA. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AMZN, AAPL, FB, NFLX, TSLA, and TWTR . The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on AAPL and short January 2020 $155 calls on AAPL. The Motley Fool recommends FDX and ODFL. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .