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Andy’s Notes from Business Folks: Seth Godin – Do Things that Matter, for People Who Care!

How do you see your Work and your Business?

Your work and your business are designed to serve people and other companies, but you may not always focus on that aspect of what you do.  Amidst the details and distractions of your work life, it’s easy to get bogged down in the mundane tasks and trivial matters at hand.

Seth Godin has built a career challenging us daily to look at things differently and to be thoughtful in our approach to our work.  He encourages us to do “things that matter for people who care.”  He emphasizes that not everyone will care, and that’s okay.  His message that it’s better to care deeply about something very specific and “find the others” who have similar interests, rather than to try to please everyone, resonated with me.  Pandering to the masses will drive you to the common, the ordinary, and the mediocre and ultimately leads you in a race to the bottom, where price is the only distinguishing factor between you and your competition.  Even if you win that race by having the lowest price, it will likely frustrate you and, worst case, you might finish with the second lowest price and not accomplish your goals anyway. 

Seeing your work as a valued and appreciated service to others is an important first step to frame what you do for a living.  Then, you can build a practice of iterating and improving what you’re doing, as you gain feedback and experience along the way.  You’ll hone your craft in the service of others with work that’s fulfilling to you, and you’ll continue to grow and get better.

Introduction to Seth Godin

I first learned of Seth Godin when a friend introduced me to his blog.  Seth’s Blog is published daily, every single day for many years now.  His thoughtful insights are a part of the start of my day, and they routinely inspire extra reflection as Seth’s perspective is far from conventional.

Over the years, Seth has authored many books, primarily on Marketing.  He speaks of the marketer’s task of growing influence and how we all find ourselves in the position of trying to influence people almost every day of our lives.

Seth has also taught more than a few courses, given more than a few talks, and I’ve always found his message compelling.  He encourages all of us to use our unique voice, and to serve others whenever possible.

Who are You Going to Serve?  Build a Practice – Seth Godin

Reflecting on all that I’ve learned from Seth over the years, I’ll share a few of the key insights that I’ve gathered from his work.  His teaching has implied to me that it is wise to take time regular time to reflect (perhaps annually) on the following series of statements:

  1. Consider where you are, what you’re doing, and whom you’re serving.
  2. Reflect on whether that situation is okay with you.
  3. Decide to change or adjust based on that reflection.
  4. Determine to keep showing up to serve others as you consistently learn and grow.

Below are a few regular phrases from Seth’s work that I’ll additionally highlight for your consideration:

Don’t Wait to be Picked – Pick Yourself

Have you ever waited to be picked?

Whether it’s by a famous college, a high-profile employer, a casting director, or even a pick-up basketball captain, it’s easy to believe that “they” have all the power to decide on your future.  Society has led you to believe that you need to “play the game” so that you can be selected for success.  Seth encourages you to simply pick yourself.

A famous college isn’t always the best college.  A high-profile employer isn’t always the best place to work.  Countless people rejected by casting directors have gone on to have remarkable careers.  You have the opportunity to decide what you want to pursue, and you can decide to pick yourself.  

Picking yourself can look like taking free online courses in your chosen area, scouring YouTube videos to learn, and reading books to study and grow your skills.  As you learn, you can offer to help in that discipline at no charge, to gain experience and exposure before you look to attend a college, famous or otherwise.  You could begin your own improv troupe or even your own pickup basketball game if you want.  No one can stop you as long as you don’t sit back and wait to be picked.

Seth encourages you to pick yourself, and “find the others” who share your passion.  You can start without permission from anyone.

Keep Showing Up

Once you’ve picked yourself, you need to show up.  And keep showing up consistently for as long as it takes.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes a long time to grow your movement, as each day you show up and hone your craft, you’ll learn and grow.  Keep showing up and keep serving.  Getting feedback from those you are serving is an important part of growing your skills.

The power of committing to show up again and again is remarkable.  It can’t be overstated.  Many never start.  Many more start and then fade.  Your ability to show up again and again and again creates the rare opportunity to do something meaningful.  Start where you are, do what you can do, and keep it going.  Days will turn into weeks.  Weeks will turn into months. Months will turn into years.  That type of consistency is rare, and the impact you make will reach beyond your current, seemingly reasonable, expectations, just like the power of compounding interest.

Find the Others

As you grow your practice and you repeatedly show up, you’ll want to “find the others.”  Your actions should attract them, but it’s also up to you to communicate clearly who you are serving and why it matters.  Other people who share your beliefs will follow your lead.  Your example of showing up consistently will inspire them to the possibilities and engage them to help your efforts.

Even as you continue your practice, consider what type of help might grow your reach and impact.  When you find others that share your vision but may not know what to do to help, you’ll want to offer them ways to plug in.  Providing simple ways to assist makes it easier to gain additional traction.  The more specific you are, the easier it will be for them to get on board. 

Do Stuff That Matters for People Who Care

This comes back to figuring out who you want to serve.  Providing value to them and improving their lives and businesses should both furnish the opportunity to earn a living and also get the soulful return of serving people who care and appreciate how you’ve served them.  The more clearly you can state your mission and the reasons why it matters to you, the more likely you will be to find people who share your vision and will respond appropriately to your efforts.  There are few things more fulfilling than doing stuff that matters for people who care.

Build a Practice

As you engage in your work, day in and day out, showing up regularly to serve, you’ll be building a “practice.”  Seth refers to “practice” along the lines of a craftsman learning a trade.  Perhaps you’ve got a mentor, coach, teacher, or guide to help you hone your craft.  If not, the feedback from your Customers can provide you the feedback you need to drive your improvement.  The key notion is that it’s not a job that you figure out once and then do repetitively for the rest of your career.  It’s a practice that you enter into with the expectation that you’ll continue to learn, grow, and modify to ensure that you persist in improving your service and contributing to the people and companies you serve.


You have an opportunity to serve through your life and your business.  Don’t wait for others to pick you, or give you permission to offer value in a manner that’s in keeping with your gifts and your desire.  Decide how you want to serve, show up consistently, and find the others that share your passion.  Your life and ability to serve are not a one-shot deal; rather, you can build a practice of your work and efforts as you keep showing up regularly to make a difference in the world.  You can do stuff that matters for people who care, and you’ll create the life of meaning that you’ve been yearning for.

After being introduced to Seth and his work, I began to read his blog daily and worked my way through several of his books.  His thought-provoking message was energizing, and there were a few key ways I tried to implement his teaching.

Remove the “I’ll have arrived when…” mindset.

Life is a journey and finding joy and meaning along the way is crucial.  It’s easy to chase goals and wait to be happy or feel successful only after you achieve those goals.  Unfortunately, goal achievement doesn’t provide the overwhelming fulfillment you might expect, and it’s not worth a miserable path to get there.  Ensuring that you’re enjoying the process of growing into your goals allows you to balance a worthwhile and fulfilling path with a sufficiently noteworthy achievement.  You’ll discover that the achievement of a goal is always followed by the opportunity to set a new goal. The illusion of “arriving” when a goal is accomplished doesn’t last very long.

Begin to show up consistently.

It’s easy to wait for something to happen, at work or in our lives.

Once you decide how you’d like to serve and the direction for your life, start showing up in that manner right away.  Don’t wait to be picked by someone, just start serving others wherever you are with whatever resources you have available.  Don’t wait until the time is “right” or the situation is “perfect” because those circumstances typically never happen.  It’s easy to delay and it’s a little scary to get started, but Seth and I will both encourage you not to wait.  Start now.  Your passion and willingness to start showing up consistently will draw resources over time and allow you to grow your impact.

Don’t wait.  Start now.  Show up consistently.  You’ll be on the path you were meant to be on.

Find “the others” that share your passion and desire to serve.

As you begin to serve, you’ll get attention from others that share your passion.  Each person will have their own ideas of how best to fulfill the needs in that area.  Engage with them and you’ll have the opportunity to learn more and see different perspectives.  Stay open to possibilities for connection and collaboration while knowing that you’ll always maintain your opportunity to do it your way.  If you see other methods and ways of thinking as opportunities, you’ll be less likely to feel threatened or coerced out of your ideas.

There is a balance to be achieved between firmly sticking to your way and being open to other possibilities.  Evaluate the people and the processes involved to make your best decisions as the opportunities come up.  Only you can determine how you want to apply yourself.  Finding “the others” can be encouraging and help you feel a sense of community with folks that align with your passion.

Have you considered who you want to serve?

    • Through your job?
    • In your community?
    • At home?

Brainstorm a list of small ways you can help serve others around you.

    • Which ones could you plan to do next week?

What organizations are serving the people you’d like to help?

    • Could you get involved in one of those organizations?
    • How might you get better educated on the situation?

Seth Godin is an American author and business thought leader on a wide variety of subjects, most notably in Marketing.  He’s in the Guerrilla Marketing Hall of Fame, the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, and the Marketing Hall of Fame.  His podcast is one of the most widely read on the internet.  He’s published 20 bestselling books including The Practice, This is Marketing, The Purple Cow and The Song of Significance.  He helped start the Carbon Almanac and refers to it as the most important project of his career.

  1. How clearly have you identified who you serve?
  2. Have you embraced the idea that your work and your life is a “practice” that you’ll continue to refine over time?
  3. Do you show up consistently in your effort to serve?