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Paul RoetzerJanuary 12, 20113 min read

5 Lessons Learned from a Day with Seth Godin

Seth-Godin-LinchpinSeth Godin, best-selling author of Linchpin, took to the Helen Mills theatre stage Tuesday in New York to share his ideas on the new dynamics of publishing.

It was an intimate affair with 100 attendees, including myself. There were no PowerPoints, splashy parties or corporate sponsors. We spent six hours listening, asking questions and discussing what's next for the book publishing industry.

While the event was targeted at authors and book publishers, the lessons learned apply to all content marketers. I’m still processing everything, but here are my initial takeaways:

#1 Attention is Scarce

Consumers are faced with channel overload. Everyone has become a publisher, making information abundant, but attention scarce.

Businesses are competing to break through the noise, build followers and create loyalty. To win, you must be remarkable, and continually create value.

  • You must earn the right to ask for attention.
  • Once you get attention, you can’t walk away, or you will lose trust.
  • Attention comes with a promise that you will meet expectations.

#2 Don’t Make Promises That You Can’t Keep

When building our tribes, as Seth defines them, we must be careful not to overpromise. We have to keep expectations in line with our ability to deliver at scale.

Sometimes when we’re small, we make promises that are too big. Just remember, once you break a promise, there is no going back. Don’t let desperation, or a lack of perspective, cloud your judgment and actions.

  • When you give things away, including knowledge through blogs posts and webinars, expectations are low.
  • As soon as you start charging for that knowledge, everything changes.
  • Be ready for increased expectations as you grow and evolve.

#3 You Better Be Scared

My favorite line of the day came when someone asked Seth about how he so consistently innovates and creates remarkable content. To summarize his reply: “I practice staring into the abyss.”

If you’re not scared and unsure when creating content and pushing new ideas, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. We have to challenge ourselves to tackle the unknown. We have to look into the dark to find the light.

#4 Master the Art of the Unexpected

Give people something they didn't know they wanted, and take them places they didn't expect to go. Think Steve Jobs. No one does it better.

Apply this thinking to your content, business model and personal brands. In order to capture and keep the attention of the crowds, we must take chances and be willing go where others won’t.

#5 Work Backwards from the End

Are you trying to sell services, drive website traffic, generate leads and build your brand . . . or are you trying to create a movement?

What is the goal of your content? How will you define success? A clear vision of what you want to achieve should drive the channels, pricing, timing and promotion of your content.

Other Notes from the Day

  • Just because you have an idea doesn't mean you're entitled to make money off it.
  • Start by finding 10,000 people who care about what you have to say. Then you can spread ideas.
  • We have trained people to wait to get picked. Don’t wait anymore.
  • Shifts start with being willing to push ideas and create value even if no one has asked you to. Why? Because you believe in them.
  • Rush with deliberate speed to find the group of people who want to be connected to you. People who want to be led and taught.
  • You can never undo the perception that you have spammed someone.
  • Once you overcome fear, you become addicted to it. You have to always push yourself to take risks.

Learn more about Seth Godin and The Domino Project.


Paul Roetzer is founder and president of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. He can be found on Twitter @PaulRoetzer.

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Paul Roetzer

Paul Roetzer is Ready North's (formerly PR 20/20) founder and senior advisor, as well as the founder and CEO of Marketing AI Institute. He is the author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence (Matt Holt Books, 2022) The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, 2014), and The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, 2012); and the creator of the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON). Full bio.