Hi, I'm Jason Flom here on Rightest Conviction's, I speak with some of today's most prominent and active agents of change, people who see the wrong in the world and are driven to make it right. Today's guest is one of the foremost minds in the wide world of marketing. And as a pioneer of its application on the Internet, he has a wealth of knowledge on the most effective ways to share ideas and shape culture. What we need to do if we want to spread ideas that we care about, let's figure out that the story doesn't belong to us, belongs to the person we're telling it to, and we can tell that story in a way that elevates them, that gives them status and affiliation and that they want to share it.
Then we get to rewire the culture because we've decided what's important and what's not. Our guest is on a mission to level the playing field in higher education through his remote learning platform akimbo. He's a 19 time best selling author, entrepreneur, marketing guru and above all, a teacher. Seth Godin right now on righteous convictions. You know, in order to support our show, we need the help of some great advertisers and we want to make sure those advertisers are ones you'll actually want to hear about.
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And today I have somebody I really admire, but also a great friend, Seth Godin, welcome to Righteous Convictions. Big hugs, my friend. If you Google, which I have done the greatest marketing people in the world, the first name that comes up is Seth Godin. I think many of us default to sort of a crass idea of what marketing means. But marketing pertains to almost everything in life for people who are new.
To me, I define marketing as anything that engages with the world, the market, not advertising, not hype, not spam.
But this work we get to do to make things better for people who are listening now, maybe they have an idea, maybe they have a product, maybe they have a piece of music or something. They're saying they're going, how the hell do I get noticed when people are receiving thousands of messages a day from every which way we could talk about this for several hours.
I will start right now. The the first thing to understand is from nineteen fifty five until nineteen ninety five. If you were brave enough to run the same ad over and over and over again, it was going to work. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. I'd like to teach the world to sing all of the stuff that we still remember back from the in the fog of our brain is there not because it was brilliant but because it was frequent.
And that doesn't work anymore. There are no jingles that have ever worked created on the Internet that it doesn't matter if you show up a lot. What matters is that you have a story that resonates with people so much that they tell the others. And this is a key part of the success of your other podcast. You didn't get all those people to listen to it because you bought a lot of ads. People listen to it because other people tell their friends and that's new.
That is a fundamental shift in what it means to do marketing. Marketing is not about interrupting strangers. It is about creating a story that other people benefit when they spread it.
Well, thank you very much for that. And Seth, you have very interesting and I would say a very full life. From what I can tell, you're a connoisseur of almost everything. You've taught me a lot of things. And just for the sake of the audience, you know, when I have an issue that I can't quite figure out, one of my first instinct is to call Seth.
I have been a teacher since I was 17 years old, and I began by teaching canoeing up in Canada. And what I discovered is that when you teach somebody something that they want to learn, it's extraordinary because learning is different than education. Learning something we do because we want to education something we do because we get a piece of paper. So, yeah, I'm a teacher. And as the Internet arrived, I got on it in nineteen seventy six.
I have spent most of my time online teaching people things.
It seems to me that your righteous conviction is found, at least in part in your drive to level the playing field in terms of educational possibilities and opportunities for people who may not have the wherewithal to go to a top university or access the most profound knowledge.
I believe that the transfer of knowledge and the confidence and possibility that goes with it is one of the most extraordinary tools available to us. And when we hold it back, we're punishing everyone, including ourselves. But if we can figure out how to work together to get smarter, more insightful, more rational, more connected, then it pays forward in a way that we're all grateful for. And so I've been trying to do learning for a really long time.
And what the Internet showed me is that you could share things like words and video, but that often it wasn't leading to change because you learn things by doing them, not by watching them. So five years ago, I started a company called Akimbo to DeChambeau Dotcom, a.k.a. Imbo, and the first thing we did was the ALZ MBA. Five thousand people have done it so far. It's small groups of people doing thirty days of projects together with coaches.
Not a lot of video. It's about doing it together. Then I built a seminar on marketing and storytelling. There's one on freelancing and a bunch of others. It's all online. So it was sort of pandemic prepared in advance. And I'm delighted that six months ago I started the process to spin it out. It's not mine anymore. It's a B corp in the public interest and it's owned and run by. Employees and so my workshops are still there, they publish them, but Akimbo is now organized and built to show others how learning online can really work.
Now, there's more than twenty some thousand people who have been through the workshops, and they do it because they work. I want to turn to a higher purpose, if you want to call it that. Right. What is it that you hope to accomplish by putting out this sort of stream of wisdom and knowledge in the way that you do, which is a very egalitarian way, I feel. And what changes here it is we're talking on literally as we're recording.
This is the day before the inauguration. But how do you derive satisfaction and joy from the work that you're doing in creating these changes?
So, Jason, I won the parent lottery. I had two extraordinary parents. My mom was the first woman on the board of the local museum. My dad was a volunteer head of United Way. And when I was 15, a young woman named Maria moved in with us. She was my dad's second cousin, once removed, and she had lived a very tough life in the Bronx of New York City. And she was my age and my dad figured out how to get her to live with us for six months so she could experience my school.
She could experience what it would be like to live in a more stable environment. And Maria and I never hit it off because I was very focused on following certain rules. And she wasn't. And I viewed her presence sort of as a threat, as you could imagine, a 15 year old might. But I saw a transformation not just in her, but in me, in what happens when we can encounter ideas and people that might have a different point of view or might be coming from a different place.
And I saw the power of turning on a light for somebody and the principal of my school who lived down the street and figured out a way to get her into the school, really stepped up and made a difference in her life. And for me, once I saw the Internet coming and I was really early, I invented a part of how email marketing works. In the nineteen nineties, I realized that the gates were down for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.
For the first time, if you wanted to write, you could write. If you wanted to sing, you could sing. If you want to publish your work you could. But if we kept persisting with this mindset of scarcity, it was never going to work out that there needs to be an abundant mindset that says sharing ideas makes the ideas more valuable, not less valuable. And so the question is, if we want to change our culture, are we good at sharing our ideas?
Are we making ideas that when people share them, they believe their status or affiliation increase? And if we look at the jam we got into as a nation and as a culture, a big part of it is that there were a group of people who said it's simple and then in two or three sentences said things that were easy for some other people to repeat. At the same time, there were people who were saying, it's nuanced. We really need to think about this in detail, and you probably wouldn't understand it.
And it turns out that in a culture that's based on gratification and convenience, the first thing might be easier to spread. And so my definition of marketing is people like us do things like this, and we've got to figure out what people like us are, who are we and what are the things like this. People like us don't stand for this. People like us believe in that. And if you don't want to come along, then you can't be part of this circle.
And I think recent events woke up a lot of people because they said, no, no, no, no, no, not on my watch. People like us don't do things like this enough to draw a line. It's over. And what we need to do if we want to spread ideas that we care about is figure out that the story doesn't belong to us, belongs to the person we're telling it to, and we can tell that story in a way that elevates them, that gives them status and affiliation and that they want to share it.
Then we get to rewire the culture because we've decided what's important and what's not. But. So you're optimistic, is that fair to say, even though we talked about the, you know, the current state of affairs, 20, 20 was a year like no other. Now we're in twenty, twenty one the year that Mad Max was set in. And it certainly got off to a start. That was terrifying. Are you optimistic? And if so, why?
Well, I used to be a techno utopian back in the 90s. There were many of us who were pioneering the Internet who thought that good ideas would spread and bad ideas would disappear. And I misunderstood the joy that some people take in being a troll. It turns out that when some people get a microphone, they use it to tear things down, not build things up. But while pessimists set up a life for themselves so they won't be disappointed, optimists are willing to be disappointed in exchange for having the posture of doing the work that they could make things better.
So I'm an optimist by decision. I think there's cataclysm ahead of us in many ways. I think that carbon has been ignored. I think that racial justice in the United States hasn't been paid nearly enough attention to you have done a huge job of helping with this. And all these things are issues. I don't deny them. But as an optimist, what I'm saying is we don't have to catastrophes just because the media companies make a profit from it.
What we could do instead is say, well, that's a problem. But because it's a problem, it means there's a solution. If it wasn't, we call it something other than a problem. But the definition of a problem is that there's a way to solve it if we care enough and if we devote enough energy and resources to it. So, yeah, I'm an optimist that over time we will wake up to things before it's too late. And if I'm wrong, well, there won't be anybody here to criticize me.
It's funny because years ago The New Yorker did a story about me and the journalist, a very good writer named John Seabrook. He he said in the article that I have a look on my face of disappointed optimism.
So John Teeple is a great writer. And that's a perfect if you if you're just a listener of Jason, that you've never met him in person. Bingo. There you go.
So, yeah, we have to get up in the morning and we have to go on and try to make a difference and do the best we can for others to do that, we need to be optimistic. When I think about how many people live in our city, how many people live on this planet, and how many of them are there calmly and peacefully with each other and who go out of their way to help each other. I'm not sure there's that much evil.
I think that we find the evil. We announced the evil. We try to stamp out the evil. But if we can figure out how to amplify the good as opposed to assuming that someone has evil intent, we can say, look, if you want to be part of this community, we need you to do these good things. And we're going to amplify those and we're going to celebrate those. Steve Pinker's great book on this called The Better Angels of Our Nature, points out graph after graph, chart after chart for seven hundred endless pages that the world has been getting better, safer and healthier on a regular basis for one hundred and fifty years, including World Wars.
We put those in there. It's fine. It's still getting better. It just doesn't feel that way because there are people who make money stealing our attention and getting us to freak out.
You know, I guess I'm sort of an empath and I feel other people's pain. And I guess I always want to help the underdog. I grew up that way. I hate bullying. And of course, the news reports the bad things. Right. They report the you know, the salacious things.
They don't report the important bad things. And that is why your work is so important. I'm not being a Pollyanna. There is way too much suffering in the world. There are people who are alone and hungry and ill. There are people who are unjustly imprisoned. There are people who don't get the benefit of the doubt. The news doesn't talk about those things at all. The news is basically running a game show where there are a few evil characters with Dudley do who is Dudley do rights to me.
I can't remember that twirly mustache who are plotting to ruin everything when they really should be reporting on the endemic systemic problems we can do something about. I grew up with privilege. I totally get how unfair my benefit of the doubt has been compared to other peoples. But the way we're going to fix it is by figuring out systemic changes to systemic problems, not by catastrophizing and requiring an emergency every time something needs attention. Dudley, do rights enemy was Snidely Whiplash.
There you go, Snidely Whiplash. This morning, I was walking my dog and listening to your podcast Akimbo and anybody who isn't familiar with it yet, generally each episode is about 20 minutes. And each time Seth sort of riffs on anything from Charlie Chaplin to why mosquitoes have such short lives and somehow draws a connection between these things. I could even say in the last 12 months or so, he's taught me everything from modern monetary theory to the catastrophizing, which was the word I knew.
And it led me to my favorite and most perplexing math problem, I guess you could call it that, which is the Monty Hall problem. And the Monty Hall problem in a nutshell, is for anyone who is so young that you don't remember, let's make a deal. Monty Hall was the host and there would be three doors. And the contestant who was often dressed as a crayon or a dinosaur or whatever they would have to pick one door and behind one door would be a prize.
They really wanted a jet ski or an RV or something. Right. Something wonderful. And the other two doors would have booby prizes in them. Something you really didn't want some junk.
First, let me give you some context and then we're going to go ahead and describe the problem. We have just spent a horrible year dealing with so many challenges and overdue focus on racial injustice, an economy that's teetering and a pandemic. And all of them required two things patience and a knowledge of statistics. And human beings, particularly Americans, are terrible at both. And so people think, for example, that the virus knows that they behaved really well for twenty two hours.
So now they can go hang out with people. It doesn't work that way. And the knowledge of statistics and how probability works is something that if you don't have it, the world is using against you all the time. All the time. Companies are having you sign, for example, a contract for service on that appliance you just bought. And in your head you think, oh, if I don't get this, it'll make me probably break and then I'll regret another.
And these companies are just racking up huge profits. They make more money on selling you the insurance than they make, selling you the item itself. We need to learn to understand profitability. So the problem is this. There are three doors and two of them have a goat and one of them has a million dollars. And Monty says, Which door do you want to pick? Your pick door number two. And it turns out that when Monty opens door number three, there's a goat behind it.
So now we know there's a million dollars behind one door and a goat behind the other. And the question is, would you pay a thousand dollars to switch door number to the one you picked the door number one, or should you stick with the one you picked? And almost everyone who thinks is true says doesn't matter whether you switch or not. So saves a thousand bucks.
Stay where you are. And it can be easily shown that that's a really bad decision, that, in fact it is worth spending up to half a million dollars to switch to door number one, because it's that much better shot that you will get the right answer.
Interestingly enough, the woman who first published this theorem, a woman named Marilyn Bosun's, published it in some math journal in ninety three percent of math PhDs got it wrong because the intuitive mind says, well, it's now 50 50. But what's so extraordinary to me about this is that it was thirty three, thirty three, thirty three, 33. It has to stay that way because the chain of events has already been set in motion. So we are correct when we think that.
Thirty three percent that's gone is gone. It had to go somewhere but it doesn't distribute itself evenly across the other two choices because your original thirty three and a third is still thirty three and a third. So that other third goes to the door. That is unknown. And you can there are websites devoted to this where you can push a button and it'll do the problem for you one hundred times in one second and it'll show you. You'll always be right if you switch approximately sixty seven percent of the time.
Sometimes it'll be seventy two, sometimes it'll be sixty five. Is there a way that you can explain this for people who are scratching their heads? So here's the way to think about it. Let's say there are three doors, let's say there's a thousand doors. If there is a thousand doors and you pick your number four and one by one, Monte keeps opening doors until there's only two doors left. Are you so vain and egocentric to think? That you picked the right one all along, or is it way more likely that he's forced to leave the last door?
Unshorn, because that's the one with all the money in it. Of course, that's what he had to do. That's what happens as he's revealing it. It's moving all of the odds away from your door and toward the door. You don't know what it's behind. It's much easier to understand when you think of it in bigger numbers, for some reason, I don't know what that reason is, but it's endlessly fascinating to me. That particular problem, I have a question that I don't know if anyone's ever asked this question, but I've wondered about it for a long time, and I've never asked anybody either.
Why does comedy seem to always work in threes? It always seems like. And then they win here. And then they went there and then did it right. It's always that third thing that all of them. But I'd say the high 90 something percent of jokes. The third beat is the one that cracks you up. Do you have any idea why that is? I'm going to a podcast about this. OK, so because the first thing is it's not just comedy, it's writing.
Right? So Superman, what's his thing? Truth, justice and the American way. I'm a professional writer. Almost everything that we do it. Boom, boom and boom. The question I want to explore, because I don't know the answer is, is that true in French? Is it true in Swahili? I don't know. It's definitely true in English. And it might be based on four or four music. You know, if you listen to Dave Brubeck and take five, when you listen to a song and five, four time, it's very unsettling and it works beautifully.
But we're not used to it. And it might be that this is an artifact of the way we just chose hundreds of years ago to adopt a certain pattern and rhythm to our language and our music. Then it would follow that jokes would be part of it. But I don't know. This is why I have a podcast, because somebody will say something like this to me and then I got to go figure it out.
Yeah, well, I'm going to be listening to that one for sure, because I'm super curious about that. I just like I said, it's always interested me. It is true. And I guess maybe it does fall into that broad thing of marketing. It's really getting and holding people's attention. OK, so we've talked about a lot of things in a very short time. And I always find talking to you is like playing tennis with somebody that's much better than I have to keep hitting the ball hard or else I know the points over.
So, OK, because we're dealing in threes and because we've talked about how powerful that is and because you're about to go do a whole podcast on it. Three questions to close out our interview. Number one, if you could go back in time and have lunch with any figure from history, who would it be? Number two of all living people. Is there someone who you think is making the most profound difference in the world who embodies righteous convictions?
And number three, if you had a magic wand and could change one thing, what would it be?
There's no doubt in my mind that I want to have lunch with my mom. The second one was somebody I think today who is making a difference. If you haven't seen Brian Stevenson's TED talk, of course you have, it's worth checking out if you think about what is it like for somebody to show up in a community and speak up and connect and weave together possibility. I'm eager to put someone like him on my list. I've probably got 400 people like him that I could put on the list, but his is the first thing that came to mind.
And the magic wand. Well, you know, as I was a game designer for a long time, the first rule is if a genie offers you a wish, you wish for more wishes.
I guess that's not an option. So how about this? I would. Try to escalate kindness on the priority list of responses that people have to any given situation that instead of it being the seventh or eighth thing they get around to, maybe it's the first one. Thank you for listening to Righteous Convictions. I'd like to thank our production team, Connor Hall, Jeff Clyburn and Kevin Amortise the music in this production with supplied by three time Oscar nominated composer J.
Ralph, follow us on Instagram at wrongful conviction on Twitter at Wrong Conviction and on Facebook at wrongful conviction podcast. Righteous Convictions is a production of Lolla for good podcasts in association with Signal Company No. One.