Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs and uh, joining me is someone who was. One of my first entrepreneurs and frankly the first person who did video with me and allowed me to grow and Someone who also allowed me to to challenge him.
His name is Seth Godin. He is author of multiple books and back in 2008 He did an amazing thing He said if you buy my book you can come and record my live Presentation and post it on the internet at a time when everyone said well if you post it on the internet No one’s gonna want to see you live again He bucked the system.
He let me do it. Huge for traffic. And I think, um, Seth, you acknowledge it. You sent me an email and I love that you said, you’re probably getting a lot of traffic. And yes, I did. I was getting a lot of traffic. I was impressed that you saw it. The year later, 2009, he came out, or he did an interview with me about tribes, and I remember holding up these books and saying, Seth, look at these people who I admire.
Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, I think I had up. These are their books. I did their research. None, none of them had a tribe and you said, yeah, but Andrew, the world is changing. People will need tribes. And sure enough, today we’re seeing that not only are the biggest entrepreneurs building tribes, but we saw one of them take over a whole company, Twitter Elon Musk did so that he could basically have more access to his tribe.
That’s how important it was. And then, uh, 2018, uh, at a time when people hated marketers, he came on and talked about marketing. We have a big history of you basically doing things that others disagree with and proving that you are right. So, um, I invited you here to talk about your latest book, The Song of Significance, which is, if I were to sum it up, to say it’s a book about how to lead, not manage, and we’re going to talk about what this book is.
Some disagreements and so on, actually not disagreements. I want to challenge you so that I understand it better and how to lead better. And we could do it. Thanks to two phenomenal companies. The first, if you’re into dows, and I’m so curious if Seth Godin is, I want you to understand that I’m doing a podcast about dows with a company called origami.
You should go listen to join origami. com slash podcast. And if you’re hiring, go to lemon. io slash mixer. Gee, but Seth, how would you describe? The message of the Song of Significance.
Seth: It’s not very often that I write a book that makes me cry. And this one did. And I cried again when I read the acknowledgements at the end in my audiobook. And I’m a little, uh, choked up talking to you today, 15 years later. I wish I had bought stock in MixerG at the IPO in 2008, because you have led and transformed, and it’s fascinating to me that you start the podcast by calling people freedom fighters, because the book is really about freedom, and it’s about being a human.
Uh, and the industrial society we live in has seduced us and indoctrinated us into thinking that it’s okay for a cranky billionaire to fire people for fun, to humiliate people, and to kick them around because, quote, they have power. And that we need to take a really close look at how we have built our world, a world based on cheap oil and status roles and caste.
And that maybe… We should spend our days, our precious days, the tomorrow we don’t get over again, doing a kind of work that has freedom to it. And freedom comes with responsibility, and it comes with agency, and it comes with the knowledge that we can make things better for others if we put our heart into it.
Andrew: I told you that I felt that parts of it were obvious to me, and other parts I felt like, well, no, it’s not true. Let’s start with, isn’t this obvious? I’m looking around now. I told you I moved to Austin, Texas. My wife, who used to go into the office, now is working from home and can continue to work without…
Without anyone micromanaging her, I’m, I’ve been doing it forever remotely. I see a lot of my neighbors here in Austin are living in country lifestyles, but they’re working online for companies that say to them, just get the job done. We don’t care. Hasn’t the world, especially post COVID, but even after the internet explosion gone to this remote, we trust you.
You’re significant. Do the thing for us in the most creative. independent way possible?
Seth: Oh, there are tiny pockets of it, which proves my point. But the vast majority of institutions are calling meetings to take attendance. They are putting in keystroke monitors. They are, uh, having people sit there for half an hour while the boss prattles on when it could have been much easily done by a memo or a five minute asynchronous video.
And when we talk to people about remote work, They love the freedom, and they hate the fact that they are treated like children, and that they have to sit through endless Zoom meetings for no reason at all. When we think about companies like, you know, Bloomberg, which makes billions of dollars. They have keystroke monitors and ID badges, and I’m told they check when you go to the bathroom or not.
Or we think about a company like Amazon, that, uh, had so much turnover last year, that it’s, uh, reported that a third of their total profits Went away because of the cost of turnover and the average person they hired only lasted 60 days. That’s not happening because there are big organizations that are looking people in the eye and say, We trust you to bring your humanity to work.
It’s happening because we’re trying to turn everything into an assembly line. And the fact is people like you and I didn’t speak up when the steam shovel undermined all the ditch diggers, and we didn’t speak up even when computers undermine radiologists, because now an AI computer can diagnose an x ray better than a mediocre radiologist can, but suddenly they’re coming for us.
That GPT 4 can write a blog post almost as well as I can. And when that starts to happen, any job that can be specced is going to be outsourced or automated. Your neighbors might be the exception, but my hunch is that they spend a lot of their day writhing in pain at the fact that they’re smarter than their company is about the work they want to do.
Andrew: I see, so you’re saying maybe I’m blind to it because I’m surrounded by people who have more freedom than the average person, but in this new remote work world, most people are not getting that space, and maybe if I’m not blind to it and happens that these people have more freedom, you’re saying the danger is that Part of their freedom is going away.
They’re going to be demanded to do things in a structured, automated way. You gave the example in your book about Henry Ford back in, uh, 1911, meeting a management guru, I think it was, who showed him how to systemize everything. And you said, well, that’s not the past. Levi Strauss today sews, has people who sit and do nothing but the same sew, same stitch over and over again on infinite pants.
So maybe I am blind to it. I didn’t realize that Bloomberg had. Keystroke monitoring, but then let me take the other side of it and say, maybe that’s for the best that isn’t it. If, if a company is a creative enterprise and let’s take a small business that has a vision for what to do, shouldn’t they say, I really need this blog post that explains this one message that’s core to our system.
And if that person had infinite time, they could sit and write it, but they don’t. So they outsource it to someone else who is basically their hands, but they get to be the mind. And shouldn’t they be able to say. For all these 50 different responses, I want you to handle it this way. Why, why not be, why not embrace this?
Seth: I guess part of the question is, is the purpose of culture to enable capitalism, or is the purpose of capitalism to enable culture? That if you have worked hard to develop a voice and skills, Should you say, well, yes, but my main job in life is to make sure that Elon Musk gets richer. That if you have a boss who’s going to demean you, undermine you, fire you on the spot, are they worthy?
of your commitment when you have other options, because there are organizations big and small that are figuring out, you know, Satya Nadella is on the record and through his actions is showing us. If you’re a programmer at Microsoft, they’re treating you differently than if you’re a programmer at lots of other places.
They’re not counting how many lines you’re committing to get every single day. They’re taking a look at did you solve the problem in an interesting way. It’s a big difference between standards and obedience. Industrialists want obedience. Management is about using power and authority to get people to do exactly what you say.
Standards are what is our level of impact we’re trying to make, the customer experience, figure out how to exceed that. So the example I like to share is the Aravind Eye Hospital. Do you know about Aravind? So it was started by Dr. V in India. More people have had blindness cured by Aravind. than the sum total population of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles put together.
And this eye hospital will cure your cataracts for either 135 or 0. It’s up to you. You get to pick. And one of their standards is every patient is treated the same whether they’re paying or not. Another standard is the, uh, rate of infection, uh, on the operation is less than in a world class hospital in London.
So you’re not getting this, uh, cut rate free surgery in India because it’s lousy. It’s actually better. And lots of ophthalmologists in Texas train at Aravind because the throughput is so high. The reason for the story is this, the standards at Aravind are sky high, but obedience isn’t the point. Nobody is sitting there.
Saying you must do it exactly this way. You must treat this patient exactly this way. They’re saying we expect that patients will leave here happier with more peace of mind and healthier than they came and we expect that there needs to be a certain throughput. You figure out how to do it. And that is what humans need and want.
That is where significance lies. In knowing that you made a difference, not saying my job is to press this button on the fryer later and when the fries are done to press this button to have the fries come out.
Andrew: And if they would have said, you have to do that, cut this way, adjust that way, tell people this when you walk in the room, tell them that when you left the room, you’re saying they wouldn’t get people who are smart enough to be capable of curing blindness at this rapid level.
Seth: No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that interesting problems are worth solving, whereas methods and procedures that have already been shown to work in repetition are going to get done by a computer. And so the number of people needed. To make a car has gone down dramatically because we figured out that if all your job is, is to bend this piece of steel in this way, why do I need you to do that?
I’ll get a machine to do that. And so what we each have is a choice, whether we’re a boss or a worker. And the choice is, should we make our job more human? Should we race to the top or race to the bottom? And what we are seeing in our experience as users and employees of Amazon, is that racing to the bottom is not a very good bet.
Because if you race to the bottom, you might win. And then you’re at the bottom. And so, Amazon Lowered prices and did all these things to destroy its competition. And now it’s discovered that it’s best strategy to raise the stock prices. Say, Oh yeah, well, we’re actually going to deliver things a little bit less slowly and start shutting down divisions when you don’t really have as many choices and these outcomes of the race, the bottom fueled in large part by a lot of the tech folks who listened to this podcast, we’re starting to wake up and saying, yeah, well, making it cheaper.
At all costs, and making it convenient, and giving up our agency and our privacy just because it matches some, you know, Milton Friedman, Peter Thiel model of the universe, it didn’t make my life better. So, let’s make it more human now. We’ve earned the right to make our lives and our work more human.
Andrew: I think in the book you said that Microsoft, I didn’t realize that Microsoft managed differently and the exam, the phrase that stuck with me was productivity paranoia. They did not want that. They were going to keep telling their people you are going to have. Agency, you’re going to have create creative power here.
Um, but then I looked back at, at Amazon and yes, that was painful. You wrote quarter of their profits. Uh, they lost a turnover in 2021. Maybe I’m just being bullheaded, but I keep thinking about maybe some jobs really do need to be that way. Maybe I’m thinking about like even in Nomadland, I love that book by Jessica Bruder, where I expected her to find the people who were moving things in.
In a warehouse hated their jobs into they didn’t love it, but they accepted it and it kind of made me think that all right, maybe there’s a world where Some people have a lot of creative freedom like the people at the top of amazon who are sitting in their offices And some people don’t like the people in nomad land who just want to do the work and and move on And isn’t that okay if it’s?
If that’s the way it is,
Seth: Well, I have two thoughts to share here. The first one is, let’s not underestimate how powerful indoctrination is. 12 or 16 or 20 years later when you leave. The only question you ask if you are a rational human is will this be on the test? Because the entire model is about obedience, compliance, inspection, and Six Sigma reduction of defects.
And if you’re defective, they hold you back and process you again. And that was invented by factory owners to train people to want to work in a factory. So we know where it came from. But the other thing is, I am not being classist here. I am not saying humanity jobs are reserved for people who make a lot of money or drive a fancy car.
That there are people who work at Chick fil A. There are people who work the night shift as a pediatric oncologist nurse. There are people who are baristas who will tell you that their life is filled with significance because they have agency. That in the book, I tell the story of Ray Anderson and interface carpet and interface carpet was a disgustingly dirty carpet business, like almost every carpet business in the seventies and basically carpet businesses, pump oil out of the ground, turn it into nylon and other things and produce a lot of by product and then they make a non biodegradable product.
And when Ray read. Uh, Paul Hawkins first book about the environment, he had a revelation, which is that he was a horrible person wrecking our planet. And he called a meeting of his top dozen people, and he walked in and he said, I don’t know how to do it, and I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but this company is going to become carbon neutral.
And he took out a piece of paper and said, we will be carbon neutral by blank. And he left it on the table and said, you fill it in, make a promise, and let’s keep it. And in the movie where they talk about this, it came out last year. Almost every person who was on that team, who lasted at the company for 10 or 20 years after that meeting, talks about that journey as one of the high points of their entire life.
Like right next to having grandchildren. Because that journey wasn’t, well, what I do is pull this lever and then put this thing in this box, and then cash my paycheck and buy some junk. What they said was, I did something here. And what I am saying is that as baby boomers get older, and baby boomers have made everything about themselves.
Since 1962, when the baby boomers were teenagers, it was about rock and roll. And when they needed to make money, it was about wall street. And now I’m the younger part of the baby boomers. We’re all dying. And so the baby boomers are sitting there doing things that people who are cranky do at the end.
Most of the world isn’t like that. And most of the world is saying, what can we do? That’s worth it. And I got to tell you the job at the warehouse at Amazon is not worth it.
Andrew: think that the issue with the block that I have with the book, the song of significance is that I keep coming back to what is the most efficient, best way to grow a business.
Seth: Mm. Hmm.
Andrew: the embodiment of at least one person’s vision. And if I see it through that, then I think that’s where I miss it because you keep coming back and saying, you’re not even acknowledging the profit motive.
You’re saying. How do we have a business and a job that everybody loves? You didn’t even tell me what the carpet
Seth: I’m sorry, I’m hitting, I got to hit the buzzer on this one. I have never said, not once in the entire book or this interview, that it needs to be a job people love its work. And number two is, throughout the examples I’m giving, are organizations that make more money because they are human powered, not less.
Interface Carpet did better than its competitors who raced to the bottom. Microsoft completely beat the pants off Google in the last two or three quarters. Under Amazon, Under Andy, Amazon is not doing better than it was doing before. That when we go down the list, the problem with the race to the bottom is you might win for a little while.
But anybody who thinks that Elon Musk’s vision for how to run a company is a good one hasn’t been paying attention. Not paying your bills, firing more than three quarters of the people who work for you, and losing most of your customers. Might be your vision, but don’t tell me it’s profitable because it’s not.
Andrew: Okay. So you’re saying not love significance for everyone, meaning for everyone involved, and you’re saying, yes, it does increase profits.
Seth: I didn’t say it does. It can. Because just like buying machines doesn’t increase your profits, buying the right machines and using them the right way does. So, you know, if I think about an organization like Penguin Magic, that’s a business that anybody who’s listening to this could have started 15 years ago.
It’s a super simple business. Magicians who are amateurs need more tricks. because they have a very small group of people they do their tricks for and those people get tired so they want to buy new tricks. So you go to Penguin Magic and you will see a magician demonstrate a trick and the only way to find out how it’s done is to buy it.
And if you look at the entire structure of the organization, of how they follow up, of how they interact with you. There are people who are doing hard work over and over again that I’m probably not interested in doing. But it is done with a different sort of spirit. Just down the street from you, Sean Askinosie runs a chocolate company, one of the first bean to bar chocolate companies in Missouri.
And Sean Runs a profitable business. It’s not the most profitable business, but there’s no prize for being the most profitable business. In which he visits the farmers who grow the beans that he uses in Tanzania and other countries. In which he brings high school kids with him as part of a learning experience.
In which he has open book management. In which he has low turnover. In which he creates products and collabs with other organizations. In which he is able to charge a premium. That people happily pay and so if you said let’s start a chocolate company, I would say you can’t out Nestle’s Nestle’s You can’t put more people into dire poverty and slave labor than Hershey’s does don’t even try to do that But maybe you could race to the top and be Sean
Andrew: Or, Rising Tide Car Wash. I made a note of that. You’re saying, look, everyone and there are tons of car washes, they’re not competing with all of them by out automating. I wrote a note about that because I wanted to understand what does Ri Rising Tide Car Wash do? What is it that, that makes them different and allows them to Compete in a world where I could just drive and there’s a place that will automate almost everything the last bit They they still hand dry, but why do people go to rising tide car wash
Seth: is a great story. Thank you for bringing it up. So If you look at, you know, cash based business books, they will say, if you’re patient and smart, you can buy a car wash, automate the whole thing, and you’ll make 10 15% return on your money. Because, particularly in places like Florida and California, people want a car wash.
And if there’s a neighborhood that doesn’t have one, go build one, you’ll be fine. Well, Thomas brother, uh, was born with profound autism. And he went to his dad after he turned 20 and said, what are we going to do for my brother? And he built a business that was designed to give people like him a chance to thrive.
And so, I don’t know the percentage. It might be as much as half of the people who work at Rising Tide Car Wash have developmental disabilities. But, most customers don’t care about that. What they care about Is that they are greeted by a smiling face. What they care about is the transaction to get their car washed actually does more than clean their car.
It makes them have a better day. So rising tide costs a little bit extra. But Rising Tide also outperforms every other car wash on profitability and return on investment. They opened a second one and it turned a profit in a matter of weeks. Because humans want to be around other humans. We don’t need more stuff.
Last year, the year before the pandemic, Americans spent more money on storage units than they spent going to the movies. Because we buy stuff to make us happy, but it doesn’t make us happy, it just gets stored. But if we can find experiences that make us feel connected, that’s something we’ll pay for. So yeah, first we need shelter.
We need reasonably priced food. We need decent healthcare, but after that. Even in places that you and I wouldn’t consider privileged, people will go out of their way to go to a doctor who smiles at them or who go, go to a doctor who spends an extra minute finding out how their family is, because it’s about more than getting an injection to avoid river blindness.
It’s about being part of something. So I’m thrilled we’re having this conversation because you are surfacing things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, which is they think their job is to do. What Milton Friedman invented, which isn’t true, which is to somehow magically maximize short term shareholder value.
That’s not why we invented companies, that’s not what they’re for.
Andrew: wouldn’t rising tide car wash? operate using a checklist and a set of Specific instructions they would so then what is it about them that keeps it from being one of these? It’s jobs. That’s essentially automated. Let
Seth: So, to give you an example, a manager invents the set of instructions. And it turns out one of the instructions they invented was very difficult for developmentally disabled people to do without stress. And in a typical institution, it’s… Okay, quit. See ya. Who’s next? I got a line out the door. But at Rising Tide, because every week they have meetings 360 degrees around, they figured out that what the manager thought was the right answer, the manager who had never washed a car, and the manager who wasn’t developmentally disabled, they learned from one of their employees a better, cheaper, faster way to do it that made that person’s day better, made the car better, and…
Made the car wash more money. So again, if people are getting the impression that what I’m asking for is this, uh, la dee da, let’s have free lunch and not work, very hard thing. It’s the opposite of that, that when people have a hobby. Like surfing, they don’t want the waves to be perfect and identical.
Point of surfing is different than the point of golf. Golf is how do I incrementally shave off every defect. Surfing is, this wave is different than the last one and that’s the point. And what humans want, and I surveyed 10, 000 people in 90 countries, they want to exceed their own expectations, they want to be part of something, and they want to be treated with respect.
And what’s missing is we’re not talking about it. And that’s why I needed to write a book so I could talk to you about it, but more than that, so someone who reads it could talk to their coworkers and their boss about it because if we don’t talk about it, it’s not going to happen.
Andrew: me take a moment, talk about my sponsor and I’ll tell you Seth, that the reason that I cared about Dow’s was I started finding myself in this, in these interviews, interviewing people who work for multi billion dollar companies. Who went out and they raised literally over a hundred million dollars, like right off the bat who built enterprise software that had everything in it.
And then I don’t even know that I could say that they made it or not, because how do you know if it’s successful when they raised a hundred million dollars? Is it based on revenue? Is it based on customers? I have no idea. And I lost my passion for it. And then I went and I interviewed as a favor, this guy, Ben Ha, who used to have the, I can has cheeseburger, uh, network of meme sites, you know, him.
And he said, Andrew, as a friend, interview me and help me figure out how to explain this new doubt world. And I started interviewing him and he said, look, here’s what we’re doing. A few Y Combinator founders got together. We’re now all investing together. And as a way of making sure that we all have. I’ve got a reward for what we do.
We’ve got this token and it’s called a DAO that that’s how it’s structured and we all get to vote based on our tokens. Anyway, I’ve, I’ve been really fascinated by this and so I’ve done a set of interviews with him and I publish it as a podcast. Everyone can listen to it at join origami, join origami.
com slash podcast. And then I started doing interviews with others who’d done it. Like I’m still not sure that I buy into this yet, Seth, but I’ve seen enough success stories that I’m excited enough to pursue it. There’s this organization called Kift. This founder decided that he loved the van life, he hated cities, everything that he wanted from cities was online, and he said, What if we just buy some land in a beautiful place, we invite people who have vans together, and then we could disperse to another place, and when we’re in each of these locations that we own and we control…
We could, we could have our community, and then the rest can be online. The work, the education, and so on. So he created a DAO. They’re buying up land. I couldn’t believe it. I, and so I interviewed him, and then I went to see his people in person, sat in their vans, just like last week, uh, at South by Southwest.
And it’s interesting enough for me to pursue it. And to just find these stories. Anyway, that’s what I’ve done. And if you’re interested out there, you can go to join origami. com slash podcast. And Seth, what do you think about all this? I feel like it’s a, it’s a polarizing concept because there are tokens involved, but it’s also interesting because they’re communities.
Seth: Okay. First little trivia. I wrote the very first commercially published book on digital cash. And I wrote it, I wrote it before Bitcoin and it sold 400 copies. Uh, when Bitcoin came out, I didn’t buy any. I have worked hard to try to talk to people in the crypto world about how they could tell their story better and the pioneers in the crypto world.
Generally, we’re either technologists or scammers, and neither one of them was good at that. And so I think the hustle and short term rise and then fall of traditional crypto is sort of been a curse in terms of it crossing the chasm and being widely adopted. I think that NFTs are without a doubt in my mind a dead end and a scam, and I’ve blogged about this several times.
The first time I blogged about it, I got all these angry notes. The third time I blogged about it, I got all these notes saying, I was right. Thank you for helping me avoid losing my life savings. But DOWs
Are brilliant. I invented one that I am still super fond of. I published the 15 page business plan on my website called pluralism. I hope someone will run with it. I think pluralism one of the best ideas I ever had. That’s different topic. The challenge is the people who are looking for the next ride that feels like crypto or NFTs are also attracted to this.
And I think that’s part of the problem. And We have plenty of examples of institutions where control and voice is distributed, not centralized in one person. Ironically, the word equity is a word we use when there is no equity. Um, and that’s why businesses work. If someone gets to make decisions, this is for a different sort of institution.
And I think the key is look for one where the value created is much, much more important than the value of the token.
Andrew: I think you’re right. I almost think that they’re cursed because they have tokens and If they could somehow disconnect from that, they’d be better off, but you can’t disconnect from it because I see the people who are earning a living in these DAOs and they need something that they could convert to dollars and take to the store.
Seth: Yes, except that there’s, there’s a couple of different ways. Having spent a year thinking about pluralism, there are a couple of different ways you can do it. One way you could do it is that the anticipated value Gets built into the current value of the token. So it’s sort of like an IPO without having an IPO.
You have the value of this thing at the end, but you own it now. And that’s a challenge because that’s the problem when Yahoo made a whole bunch of people who weren’t very talented millionaires at the beginning, because they were holding all the stock and things got stuck, right? The other way to do it is to make it so that the value of the token increases gradually as the value of the institution increases.
And when they are correlated, I think you will find a different kind of person showing up and a different kind of transaction occur.
Andrew: I think that makes sense. Well, I’m in it out of curiosity and I’m in it to just keep finding these little pockets of successes. I’m almost like Mr. Rogers in the sense that he looks for the helpers in troubled times, I look for, like, where are the little pockets of successes I could learn from? You know, you help me with my book.
Uh, stop asking questions. It took me years to write it. Um, or at least, let’s say a year of solid writing. Years to sit down and finally do the work and face it. A lot of what you’ve said about books over the years came true with this, that When there’s a book for people to hold on to They have a concept they can interact with in a way that they can’t when it’s when it’s online You’ve noticed that too, right because your book is essentially a collection of blog posts That’s all merged in together the the song of significance.
What’s the difference between a book and a blog?
Seth: So, um, a book, I hate to use the word, but it’s a token, a physical instantiation of an idea. When I write a blog post, it reaches ten times as many people as when I write a book. And so, this is not about having a medium that has direct reach. It’s a medium that has indirect reach. A, it has Proustian value, because we still, even with a million books published a year, associate something, some level of completeness and wholeness with a book that we don’t associate with the tweet.
But the second thing, which is the bigger one, Is that you can hand someone a book and when you do that action, there is a cultural expectation that comes with it that is generous and insistent. And so what I did with this one is I made 50, 000 of these, which is a 48 page pamphlet. So anyone who buys 25, you know, five copies of my book, it’s 25 of these things.
And if you get these things, you’re just not going to toss them in the trash. You’re going to go and, oops,
sorry about that. You’re going to go and,
Andrew: problem headset fell off.
Seth: and hand them out. And I’m not in the business of cutting down trees and I’m not in the business of selling books. I’m in the business of making change happen. And what I have discovered is that sometimes an idea will come to me that will not let go. And that demands that I give up a year of my life to bring a book to the world.
And that’s how this one came to be. And I just want to give an aside about your book. First, I hope everyone reads your book. But the second thing about your book is, you know that it would have only taken you five days to type your book. So we get very confused about the difference between typing a book and figuring out which words to say.
And in this era of GPT 4, What we’re discovering is that it’s that year of thinking about what to say continues to make a book valuable.
Andrew: what do you think about? Uh ChatGPT and GPT and AI incorporated into everything. I used it recently and actually had a finally a positive experience. I wonder about you though, would you end up using it?
Seth: Um, I’ve, I’ve had positive experiences from the first day. Um, I think part of it is I majored in computer science 40 years ago, studied, uh, a PhD class with Doug Lenat, one of the pioneers of AI, a long time ago. So I know how stupid it is, and I know how smart it is if you structure it right. And so, it’s super easy to make GPT 4 look clueless, because it is clueless, but if you understand what it’s good at, it’s spectacular.
Because, give me a list of blank, all of a sudden, three of the things on the list are useless, but four of the things on the list are things you never thought about before, and that prompt is useful. But the other thing that just shook my world upside down, and so I asked for free advice, um, the folks at Eleven Labs.
We’re kind enough after I started using their AI speech, uh, generator to build me a custom instantiation of me. So the version of 11 labs that I have, I can type anything in and it sounds exactly, exactly like me when it talks it, my wife cannot tell it apart. So if I hook up GPT four, train it on the 3 million words on my blog, and then.
Add to it the 11 labs voice thing. I will be able to build a system where you can ask my blog anything you want. And in my voice, it will answer you. And I know how to do it. I know I can do it. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth doing it. Because it’s coming. And by the time people hear this, it will already be here.
Whatever it is.
Andrew: That is exciting. And so then, you had this story about McDonald’s in your book, and I thought, well, this is so nice. This actually makes sense. And he’s acknowledging that McDonald’s works better because it’s all systemized. And then you ended that chapter, that section by saying, And this is coming for every job.
Capitalism is going to bring this everywhere. And that was like the scary point of that story. I wonder then, if your example right now, with artificial intelligence, with a voice that’s so lifelike, your wife can’t tell the difference, if maybe then, it means that’s okay. Because maybe we’ve gone past put a hamburger on the circle, then wrapped up the bun in this perfect way.
What, maybe we’ve gone from there to we’ve just reproduced your best self, and so that’s okay. What do you think?
Seth: Well, I don’t think there’s an okay or not okay. We’re going to have to figure out where do we add value. And… Um, because GPT 4 doesn’t actually know anything, it’s going to have a hard time adding certain kinds of value. It can, for example, iterate infinite numbers of molecules and do infinite numbers of tests and will be able to cure some diseases.
It won’t know that it did that in the sense that we define no, but it will happen. A radiologist isn’t needed ever again for someone who goes to the emergency room with a broken wrist in the middle of the night. We’re going to have a computer somewhere tell the practitioner what just happened. But, it’s a huge but, we’ve invented 8 billion jobs in the last 40 years.
Jobs that didn’t exist and 8 billion people have them now. We will figure out things for people to do. That do not involve moving a physical object in a predictable path or moving, uh, you know, thought bubbles around to make it sound like someone’s talking. I don’t know what those jobs are right now, but I know we’re going to invent them.
That doesn’t mean everyone’s an entrepreneur, but it means that everyone’s a human, and I don’t think aspiring to be a cog in the machine is much to hope for.
Andrew: so let me see if I’ve now been able to organize everything from the book, The Song of Significance, understand your point. Your point is, we don’t want to be cogs in a machine, and we don’t want to create machines that turn humans into cogs. We have to keep thinking about how do we create a role that’s significant, that brings out people’s creativities, that is…
I’m not going to use the word fun, but maybe there’s another word we could put in there for ourselves and for the people we work with.
Seth: That works for me. That could have been like the tagline
Andrew: argue with any of that. It
Seth: But it’s not obvious. And the reason I know it’s not obvious is it took you 45 minutes to get it and you’re one of the smartest people I know. So, it’s not obvious, which is why I needed to say it as clean, as clearly as I did. I was thrilled that you said it felt obvious.
And that you disagreed with it at the same time. Because that’s how, like that’s what people said about permission marketing. And that’s what people said about the dip. And that’s what people said about this is marketing. But in all four cases, we still have spammers and hustlers. We still have people who stick with things instead of quitting them.
Because even though it’s obvious, it’s not naturally a well lit path. What’s the well lit path? Is to do what you’re told in school. Get a job from the placement office. Do what your boss says. And repeat until you’re dead. That is the well lit path.
Andrew: okay. So Seth, I’m trying to bring this back to what I do here at Mixergy. I’ve done a set of interviews with people. About how to systemize a business, how to document it. And at the same time, I’ve said, I kind of battle it because I wonder if creativity and a business that’s fast growing and changing can actually document.
And I’ve had people come in and say, no, you need to document it. And so I’ve done it. I’ve created these, uh, checklists. We have now a whole, uh, Kanban board for every step. But I also know that sometimes people don’t use it and that’s. When they’re great and I know when we don’t use it at all That’s when things become sloppy and I think i’ve just been wrestling with at what point does the system Need to stop and creativity take over and it can’t be always systemized But it also doesn’t seem like it could be never systemized either in work.
Where do you what do you think?
Seth: There’s a, uh, a great cartoon, I think it’s Farside, but maybe not, where there’s all this math on the board and then it says, insert a miracle here, and then more math. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with one of the steps being Show up, right? That if you want to teach me how to be a great server in a restaurant, many of the steps involve don’t drop the food.
When it comes from the kitchen, make it clear to the people in the kitchen, what the people at the table ordered identify any allergies, right? These are things that should be checklisted, but at some point we should insert a miracle and the miracle could be super simple, right? It could be, you notice somebody didn’t eat something on their plate.
And you say to them in a really inviting way. Can I bring you a different thing instead? I’d be delighted. I can’t write that word for word because it won’t come across right. But if I have, be human in that moment, and I give you the conditions, create the comfortable foundation for you to be human, even if you’re inefficient in that moment, Overall, my restaurant is going to do better.
My friend Will Guderra writes about some of the magic that you see at Eleven Madison Park, right? Eleven Madison Park didn’t get ranked the best restaurant in the world because everyone was winging it. But, you know, he tells the story of a couple that’s coming in and they’re getting on in years and they’re reminiscing with each other about their first trip to New York.
And now here they are in this fancy restaurant, but on their first trip to New York, they had hot dogs on the street. And Will overhears them saying this as they’re walking to the table. And I don’t know if he sent someone out or if he did it. He ran five blocks, found a guy on some street corner, bought two hot dogs, raced back to the restaurant, put them on Fancy China, and inserted it as the fifth course of the meal.
Is that in your manual, Andrew?
Andrew: I feel like you’ve done what you’ve done so many times for me. I come at you with a really tricky thing and then you find a way to not just solve it but to articulate it. And I think insert magic here insert miracle is the is the answer to what i’ve been looking for to the balance between a system and and greatness um All right, uh second sponsor and I know we’re almost running out of time I want to ask you about the future because you’ve clearly seen some things in the past that have helped me and others I want to know what you think It’s coming and what we should be paying attention to.
But I’ll say my second sponsor is a lemon. io. It’s a place where you can hire developers. This founder was on like a path of showing us how much money he was making as he was growing his business from Ukraine by finding Ukrainian developers who are fantastic, but under underpaid compared to Silicon Valley.
And matching them with businesses that needed to hire them. He was doing a great business. He kept blogging his journey through building his business. And then the war in Ukraine happened and he, he left. He said, look at me. There’s no way I could even hold a gun. I can’t fight, I can’t support. Um, and then he said, I’ll pay my people while they’re there, even if they don’t work, and I’ll just keep talking about how this is working.
And I said, you know. You can’t buy any more ads from me, I’m just gonna run these ads, not because of Ukraine, but because of you, Alexander, and I just want to support your, your battle here. By the way, he got locked out of his Silicon Valley bank account recently, and he said, I’m only gonna have 250, 000!
And then, anyway, by Monday, he was back in business. Um, he is, he’s a fighter, and it’s interesting to see him, um, do this in public. So, I’m doing my part to support his business, he’s helped, uh, other people out.
Seth: that. Let me tell you
Andrew: you’re out there and you want to hire a developer, sorry,
Seth: well, I want to amplify, uh, Save the URL one more time because I stepped on your words.
Andrew: Oh, it’s lemon. io slash mixergy. If you use my URL, he’ll give you an extra discount on his already low prices.
Seth: So if you go to welcome. us You can sponsor a Ukrainian refugee and as someone whose ancestors needed that, it’s important and you will change somebody’s life. And I can, from personal experience, I can tell you it is much easier than it sounds. And you can help somebody find their footing if they can’t persist where they are today.
Andrew: coming into my house or am I paying to help them come into the country?
Seth: You’re paying, you have to do some paperwork, and they don’t come into your house. And if you do it well, you won’t hear from them after a while. Because the whole purpose is not to adopt somebody. The purpose is to open the door for somebody to find what they need. And the people that my family and I have helped, I am thrilled to say, are thriving.
And I know this because I haven’t heard from them in a little while.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. I, and frankly, I wouldn’t mind having them at my house. I, um, now that we have some space and that I’m not in San Francisco, it feels like I want to welcome somebody here. Um, what do you see coming down the road? Where, where are you paying attention? What do you think the next opportunities are?
Seth: I think that Silicon Valley has attracted a whole bunch of people who are good at playing a game, whereas they used to attract people who were good at building value. And it started when folks like TechCrunch and stuff started keeping track, not of company’s actual output, but how much they raised and how good their deck was and all that stuff.
And you know what, if someone gets rich playing that game, I’m certainly not going to argue with them if they don’t hurt anybody. But as a result, That plus the democratization of tools means that Silicon Valley doesn’t have to be the epicenter of how technology is going to change the world. And I interact with people all over the world that are building possibility, building versions of a better future that have nothing to do with Kleiner Perkins or Sequoia.
So, when I think about the future, I think about our long… Overdue hard look at social injustice. I think about the enormous challenge of education worldwide because we’re doing it wrong. And I think about the climate. Those are the three problems that are waiting for someone who’s listening to this podcast to do something about.
And I’m not sure we need another micro social network. Um, I think what we do need is to do some real heavy lifting as technologists to solve some really significant problems without regard for whether it makes a venture capitalist happy or not.
Andrew: you brought up education. I remember I was feeling bad during COVID during clock towns. My kid wasn’t going to school. I started doing interviews with entrepreneurs who are coming up with solutions to this. A lot of them were, were basically changing education. I said, this is great. I sent my kid to a pod in somebody’s house.
We did online learning. It was great. And then I feel I’m like, uh, the person you wrote about in the book, what’s his name, Al Pitt. Tom Polly, yeah, who wrote a book about how to have a meeting that matters. And as, and he said, and you said he sold a lot of books and very few people used it and I, because, because we all fall back on old habits and I feel like as soon as COVID lockdowns ended and everyone’s school went back, we all went back to education as it was.
And I remember battling with my wife and saying, there’s this new innovative school, it’s called alpha school in Texas. Let’s send our kids there. And I relented because it’s my kid’s education and I want to take a risk on it. And then the school, apparently, might be closing or something, so maybe I was right not to take a chance.
But, I don’t know how we can change education, which matters to me significantly, a lot. And, if we keep falling back on old habits, and if our kids are such a valuable thing that we don’t want to take a risk on them.
Seth: Okay, well, you, you’re using some words that are getting you in trouble. Um, the riskiest thing you can do is send your kid to an industrial public school.
Andrew: We didn’t do that.
Seth: well, the second riskiest thing you can do is send them to an expensive private school. The safest thing you can, the safest thing you can do is help them learn to be resilient, independent, questioning, debating, and self learning.
And they’re not getting taught that. At the typical expensive school that I have not vetted the Acton Academy. There’s one near you, but I have read a lot about it and I know the people who started it. The typical Acton Academy has between a hundred and 200 kids in it. And two adults, one adult is the janitor and the other adult is there to make sure the janitor doesn’t teach anybody anything because the entire structure of the institution is kids teaching the other kids.
That every week they pick a project and they report back to each other and to their parents what they did. And the Acton Academy transforms human beings who are part of it. And it’s not just about privilege, it’s about a different perspective. That unschooling, that, uh, other approaches that we are seeing where individuals are showing up.
Not taking their kids out of community, because putting your kid in community is critical. Saying this institution was based on the Prussian paramilitary system of 1875 and paid for by Andrew Carnegie because he needed more people to work in the steel factory. This is not the safe choice! And famous colleges?
Other than a sorting mechanism, there’s plenty of evidence that famous colleges do not make people happier or better off. Getting into Harvard is as likely to make you successful as getting into Harvard and not going. That in fact, it’s the admissions sort that tells us something about people, not what they actually do in there.
If you want to be a professor of philosophy, I hope you go to Harvard. If you want to make a difference in the world, it helps to start making a difference when you’re 12.
Andrew: We’ll leave it there. I… Actually, I feel like it’s such a big risk to take your kids out of school, especially once they’re in for a little bit. I wish that the takeover would happen after school. Drop us off after school and we
Seth: I, I homeschooled, I homeschooled my kids,
Andrew: You did?
Seth: my kids every day from 3 o’clock to midnight. So they went to public school for six or seven hours and sometimes I could squeeze in a little bit of work, but I was a full time dad and every day they got off and we had projects and we had show and tell and we built a pneumatic potato gun that could hurl a potato across the Hudson River at 45 miles an hour and we published poetry and, uh, one of my sons still works with an adjunct of Habitat for Humanity.
You know what I mean? You do these things. It’s right now because it’s not the system’s job to raise your kids. The system can help, but people like you and me who have the luxury of being there, we have no excuse. For the mom who’s working two jobs, I’m heartbroken. But for people like you and me who have the chance to say at the dinner table, let’s talk about why this thing in the world is the way it is and expecting your kid to lead the conversation.
Why wouldn’t you do that?
Andrew: that’s what I needed. I feel like that’s the answer. Let the school be their social environment and let the house be their educational prep for life and for understanding what they’re meant to do. All right, I’d love for you to write a book on, on raising kids
Seth: I did. It’s called Stop Stealing Dreams. It’s free. 4 million
Seth: 4 million people have read it. It’s called Stop Stealing Dreams. You can find it at stopstealingdreams. com and there’s a TED Talk to go with it for people who are too lazy to spend more than 18 minutes.
Andrew: I had no idea. Okay. All right. I’m going to get that book. I don’t see it here, but I’m going to go to your website. That’s where you said. All right. The book that we’re talking about now is called the song of significance. I like that. It’s so well read. I mean, so easy to read. It’s just a bunch of blog posts, essentially that are interconnected that make their points.
And, uh, there’s so many other points that I had in my notes, but I’ll leave it for people to read. Thanks so much, Seth, for being on here.
Seth: You’re great. Looking forward to the next time. Thanks for taking the time.
Andrew: You bet. I love it. Thanks. Bye everyone.