This or that vs. yes or no

It's much easier to persuade a philanthropist to fund your project than it is to persuade a rich person to become a philanthropist.

Encouraging someone to shift slightly, to pick this instead of that, is a totally different endeavor than working to turn a no into a yes, to change an entire pattern of behavior.

When looking to grow, start with people who already believe that they have a problem you can help them solve.

       
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Clear language and respect

Our connection economy thrives when people understand what to expect from one another. We're more likely than ever to engage in interactions that involve an exchange, something that deserves a specific clarification. I'll do this and you'll do that.

More and more agreements are being made, because more and more transactions happen outside or between organizations. The question then: What does good drafting look like?

If the agreement starts with "whereas" and continues along with, "notwithstanding the foregoing," and when it must be decoded by a lawyer on the other side, something has gone wrong. These codewords, and the dense language that frequently appears in legal agreements, are symptoms of a system out of whack. It's possible to be precise without being obtuse. 

There's actually no legal requirement that an agreement not be in specific, clear, everyday English. To do otherwise disrespects the person you're hoping to engage with. There's no legal requirement that even the terms of service for a website can't be clear and easy to understand. In fact, if the goal is to avoid confusion and the costs of the legal system when conflicts occur, the more clear, the better.

Consider this clause, which can change everything: "Any disagreements over the interpretation of this agreement will be resolved through binding, informal arbitration. Both of us agree to hire a non-involved attorney, submit up to five pages of material to state our case, and abide by her decision."

The best thing about this clause is that you'll almost never need it. Mutual respect and clear language lead to agreements that work.

       
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End of year book and audio roundup

Just in time for the last-minute frenzy (of reading, listening or giving):

My favorite fun novel of the year was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I listened to it on audio and loved every moment.

On Immunity was another audio favorite. An even-handed meditation on why people believe what they believe, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, this book is almost literary at times.

Eastern Standard Tribe is a great introdution to the books of Cory Doctorow. The later stuff is even better, but all of it is thought provoking.

The Diamond Age was so far ahead of its time that most of you haven't read it. You should. For irony's sake, perhaps read it on a tablet.

Linchpin is the book of mine that has probably changed more minds and more lives than any other.

The Bride... is a meditation on Duchamp, on conceptual art and on a life lived on the edge. Some books pretend to be quirky, this one is.

Reminding you about Jacqueline Novogratz' The Blue Sweater, a book that will show you that the world is much smaller than it was, and it's getting smaller daily.

Linda Rottenberg has changed the world, and she wants to show you how.

The Art of Asking is Amanda Palmer's breathtakingly honest and personal memoir of one artist's approach to life.

Alex Osterwalder is on a roll, and his books are all worth your time and money.

Bill Strickland's autobiography is a meditation on doing work that matters. 

Guy Kawasaki shares more than 100 social media secrets with you and your team.

Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy will resonate with you and stay with you for a long time.

And you can listen to Live at Smalls while you're reading. Cyrille will make you smile.

PS My new book, What To Do When It's Your Turn now has an order backlog that makes it impossible for me to promise delivery in time for gift giving, but I hope you'll find time to read it (and share it) when it arrives. Thanks everyone for your extraordinary enthusiasm and support.

       
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Where to start

Start your first business this way: Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have. Charge less than it's worth and more than it costs you.

Repeat.

You don't have to wait for perfect or large or revered or amazing. You can start.

       
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Retribution

"He deserved it," is usually the explanation we hear for behavior that strikes us as unproductive, inhumane or counter-productive. The bully is always happy to point a finger at the person he hurt, to cast blame for his inexcusable actions.

Retribution is a habit, usually a learned one. It's tit for tat, the instinct to punish.

That's a very different posture than the one the productive professional takes. She says, "I choose to take actions that are effective." She chooses a response designed to produce the outcome she seeks, actions that work.

We can react or respond, as my friend Zig used to say. When we react to a medicine, that's a bad thing. When we respond, it's working.

When the world dumps something at our door, we can take the shortcut and allow ourselves to react. We can point out that whatever we do is happening because the other side deserved it. Tantrums are okay, in this analysis, because the other guy made us.

Or we can respond. With something that works. With an approach we're proud of, proud of even after the moment has passed. It's not easy, it's often not fun, but it's the professional's choice.

       
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