Archive for January, 2010

What Seth Godin Wishes He Knew about Leadership

January 26, 2010

Leader Seth Godin at Around 18, and Now.

For my upcoming book, What I Wish I Knew about Leadership in the 21st Century, I interviewed Best Selling Author, Seth Godin, who is extraordinary thought leader and the writer of the most popular blog in the world. That’s in the world people.

I “met” Seth Godin when we “shared” the stage at a Thought Leaders Conference in Sydney. I’m using quotation marks because I was live on stage, and Seth Skyped in a video call from New York. To make sure he could hear the crowd in Sydney, Seth gave his speech with enormous, soundproofing earphones sticking up from his noggin and was very calm and understanding when the line dropped out repeatedly. I was immediately impressed by his peaceful, humorous way of leading the crowd.

When I interview Seth, he was an incredibly busy man as he was only days away from the launch of his latest best seller, Linchpin.

N.B. When you read this interview, notice how classy the guy is – I interview him for my book, and he doesn’t even try and plug his new release once. Not once. (So I give it a big rap for him it at the end of this blog. But don’t believe my opinion, check out the other rave reviews at Linchpin’s squidoo lens here

I began my interview, as I always do, by acknowledging how ridiculous the fictitious premise of my books is – going back and giving your younger self some advice – but pushed on regardless to ask Seth what he thought about leadership and authority as a youngster?

I had no understanding of the difference between authority and leadership.

“When I was 18” he answers “I had no understanding of the difference between authority and leadership. I think most high school graduates are in the same boat. I was really good at following authority figures most of the time. I was lousy at leading. Being smart and being persuasive don’t always go hand in hand, and I had no luck being persuasive.

If that was the case, I asked, from where did he eventually learn about leadership?

“I learned it at Camp Arowhon, the oldest co-ed summer camp in North America. From 18, I was the canoeing instructor but, compared to sailing and windsurfing, canoeing is hard, tiring and not so good for your ego. The hundreds of kids I was marketing my program to had a choice every day, and their choice was to ignore me and go sailing instead.

So, I had to figure out how to entreat and encourage and persuade, because I couldn’t order people to follow me. The great thing about this place as a lab was that I had a lot of freedom, there was obviously no budget nor anything to spend money on, and I found out within minutes if my ideas were working or not.

I was in a situation where leadership was essential and failure was painless.

The key lesson here isn’t that you need to go to camp, or teach canoeing. My point is that I was in a situation where leadership was essential and failure was painless. That’s a great combination.

I ask if leading a tribe or being a thought leader always in the plan?

Seth laughs and says: “Believe it or not, I decided to do what I do now when I was 20 years old. Amazing.”

“But if I think how it’s all turned out, the parts that young me would have been astonished by:

1. the hair thing (I had a 4 inch long afro)

2. the magic of a blog that people read and react to.”

“I’ve always been motivated by projects and by change, and having the ability to create those things is a thrill that hasn’t worn off.”

I ask if that’s the thrill, what’s been hard?

My biggest weakness … is my desire for no one to be angry.

“My biggest weakness as a leader is my desire for no one to be angry. That really hinders my ability to make a difference. In a group of 100 people, five will always be angry about something. If you’re going to try to please this unknown group of five in advance, you’ll end up being boring and stuck.”

“So the challenge is to pick the work that matters enough that it’s actually worth annoying people. That, and insulating yourself from casual hallway grumbling. A fly on the wall might hear everything, but at the end of the day he still eats a lot of horse dung.”

“Fortunately I’ve realised that as I get older I have a lot less to prove and a lot more to accomplish. When you’re willing to give other people credit, you can get a lot more done, and when you spend time glorifying the work of your tribe, you can make far more things happen.”

Leading is the ultimate form of marketing

“Although it’s true that leading is the ultimate form of marketing, it’s also art and a gift at the same time. It’s a craft that has no useful manual, that’s different every day and that changes people for the better. Most people don’t understand that when they set out to lead, but the fact is, it’s a highly leveraged way to help people.”

I mention that “It sounds like you’ve learnt a lot about people.”

“Most people are wise and generous and insightful. Some people are scared. Scared people are often contemptuous, insular, selfish and difficult. A key part of leading is seeing the fear and assuaging it before you ask for change, because fear is the king of emotions.”

What kind of fears? I ask.

It’s way easier to be brave and visionary and gutsy when this week’s rent is already paid.

Cash flow really matters, for example. It’s way easier to be brave and visionary and gutsy when this week’s rent is already paid. That doesn’t mean you need to make more. It means you need to spend less. Live on brown rice and black beans until you have enough cushion to be able to lead with guts.

Being able to fail is the key. The person who fails the most learns the most. I guess the thing I’ve learned the most is that failure is a good thing.

I’ve launched about 40 ideas a year for the last twenty years, give or take. Figure 800 significant (or not so significant) projects. And I fail about 20% of the time. So that’s 160 total screw ups, game-ending messes, nail-biting failures.

Gotta love that.

I ask Seth who’s leadership he admires.

“I admire what Jacqueline Novogratz at Acumen Fund has done, and the way she does it. I think her combination of passion, respect and kindness, combined with an unflappable sense of self permits her to connect with people at a molecular level.

She patiently pursues her goal, drip by drip, step by step, bringing people along instead of closing them out. She sets enormous goals and then works harder than anyone on her team to meet them.

She understands that her work is her art.

Most of all, she understands that her work is her art. She brings such grace to the cause that people can’t help but come along.”

And finally, I ask Seth, if he could give 18-year-olds of today the gift of his hindsight what would he say?

Don’t work so hard to fit in. Work harder to stand out.  And get a hair cut! (Just kidding about the last part).

Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin, is released on Amazon today and it is like his other books – beautifully written while being easy to read at the same time – but it’s also different. He is really getting into a more personal leadership space and this new garb fits him very well. Most of his books are very intelligent “How to” but this is a very passionate “Why to” and I love it. If you want to carry on ignoring that little voice that begs you to live a larger life – do not buy this book. If, on the other hand, you want that little extra dose of courage to face your newfeeling and “do that thing you think you can’t do” buy Linchpin. Be warned, your life will change.


What I Wish I Knew about The Price of Love

January 25, 2010

With Valentine’s Day around the corner and What I Wish I Knew about Love only weeks away, I thought I’d share a great tip I heard about the price of love. No, not the song by Bryan Ferry, a comment I heard yesterday. I was talking to Tim, a mate from school, who said someone asked him “What have you given up in your marriage to Mel?” He said he felt slightly guilty that he had to say “Well … I don’t get to run as often I suppose, but apart from that, not much.” The person then said to him “To understand just how wonderful your wife is, you should ask her the same question?”

What have you had to give up to be with your loved one?

What I Wish I Knew about the Law of Attraction

January 20, 2010

I am thrilled with my holiday, because it’s all gone totally wrong.

I need to write an epilogue to my article in the current Reader’s Digest – “What I Wish I Knew about Summer Holidays”. I have called down a curse upon myself by putting it out there that “The greatest memories come from the catastrphes. (Click on the images to read the articles)

I’ve arrived up here for two weeks holidays at Shoal Bay. So far

1. the fridge door seal had broken some time in the last 2 months so that when we arrived the whole house reeked of rotten food and maggots

2. the washing machine decided it won’t spin anymore, so we’re having to hand wring everything out (Oh, for a mangle!)

3. the replacement fridge arrived yesterday. Didn’t work. DOA. The repairman came and said it had left the factory with no gas in it. “So it works, it just won’t get cold” (kind of a raison d’etre for a fridge)

4. the fridge shop has run out of the only model of fridge that fits in our slot, so we’re living out of an esky filled with ice until next week.

The great thing is, after writing this article I’m finding the whole thing INCREDIBLY FUNNY. When it should be pissing me off no end. Every time something else goes wrong, I grin from ear to ear, rub my hands together and say “fantastic, there’s another article for Reader’s Digest”

Hope your holidays are a complete mess too!


What I Wish I Knew about Fighting for Your Art

January 15, 2010

About 10 years ago I discovered a book called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It is an incredible call to arms for everyone who desperately fights an inner battle with that little voice we all hear as we turn out the light that says “Please evolve.” I’ve read it probably 40 times in 10 yeas, it’s that good.

Well, I’ve just finished reading an excerpt of Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin. And I can tell it’s going to be the perfect companion piece for Pressfield’s book. Where “The War of Art” is a very personal account as to how to win your battle over what it calls “Resistance”, Seth Godin’s newest bestseller eloquently lays out the case that it’s not just for ourselves we need to win the war. It’s humanity that desperately needs us to win this battle by living our uniqueness and helping others do the same.

I loved Seth’s call to give more of ourselves by being more of ourselves.

Can’t wait for the full book to come out.

What I Wish I Knew about Love Being Easy

January 13, 2010

In another quick preview of What I Wish I Knew about Love, one theme that kept coming up again and again when I spoke with people is this idea that you know you’re in love when it’s always easy.

As wonderful speaker and former marriage counsellor, Bruce Sullivan, makes it absolutely clear – the Hollywood Rom Com Ideal that there’s someone out there who is “just perfect” for you (i.e. you’ll never have an friction) is absolute garbage.


Bruce Sullivan

Newsletter #1 for 2010

January 8, 2010

Happy New Decade and welcome to the first What I Wish I Knew newsletter for Twenty Ten. Hope you had as good a Chrissy as I did – with kids 3 and 6 who were literally fizzing with excitement.

Anyhoo, the purpose of the What I Wish I Knew newsletter (and soon to be blog as then I can do it from my trendy iPhone) is to send out some tasty previews of the next books on the way – including some extra quotes that made the cutting room floor so to speak, to keep you up to date with the growing What I Wish I Knew community, and occasionally sneak in a bit about what I’m up to outside of the series.

So what’s the big news for early 2010?

What I Wish I Knew about Love

The long awaited sequel to WIWIK Eighteen hits the shelves in late March this year. Which is ridiculously exciting, of course. My co-author on the first book, Dan Gregory, has retired from the series for the moment so it’s my official “first book.” I got a copy in my hands just before Chrissy and I think you’ll love it. (Get it? Love it? Hah, I’ve still got it.) Just like the first book it’s got a few famous faces in it (no I won’t tell you who just yet, it’s a surprise) but, like first time round, the celebs are in there for their interesting lives not the star factor. It’s full of people who have loved and lost, loved and regained, and some that have never loved at all.

A few themes kept coming up in the interviews so I’ll run through those as we get closer to the book’s release. The first thing that almost everyone said is perfectly summed up by Comic Julia Morris’ page.

Fantastic eh? So what else is on?

What I Wish I Knew about Business – Listening to Leaders

It’s not just big personal issues where we can benefit from the experience of others. So I’m launching into a business series this year – the first one being What I Wish I Knew about Leadership. I’ve already interviewed some incredible people for it – Naomi Simson from RedBalloon, James Stevens from Roses Only, Emanuel Perdis from Napoleon Perdis, Microfinance Entrepreneur and Senior Australian of the Year, David Bussau and Internet Marketing legend Seth Godin. I’ll include snippets of these interviews in future newsletters but if you’re keen to get the early scoop on them, keep your eyes out for the next issue of the awesome ThinkBig magazine – they’re running an interview every issue till the book comes out.

What I Wish I Knew about Motherhood – calling all Mums

I’m in the process of interviewing for the next book in the “Lifestyle Series” (Ugh, can anyone think of another name? Please email me!) So if you know a mum (or you are a mum) who has a fascinating story to tell about the highs and lows of motherhood, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

What I Wish I Knew about Reader’s Digest

I’m absolutely thrilled that I’ve been asked by Reader’s Digest to write a monthly What I Wish I Knew article (big thanks to everyone who added a “well done on RD” to your request to be on the mailing list.) They’re not as serious as the books and more what I’d call “Sit Down Comedy”. The first one is What I Wish I Knew about Summer Holidays and – in case you missed it – I’ve attached it as a pdf here.

What I Wish I Knew about Shameless, Blatant Plugs

Okay okay, I hear what you saying “I knew he’d get around to promoting his speaking gigs in his first newsletter! Hit that unsubscribe button NOW!” I am, but only because I’m doing a gig with a wonderful woman who is in What I Wish I Knew about Love, Ingrid Poulson. I’m doing a public seminar on Resilience, in Sydney on Feb 27th, with Ingrid and the superb Dr Happy himself, Timothy Sharp. It should be a fantastic day as Timothy Sharp is Australia’s foremost expert on Positive Psychology and Ingrid Poulson is an extraordinary woman who has bounced back from things that would knock most of us flat. There is an early-bird discount for the seminar if you book before the end of January. For more details see the Happiness Institute website here (

Well, that wasn’t half bad was it?

Thanks very much for reading. I’ll keep the previews of the next books coming, and next time I’ll tell you all about the What I Wish I Knew idea my wonderful wife, Allie, is starting on.

I promise I’ll get back to you soon.

Marty “Yep that really is me at eighteen” Wilson

What I Wish I Knew about Blogging.

January 4, 2010

Happy New Year one and all.

I realised over Chrissy that it was time to get serious about this whole blogging caper.