Seth Godin Thinks Your Idea Will Probably Fail
I was binge-listening to Jason (I wear Your Shirt) Zook’s new Action Army podcast and toward the end of episode 8 (I’d give you the exact timestamp, but then you might jump right to it rather than listening to the entire episode like you should) Jason mentions writing Seth Godin and sharing the idea for his “I Wear Your Shirt” business. Jason continued to share that Seth wrote him back and said “I think the idea is interesting, but I’m not sure it will work.”
Seth Godin, guru of gurus. The guy who coined the term “permission marketing”. The man who executed one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever for a book. That guy. He thinks your idea suuuuucks.
The idea should be dead right there, right?
A marketing big shot so famous he has his own Marketing Guru Action Figure is telling you that your idea has a nice personality, but it ain’t too pretty. Move along.
But Jason didn’t move along.
He launched his concept, kicked ass, and turned it into (quite literally) a million dollar idea. That concept led him to a half dozen other concepts (equally “interesting”) and his success continues.
Hearing Jason on the podcast say that Seth Godin responded to an email and say “I’m not sure your idea will work” sparked the memory of another podcast I’d heard wherein a similar story was told. I’m pretty sure it was either an episode of John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur On Fire, or it was Side Hustle Nation with Nick Loper (which I had the pleasure of appearing on as a guest not long ago).
((NOTE: I finally tracked down the interview I was desperately trying to recall — it was Alexa Fischer during her appearance on on EoFire.))
I distinctly recall this guest saying almost the exact same thing. It was a woman who had run into Seth at a coffee shop the day of a sold-out event at which he was appearing and he graciously got her access. Great guy, right? But later during a separate interaction she shared an idea with Seth about a business she was starting and he told her the almost the same thing:
“It’s probably not going to work.”
Seth Godin dropping a big ol’ wet blanket on an up and coming entrepreneur’s dreams. She should just throw in the towel, right? But she didn’t listen either and went on to be successful enough that she is being invited as a guest on podcasts to talk about her successful business.
Is Seth Godin the Negative Nancy of new ideas? I don’t think so.
I think Seth gets asked what he thinks about people’s ideas 50 to 100 times a day. All of those people have shared their ideas with their friends and families and drinking buddies and boyfriends and girlfriends and their dogs — and every time they shared their idea, they were told it was brilliant and they were gonna be rich.
And that’s possible.
But it’s also possible that the idea will fail miserably and crash and burn.
Failure is probably the more likely outcome, too.
Read any of Seth Godin’s work about putting your ideas out into the world and you will see that he is constantly saying that you need to be able to hold two ideas in your head at the same time:
“This might work.
This might not work.”
And being okay with that. Either way it turns out.
The people telling Seth about their idea are already holding the “this might work” thought in their heads. Seth is giving them the other idea to hold onto as well. He tells them “this might not work” and then sends them on their way.
Many of those people may not be able to hang on to both ideas, and walk away simply holding on to “this might not work” and never give their idea a try. They (as Seth puts it) never put their art out into the world. They never Ship. Because they could only hang on to that one last thought Seth gave them.
I knew a Director of Sales who would interview qualified candidates for a position on his sales team, shake their hands and say they’d have a decision in a day or two — and then not return their calls. For weeks. Most candidates gave up after a follow-up email or two. Another might hang on long enough to leave a voice mail before dropping off the radar. This was by design. If a potential salesperson gave up after just a couple tries, how could they be counted on to follow-up with customers who are even more difficult to get hold of?
I think Seth Godin uses this line on everybody who asks for his input on their idea.
Jason Zook (and the other podcast guest whose name slips my mind) and likely hundreds of other people who get that response from the marketing action hero keep moving forward (keep shipping, keep making art) and some of them win. Big time. And some of them lose. Big time. But they kept on working on their idea because they believed it might work. Or it might not. And it didn’t matter which.
Creating the art.
Shipping the work.
That’s what mattered.
The idea itself might not work.
…or it might.