Fast Company

Breakfast with Seth Godin

"White collar people are afraid of everything except following instructions," says Seth Godin, the Fast Company columnist and marketing guru. But Seth points out if you merely do what you're told to do it's the quickest route to the unemployment line. "The minute your job can be put in a manual, it will be exported to Bangalore. The safest thing to do is what no one expects you to do -- not to just follow instructions."

In short, you can't just respond to your boss or do what the job specs say you're supposed to do. You need to be far more creative than not -- to make the job worthwhile for yourself but also to insure that your job can't be exported out of the country.

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11 Comments

  • Fungai James Tichawangana

    But what a lot of people never realise is that we are brought up to be obedient, to follow the rules, to stay with the herd. Look at our education systems- The student who dares to be different pays for it by being a misfit, taunted and sidelined. We need to start at the very bottom, rewarding creativity when our children are still- children. We are all perfectly happy as long as our little ones can do their sums and answer comprehension questions. No wonder most of them, and us, will have lost 90% of our creative ability by the time we are 40.

  • Mark Zorro

    No one is indispensable and that's what Seth Godin is implying. Employment is like nature, one day it is gone and there is nothing the "save-the-job" movement can do about it. Seth Godin has your number, every entrepreneur does, and I am not even talking about permission marketing, idea virus - Seth certainly has some Al Ries magic pixie dust. I myself prefer Warren Buffet as a human being, he's an entrepreneur also, but he cuts right through the crap (i.e. speaks without forked tongue). My definition of "job" is simple, it is either occupying a worthless life or a pursuing a worthy life. That choice isn't open to someone paid below minimum wage, but it is open to me and all of my fellow elitists here.

    M.
    zorromark@consultant.com
    (Mark Twain wasn't Mark Twain, Mark Zorro isn't Mark Zorro)

  • Tra

    Hmm. All comments I have read so far seem a little on the conservative side. How many of you are tired of being cattle. Really, we are all hearded from one spot to another by the same force. Your power bills, telephone bills, the price you pay for gas and even the fed, local and state taxes are prepared so that you pay as much as you possibly can. Count it up. How many times are we taxed. We get taxed on the money we earn, then we pay tax on something we purchase. If it is a bottle of booze, we are taxed many times. To gain control of our "Macro" futures, we need to gain control of the economy that drives us. If you want to make a dent, resist the urge to purchase by credit. Pay off your bills and pay cash for everything. Hurt then where it counts..in the bottom line. We are generation X, start acting like a variable !

  • r. capella

    Anyone working today is an entrepeneur, whether working for themselves or for an organization (the organization is simply your largest customer at the moment). Innovation and creativity are the cost of doing business, no matter who you are or what you're doing. If you're NOT being creative, if you're not creating at least the perception of engaging in activities that result in a unique, value added contribution, you are on your way to the unemployment line. Doesn't matter what field you're in, or when it happens--tomorrow, 5, 10, or 15 years from now--job security is a thing of the past. The best thing to do is to follow Shell Oil's scenario model, asking yourself what's the worse thing that could happen to my job or industry, and prepare accordingly. What do do? Commit yourself to lifelong learning, to remaining on a continous personal improvement program--one which you are ongoingly upgrading your knowledge, skills and abilities. Do this, and you will automatically increase your creative capacity, your value and your ability to make a unique contribution to your current/future employer and/or customers. Fail to do it, and you've made a grave error in judgement, one with consequences that will come home to roost some time in the not too distant future.

  • Jeffrey Hicks

    The first time I saw Seth bring this up was in November of 2002. In his blog entry, "When people become Cogs".

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/s...

    I felt scripting peoples jobs seemed devilish and against proper delegation. So I decided to work inside my own circle of influence - myself. I scripted my entire job. I wrote down every step to every process that I performed. (A wiki really helps for this.)

    For me, scripting my job was the risk, but instead of getting replaced I became insane about improving my process. Now I it takes me about 3 days to do what originally took 3 weeks. Now I have all the time in the world to take more risks - and save more time - and so on.

    In conclusion I feel your job is at serious risk if someone else is scripting it, but if you script your own - you make yourself a script-er, an improver, an innovator.

    And for those business owners who want Seth to shut up and stop talking about personal empowerment - You need to remember that you exist to serve society and provide people with social status. This isn't something you do along with making a profit - this is how you make a profit. Go read some Peter Drucker.

  • Michael Neely

    I agree with Seth. After the "devil-may-care" days, that's when you find out what you're made of. There is a sentiment that is starting to spread that reeks of the "days of old" in the "Roaring '90's," a sentiment of getting back into the Torpedo Damning business. Remember that this is a time that fortunes are being traded. Those who aren't actively in the game, are watching it. The same goes for all those members of ill-informed "les academiens." Those who can...

    Entrepreneurship and Small Business create more jobs in any given year than Corporate America ever will. If we can just get enough companies off the ground in the next few months, the macro-economy should be just fine.

    Ladies and Gentelmen, entrepreneurs and mis-fits, it's time to get cracking. It's time for the "Changing of the Guard." The stage is now set for the leaders of tomorrow to rise and get to work.

    To be continued...

  • Scott

    Seth, Please keep your mouth shut! If everyone starts thinking for themselves and acting all entrepreneurial, it will be even more difficult to find good employees!! There would be nothing but mayhem and destruction--Please people-- do what your told!! Those that stick their necks out get them choped OFF!!

    :-)

  • Rob

    Morgan, One company is Google. They allow employees to spend 20% of their work time doing non-work stuff, and they allow Googlets. I personally don't think they are headed for failure, do you? More info can be found at this post from my blog, if you are interested.

  • Sean Johnson

    Morgan - Seth made his money starting businesses. If questioned, I think most people would find that Godin is truly an entrepreneur more than anything else. In my (extremely brief) email conversations with him, he's repeatedly pushed me to start my own business rather than enter the confines of corporate America - advice I finally (and gratefully) heeded.

    Godin's right on the money, as usual. If you're too afraid to start your own business, at least be willing to take some chances in your company. What are you afraid of? If they don't appreciate your ingenuity and vision, they don't deserve you. Find a company that will value you and the resources you bring to the table.

    A company that can't give its employees the freedom to test boundries and try radical, bold new ideas isn't likely to be a company that will remain successful in the long-run. I think Godin wrote about that as well in Survival Is Not Enough.

  • John A. Byrne

    Unfortunately, I think most people have to fight to be creative. It's all about speaking truth to power. If you can summon the courage to do that, even in the face of losing a job, you also can make great things happen.

  • Morgan Cloward

    That's easy for Mr. Godin to say. He made his fortune/fame during the devil-may-care boom days of the Internet. Show me a company that lets you "be creative" with their financial rescources and I'll show you a company headed for failure.