Tag Archives: Seth Godin

Ready, Aim, Aspire: Why Your Startup Story Matters

Cannon on Georges Island.What happens if your aim is a little off when launching a startup? You better have a great story. A story is not an excuse. It’s the reason why every miss is just the calibration required to do great things.

What’s in a great story?

A story needs to authentically connect. As Seth Godin says in his book All Marketers Are Liars, “A great story is true. Not true because it is factual, but true because it’s consistent and authentic.” [1]

Whenever possible, address a problem head-on. That’s a true lesson from one of my first professional stories. It comes from my days selling motorcycles when I was nineteen years old.

I was brand new to selling. In fact, this story is about the first bike I ever sold from a catalog. And this first sale happened to be with a rather large man who looked the part of a tough biker dude.

When we made the order, both the customer—the tough looking gentleman—and I thought it was for a black motorcycle. A week or so later the bike comes in to the dealership and it’s not black. It’s painted a deep purple.

I vividly remember pacing the floor in the dealership’s repair shop trying to come up with some reason that would justify my mistake…more accurately, trying to pin blame somewhere else. The pacing stopped when the head mechanic walked over. He looked me right in the eyes and said “Jason, don’t ever be afraid to address an issue.” I wasn’t aware he even knew my name.

Well, the customer shows up and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “the bike is purple. I know we both thought it was black. But it’s not. It’s purple.”

The customer stood there and smiled after my confession. And after thinking for a moment he placed a hand on my shoulder and calmly said “let’s go check it out.”

As we approached, the motorcycle sat outside gleaming in the sun with its deep purple. The customer took a moment to walk around the bike and then he exclaimed “I love it!” I finally exhaled the breath I was holding and made myself a promise to always work to address a problem head-on. Funnily enough, it struck me sometime later that the head mechanic had put the bike in the perfect spot to bring out such a rich color under the sun.

A consistent story in a changing world

I recently picked up a very interesting story. It’s a story of how advances in technology can be transformative. On a day trip to Georges Island (one of the Boston Harbor Islands) I learned that this was the spot of the now decommissioned Fort Warren. The fort was closed due to advances in weapons technology, mainly long-range missiles. The story of Georges Island did not end with the military fort closure. The island has since been converted to a recreational area where visitors come and learn about an important piece of history by seeing where the soldiers lived and trained.

In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin also writes about how a story is required to survive in a changing world. He uses the curse of the Red Queen to provide insight through analogy:

“Just as in evolutionary biology, the game is always changing. The evolutionary paradox called the curse of the Red Queen states that what worked yesterday is unlikely to work today. When Alice was busy playing chess in Wonderland, the Red Queen kept changing the game whenever she moved. The same thing occurs in our marketing wonderland. One competitor makes a change and suddenly the entire competitive landscape is different.” [1]

The cannon displayed on Georges Island may no longer be effective in military use, but it now serves as a remnant of a different time. The story of Georges Island is still being told and it continues to be interesting.

A startup must also tell an authentically compelling story because every new venture has to adapt in order to survive. It’s an aspirational story of why a startup was created in the first place that can stay consistent through this evolution.

1. Seth Godin. All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World (New York: Portfolio/Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2005), 8, 25-26.

Always Seeking Resistance

Creating art requires moving outside of a comfort zone: insight from Seth Godin about the nature of being an artist.

Peace Fountain next to Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The resistance is the confused and angry noise in our heads that shows up whenever we put our creativity on the line…The resistance is a symptom that you’re on the right track. The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.
– Seth Godin [1]

At the end of a book publishing conference in New York, I met a friend for an excellent Thai lunch in Morningside Heights. She then offered to show me a neighborhood landmark and one of the largest churches in the world, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The Gothic church is enormous and its edifice is beautiful, but it was the visually interesting statue within the outdoor Peace Fountain that first caught my interest. The statue demonstrates a collage of imagery including angelic battles, animals with distorted proportions, and a sleepy Man in the Moon, interwoven together as if part of some fantastical dream. A plaque near the fountain states that the “Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world’s opposing forces–violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death–which God reconciles in his peace.”

The contrasting imagery of good and evil the artist conveys with the Peace Fountain statue pushes the observer into a confusion of perception to challenge the mind. This chaotic representation of “the world’s opposing forces” shown in the statue has become a symbol for me of what Seth Godin describes as the resistance: the anxiety born from the risk of failure when sharing something original with the world. Seth Godin explains in his book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? that in order to create meaningful art “the artist seeks out the feeling of resistance and then tries to maximize it.” [1]

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Seth Godin. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012), 133-136.

Building Artisitic Connections

How creating art can give form to the abstract.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center Birth of Apollo

Creating ideas that spread and connecting the disconnected are the two pillars of our new society, and both of them require the posture of an artist.
– Seth Godin [1]

Through drawing, I try to capture readers’ interests by sharing how subject matter in my artwork has inspired some new understanding. A recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee provided an opportunity for “connecting the disconnected” with artwork when I encountered a beautiful fountain in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The fountain is home to a statue depicting the birth of Apollo, and this scene became a symbol in my mind of Nashville’s new development as a city around a long-established passion for country music. In the recent history of Nashville, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars invested in creating new venues to celebrate and share “Music City’s” infatuation with the performing arts. These improvements include building the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (opened in September 2006)[2], adding a museum (opened in May 2001)[3] to The Country Music Hall of Fame, and the massive Music City Center, the soon to be opened 1.2 million square foot convention center.[4] While it is easy to see the connection between country music and Nashville’s efforts to preserve this unique art, it seems remarkable to explore this link through Apollo’s fountain.

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Seth Godin. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012), 5.
2. Acquired from the Nashville Symphony website – NashvilleSymphony.org
3. Acquired from the Country Music Hall of Fame website – CountryMusicHallofFame.org
4. Acquired from the Nashville Music City Center website – NashvilleMusicCityCenter.com