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Akimbo by Seth Godin.

Listen to these episodes and read show notes on Akimbo Ep.2 & Akimbo Ep.4

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Q&A about Episode 1: ‘The Grand Opening’

My question is, when you are doing your work, you get feedback. How do you use this feedback, positive and negative feedback, in a way that is constructive, mixes up your work and doesn’t reduce its quality.

The essence of the thinking behind One Thousand True Fans is that there are few people who matter a lot more to the creator than other people.

And that’s the secret of processing feedback.

When a critic doesn’t get the joke, when they don’t understand you, when it’s not what they need or want, well then, there’s nothing to be done about that. Let it go. Move on.

On the other hand, when you hear from the core constituents, from the people that you’re counting on, you need to listen very carefully to that feedback.

Treat different people, differently.

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Being on your own and in deed building something that would inspire change in the community… If you want to still have a balanced life, I’m talking about raising kids and also making sure that you get at least a couple of hours to sleep again… How do you manage to build something slowly but then at the same time make money to survive?

This was the most common question that came in. And is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what I’m talking about when I said that the Grand Opening is a mistake.

Grand Openings are expensive. They are fraught with risk, they are foolhardy.

The other approach, the smallest possible market, the idea that we can find our people and delight them while ignoring everyone else, that’s not slow, that’s smart.

And so, if you going to make something you have to be prepared for the fact that it’s not going to work right away, that it might never work.

If you gonna to make something you have to accept the fact that it’s different that having a day job.

Bank tellers get paid when they show up at work everyday, creators don’t.

So I don’t have a shortcut for how to live the life you deserve, how to have a steady income while doing this work. That’s beyond of what we’re talking about today.

But what I am arguing for is that the most efficient, smartest, productive way to do your work is not to wish and hope for the fairy of success to come and say everyone knows your idea, cuz she’s not coming.

That the alternative is to be specific, urgent and important, and to make a difference for a few people, because then those spread the word and then you can do the work you wanted to do, all along.

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Sometimes feels like you saying that it doesn’t matter the quality at first, just get out there with the work, the work that you believe in… But then what if people give you their attention at first, and then you create this not perfect ugly-duckling, and then people see it, and they never takes you seriously again.

There’s a big difference between “just” ship it, and “merely” ship it. 

And I have never argued that people should just ship stuff out. Whatever is. Just take a flyer, throw it into the world.

Merely do it, though, “merely” is something else. “Merely do it” means with focus and with care. You can not know what your audience actually wants until you engage with them.

So my argument is: Yes, build it with care, build it as if everything depended on it. But no, don’t hold it back in fear, don’t hold it back wondering and waiting. You must engage with the audience. 

Thus that mean that some people you engage with, who don’t get the joke, would write you off in the future? Probably. But if you want to go listen to Billy Joel’s early demos… Go look at Jerry Seinfeld’s early stand up. Go find anybody whose work you care about and notice that at the beginning… it wasn’t that good.

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So you’re saying to worry about organic traffic before anything else. I see a lot of creators I feel like I should be getting traction faster than they are. When is advertising the answer, if ever.

Not all ideas spread organically and there’s nothing wrong with advertising. Anticipated, personal, relevant advertising that reaches people who want to get it, can be really effective.

My argument is that it never makes sense to buy a Super Bowl ad. Ever. That you’re not trying to reach everyone. But if you know specifically who you seek to reach, by all means, buy the ads.

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Two good questions about Kevin Kelly’s notion of One Thousand True Fans:

How would you quickly and cheaply demonstrate the power of A Thousand True Fans to someone who’s a non-believer?

When going through it, when building up our One Thousand True Fans, how do we know who to target and what to aim for?

So let me take another minute to go through the math here.

True Fans aren’t merely fans. They are people who show up with time and money, acting as patrons, insisting that the work continue.

One Thousand True Fans are the core of how ideas spread. 

One Thousand True Fans can pay for small team of people to create magical work.

The math is pretty simple. If you’ve got one thousand people that will come to your rock concert weekend, to spend time with the band, and pay a thousand dollars each. That’s a million dollars.

When you’ve got One Thousand True Fans who are willing to subscribe to your work, paying every month, you can make a living on that.

Can you support a giant corporation? Of course not. But you can support an artist, a human, somebody who wants to make a difference.

So how to choose these people? Because the people who choose you, they might be fans. But True Fans are a little different.

True Fans understand that they are actually engaged in the process of creation.

True Fans define their future through the work that the artist is doing.

They’re grateful for it, and they are willing to participate.

So part of the discernment that we need as creators is to tell the difference between someone who will take our time, and someone who will amplify our time.

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Q&A about Episode 3: ‘I see you’

There’s a couple questions to that have come up again and again here’s a representative for each one:

My question for you is this: How might a large organization like a public school district, scale up efforts to make the system fit its students.

This is a great question, and the idea is how do we use the bureaucracy we’ve got now, the efficient, powerful bureaucracy to make School what it needs to be, which is personalized and individualized education about leadership, about making change happen.

Well, I think if we think about it a little differently you’ll see the problem.

Let’s say you ran a really efficient division of the army. The division of the army that shaves the heads of all the people on their way into bootcamp.Than in a good day you can shorn four hundred people, no problem. 

Well, that’s super efficient and I understand how you would organize a squadron of barbers to end up with four hundred haircuts done in no time.

However, if you’re going to them, take that approach and try to build a chain of beauty parlours and hair salons, you’re gonna fail. 

And the reason you’re going to fail fail is not because you’re bad at shaving the heads of twenty-year-olds. The reason you’re going to fail is that’s not what the public needs or wants from you.

So the wrong answer would be take here is how you take the squadron you’ve got that was good at the old job and turn them into people who are good at the new job. The right answer would be what’s the new job? Let’s build something around that.

So the challenge of adjusting the bureaucracy of school is there can be no effortless easy top-down solution to this problem. That the problem is going to be solved a different way.

It’s going to be solved by parents asking a simple question: What is school for?

And if we can be clear with each other about what is school for, we will no longer tolerate wasting time and money doing things that school isn’t for. 

And organically with a lot of dislocation in pain and suffering and discomfort but, yes, organically, day-by-day, classroom by classroom, student by student, the school system will begin to change.

But it will only begin to happen when we ask the question: What is school for?

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When you’re in a creative entrepreneurial endeavor, making your best art, for those edge customers, how do you grapple with the fact that the capital, the sales from that smaller audience may not be enough to really keep you going to provide you with what you need to be making your next generation of your art.

This is an appointed question and one that I hear the most about this issue of making our art for the Smallest Viable Audience, about treating different people differently, about rejecting the square tomato, about not pandering to the middle of the market trying to make our social networks scores go up at all costs.

Built-in is its contradiction, which is: how can I have a hit, an industrialized hit, at scale, at the very same time I am catering to people who aren’t in the center of the market.

And the problem with the question is it sets you up to fail. Because what you do is you rationalize as you try to move to the middle.

You said, well, I need to cut these corners, I need to average this out, cuz if I don’t I won’t be able to get big enough to pay the bills.

But as you’ll see from the people who make mediocre movies for average audiences is they don’t make a profit. As you’ll see from the people who make mediocre music for the people in the middle and don’t make a profit, and who run mediocre restaurants for people in the middle and don’t make a profit.

Going for the middle, for the brass ring, rarely works. In fact, the successes all start at the edges. Always. They’re for the weird people. The people who didn’t show up in a demographic study or a focus group. It’s by catering to them to the obscure extremes that we end up with something that becomes a surprise bestseller.

The thing is that in order to do it you have to be willing to cut your overhead to the bone. You have to lower your expectations. You have to go slowly, not get big fast, but get important soon.

Because if you could become important to a few people, then, if you planned it right the cash flow will begin to support your move to serve more people.

So what I’m asking us to do is to suspend disbelief, just a little bit, and get down to why we showed up to do this in the first place. 

Get down with a focus on who is it that we actually seek to serve. And instead of hiding behind mass, instead of hiding behind cash flow, let’s embraced the fact that if we can’t serve those people we’re better off not even trying.

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Seth Godin

Transcription: Maya Vázquez

(Corrections are welcome)

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