Seth Godin on Being Weird and Happy

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Tony Hsieh and Seth Godin

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author of more than a dozen best-selling books on marketing (including Purple Cow, Linchpin, and Poke the Box) , and writer of what is arguably the most popular marketing blog in the world, hopped onto the DH Book and Bus Tour in 2010 and shared the following prophesy with Tony Hsieh: "Delivering Happiness is a movement that happens to have a book."  

As we all know, Seth's prediction rang true.  Delivering Happiness is a Movement with a community, book, and company behind it.  Today, Seth returns to chat with Delivering Happiness about the things we like to take seriously (with a smile)—being weird and happy.

Seth's latest release, We Are All Weird, calls for a new kind of marketing that responds to a dialogue with individuals rather than the cry of  "one-size-fits-all."

DH: To be weird means to stand in the face of marketing trends and reject them. If we find ourselves coveting an Abercrombie sweater, how do we know it’s the masses talking and not our own true desire?
Seth Godin:
Of course it's marketing talking. Just about everything we want that doesn't involve a hug is based on marketing. A tattoo, a mohawk, a sweater—it's all about marketing. Don't fool yourself.
BUT—and it's a big but—there's a difference between embracing marketing that is going to make you happy in a month or a year, and embracing marketing that's going to wear off in an hour.

DH: What’s the difference between perceiving yourself as “weird” versus “special”?
Seth Godin: Love this question! Of course, they're the same. Exactly the same.  Special is what we call ourselves. Weird is what a marketer who wants us to be normal calls us.

DH: One of Zappos’ core values encourages us to stay “a little bit weird.” How do you think their version of “weird” compares to yours?
Seth Godin: I think Tony's mantra is, "be special." Be special because you care, because you want to make a difference, because you are willing to be happy. And to be special means being weird, not always following the manual, not always working so hard to fit in.

DH: Happiness in and of itself is a word that provokes weirdness. People are doing all kinds of weird things in order to be happy. Do you feel that the notion of doing things just for the sake of happiness has increased as our level of weirdness has gone up?
Seth Godin: We know that one of the key drivers of happiness is a reasonable level of freedom. The end of the Soviet Union didn't make most Russians rich, but it deepened the level of choice they have in many elements of their lives. The notion of choice is critical. And weird is just that--choosing to perfect and expand and embrace whatever it is you care deeply about.

DH: You mention that online communities are helping people express and share their weirdness with others. What social communities are you a part of and how do they serve as an outlet to your weirdness?
Seth Godin: Let's see: TED, my blog readers, the Acumen Fund (in India, Kenya, USA), my kids' friends, fellow authors, publishers, the community of airport denizens, various online networks, my little town, the audiophile community. . . I think my blog is a great outlet for my weirdness, because you can take a naked idea, expose it to the world and see what happens.

Seth Godin's We Are All Weird

DH: Let’s talk about the cover “test.” What was your hope when featuring the beardy weirdy on the “false cover” of the We Are All Weird hardcover version? (First time we saw it, we thought “This guy looks awesome!”)
Seth Godin: If you get your hands on the hardcover, you will see a traditional weird guy (is there such a thing) on the cover. He's safe, but weird. Flip it over and the real cover is there... a swami from a little village outside of Berrelli India. He's not safe. In the book, I honor him and write about him. But some folks (not me) thought that a white guy in the USA might see the cover, not the read the book and decide I was making fun of him. Which is nonsense. But at some point, you decide to just put your best favorite idea on the inside instead.

DH: How does your definition of rich (someone who can afford to make choices) relate to happiness?
Seth Godin: A long time ago, rich stopped meaning, "enough money to have a jet." Rich is a great word for describing a human being who can say no. Who can make a choice. Once you have this ability, a vs. b, you gain power and influence and choice. And choice makes us happy.

DH: How can we show people that they have choices, and what part can we play in helping them make the ones that are right for them?
Seth Godin: I think the heart of the matter is at the end of the book. When we treat others with respect and dignity, we just made a choice that is right for us. Everything else is a distraction.

DH: In a few of your books you mention that successful businesses do not have “normal” as their top business goal. Do you feel that adding happiness as a top business goal will help “normal” and struggling businesses become “weirder,” more extraordinary and ultimately lead them to success?
Seth Godin: I think it's really easy to create confusion with words that are so simple. Happy? As in chocolate pudding happy? Tickle Me Elmo happy?
Getting to the truth of long-term happiness, of doing real work that matters--that has to be at the heart of what we do every day. But if we fall for the false siren of short-term, selflish, marketing driven happy, we're doomed. Bernie Madoff was happy for a while...

DH: What advice you would give to the Delivering Happiness Movement and its community? 
Seth Godin: Ship. Quit planning and go do something. And more hugs, please.

DH: Thanks, Seth, for delivering your weirdness and happiness to us!

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