Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life (#343)

Photo by Brian Bloom

“Price is a story.” — Seth Godin

Seth Godin (@thisissethsblog, is the author of 18 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 2013 and has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “Seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world.

Seth writes about marketing, strategic quitting, leadership, the way ideas spread, and challenging the status quo in all areas.

His books include Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow, among others, and Seth’s newest book is This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See. You can find out more at (tim = This Is Marketing, not my name), where you will also find a free PDF excerpt from the book and related videos.

Last but not least, Seth is the founder of the altMBA, an intense four-week online leadership and management workshop. Find out more at

In this episode, we explore many topics, including:

  • How Seth deals with overwhelm
  • How Seth chooses projects
  • How to say “no” to the unimportant and set boundaries
  • Long work vs. hard work
  • The world’s worst boss
  • How to find your “smallest viable audience”
  • Non-marketing books that are master classes in great marketing
  • Crafting April Fool’s jokes
  • And much, much more…


#343: Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life


Want to hear another amazing conversation with someone who leads from a place of service? Listen to my interview with Catherine Hoke, a friend Seth and I share who is helping the incarcerated turn their lives around through entrepreneurship. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#293: Catherine Hoke — The Master of Second Chances


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Seth Godin:

Website | Seth’s Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | altMBA | The Marketing Seminar


  • How does Seth deal with the sense of being overwhelmed? [05:35]
  • Get rid of these four things in your life and see how many hours per day you free up. [09:02]
  • What usually triggers Seth’s overwhelm and how he combats it. [10:18]
  • The almost mic-drop blog post Seth wrote about the world’s worst boss that led to his altMBA. [11:22]
  • As “the CEO of you,” does the way Seth accepts or declines his own involvement in projects apply to your own situation? [14:18]
  • How Seth sometimes still falls prey to making bad decisions about his time — and why he doesn’t stress too much about it. [15:27]
  • What’s the difference between long work and hard work? [17:59]
  • Examples of times Seth has chosen what seems like risky hard work over long work. [19:48]
  • What gave Seth the conviction to build the altMBA way back in the beginning? [21:34]
  • What did Seth take away from a three-day sabbatical in the desert? [26:22]
  • How does Seth train himself to take self-imposed deadlines and other feats of immense willpower seriously? [27:13]
  • Why does Seth believe that authenticity is overrated — and what’s better? [29:28]
  • On the lizard brain and overcoming the fear of saying “no.” [30:54]
  • A hack for quickly and politely explaining why you’re saying “no” to someone without wasting time and effort in each instance. [34:50]
  • Some of Seth’s (and Josh Waitzkin’s) consistent rules regarding what others can expect from him and how much they should pay — or not pay — for his services. [36:29]
  • Price is a story: Seth’s suggestion for any freelancer who wants to avoid frustration over long (not hard) work. [42:32]
  • What’s Seth’s policy for writing book blurbs? [45:40]
  • Seth explains why he wrote his latest book, what he hopes it will accomplish, and why you’re never really selling a quarter-inch drill bit. [49:24]
  • What does Seth mean when he mentions “the smallest viable audience,” and why is it important? [53:57]
  • How do you resist the temptation to make everyone your customer and focus on defining who your smallest viable audience might be? [55:38]
  • Highly niche businesses of which Seth is particularly fond, and how they set themselves apart. [58:52]
  • The importance of smallest viable audience as it relates to charging appropriately. [1:02:42]
  • What is the three-sentence marketing promise template, and why is it important in better securing the smallest viable audience? [1:08:08]
  • How Apple, Uber, Amazon, Airbnb, and other companies hook people into using their products and services in spite of not being completely unique in what they’re actually offering. [1:10:10]
  • The yo-yo union: how Supreme can make people line up to buy $3 shirts for $45, and why people stand outside Franklin Barbeque for hours before opening time every day. [1:12:45]
  • Two things to understand about ethically giving people what they want — even if it feels like you’re cheating. [1:17:48]
  • Why the world remembers Jackson Pollock more than his brother Charles. [1:19:10]
  • What does it mean to market to the most important person? [1:24:01]
  • How does one develop self-compassion and a feeling of sufficiency that allows them to empathize with — and market to — that “most important” person? [1:25:42]
  • According to Seth, I was responsible for the single best-written April Fool’s joke on the Internet. Here it is. [1:28:08]
  • We reflect on one of Seth’s April Fool’s jokes and the notion that someone can ever run out of ideas. [1:31:16]
  • The “but” versus “and.” [1:35:34]
  • Current events, book recommendations, and parting thoughts. [1:36:57]