What I Learned From Footprints On The Moon: What Changemakers Know By Seth Godin

Date Read: 05/31/2018

How strongly I recommend it: 10/10

Basically as I go through any book that I read, I underline interesting ideas/quotes/paragraphs and then later come back through the book to get the lessons gleaned from these underpinnings and try to figure out what they mean to me and apply them to my own life.

 Here were the most interesting lessons in the book for me:


First off, Seth didn’t even make this book available to buy….ever

I purchased his course and he sends this book to the people who do without saying anything, which is a great lesson in and of itself.


You cannot change everyone. Instead asking “who’s it for?” can focus your actions and help you deal with the non-believers (in your head and in the outside world.)


Building with intent is never aimless. Everything you do matters, and there’s no time to waste your efforts. “What’s it for?” is the posture of an effective agent of change.


Show me your to-do list and you’ve told me a lot about your choices.


Where did it go?


It was just there a heartbeat ago.

When you were younger, you had something interesting to say, a funny idea, a vision of how things might be different.


There’s no such thing as writer’s block.


There’s no plumbers block or driver’s block, or talking block. People don’t wake up unable to speak.


You talked yourself into it and you can work yourself out of it.


Buzzer Management:

When on the quiz team I didn’t realize this, and it took me 30 years to figure out how this works. You need to press the buzzer before you know the answer. As soon as you realize you might be able to identify the answer, buzz…


Between the time you buzz and the time you’re supposed to speak the answer will come to you. And if it doesn’t the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.


This feels wrong in so many ways. It feels reckless, careless, and selfish. Of course we’re supposed to wait until we’re sure before we buzz.


No musician is sure her album is going to be a hit. No entrepreneur is certain that every hire is going to be a good one. No parent can know that every decision they make is going to be correct.


Change But To And


I’m on vacation but it’s raining.


I’m on vacation at a ski resort and it’s raining.


I’m on vacation at a ski resort and it’s raining which means I finally have time to make the 28-ingrediet mole that I’ve always wanted the spend the day on.



“But I don’t know the answer”


that’s the only interesting thing you can say.


No one knows the right answer, not if the work is interesting.


If we wait until we know the right answer before we speak up we will never speak up, because the only way to move forward is to explore.


Acknowledging that it’s not our job to be perfect is the first step on the road to being interesting.


Domain Knowledge


If you want to make important work, domain knowledge is so important.


I met a musician the other day working without a label, I mentioned Bob Lefzets. She didn’t know who I meant.


The last time I was at an event for librarians, I mentioned Maria Popova. Blank stares.


A podcaster asked me a question, and I wondered if he admired the path Krista Tippet had taken. He had no clue.


A colleague was explaining his work in memetics to me, I asked about Dawkins and Blackmore…You guessed it….


Or Kenji on food, Cader on publishing, Underhill on retail…


We would never consent to surgery from a surgeon who hadn’t been to medical school and perhaps eve more important from someone who hadn’t kept up with the latest medical journals and training.


Understanding both the pioneers and the state of the art is essential. An economist doesn’t have to agree with Keynes, but she better know who she is.


If you don’t know who the must-reads are in your field are, find out before your customers and competitors do.


Too Much Doing, not enough knowing.


Brian Koppelman, renowned screenwriter has seen more movies than you have. His understanding of what’s come before him gives him the platform and standing to help figure out what’s going to come next.


Growing up I read every single book in the science fiction section of the Clearfield Public Library. From Asimov to Zelazny, all of them. Ten years later, when I launched a line of science fiction computer games, the domain knowledge opened the door to understanding what might work.


The point is to not to copy, but in fact, to avoid copying. Our best commercial work reminds people of what they’ve seen before.


Creativity doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.


I don’t blog every day because I have a good idea,


I have a good idea because I blog every day.


More than a thousand paintings, a painting a day.


Abbey Ryan sits down and paints.


More than 400 published books. How did Asimov possibly pull this off?


He woke up every morning, sat in front of his manual typewriter and typed.


That was his job, to type.


The stories were the bonus that came along for the ride.


He typed when he wasn’t inspired.


The typing turned into writing and he became inspired.


We don’t write because we feel like it,


We feel like it because we write.


You don’t need more good ideas; you need more bad ideas.


This is the story of every good idea, every new project, every pop song, every novel.


There was a bad idea, and there was a better one.


Creativity is NOT a GPS.


The magic of GPS is that it somehow knows how to get from anywhere to anywhere else. And it knows how to do it bedore you even begin your trip.


With the trillions of possible trips, it finds the very best route.


That’s nuts.


It’s also not the way creativity works. We can’t possibly know the route in advance, because so many of the steps involve unknown leaps. We aren’t traversing a road. Instead we’re making our way through the dark, and every once in a while, some light shows up and we have to make a new decision based on where we are now.


Is it any wonder it’s so hard to embark on a creative journey of change?


We know we want to get to Cleveland—we know it’s been done before—but if we’re telling the truth, we really have no idea whatsoever of the best route from here to there. Or at least we won’t have certainty after we get started.


What happens at meetings and where did Apple’s Creativity Go?


-the personal computer


-the Mac


-the iPod


-the iPhone


-the iPad


-and then…???



What happened? Did the culture change? It’s the most profitable and valuable company in the history of the world with years of time on it’s hands, and it launched a watch. And not particularly a good watch.


Here’s an interesting way to look at it: how many totally lame products has Apple launched in the last seven years? Exactly one.


What would have happened if they had found the guts to launch 20 products? A Newton, A cube, a new kind of software, 30 websites?


As the company got bigger, it’s risk profile plummeted. Without a driven and sometimes crazy CEO at the top, the company has gotten very good at meetings, but not so good at creative innovation.


Their software has stagnated, they cancelled the aggressive date for launching an electric car. Even hardware innovations have slowed, and there’s no sign that any of this will change soon.



Steve Blank points out that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ruined Microsoft after taking over for Bill Gates.


They failed to capitalize on the five biggest trends.

In search—to google


In smart phones losing to apple


In media to Netflix/Apple


In cloud—to Amazon

In mobile operating systems—Apple/Google


How did he miss so consistently?


He only did what he thought he was good at. He structured the company to do only things that they were good at. They optimized for the 20th century and gave away the 21st century to people who were willing to fail.


Tension Is the Point*


Before we can push an idea uphill (because all useful work is uphill work) we need to recognize that someone isn’t going to be happy—and that what we’re working on might not work.


Two bits of fear in one action. We’re going to offend, and we’re going to fail.


But at the same time, we want the change. We need it to happen. It’s worth it.


Hence, tension.


And that tension isn’t something to be avoided. It is, in fact, the entire point.


Our ability to dance with the fear and to seek out the discomfort is what makes our contribution scarce and valuable.


The uninevitability of your big idea


Big ideas aren’t obvious. They bend the history of the future. We don’t get to a big idea by slowly scraping off the dirt to find the single obvious truth below.


The big idea, which doesn’t happen very often, is indefensible. It’s not clear, it’s not obvious, and almost everyone who hears it will reject it.


That is precisely what makes it a big idea.


Little ideas are different. Littles ideas are good for our ego, of course, because we solved the problem, because we get a round of applause, because we win.


But big ideas, if you choose to seek them out, are unicorns. They are impossible, mythic, and almost certainly not attainable.


Which is the point. ^


If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.

-Noam Chomsky



Business 101:

  1. Who is this change for?
  2. What is it for?
  3. How will you spend your time and your effort and our resources to make change happen?




How is it possible for 3 cowboys to herd a thousand cattle?


Easy, they don’t.


They herd 10 cattle, and those cattle influence 50 cattle and those cattle influence the rest.


That’s the way every single widespread movement/product/service has changed the world.


You can’t reach everyone.


But you can choose who you’ll reach. If you change those people in a remarkable way, they’ll tell the others.



And so it begins, “who’s it for?”


Once you choose which subgroup to tell your story to (which subgroup needs to change) this group becomes your focus.


What do they believe?

What do they want?

Who do they trust?

What’s their narrative?

What will they tell their friends?


The more concise and focused you are at this stage, the more likely it is that you’re actually ready to make change happen.





More and more specific, please


And so the trap. The trap is in the general. In the cloudy persona, the undetermined person, the vague generality.


Your change is too important to be wasted on most people.


Which people?


Precisely which people?


What do they believe? Who has hurt them, double-crossed them, disappointed them? Who inspires them, makes them jealous? Who do they love, and why?


“Voters” is not specific. “The Lane family in rural West Virginia” is specific.



Shun the non-believers


If you’re marketing a bass guitar or orchid or an electric SUV, why are you concerned with what everyone thinks about it?


It seems to me that you should only care about the opinion of those that are actually open to buying one.


Someone, not everyone.



There’s a simple way to reset,


We can ask “what’s it for?”


In an organization that understands what it’s for, the thing we want is the change we seek. Everything we do is designed with that in mind.


That announcement before the flight, when they teach people how to put on their seatbelts…what’s it for?


Resumes, job interviews…what are they for?


Working in the office instead of remotely…what’s it for?


Spending 30 extra hours looking for typo’s…what’s it for?


“I don’t think there’s an artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.”

-Francis Ford Coppola


Doubt is part of the deal, that’s when we know we’re on to something.





what are you doing that’s difficult?


What contribution are you making?


What are you doing that people believe only you can do?


What do people say when they talk about you?


What are you afraid of?


What does the change you seek look like?


What do you stand for?


What is the cost of waiting?


What’s the scarce resource?


Would we miss your work if you stopped making it?





Who is willing to be a believer?


What are the benefits of the people you seek to change?


What are the fears of the people you seek to change?


What are the desires and dreams of the people you seek to change?


What do these people not yet know they need or want?



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