linchpin: ten questions for seth godin

[N.B. The "Ten Questions" archive is here.] [To read other people's reviews, go to the Linchpin Squidoo page.]

My friend and mentor, Seth Godin has a new book out: “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?”.

As has become a regular habit with his last couple of books, to celebrate the launch I asked him ten questions, which he kindly answered below.

LINCHPIN: TEN QUESTIONS FOR SETH GODIN.

1. HUGH: OK, let’s get it over with- What is a “Linchpin”? What is the book about?

SETH: You’re a linchpin, Hugh. So are all those crazy people we can’t live without, people who bring art to work, people who reach out, make a connection, cause change to happen. The linchpin is the person who is indispensable, because they refuse to become an interchangeable part, someone who merely follows the manual. In the hardware store, the linchpin is a lightweight little piece that holds the wheel to the axle. Very difficult to live without.

2. In your book, Purple Cow, your message was “Everyone’s a Marketer, now.” In All Marketers are Liars, the message was, “Everyone’s a Storyteller, now.” In Tribes, it was “Everyone’s a Leader, now.” In Linchpin, the message surprised me: “Everyone’s an Artist, now”. Tell us about your thesis.

Artist doesn’t mean painter or cartoonist or playwright. Artist means someone willing to stand up, stand out and make change. In a stable environment, we worship the efficient factory. Henry Ford or even David Geffen… feed the machine, keep it running smoothly, pay as little as you can, make as much as you can. In our post-industrial world, though, factory worship is a non starter. Cheap cogs are worth what they cost, which is not much. In a changing environment, you want people who can steer, innovate, provoke, lead, connect and make things happen. That’s my thesis. This is a new revolution, and just as Marx and Smith wrote about the industrial revolution, I’m writing about ours.

3. A key term you used throughout the book was “Emotional Labor”. Please explain what that is, and why that matters to anyone wishing to become a Linchpin.

It’s emotional labor to insist that your publisher leave the sexy and dirty bits in your last book, even though it certainly would have been easier to take them out. It’s emotional labor to move to Texas even though it might be easier to just hang out with friends. It’s emotional labor to do the work even when you don’t feel like it. Mostly, I’m talking about doing the difficult work of bringing your very best self to each interaction, because to do otherwise is a mortal sin.

4. Obviously, we’re not all artists, in the strictest sense of the word. I’m a professional artist myself, and even I don’t much like using that term. But here’s Seth, trying to bust the definition of “Artist” wide open. I get the feeling this was not you trying to redefine the term in order to create controversy for the sake of being clever, but you are trying to challenge people to think about their work differently, to make them think about WHAT EXACTLY has to happen, for them to become a Linchpin. Yes?

Well, what should we call these people, these linchpins? I mean, we have a word for a painter who merely does derivative work: a hack. But what do we call a customer service rep or an insurance adjuster or landscape architect that changes the game, that elevates each interaction and that takes enormous emotional and professional risk with their work? I think they need a name, so I stole one. I call them artists.

5. One thing I find interesting about the book (and all your other ones, as well) is that you don’t offer any easy answers. You never say, “This is where the world is headed, and this is how WE ARE going to make it work”. Your shtick is more, “This is where the world is headed, and this is what YOU have to think about, if you don’t want to be thoroughly crushed.” And yet I still see people asking you, “Please tell me what to do to incorporate your kind of new, groovy thinking, WITHOUT ME having to change my life or my modus operandi in an way whatsoever. Please show me where the autopilot button and the cruise control are” etc. Do you find that frustrating? Is it happening more as your work gets more well known? Less?

Frustrating isn’t really the right word. I think it was sad at first, because it’s almost like the Wizard of Oz… Dorothy had the power all along, right? But now I view it as an opportunity. It’s so tempting to start drawing maps for people. It makes them happy and it makes me feel smart. But resisting that temptation is the right thing to do, because once someone does it on their own a few times, they become unstoppable. Watching that change occur is one of the highlights of my professional life. And in fact, every great teacher I’ve ever known seeks the same outcome.

6. If I had to describe your typical writing style (of which I am a huge fan, of course), I’d call it “Dryly understated, humorous, streetwise and lucid”. This book somewhat surprised me. It seems to have a more angry and more emotional tone than your previous books. Was that just me? Is your writing style becoming angrier in general, or did the inherent subject matter in the book just get you more riled up than usual?

It’s not angry, Hugh. It’s urgent.

I don’t think most people realize the precarious nature of our current situation, how close we are to the edge, and how little time we have to get our act together.

7. I’ve known you for a little while; we met right around the time that Purple Cow came out in 2003. Back then to me you were this articulate, entertaining and successful entrepreneur, who had just written this cool business bestseller. Then more books came out and I started seeing this more “author” sensibility emerging. You obviously enjoyed writing the books, and you obviously liked seeing people reading them and liked helping make change happen. But in this last year or so, I’ve seen your shtick become more “rabbinical” i.e. it seems you’ve gotten more interested in teaching people- younger people especially. Like you no longer care so much about your own success and “affecting change” yourself, but are more interested in teaching people how to become successful and affect change themselves. Am I close? Are you evolving?

I hope we’re all evolving. I think my mission is the same as it has been since that day on the canoe dock in 1978 when I decided it would be very cool indeed to help people achieve more than they thought they could. What has changed is my awareness of how the system pushes people like me to be manual writers. Publishers and others really want to give the market what it wants, and what it wants are Dummies books and fast easy change (Hey! It’s been a year… let’s elect a new senator!). Even now, the single best way to get a lot of blog traffic is to post a list of Ten Ways to… and make sure you mention Ron Paul, Apple Computer and the inherent difference between men and women. Try it, it works.

So I’ve experienced the feedback you get when you draw a map, and it’s nice, but the real win is helping people draw their own. To see the world as it is. That’s a lot more difficult. People need glasses, not a map.

8. I saw this in your last book, Tribes, and I see again it Linchpin. Though I’m sure there are tons of people who would prefer it if they were, your books are not instruction manuals. You’re not telling people what to “Do”. You’re telling people to “Decide”. A subtle difference, but it’s an important one. Please tell us more.

Oh, I don’t think it’s subtle at all. I think it’s a HUGE difference. We hate to decide. We avoid deciding. We hide from it.

Once someone decides, they almost always succeed (unless they want to win an Olympic medal or some other ridiculous prize awarded to just a few). The decision is the hard part, but we spend precious little time on it.

9. We have a mutual friend in New York, Fred, who is a tremendously successful venture capitalist. But as anyone who knows him well will testify, his success has diddly-squat to do with love of money and all its trappings, and everything, EVERYTHING to do with the fact that, quite simply, he utterly loves what he does. He just ADORES waking up every morning and clicking his heels on his way to work. I grew up in a pretty standard, middle class corporate family. Back in my parent’s day, “loving” your job was considered almost a taboo; something inherently detrimental to long-term personal career success, and the success of the company team. But there seems to be an underlying message in Linchpin that THAT THIS HAS ALL CHANGED. That if you don’t love your job, not only will you be a miserable wreck the rest of your life, but hey, you’re less likely to be successful in business, as well. Care to elaborate?

The amazing thing is that in every job, every one, there are people who hate it and people who love it. There are clock watchers on Sand Hill Road. There are people bussing tables at a coffee shop who race to work each day. The job is irrelevant, pretty much. It’s the decision.

Fred does great work as a VC because his motives are transparent, his judgment is excellent and he keeps his promises. All three are essential for him to love his job, and he does. Since he’s not willing to trade that joy for a few bucks, he sticks to his principles. And, here’s the cool irony, the more he does that, the more money he makes!

10. Of all the books you’ve written (and I love them all), this seems to be your most challenging. Your previous messages- Everyone’s a Marketer, Everyone’s a Storyteller, Everyone’s a Leader etc- though compelling enough, somehow seem far easier to digest compared the simple message in Linchpin: “Love what you do, or fail.” Why do you think that idea is STILL so difficult for so many people? Do you expect this book to be as well received as your previous ones? Does it matter?

If you had asked me four weeks ago, I would have been a happy pessimist. Happy because I wrote precisely the book I wanted to write, regardless of the consequences. I was literally ready for almost every one to hate it. And a pessimist because I’m pushing people awfully hard with this one.

But you didn’t ask me four weeks ago, you asked me today. And today is a few weeks after 2000+ of my readers made a donation and got a review copy and WOW. They get it. It’s working. It’s resonating.

My work is done here, as the saying goes. To unleash something like this on the world, to go out this far on a limb and have people support you and embrace you and run with it… it’s the most amazing feeling.

Thanks, Hugh, for giving me something to write about and for showing us all a way to live. We can’t do it without you.

[The best way to support gapingvoid is to sign up for the “Daily Car­toon” News­let­ter.]

Comments

  1. Couple of points Mr. Macleod
    1) “Love what you do, or fail” is the thesis for my inspiration quest, that I started last February and continue to share on my blog. I’m loving Linchpin (tore through half of it, saving some for later as I often do with books I enjoy).

    2) The poster boy for loving what you do, Fred Wilson was spot on. That guy’s ideas get my neurons fired up each morning, and I’ve probably rained nearly a thousand comments on his blog this year (maybe more).

    Hot damn, this was a great review Hugh.

  2. Jeremy Newton says:

    Beautifully done Hugh. I check two blogs religiously… yours and Seth’s so this was a real treat.

    This is the line I got the most out of…
    “Once someone deci­des, they almost always suc­ceed”

    So very true.

  3. I’ve only read the extract so far. Thanks for the interview – like Jeremy I read both your blogs so it’s great when you interact like this…

    I am a linchpin and it’s time I did something about it. So I am.

  4. I read Seth’s blog posts every morning on my iphone before I jump out of bed – it’s what gets my blood pumping so I can start my day with a fresh thought in my little head. I’m looking forward to this new book, which I’ll pick up in Irvine in Feb. when I go see Seth at a networking event.

    Hugh, this was a great interview. You ask great questions. Thanks for opening my mind a little wider.

  5. Hashim Warren says:

    You don’t need to love what you do for work. Asking your job to fulfill you in that way is ridiculous.

    Ask your job for money, not your purpose. Then spend your money on your purpose.

    • @Hashim
      Seth is saying to make a decision to love your work. That does not equate, necearrily, with “love what you do for work.” You could be in the position in which you wished you had a different job, but “make a decision,” as Seth puts it, to do the best at the job you have — making it as fulfilling as you can. This would include making yourself fulfilled as well as making others fulfilled. It’s all about attitude! Eventually, you may grow to even like your employmeent, and count yourself happy you have a job.

      There are many ways to make yourself fulfilled at a job, and you should take advantage of them, instead of just using your job for money, as you state — although of course money is one of the benefits of employment! But there are so many more benefits and fullfillments of employment. I’m thinking of using a job to learn as many things as possible in new areas. I am constantly learning new things, and practicing new ways of thinking. If you do this, you’ll find that soon you’ll be moving ahead, both in fullfilment and money. You may even come to the place where your thinking could allow you to break away from the regular 9 to 5 and start your own company. Not everyone is meant to do that, but some are!

      If you do this, you can combine your purpose and earning money. And if you get creative, and help others, and become fulfilled yourself, watch your money grow — it’s just a byproduct! Whether you’re doing it through another business, or your own — get creative, get happy, start learning, help others, make goals and fulfill them, have a great attitude, watch yourself grow! Constantly be creative and grow! Why separate work and fulfillment and purpose? And one more thing, lean on the Lord, for He is the Creator of all things. Ask Him to begin to help you be creative!

      krissy knox :)
      follow me on twitter:
      http://twitter.com/iamkrissy

  6. Why are the questions as long or longer than the answers?

    Starts as an interview but it ends as a review?

  7. Question 4 was the question I wanted to ask Seth in NY. Thanks!

  8. Great insights about “Love what you do or fail.” But as I understand from the interview simply loving your job is not enough. You have to be a linchpin and an artist.

    If you simply love the process and go by the manual everyday, you will also fail even if you love it immensely.

    So, the conclusion is if you are not a linchpin, get out of the rat race and become a freelancer. Love your job as a freelancer and don’t go by the manual. Chart your own map that changes every day and every minute of your waking hours.

    Now my head is spinning. Great thoughts.

    • @DotComNote
      I love the way you said that!: “Love your job as a freelancer and don’t go by the manual. Chart your own map that changes every day and every minute of your waking hours.”

      I was just reading a post, in which the blogger stated she believed Seth was wrong, and that there WERE maps.

      Actually, I think she was quibbling over words. She was saying the same thing as Seth was, I think. Sometimes there are several ways to get somewhere (the larger map), but there are many, many ways that could be best for any individual to take to get to their destination. Only each individual would know the best way for him/her.

      Creativity comes in when we take something very broad — a dream and a vague way to get there (that’s the map, the vague way to get there — and remember, a map has many options for getting from point A to point B) — and begin to work toward that dream, implementing it. We may perhaps use part of a map, doing some of the same things as others before us as we move to complete our project, but many of the ideas we implement will be our own. As Seth said, Dorothy had the answers within her!

      On our journey, even from the very beginning, we will see decisions we must make if we want to continue to advance and complete our project. We will have to use many of our own ideas and ways of doing things at times. If we are not using our own ideas to bring the project to completition, we will at least be making decisions on which ideas of others we will use to bring things to completion. This is creativity.

      And no, working like this is definitely NOT like following a map! To be innovative and creative, you must decide precisely where you are going and how you want to get there! And your way will be unique. Even if there is a broad map, so to speak of, nobody would take the exact same route, for example, if they were told to drive from the East Coast to CA, even if they both had the same map. They wouldn’t even start out and end up at the exact same place!

      Each of us is unique. As we follow our own path on our journey to where we believe we are meant to go, we must remember along the way to move along each time we make a decision. Actually, we must “run” before fear sets in, or we won’t get to the end of our journey, or complete our finished project.

      May you go where you are lead to go, may you take the time to make the decision about where that destination is. May you never grow faint or weary, but keep going forward. May you always go forward, after you decide the next step, even if you are afraid. Is it hard at times? Yes! But we must do it, as we are on this earth to create whatever the Creator has sent us here to create. May you run and not be afraid!

      krissy knox :)
      follow me on twitter
      http://twitter.com/iamkrissy

  9. Amazing interview. Seth has impactedy life is so many ways. Thanks Hugh

  10. “Love what you do”…echoes of my own thoughts. It certainly does give life all the meaning one could ever want doesn’t it?

  11. Interesting. I’m going to have to read this book, if for no other reason than to see if the “emotional labor” concept hooks in with Arlie Hochschild’s The Managed Heart. She talks about how certain customer-service jobs make you do real emotional labor — producing genuine, heartfelt emotions — on the behalf of your employer/customers.

    I’ve got no problem with day jobs. But if you’re going to do emotional labor, you should do it for yourself.

  12. “Watching that change occur is one of the highlights of my professional life.”

    Amen to that.

    Seeing someone, whether it’s one of my kids, one of my clients, or one of my friends, realise that they get to choose what their life is—hard to describe the amped frisson it causes.

  13. I’m in a deadend job, I really need to take some advice and get some small business going! =) I need to find a niche small company of some sort.

  14. I loved this interview! So much so, that it stopped me in the middle of a writing a post, to write another about this. LOL.

    So important. This was my fave quote:

    “It’s urgent.

    I don’t think most people realize the precarious nature of our current situation, how close we are to the edge, and how little time we have to get our act together.”

    If anyone can get the message out, it’s Seth & friends. ;) Thanks.

  15. A very good interaction hugh and Seth. Though I would have to say that for those that are linchpins, tribe leaders and purple players do view Seth’s books as guides and how-to’s. I think that is the beauty of how Seth writes, much like a masterful novelist that brings suspense to every chapter only with the inspiration of imagination being the final trump card. Seth delivers in every book he as written.

    I was one of the 2000, why you ask, that should be simple to understand if you are a linchpin!

    Thanks again for all the great info Seth and the how-to guide.

  16. These are great interview questions – I learned from them as well as the answers. When I worked in the corporate world I would leave my job when I no longer bounced in the door in the morning. When I found myself losing interest in my work as an accountant in practice, at the same time I found myself writing and consulting. Now I have a self-published book and I’m loving my days again – when I’m not frustrated in my abilities.
    Thanks for the great insight.

  17. I have been watching the way the world works this past year through the eyes of social media, and have been thinking we are on the verge of a creative renaissance like we’ve never seen before. The ability to come up with ideas based on shared content, share them back with the world and then to be able to * act * on those ideas is simply phenomenal. But it will take a few more conversations like the one above for most people to realize the potential of where this all can take us. To truly internalize what it means to be a linchpin instead of a cog.

    Thanks Hugh and Seth, for letting us see what is possible.

  18. I just put in my month’s notice at the ad firm I was working at for the past year. I’ve given it a go writing copy for fearful, unimaginative, restrictive clients. “In this economy, you should have another job bf you leave!” everyone has told me. I thought life was too short to waste another minute doing something I could not be 100% passionate about.

    Thanks for the validation Seth and Hugh :)

  19. Hugh,

    I appreciate your insight and direct questions almost as much as I imagine Seth did.

    Well done.

    As a Seth reader, watcher and occasional stalker, I’m eager to embrace the book.

    And while I’m often head-nodding to his words, these points left me in all out leaping celebration.

    Publishers and others really want to give the market what it wants, and what it wants are Dummies books and fast easy change (Hey! It’s been a year… let’s elect a new senator!). Even now, the single best way to get a lot of blog traffic is to post a list of Ten Ways to… and make sure you mention Ron Paul, Apple Computer and the inherent difference between men and women. Try it, it works.

    “Publishers and others really want to give the market what it wants, and what it wants are Dummies books and fast easy change.”

    YES! And…

    “So I’ve experienced the feedback you get when you draw a map, and it’s nice, but the real win is helping people draw their own. To see the world as it is. That’s a lot more difficult. People need glasses, not a map.”

    As an author of “Fitness” (with a twist of consciousness) for a Random House imprint, I can not agree more.

    My last book, Strength for LIFE is a work in the second point, a passionate plea and guide to helping your GET FREE from the trap of “fitness.” It’s ALL about stopping the “Paint by numbers” and engaging you, your body and mind.

    That said, it also nearly killed me and I nearly killed the publishers.. I had to be sure to deliver all the “dummy” stuff and be skillful as hell to get real content past them. Most the time they couldn’t even get what I was saying…

    It was an experience that I will never forget… and not for lack of trying.

    Amen Seth…

    Thanks, Hugh!

    Best,
    Shawn

  20. This is by far the best Linchpin interview I have read (and I’ve been getting around them).

    Among other things, your work here Hugh, shows us what a great interviewer looks like.

    Best blog post I’ve read all month. Seth was right – you are a linchpin.

    Thank you.

  21. Sheila McCann says:

    Great interview! Looking forward to reading linchpin. Loving what I do :)

  22. This interview gave me shivers. Nicely done.

  23. Great conversation (“interview” is too restrictive a word. Thanks for sharing.

    #3 and #6
    … oh yeah.

  24. Linchpins need cogs, and thank goodness some people wouldn’t want to be anything else. We linchpins need to pay our cogs well and appreciate them, because without them, most of our great linchpinny ideas would hardly get off the ground. And yes, we all appreciate a well made pen, but that does not mean the artist doesn’t have to be efficient. It is an artist’s responsibility to make a pen at a fair price. There need to be program that help teach people how to put systems in place to keep their costs from getting out of control no matter if they make 5 pens a day or 1000. People don’t mind paying a little extra for quality or because something is made in the US, but the days of charging ridiculous prices because it’s “art” are long gone. Thank goodness. We artists just an to make a fair living selling our products, not be the next warhol.

    And being a linchpin is miseable sometimes, especialy for women who are seen as bitches when we try and stand up to change. People who are scared of change get mean sometimes. In the end, it works out and everyone is happy, but sticking through the “dip” wears me done when I pushing for bg change like the kind we need now.

    Hugh and Seth, I’d love to know how you deal with people judging your every move, the ones that are waiting for you to scre up, so they can sa “I told you so”. Hugh you are especially experience with the sleepy west Texas native who like their world just fine the way it is…. Black and white.

    Listening to y’alls audiobooks on my phone are just the boost I need to fire up my enrepreneurial blood sometimes. The books are filled with a spirit I don’t get nearly enough of in alpine, tx. The closest place I know of that has that kindof crackle is austn…. And I believe it’s time for a road trip.

  25. dissent in a box says:

    Marx, Smith, and… Godin? Not likely.

  26. DevineIntervention says:

    I just lost my job, a job I really hated! I consider it a Devine Intervention, as my creator did for me what I could not do myself.

    I am trying to see this as an opportunity to do something creative, inspired, and worthy of creating change. If I stay focused on a solution, it will come to me.
    What do I want to create today? What change to I want to make?

    Thank you both for sharing your insight!

    I’m a big fan.

  27. I read Seth’s blog posts every morning on my iphone before I jump out of bed – it’s what gets my blood pumping so I can start my day with a fresh thought in my little head. I’m looking forward to this new book, which I’ll pick up in Irvine in Feb. when I go see Seth at a networking event.

    Hugh, this was a great interview. You ask great questions. Thanks for opening my mind a little wider.

  28. I’ve got no problem with day jobs. But if you’re going to do emotional labor, you should do it for yourself.

  29. I think the term emotional labor is a good one and I like the idea that people can be artists even if they aren’t “creative types” because you are creating things all the time in your business. Hopefully almost everything you do has a level of creativity in it.

  30. It was an experience that I will never forget… and not for lack of trying.

  31. I love following the blog of Seth.
    His posts are short yet relevant…
    He has a knack of stating the obvious in a way that makes it stick…

    He has a knack of stating an obvious truth and making it a “purple cow”.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] linchpin: ten questions for seth godin | Gapingvoid 25Jan posted by Alex               filed under Uncategorized via gapingvoid.com [...]

  2. [...] is Seth Godin being interviewed by Hugh Macleod: In a sta­ble envi­ron­ment, we worship the effi­cient fac­tory. Henry Ford or even David [...]

  3. [...] Hugh MacLeod does a great interview with Seth about the book – in 10 questions. Here’s a taster: [...]

  4. [...] heeft hij onlangs 10 vragen gesteld aan Seth Godin, naar aanleiding van zijn nieuwe boek ‘Linchpin: Are You [...]

  5. [...] I was thinking this today on the way to work, but that sentence above is taken directly from an interview with Seth Godin about his new book "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?." I just liked the way it was worded.) [...]

  6. [...] Here’s a quote from an interview with Seth Godin, from gapingvoid: [...]

  7. [...] Hugh MacLeod: “Linchpin: Ten Questions for Seth Godin“ [...]

  8. [...] Bonus Read: Hugh McLeod talks to Seth Godin on Linchpin [...]

  9. [...] for not supplying specific enough instruction in my writing. Well, as much as I agree with Mr. Godin’s statement about not drawing maps, I guess this is an attempt at something resembling a [...]

  10. [...] a reaction to Clint Watson’s post on Fine Art Views, which was itself a reaction to some comments made by Seth Godin during promotion for his latest book, Linchpin: “Artist doesn’t mean painter or cartoonist or [...]

  11. [...] There’s not much more to say about Seth Godin’s latest book that hasn’t already been said. Because it’s [...]

  12. [...] pakeis juos automatais. (Visa laimė, Lietuvoje kasininkai su aukštuoju.) Reikia būti nepakeičiamam, tokiam, kuriam mašina dar ilgai neprilygs. Stebint mašinų tobulėjimo tendencijas, joms geriau [...]

  13. [...] I understand his general aesthetic.  There are several interviews and reviews of the book (like here and here) if you want more background.  What caught my eye was a conversation on Cameron [...]

  14. [...] a large fry is probably too much, and you’ll be fine with a small-size order. Doug is a linchpin. Doug [...]

  15. [...] Are you a Linchpin? [...]

  16. [...] ten questions for seth godin Just wanted to point to this interview by Hugh Macleod of Gapingvoid Filed under Linchpin documentation ← What if … [...]

  17. [...] great, figure out what great is and do that.A tall order, but a huge opportunity.Hugh MacLeod has many more interesting questions-and-answers about Linchpin, here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Seth Godin’s On The Future of the Music [...]

  18. [...] someone RISKING more than you and is ready and willing to take it away from you. There’s a linchpin building a resume that doesn’t require two sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ inch paper. He [...]

  19. [...] Hugh MacLeod has many more interesting questions-and-answers about Linchpin, here. [...]

  20. [...] found this quote reading an interview with Seth [...]

  21. [...] a manager, I spend most of my time with those who take action – to advance their performance. I spend less time with those who want to let someone else do the [...]

  22. [...] seth godin This entry was posted in tumblr, Uncategorized by kareem. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  23. [...] — seth godin via blog.reemer.com [...]

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