Creating Agency Instead of Obedience with Seth Godin

June 2, 2023

Creating Agency Instead of Obedience with Seth Godin

June 2, 2023

About This Episode

In the recent episode of Brilliant Thoughts with Tristan Ahumada, we had the privilege of interviewing the renowned author and thought leader, Seth Godin. Our discussion was filled with eye-opening insights that challenge conventional wisdom and offer a fresh perspective on topics such as agency, community, and personal growth. Join us as we unravel the key takeaways from this enlightening conversation.

The Power of Perspective

Right from the start, Seth's has immediately shared an insightful survey he conducted, encompassing 10,000 individuals from 90 different countries. Surprisingly, the results revealed that what people valued most was a challenging environment that made them feel significant, while the amount they were paid ranked among the least important factors. This revelation challenges our preconceived notions about what truly motivates individuals.

The Deeper Purpose

During our conversation, Seth emphasized that his intention in creating his latest book was not to maximize sales by joining forces with popular figures like the Kardashians. Rather, his primary goal was to genuinely help others. This resonated deeply with me, highlighting the importance of focusing on the greater good rather than simply pursuing personal gains.

Redefining Agency

One of the most intriguing aspects of the conversation was Seth's interpretation of agency. He defined it as the freedom of choice, which is quite distinct from the way many of us typically perceive it. Rather than viewing agency as a means of binding oneself to external factors, Seth revealed that true agency grants us the power to make choices that align with our values and desires. This fresh perspective shed light on the importance of agency in leading a fulfilling life.

The Essence of Community

When the topic of community arose, Seth offered a profound insight: "To enroll people in the journey that creates connection, dignity, and possibility." This statement encapsulates the essence of community — a space where individuals come together, collaborate, and achieve shared goals. Creating a community where individuals can experience a meaningful connection, grow together, and uphold shared values is the foundation for fostering a strong sense of belonging.

Embracing Autonomy

Seth emphasized that people crave the freedom to pursue their goals in their own unique way. They desire to accomplish tasks according to their own vision and be treated with respect, which ultimately translates into being trusted to do their jobs. This revelation reinforces the importance of autonomy and respect in the workplace, highlighting the transformative power of trust and empowering individuals to reach their full potential.

From Machines to Humans: A Paradigm Shift

Tristan and Seth discuss Frederick Taylor's principles of scientific management, published in 1911, which viewed humans as mere machines in a quest for increased efficiency. This marked a significant departure from the ideals of individual freedom and autonomy. The conversation prompts us to reflect on the parallels between this mechanistic approach and feudal societies, underscoring the need to restore humanity in our systems.

The Power of Small Things

Seth recounts an experience from his early career when he worked on the day after Christmas, answering calls from customers. This small act of going the extra mile not only surprised the consumers but also provided Seth with valuable insights into their needs and desires. 

Understanding the minutiae of customer preferences allowed him to improve the company's performance and foster his personal growth within the organization. This serves as a reminder that even the smallest gestures can have a profound impact.

Embracing Differences and Innovations

Seth highlights the story of his friend Paul, the creator of Kinko's, who overcame dyslexia by utilizing his unique strengths. Unable to rely on written plans, Paul established connections with individuals in each Kinko's office. He fostered an environment where successful stores shared innovative practices, enabling others to reach new levels of achievement. This demonstrates the power of embracing diversity and fostering a culture of learning and collaboration.

Listening to the "Squeaky Wheels"

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Seth advises paying attention to those who voice their dissatisfaction—the "squeaky wheels." By addressing their concerns and solving their problems, organizations can often uncover more significant underlying issues. Seth uses the example of captioning on television, which not only benefits the deaf but also enhances the viewing experience for everyone. This illustrates the importance of listening, understanding, and addressing the diverse needs of all stakeholders.

Reimagining Meetings and Communication

Seth challenges the notion that most meetings are productive, suggesting that they can often be replaced with efficient communication through emails or even texts. He emphasizes that the purpose of communication is not to lecture but to engage in meaningful conversations that foster connection and understanding. This perspective encourages us to rethink our communication strategies and leverage technology to enhance collaboration.

Harnessing Humanity in the Age of Technology

Seth's response to artificial intelligence is both insightful and cautionary. He emphasizes the transformative potential of embracing technological advancements rather than shying away from them. Drawing from his previous oversight with the Internet, Seth warns against missing out on the profound changes that AI will bring. He emphasizes that technology alone cannot create value; it is our humanity, connection, and ability to adapt that will shape our world for the better.

Creating a Thriving Community

The interview concludes with a reflection on the importance of establishing conditions for individuals to achieve their aspirations. Seth highlights the significance of managing people by setting a compelling vision and fostering an environment where they feel significant and empowered. Building a community where individuals can create meaningful work and make a difference becomes a shared responsibility, whether in professional or personal settings.

Tristan Ahumada's conversation with Seth Godin offers a profound exploration of humanity's evolution, the power of empathy, collaboration, and the interplay between technology and human connection. It challenges us to reconsider our approach to work, relationships, and communication. It was a thought-provoking exploration into the realms of personal growth, community building, and the true meaning of agency. It challenged our assumptions and encouraged us to reflect on our values, both personally and professionally. By recognizing the significance of a challenging environment, nurturing genuine communities, and embracing autonomy, we can embark on a path of personal fulfillment and meaningful connections. Join us in the next episode as we continue to explore brilliant thoughts that shape our world.

About Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a highly acclaimed entrepreneur, author, and teacher whose impact on the world of marketing and communication is undeniable. With a remarkable portfolio of 20 bestselling books, a widely read blog, and numerous entrepreneurial ventures, Seth has become a leading figure in motivating and inspiring brands to effectively connect with their customers.

Born in Quebec City in 1960 and raised in New Hampshire, Seth's journey to success has been filled with diverse experiences. After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in political science, he worked as a letter carrier at the United States Postal Service before taking a leap of faith and leaving his job at UPS to pursue entrepreneurship.

Seth's entrepreneurial spirit led him to launch Yoyodyne, a company specializing in computer-generated ads for radio stations and record labels. His innovative approach caught the attention of CompuServe, which acquired Yoyodyne for $3 million. Throughout his career, Seth has also made significant contributions to the marketing industry, including co-creating the TED conference and founding, a platform that was later acquired by HubPages.

Seth Godin has authored a remarkable collection of 18 books, each offering unique insights and valuable lessons. Among his notable works are "Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers" (1997), "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable" (2003), "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?" (2010), and "The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?" (2014). In addition, he penned "The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)" (2007), providing guidance on making strategic decisions.

Presently, Seth Godin manages multiple websites and blogs, such as and, which serve as platforms for his insightful content. Furthermore, he engages with a broad audience through his podcast, "This Week In Startups," available on iTunes, and his YouTube channel, "Startup School," featuring enlightening interviews with accomplished entrepreneurs who have successfully launched their own businesses.

DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.

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