057 Seth Godin on Public Speaking and Performing During High Stakes Situations

057 Seth Godin on Public Speaking and Performing During High Stakes Situations

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Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world, and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and most of all, changing everything. His newest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is already a bestseller.

You can connect with Seth Godin and find out more about his daily blog and his bestseller books.

“Most of the important stuff we do happens in moments, when we don’t think it’s high stakes, but other people do.” – Seth Godin

  • Why we sometimes screw up high stakes situations. (2:47)
  • The truth and myth about true authenticity (3:43)
  • If approval is the result you are seeking, you might be confused. (6:39)
  • What it takes to have major achievement in life, business and leadership. (9:37)
  • Why mistakes or “productive errors” are not only unavoidable, they are essential. (12:39)
  • Seth Godin’s view on changing people’s lives with books and speaking. (16:46)
  • What to do when there are different levels of receptivity in the audience. (22:07)
  • Why it’s not possible to please everyone. (24:01)
  • How to rehearse – what Seth Godin recommends for speakers. (26:33)
  • How to persuade others in high stakes situations (33:16)
  • How to deal with fear in public speaking. (35:41)

00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal The Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Seth Godin and he’s the author of 18 books, that have been translated into 35 languages. He writes about the post-Industrial Revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books: Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow. In addition to writing and speaking, Seth founded both Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog, which you can find by typing “Seth” into Google, is one of the most popular in the world and that’s not hyperbole. He was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, one of three chosen for this honor in 2013. And recently, Seth, once again, set the book publishing industry on its ear by launching a series of four books, via Kickstarter. The campaign reached its goal after three hours and ended up becoming the most successful book project ever done this way. His newest book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn is already a best seller. Hi, Seth.

01:10 Seth Godin: Hello. How are you, Michael?

01:12 Michael Port: I’m great. You’ve become like the Madonna or Usher of marketing, just one name. You know, when someone says, Michael…

01:18 Seth Godin: You know, my mom’s plan was to name me Scott, and my grandfather intervened at the last minute pointing out that Scott was a brand of toilet paper, and that was the best SEO decision anyone ever made.

[chuckle]

01:34 Michael Port: It’s so amazing that you can just put Seth into Google and you come up, and you pretty much own that page. I love it. Nicely done. So I wanna focus on two topics. I wanna focus on, first, performance in everyday high stakes situations. And then I wanna talk about the art of public speaking. And I wanna start with performance in everyday high stakes situations because I think that the quality of our life is often determined by how well we perform during life’s high stakes situation. So job interviews or negotiations, sales pitches, even a first date, meeting your in-laws, future in-laws for the first time, all of these have an element of performance because they’re very high stakes.

02:17 Michael Port: And the thing that had the most influence on my career in business was my MFA in acting. And certainly, the skills that I developed as an actor were very, very important but also the performer’s principles, the artist’s mindset, raising the stakes, choosing early and often, saying yes and acting as if staying in the moment and working with people that have your back. And in The Icarus Deception, you say that we are all artists now. Why is this important and why is it hard?

02:47 Seth Godin: Oh, boy! Okay. So let’s try to break this into little bits. First of all, your question is significantly more brilliant than my answer ever could be. Just asking this question, I believe, changes most people’s lives. So let me start by distinguishing one small thing which is I think high stakes is in the eye of the beholder. And often, we screw up high-stakes situations, at least once we perceived to be high stakes because we’re bad at what to do when the spotlight is on us. And you are absolutely correct that your skill and the skills of so many people in choosing to act is critical, but I wanna clarify because I think most of the important stuff we do happens in moments when we don’t think it’s high stakes but other people do.

03:43 Seth Godin: And the way we act when we don’t think anyone is looking, the way we act when we don’t think everything is on the table, it’s in those moments that we are actually being the most judged and where we have the most leverage. So in all of the elements of our life, I think it’s essential that we accept the fact that we are playing a role, that the last time you were authentic was when you were three months old, and lying in your diapers, in a pile of poop.

[chuckle]

04:16 Seth Godin: Ever since then, you have been making choices about what will work. You didn’t go to work naked today even though maybe you felt like it because you understand that will not work. You don’t interrupt the boss and start calling her names even though you feel like it because you know that that will not work. So we have to get past this idea that our natural instinct is our authentic self. And in fact, the authentic one of us is the one that acts in a way that we are proud of, that acts in a way that generates the outcome that we all seek. And once you acknowledged that, as you’ve pointed out from your great question, then you realized that there’s a role to be played. And it makes no sense to me to do all the work we’re all doing and then when it really counts, refuse to put in the extra effort to play the role.

05:13 Michael Port: I love this. This is an important topic that I love to talk about, this idea of playing the right role in every situation. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what role is appropriate for a given situation, but that’s part of our job. And it’s interesting because when I started talking about performance in all these different situations, I get a little pushback at first. People say, “Well if you’re performing then you’re inauthentic.” And to me, good performance is not about fake behaviour, it’s about authentic behaviour in a manufactured environment, but you’re so right that any time we make a choice, there’s an element of performance because we are trying to influence how other people think or feel or influence what they do, and you seem to me to be someone, at least at this stage in your life, who focuses more on results over approval. And many folks, especially creatives and artists, are highly concerned about getting approval and often hyper-aware of their insecurities and weaknesses. So, what do you think of this? Is this true? Or do you focus more on results than approval and what have you done in your life to make sure that you’re not going for approval but rather the results you are trying to achieve?

06:39 Seth Godin: I think there’s a giant confusion, and the giant confusion is that approval is the result that you seek. I don’t think that the person who’s out for approval has different objectives than I do or that you do. I think they are merely confused, confused into believing that being approved of is the goal. And my shift, which happened probably 20 years ago, was that I realized that if I… The easiest way to please everyone is to go away.

[chuckle]

07:19 Michael Port: Yeah.

07:20 Seth Godin: To change nothing.

07:21 Michael Port: Yeah.

07:22 Seth Godin: If you change nothing, everyone will be either unaware of you or delighted that you didn’t bother. If you need… If you wanna actually make an impact, however, it means a few people will cheer you on, and everyone else will disapprove of what you’re doing. And that choice is really difficult. But if your goal is to make something happen, get paid adequately for it, make connection, improve the world around you, you have to start from this place of saying, “It’s not for everyone,” and if it’s not for you, thank you for giving it a try, I’ll go on to the next person.” Most people are not raised to do that, but that is the only way we make change happen.

08:12 Michael Port: Do… I mean, were you like this when you were young? Were you always somebody who was very futuristic and change-oriented? Is that a natural disposition for you?

08:21 Seth Godin: So, I love this question because behind it, not behind it in your intent, but behind it in the intent of the public is this idea that this sort of life is for other people. And that’s one of the reasons that so many people celebrated Steve Jobs the way they did, is that Steve Jobs was somehow some alien from another planet and we are not on the hook to be him. And where I’m coming from is this: “Yes, I won the parent lottery. And I also won the census lottery. I grew up in the right country, in the right decade, with the right parents. No question about it. But a lot of kids on my block and other people who I know didn’t end up making the impact that they sought when they got older. So it’s not enough to have all those advantages. I believe that this can be learned. I believe it can be taught. Everyone I’ve ever met, once in their life, painted a finger painting that was original. Once in their life told a joke that was funny. Once in their life spoke truth to power. And if you can do it once, then you know it can happen and the only question is will you choose to do it again?”

09:37 Michael Port: So, if we want to make changes, push the boundaries, not push the boundaries just to push the boundaries, but because we have something to say or there’s something we wanna put out in the world or ship, as you would say, how can you demonstrate that you’re a creative thinker, that you are somebody who will take risk and choose early and often, without scaring people away? Now, I just wanna preface it. There are certain people that are scared away and we should just let them go, but I mean if you are going in, if you’re working in a corporation and you wanna pitch some big idea, and you’ve got to get it past a whole bunch of decision makers, and you’re really taking something and you’re running with it might scare them a little bit, so how do you manage those two things?

10:29 Seth Godin: Well, I wanna catch us up with a summary of some of what we talked about in the last 10 minutes, which I think leads us to the answer to your question. So, Bob Dylan sings under an assumed name, in a voice that is not his own, acting in a different way every time. And yet, most people would acknowledge that Bob Dylan has made a difference, and most people would acknowledge that Bob Dylan is somehow authentic even though, clearly, Robert Zimmerman is playing a role. How did Bob Dylan become Bob Dylan? Was he born that way? Does being from wherever he is in Minnesota change everything? Well, people go to his hometown and discover absolutely nothing because there is nothing in his hometown or his parentage that made this happen. It was a choice. And then to your question: How do you do that? Do you go to Madison Square Garden, get up in front of 18,000 people and begin being Bob Dylan? Well, of course not. Bob Dylan began being Bob Dylan in front of 27 people in a coffee house in the middle of the night in Greenwich Village in the early ’60s. If he had failed, and he often did, 27 people were disappointed. You work your way up. The way that you make this difference in the organization where you work is not by saying, “The presentation of my life is in two weeks for the CEO. How do I make a ruckus and still make a difference?” That’s ridiculous. It’s too late.

12:00 Seth Godin: That meeting can’t be saved. That meeting is gonna be whatever that meeting was gonna be before you came to Michael Port for advice. The answer is to start with the smallest possible audience, with the smallest possible innovations, and cycle and repeat, and cycle and repeat. Picasso, everyone said was this great artist, he painted perhaps 100 of the great paintings of all time, but Picasso painted more than 10,000 paintings in his lifetime. That’s how you do it, small, small, small, repeat.

12:39 Michael Port: Another thing that the creative artist knows very well is how messy rehearsal is, or whatever creative process they’re going through, that it’s… When you’re first rehearsing something, when I was an actor, the first couple weeks of rehearsal was pretty bad. You don’t go to a Broadway show and see the performance and imagine that they just got the script that day, and whipped it out in an afternoon, so it takes awhile to get something ready to show sometimes. Now, I’ve obviously heard you speak, often a lot of people wait way too long, and they’re not shipping early enough and they’re going for perfection and afraid to get it out there, which is something different, but this comfort with the discomfort of messiness or making choices and things not working, this is something that I think is critical to most creative processes, and I think we often see stymied in business, that there’s a discomfort with things not working immediately and mess. Do you see the same thing, and if so do you have some encouragement for people on how they can get more comfortable with that messy process of creativity?

14:05 Seth Godin: Okay, so for people who need context, let’s start with Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford, 1920s, the factory, and it’s very difficult to imagine today what a factory was like and how important it was, you put a steam engine at one end and it turns a metal bar that runs the entire length of the factory, so the factory has to be in a straight line, and from that metal bar, all the workers hang a rubber pulley and that belt turns their tools. So, doing work in the factory is the only place you can do this work, ’cause it’s the only place you’ve got a steam engine turning the big wheel. And there’s an assembly line, and every person on the assembly line is waiting for you to do your job. Frederick Taylor wrote a book called Scientific Management, and in it, he showed that if you walk around the factory with a stopwatch, you can make millions of dollars because what you do is you get every single person to do their job exactly the way they’re supposed to, and keep the factory moving. The middle-class productivity, the world as we know it, came from those insights, that’s how we got here, that’s who paid for public school, that’s what built the world we live in.

15:18 Seth Godin: So why are we surprised that when we go to work, where there is no steam engine, where there are no police, where there is no drill press, that there’s still this mindset of, “Do what you did yesterday, get it right. Make no mistakes, keep the line moving”? Because that’s our heritage. The thing that has happened is that forever it has changed, and the reason it has changed is that we don’t get paid to make stuff like we made yesterday. They get paid to do that in other countries, $4 a day, but as soon as we can write down a job we can find someone cheaper than you to do it, that even things as artistic as radiology are now being done by people in a cheaper place, or by computers, ’cause if we can write down the steps, we can find someone cheaper than you to do it. Given that, that is the case, the only work that’s left, that you want to do, is work where we cannot write down the steps. Well if that’s the case, your job is to discover the steps, and if you think you can discover the steps without making any mistakes, you’re nuts, that the entire essence of science and art is innovation, and innovation is making mistakes until you figure out how to do it right, that’s your job. Meaning, if you’re not making productive errors at work, you’re not doing your job.

16:46 Michael Port: I love it. So it’s a great transition into topic number two, which is public speaking, performance, and public speaking because you typically get interviewed around marketing and building tribes, community, et cetera but you are also one of the most respected public speakers on the circuit. Someone once wrote on Facebook, on my page, he said, “Seth Godin and Michael Port are two of my favorite public speakers; Michael because he can keep an audience on the edge of their seat, for 90 minutes with no slides; and Seth because he can keep the audience on the edge of their seats for 90 minutes with 700 slides.” And I thought that was just so great. It was another demonstration that there isn’t one way to do anything when it comes to art, it’s a creative process. And that’s… It’s a big philosophy for us, that we don’t ever try to… We’re looking for an individual, we don’t wanna put somebody into some sort of protocol for performance. So, you’ve written so many books and you’ve given so many speeches, and I’m sure you’ve given speeches on each one.

18:00 Michael Port: How do you approach the speech and the content in the speech once you’ve already written a book about it? So, if I’m not clear, sometimes you give a speech on a book that you’ve already written, and I imagine, from time to time, you’re asked to give a speech on something that you haven’t necessarily written a book on. Do you approach those two processes differently?

18:32 Seth Godin: Okay, so maybe I’m unique in this way. It has never occurred to me. I don’t give speeches about my books, or, at least, I haven’t in a very, very long time. The book is the book. The book happens for a whole bunch of reasons that we can get into, but we’re not here to talk about books. But when I give a speech, I just seek to make a change happen. I seek to earn the attention and trust of the people in the room, and once I have that attention and trust, to take them to a place where I think, and where they think, they want to go. And whether some of the topics have been in a book of mine or not, is beyond my memory. I don’t say, and this is from that book, or this is from that book. The books are just sort of a punctuated souvenir of this continuum of transition and transformation I’ve been trying to make.

19:29 Seth Godin: So what… Sometimes I do talks without slides. I know I will never be in Michael Port territory, but it’s thrilling so I do it now and then. Sometimes I do them in my trademark way that I pioneered more than 20 years ago, which is using PowerPoint the way it’s supposed to be used. But in each case, what I’m trying to do is plant seeds, get under the skin of people. I believe that it is extremely rare that a speech changes people’s lives. But I do think that what a speech can do is put stories and pictures and ideas under someone’s skin and then a week or a month or a year later, those things resurface in a way that makes a fundamental change to an organization. That’s what I’m trying to do when I give a speech.

20:18 Michael Port: I once heard you say something to the effect, or read something that you wrote, that the two most important elements of a speech were number one, and maybe I have this wrong, maybe I’ve revised it over the years, but what I recall is that number one, the audience needs to respect you before you walk on stage, and number two, you need to love the audience no matter what they’re doing. Do I remember that correctly?

20:44 Seth Godin: That’s interesting. I might have said something like that. I have found that you get an extraordinarily unfair advantage if you’re not a stranger when you walk on stage.

20:57 Michael Port: So true.

20:58 Seth Godin: And part of it comes from the very structure of the venue. That you’re in the front and it’s dark where everybody else is, that there is this expectation that the authority that created this event has chosen this speaker to speak with some authority. And I think that conference organizers waste that a lot, because they set the room up wrong, and I think that speakers waste that a lot by not accepting what was given to them by the venue. So yes, I agree that the work we do, not just in the 10 minutes before the speech starts, but in the 10 years before we got invited, makes a significant difference in our ability to earn attention and trust once we’re on stage. And so for the people who are listening to this who aren’t gonna make a living doing it as you and I do, but are doing it because they wanna make a change happen where they work, you have to understand that probably 80 to 90% of your impact is gonna happen before the presentation even starts.

22:07 Seth Godin: And then the second half of your question, Zig Ziglar was one of my mentors and heroes and teachers, and I was fortunate to do an event with him. It was Gerald Ford, Zig and me, and Mia Hamm, but she doesn’t really count cause she wasn’t a very good speaker. And it was 14,000 people, and backstage, Zig and I had two hours together, and it was just one of the thrills of my career. And I said to Zig, “Tell me, what do I do about that guy in the third row, who’s asleep, that guy in the third row who refuses to make eye contact. I’m pushing as hard as I can, I’m focusing on him, I’m sending him all my vibes and it’s just not working.” And Zig turned to me, and I used to be able to do Zig’s voice and I can’t anymore, Zig turned to me and he said, “He’s not here for you. Give what you’ve got to everybody else.”

23:01 Michael Port: Mm-hmm.

23:01 Seth Godin: And what that let me do was understand that there are different levels of receptivity, there are different levels, cultural levels of response. I gave a speech in Korea last week and the cultural expectation at a business conference in Korea is do not applaud, do not laugh, give no feedback. And as a speaker, who just flew 14 hours, that’s tough.

23:28 Michael Port: Mm-hmm.

23:29 Seth Godin: But it’s not their fault. That’s the way that they’re culturally expected to engage. So I’m not going to withdraw what I brought them merely because they’re not meeting my standard. So what I need to do in that moment is realize I have exactly one opportunity to bring my best self to them, and it’s not for all of them, it’s not for all of anyone in any audience. But for the people who are there to receive it, I wanna give it to them the best way I know how.

24:01 Michael Port: It’s one of the strongest themes that I see in your work and I suppose, your personality as well. I hear it over and over and over again, is, your work and you, not just you, but one’s work is not for everyone and this is something we need to throw away, forget about this idea of trying to please everyone. I mean, I hear this over and over and over again from you, and I think you’re getting through. Sometimes it might take a while, people to hear it a few times.

24:32 Seth Godin: Yeah. I’m not getting through.

[chuckle]

24:34 Seth Godin: I’m not giving up, but I’m not getting through because every time a committee meets, the committee consists of the majority that want something to be for everyone and the minority that understand how the world is. And it’s such a simple example, depending on which cross section of the culture you were with, ask ten people in a meeting to take out their phone and nine of them have an iPhone, and you say to people, “If we can make the iPhone, would that be okay, with the iPhone, something that’s for everyone?” and they go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” and then you say, “Well, when did you buy yours? Did you buy yours the day it came out? Did you buy yours the month it came out? Did you buy yours the year it came out?” because the fact is when the iPhone first came out, you can read the reviews, it wasn’t applauded. And when the iPhone first came out, they sold tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. They didn’t sell a billion. So, even the most successful, most profitable consumer product in the history of mankind was not for everyone.

[chuckle]

25:44 Seth Godin: But all people remember is the thing that happens at the end, right? That Waiting for Godot, one of the great plays ever written…

25:53 Michael Port: Love that play.

25:54 Seth Godin: Is still, to this day, misunderstood by 80% of the people who see it, right? The Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, there was literally a riot that put people in the hospital when it premiered.

26:07 Michael Port: Yep.

26:07 Seth Godin: And nine months later, only nine months later, it was hailed as one of the great pieces of music. Well, what happened? It’s the same piece. It’s not the piece that changes, it’s the audience that changes. We have to start with this thing. Do you care enough to make a difference? And if you do, then you need to care enough to be misunderstood and you need to care enough to be rejected.

26:33 Michael Port: How do rehearse for your speeches? What’s your process like?

26:40 Seth Godin: You know, this is something that I’ve gotten pushback from because I’ve coached a lot. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve coached several of the most popular TED speakers ever, and almost everyone says to them, “Memorize your speech, practice your speech, do it again and again.” So, our friend, Elizabeth Gilbert who has given a magnificent speech at TED, worked on it for four hours a day for three months, and she practised it so much you couldn’t tell she practised it. But, and it’s a huge but, the alternative is not to practice your speech but to practice being you and to create a speech where you are able to give it because, in my experience, mere mortals are better off being themselves, the themselves they choose to be each day. So, Sir Ken Robinson who gave the most successful TEDTalk in history is exactly like that in real life. And you’re listening to me now talk, and I sound a lot like I talk when I’m on stage. This idea of deciding to be the person who makes a change happen all the time makes it way easier to give a presentation that earns the trust and attention of the people you’re giving it to.

28:05 Michael Port: So, there’s some people that are comfortable memorizing, others are more comfortable having their outline, knowing what they’re gonna speak on, and then working inside of that. But can, either way, whether you do one or the other, isn’t a big part of the process doing both? Doing the kind of work… Like I imagine when you put this pioneering method of using PowerPoint in speeches, if you’ve got 150 slides up there, you didn’t just throw them together that morning.

28:42 Seth Godin: Of course not.

28:43 Michael Port: Yeah. So, it’s like how much attention do you give the work that you are doing so that there’s this balance between… So, for example, when I was in grad school, a big part of our work as actors was exactly what you’re saying, to become more ourselves which is surprising to people ’cause they say, “But you were training at NYU grad as an actor. Isn’t your job to be somebody else?” and the fact of the matter is you demonstrate who you are by the choices you make. So, as an actor, when you are a character who’s pursuing an objective, the audience understands who that person is by the choices that person makes, not just by whether or not you have a limp or something like that. And until we could be transparent, for lack of a better word right now, and completely honest, we weren’t great. That’s what it took. It was the balance between those two things that I think is critical. So, it sounds to me like what you’re saying is that both are required.

29:51 Seth Godin: So, let me describe the golden method if there is one. The goal of a talk is to tell a series of stories that alternate between creating tension and relieving tension. And the purpose of a story is to get into the right side of the brain emotionally and to the left side of the brain intellectually, and to have those things somehow collide in a way that creates a memory. Once you can string together a series of stories, and I’m gonna tell you what I mean by a story in a second, then the speech is way easier to write. And this method I use in PowerPoint makes it much easier to put together because the purpose of the picture, and for those of you who haven’t seen my work, I use today about 200 slides when I give a presentation, none of them have words on them. And I’ll put up a picture of something, the picture by itself makes no sense, which is why I don’t share my slides.

31:00 Seth Godin: Then I tell a story about that picture. The advantage to me as a presenter is I don’t lose my place because the next slide tells me what the next story is gonna be. Do I memorize that story? I don’t need to. It’s me. It’s true. It happened. And I can tell the story in a way that connects to the story before and sets us up for the story afterward. And so the question is, “Do you have enough life experience to have stories?” The answer, of course, is yes, you do. Then the hard part is to curate those stories and to put them in an order that helps the audience understand where they have to go to relieve the tension. So the other day I linked to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook post about electric cars.

31:49 Michael Port: I saw that, yeah.

31:52 Seth Godin: And if you read it based on what I just told you, you will see he’s doing exactly the same thing. There are three stories. He only used a couple thousand words. Those three stories are super vivid, one of them is, imagine I’m gonna lock you in a room for an hour, the room has no ventilation. In one room is an electric car running full speed on a treadmill. In another room is a 400 horsepower Mustang running at full speed in a sealed room. Which room would you like to be locked in for an hour? That’s a story, right? How much memorization does that story take? Not a lot. But if you can make that story vivid, if you can make me feel like I am in that room, I’m gonna buy my next car just a little differently.

32:38 Michael Port: Yeah, and the rehearsal process might not necessarily be about memorization, but it might be about sculpting that story.

32:44 Seth Godin: Yes.

32:45 Michael Port: And that’s just like when you’re writing, you’re editing. I’ve heard that you’ll write a book in two weeks, something crazy like that, I don’t know if it’s true or not. But most people who write need to edit and anytime we’re giving a speech there’s a writing process involved whether or not you’re writing it out word for word.

33:05 Seth Godin: Exactly.

33:06 Michael Port: The sculpting of the story is so important, so sometimes something will happen to you and you got mad, so, you can make a great story for the speech. First time you tell it, it might not be that exciting, but then [33:15] ____.

33:16 Seth Godin: So let’s go back to the very first thing you said about high stakes interactions. So, first, I just wanna clarify. Of the 18 books, two of them I wrote in two weeks, two of them took more than a year each, so on average I think I’m coming up right in the normal part of…

[chuckle]

33:36 Michael Port: Seth, there’s nothing normal about you. Let’s just get that straight.

33:39 Seth Godin: The thing is, let’s say you’re meeting three friends for dinner and you really want Szechuan food for dinner. In the four minutes in the car after you picked these people up, you are gonna make a presentation. That presentation is gonna be all about why you’re going for Szechuan food tonight and you’re going to try to enroll and engage this group of friends to go with you for Szechuan. Now, I think we can agree that you probably are capable of pulling that off, and I think we can agree that that is about as low as low stakes get. But you just persuaded three other people to do something they didn’t wanna do when they got into the car.

34:20 Seth Godin: My argument is that for everyday presentations, the stakes can be the same way even if we’re talking about closing a plant or opening a new division, that what the CEO or the board or everybody else wants to hear from you is exactly the same passion and humanity that you brought to the Szechuan argument. Of course, you need more data, of course, you need spreadsheets, of course, you need facts. That can all come in the packet that people get after they hear you tell them your truth. But one reason that people are so bad at presentations is ’cause of the resistance, deep pressed filled resistance. They think it’s high stakes so they sand off every edge when in fact, the big win is to go in light on our feet, imagining it’s just as important as where we have dinner, using that humanity, but then bringing with it as you pointed out the sculpting and the logical argument that is expected in a professional setting.

35:25 Michael Port: You know, there’s this, I think, absolutely bogus study out there, which I’ve never seen, nobody’s ever been able to show it to me that suggests that the number one fear is public speaking and the number two fear is death.

35:40 Seth Godin: Yep.

35:41 Michael Port: Yeah. It’s like, if you look up to the left, you’re lying or if you look up to the right, you’re not. Another one of these things that’s absolutely hogwash that it just gets perpetuated. But it’s interesting to me because of course, there are… But at the same time, of course, it is understandable that people get anxious about speaking. So, what are they afraid of, is the question. Rejection. What else is there? What are we afraid of when we go to… People are gonna laugh at us, they’re gonna tell us we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re talking about. Is there anything else, do you think that people are so afraid of in these, what they think are such high stake situations?

36:30 Seth Godin: Oh, yeah. So, we know that the brain has multiple centers. You don’t have one. You have a whole bunch of parts of your brain working at once. And the single most powerful, fastest acting part is the amygdala; the brain stem, the wizard brain, the part of us that we share with wolves and foxes and lizards. We evolved to want to be part of the tribe that is keeping us safe. That if your great, great, great, great grandfather had a fight with the chief and the chief threw him out, he didn’t have any children and the genes did not get passed on. So, one of the things that we fear is sitting around the camp-fire and having everyone look at us because if everyone looks at us, they might see something in us that causes us to be expelled. And that is the same as dying, and you can see the same behavior if you go to the pound and look a dog in the eye. The dog does not want you to do that. It takes a while for a dog to trust you enough for you to do that.

37:39 Seth Godin: So, this idea that we have weaponized and scaled this fear is why public speaking is so powerful. Because it’s scarce to find people who are actually good at it. And the reason people aren’t good at it is because we are wired to be afraid of it. And I think there are two ways to deal with that. The first is to acknowledge that reassurance is futile. No amount of external reassurance of how safe it is or how well you’re gonna do or how good you are is sufficient. And the reason is because your lizard brain will just want more. And so, seeking external reassurance is a waste of time. Internal reassurance is a totally different thing. External reassurance isn’t gonna help you. And the second thing that’s essential, I believe, is to stop trying to make the fear go away. Because you can’t. What you can do is learn to dance with the fear. You can use the fear as a compass. That when the fear shows up, you know you’re on the right track. You can welcome the fear, you can use the fear as fuel. But all the time you’re spending trying to relax yourself and make the fear go away is merely distracting you from being the person you’re capable of being.

39:04 Michael Port: I completely agree. Absolutely. The more focus we put on ourselves, the more we obsess about how we’re doing, how we look, et cetera, the less connected we generally are to an audience and the more anxious we get. So, we’re trying to get out of our own need for approval, going back to what we talked about earlier, and what’s our promise to the audience? What’s the objective we’re trying to achieve? And are we doing everything in our power to fight to achieve that objective? Did you ever see the TEDTalk from Benjamin Zander who is the classical conductor?

39:40 Seth Godin: Ben is one of my dearest friends.

39:42 Michael Port: Okay, so then you’ve seen his TEDTalk, I imagine.

39:45 Seth Godin: Yes.

39:45 Michael Port: There’s a moment in there where he says, and I’ll just paraphrase, he goes, “I’m not leaving this stage until everyone in this audience appreciates or loves, or sees or knows that they have a place in classical music.” Something like that. And obviously he wouldn’t filibuster, he’s not gonna actually stay on the stage for the rest of the day, but it was that commitment that I think made his performance so profound. Do you agree? Do you remember that moment?

40:19 Seth Godin: I do. I would add to that that 50 years of living it before he got onstage…

40:28 Michael Port: Yeah, sure. Sure.

40:29 Seth Godin: Is even more important. And this is… The public speakers in the old days that we used to see the most are the Jimmy Fallons and the Johnny Carsons. And there’s almost nothing more fake than what they do. That there is nothing in their life experience that they are bringing to us. They are chameleons who are dancing like an organ grinder monkey every night. Most of us are never gonna have that role. Most of us give talks about things we actually believe in, things we actually care about. And the reason that Ben Zander is able to do the extraordinary things he does on stage, and if you ever have a chance to see him perform with his orchestra in Boston, you should go, is because he has devoted his entire life to living this. And one of the things that public speaking is a symptom of is, do you actually care? Because if you care, you’re much more likely to be a good public speaker. And if you don’t care, it’s really hard to fake it when you have a limited amount of time to earn attention and trust.

41:48 Michael Port: Seth, that is the perfect moment to wrap up on. Of course, everybody knows how to get in touch with you. If they want, just Google Seth, you’ll find his blog. You, of course, should be reading his blog daily, watching his videos online of his speeches. Seth has been a mentor in absentia, we don’t talk often, but for so many of us who came in, I’ve been doing this 2003 and Seth’s been writing since, what, 1990… When did you publish your first book?

42:27 Seth Godin: ’86.

42:28 Michael Port: ’86, so, he’s really been influential to so many of us. So, I just wanna thank you for that, Seth, and all the work you continue to do.

42:37 Seth Godin: Well, thank you for leading, for generously showing up the way you do. Bit by bit, you are making a very significant difference, Michael.

42:45 Michael Port: I appreciate that. So, everybody, keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world and we’ll see you on the next one. Bye for now.

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