4 reasons why I hate Seth Godin

The author doesn’t begrudge the marketing solon his wide appeal, but the wacky headlines, the breathless warnings? Those are a bit much. Here’s her case.

You either love or hate Seth Godin.

Before we get into our—that is, my—feelings about him, let’s not deny how successful Godin has been in offering marketing tactics, inspirational advice and head-scratching axioms to corporate execs and marketing professionals.

He’s written 18 books, translated into more than 35 languages. According to his website, his blog is “one of the most popular in the world.” He has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter. He follows one thing (his alternative MBA program).

Yes. You read that correctly. The man started his own MBA program.

I don’t hate him for his success. I don’t hate his glasses, either, but when I hear someone quote Godin, a little part of me dies. Here’s why:

1. Like a baby leopard looking at himself in the mirror for the first time in a citrus grove, his headlines make no sense.

I spent a lot of time reading his blog before I started writing this article. Afterward, I spent a lot of time drinking. Maybe that would help me figure out what he was saying. Nope. I’m still confused. Seth, what are you trying to tell us?

Take a look at a few of his headlines:

These are not headlines. These are nonsense. It’s like he’s trying to write his readers some kind of secret, coded message—and then you think, “Ahh, yes, my CEO is just like a banana peel—I get it. I get it.” No, you don’t, but that’s OK. There was nothing to “get.”

2. He makes me scared to leave the house.

According to Godin, there are so many things I need to be afraid of: my career (Where is it now? Where is it going? How will it get “there”?), not taking chances, not taking my turn, not starting a project or starting too many projects. In the meantime, Godin wants me to start dancing with fear. No, Seth. If I spend my time dancing with fear, I’m going to miss out on the cute guy standing next to me.

3. Nothing is profound (Sidenote: Could this be the title for his next blog?)

Godin specializes in writing mystery koans for corporate America. Luckily, I’ve dissected them. Take a look at these three:

Stinginess in the connection economy

When six people are trying to split a pizza, some stinginess appears. After all, more for one person is less for the other five.

But in interactions that lead to connection, to shared knowledge, to possibility, it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a zero-sum game being played. In fact, the more enthusiasm and optimism people bring to the interaction, the more there is for everyone else.

You don’t need to save up the goodwill and encouragement you offer to others. It will be automatically replenished, and it pays dividends along the way.

The takeaway: Share your pizza. Share your ideas.

(P.S. Nobel laureate John Nash already explored this notion.)

The middle of everywhere

If the railroad didn’t make it to your town, or if the highway didn’t have an exit, or if you were somehow off the beaten path, we wrote you off. Your town was in the middle of nowhere.

Now, of course, if wireless signal can reach you, you’re now in the middle of everywhere, aren’t you?

The takeaway: It’s good to be near WiFi.

Cursing gravity

You can disdain gravity all you want, call out its unfairness, seek to have it banned.

But that’s not going to help you build an airplane.

The takeaway: Yeah, I have no idea.

4. Hardly anyone disagrees with him—publicly.

Godin has some pretty sweet PR going for him. Nobody disagrees with him—really. After a quick Google search, I found that nobody hates Godin as much as I do (except for a few people who “hate” on his success). He’s only nabbed a few lukewarm headlines:


If these people read Godin’s stuff, they would know he would want you to “bring your point of view and your active voice, or let’s not meet.” I like to think if Godin read this blog, he’d approve. He wants discussions. He wants disagreements. He wants passion. See: When tribal adherence becomes toxic.

What do you think? Agree or disagree with me? Please express yourself in the comments. (He’d relish the feedback.) I’ll let him have the last word:

Which part do you disagree with? The steps in the proof? Or the conclusion? If you agree with every step of the argument, but the conclusion leaves you angry or uncomfortable, it might be time to reconsider your worldview, not reject the argument.

Jessica Levco is a freelance health care marketer. She was the former editor of Ragan’s Health Care Communication News.

(image via)


4 Responses to “4 reasons why I hate Seth Godin”

    Anon says:

    The man only has one talent: selling his own books. Most people will never work out what mind bending nonsense they’ve been exposed to before it’s too late.

    This man is the personification of spam, it’ll be a while before people stop reading him; the way it took so long for them to stop forwarding chain emails. I doubt he’d explain life to his kids the way he writes a blog post.

    Laura says:

    Thank goodness! Someone else sees the (self-proclaimed) emperor has no clothes!
    I stopped reading Seth Godin several years ago. I happened to have an in-the-wild spotting of him this week though: I was standing in line at a very popular ice cream shop and he cut in front of me announcing he was just looking at the flavors. He then explained to the 2 groupies he was with how the flavors changed regularly which keeps people coming back to try what’s new. Like this was revolutionary and he was letting him in on a secret.
    Yes, he’s very good at stating the obvious and somehow packaging it cryptically to sell his books, but he’s rude and nonsensical.

    Benjamin Setor says:

    “He’s rude and nonsensical”? After one meeting? Wow!

    Haha, come on, he can’t be that bad?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but you seem to have a personal dislike for this man that has stretched towards a possible dislike for his ideas.

    And I am also a bit surprised to find out that Seth’s attempt at simplifying his ideas is seen as an effort to encrypt them.

    Wow it so amazing seeing that people see things totally differently. Regardless, a lot of people, like myself, have been taught by Seth to focus on doing good work for customers. I think that is a huge obvious lesson that we often miss in our haste to make profit.

    Thanks for your perspective. I’m glad to note other people see things differently.

    Amazing. 🙂

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