Popular vs. Best

This from the great Seth Godin last month:
Seth’s Blog: My most popular blog posts this year.

My most popular blog posts this year

…weren’t my best ones.

As usual, the most popular music wasn’t the best recorded this year either. Same for the highest-grossing movies, restaurants and politicians doing fundraising.

“Best” is rarely the same as “popular.”

Which means that if you want to keep track of doing your best work, you’re going to have to avoid the distraction of letting the market decide if you’ve done a good job or not.

That’s true. I would hope that none of my posts are terrible, but occasionally something hits big — or has legs — and I’m left scratching my head. Sometimes, it’s when something hasn’t gotten a lot of play; sometimes it’s when another person directs people to it; sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.

Whatever it is, I’m always grateful that people read what I put out there. I’m particularly gratified when someone takes the time to comment — even if it’s just a simple “thanks.”

As I think about this, I have always found that this idea of popular and best rather curious. I am immediately reminded of a time a few years back when I received a “significant award” for news writing. I couldn’t believe the story that was picked won. I had written much, much better stories that year, I thought.

What I learned about best, popular and the fickle nature of audiences I learned by developing audiences for the theatre. These things translate:

1. Treat all assignments equally.
2. Always do your best work.
3. Be proud of your efforts.
4. Say “thank you” and mean it.
5. Be grateful and and a little bit humble.
6. Never, ever believe your own P.R.

If you think that those things have nothing to do with popularity, you’d be wrong.

Our Bullying Culture


Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Seth’s Blog: Sure, but he’s our bully.

There have always been bullies among us, and it’s worth taking a moment to see how our culture has built a role for them to be useful heroes. Taught or not, bullying keeps showing up.

We often (for a while) view bullies as powerful or brave or important–as long as they are ourbullies. Richie Incognito, Chris Christie, Rob Ford—each has a long list of supporters, people who have defended a particular bully as a passionate man of the people, as doing their job, as the visceral anti-elite, winning a battle that’s worth fighting for.

This is an excellent piece by Seth Godin, one of my Top Five “deep thinkers” in strategic management and communications issues.  We talk so much, especially in the LGBT community in recent years, about bullying, the effects of bullying and the teen suicides caused, oftentimes, by bullying that we tend to think that bullying is something that won’t happen after we run the gauntlet that is high school.

In other words: it gets better.

Well, for many who are bullied, it does get better, but for others, the bullying continues. You, as an adult, may be a bully in your workplace whether you realize it or not. I was, in fact, shocked when a co-worker once told me that I had such a “forceful personality” that they wouldn’t want to contradict me for fear that they would be seen as potentially wrong.

I was shocked because I don’t have that view of myself at all. At heart, I’m still the very short, stocky, gay 11-year old with glasses who couldn’t hit the baseball worth a damn and who was picked last in gym class. How could I possibly be that person that others perceived me to be?

The truth is, it bothered me enough to change my management style; to make sure to be as inclusive as possible; to encourage others to render an opinion counter to my own, even if I am the “boss” in that situation. Simplistically, this is often reduced to “speaking truth to power” but there’s more to it than that.

Writes Godin:

In your organization, there are no doubt bullies who can win their point, increase their power and defeat their enemies. … But it’s pretty clear we can create organizations that don’t tolerate it, creating an environment where the bully is never the hero. We probably ought to try.

The more we all check ourselves and recognize bullying behavior in our adult lives, the easier it is for us to create a bully-free society for the next generations. Vying for a little less power might be a good thing.

Victims of the Hollywood Paradox

Seth’s Blog: Victims of the Hollywood Paradox.

The studios spend ever more on the blockbusters they make because that demonstrates their power and pays everyone in the chain more money, which creates more (apparent) power for those in charge.

But since they pay so much, they have no choice, they think, but to say, “This must work!” So they polish off the edges, follow the widely-known secret formula and create banality. No glory, it seems, with guts.

Every meeting is about avoiding coming anywhere near the sentence, “this might not work,” and instead giving ammunition to the groupthink belief that this must work.

And as soon as you do that, you’ve guaranteed it won’t.

Every bestseller is a surprise bestseller, and in fact, nobody knows anything.

(And of course, it’s not just movies, is it?)

Ah, Seth Godin, you sayer of sooth. Scratch around on this blog and search for references to “EastSiders” and “Husbands” and “The Outs” and “Whatever This Is” which are all independent productions, done for miraculously little money by writers and filmmakers who are truly committed to telling great stories and presenting them in innovative ways. None of the banality of “Hollywood,” I can assure you.