Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Permission Marketing Guru Seth Godin
Continues Serving Up Pearls of Wisdom

In the past, I've pointed to Seth Godin a number of times for his pithy wisdom about the web, marketing and business in general. He never seems to get stale. His latest wise musing is about the differences between thrill seekers & fear avoiders. Just in case the link is broken at some future date, I'll reprint it here in its entirety.

I now firmly believe that there are two polar opposites at work: Thrill seekers and Fear avoiders. Notice that I don't use the word 'risk' to describe either category. More on that soon. How do we explain the fact that Forbes finds more than 700 billionaires and virtually none are both young and retired? Why keep working?
How do explain why so many organizations get big and then just stop? Stop innovating, stop pushing, stop inventing...
Why are seminars sometimes exciting, bubbling pots of innovation and energy while others are just sort of dronefests?
I think people come to work with one of two attitudes (though there are plenty of people with a blend that's somewhere in between):
Thrill seekers love growth. They most enjoy a day where they try something that was difficult, or--even better--said to be impossible, and then pull it off. Thrill seekers are great salespeople because they view every encounter as a chance to break some sort of record or have an interaction that is memorable.
Fear avoiders hate change. They want the world to stay just the way it is. They're happy being mediocre, because being mediocre means less threat/fear/change. They resent being pushed into the unknown, because the unknown is a scary place.
An interesting side discussion: one of the biggest factors in the success of the US isn't our natural resources or location. It's that so many people in this country came here seeking a thrill.
So why not call them risk seekers and risk avoiders? Well, it used to be true. Seeking thrills was risky. But no longer. Now, of course, safe is risky. The horrible irony is that the fear avoiders are setting themselves up for big changes because they're confused. The safest thing they can do now, it turns out, is become a thrill seeker.
Who do you work with?

9 Comments:

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

Thrill seekers and Fear avoiders? Sounds like the title of a breakout session at a corporate "team building" retreat. Spare me the labels and pigeon holing. anyway, what big-head Seth totally misses is that the thrill seekers cannot possibly survive--or become billionaires--without help from those miserable, fearful, risk-averse drones who work for them (and who also do their dirty work) and are content in their mediocrity (a myth of course, but some other time on that one...). Thrill seekers may love growth, but they also love the sound of their own pulse, and that may have more to do with their thrill seeking than "drive" or the need to change things. Also, thrill seeking looks great when everything turns out fine, but there are plenty of thrill seekers who have ruined the lives of everyone around them. Enron's hooligans come to mind. The nutty neocons who shoved the Iraq war down our throats come to mind. Sometimes the world just as it is ain't so bad...

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Hmm. Not sure what I think about this. I don't think any organization benefits from having too many "risk-averse drones," and the entire economy, in any case, is increasingly becoming less hospitable to those kinds of folks. That's neither good nor bad, but just a fact of life. But I get your larger point, and I suppose I agree with some of it.

 
At 6:04 PM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

in hindsight, probably not very well thought out, although i don't think seth's little essay was either (and the labeling--well, it's just trite). anyhows, i think there is underappreciated value among predictable (reliable) individuals. they built the infrastructure of this nation, much of it intact today. they help make the risk taker's dreams come alive. so maybe what i'm saying is that it's a "we need each other thing." perhaps not always, but mostly...

unrelated, this excerpt from a USA Today dispatch, a story about cheney's return to the hospital:

"He had six hours of surgery on his legs in 2005 to repair a kind of aneurysm, a ballooning weak spot in an artery that can burst if left untreated. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest."

All those medical challenges and all that medical care to keep him alive. He must truly value life. Just seems ironic, if that is the right word, given his career and its proximity to pursuits (wars) that tend to shorten life, rather than prolong it...

 
At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Buster said...

Gotta go with Mr. Moura on this one. If I never hear another self-congratulatory jerk wax rhapsodic about the beauty and superiority of risk-taking, I would be content. Sadly, I am doomed in this regard.

Many of these supposedly change-embracing individuals are about one step ahead of the corporate scythe themselves, so their pitiful attempt to identify with the aggressor is understandable, from a psychoanalytic POV, anyway.)

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think you've actually hit it precisely on the head the second time, Mr? Moura: we do need each other. It's all about balance.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Jim Kukral said...

Quote: "the world needs ditch digger too Timmy"

Anyone?

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

JK,
Good of you to visit. Looking forward to seeing you Monday.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

What the world really needs most is the dynamic tension between the thrill seekers and fear avoiders—or any another reified binary polar opposites you care to identify or invent. You could be talking about extraverts vs. introverts, progressive vs. conservatives, etc. I mean, pick a polarity, and layer it over "thrill seekers vs. risk avoiders," and discover how much conceptual overlap there is.

It's in the dynamic tension between opposed positions that the growth actually occurs. Some days you take the stance of adventure, other days you take the stance of conversation. Having good awareness of the field, and good timing, is also essential. When you're feeling stagnant, you'd better be able to bust out; when you're feeling too far out on a limb, you'd better be able to pull back in. So, I think the truth is, a successful system needs to be able to be BOTH adventurous and cautious, as appropriate. There's no question that an unbalanced system, that is ALL thrill or ALL fear is going to fail, in the end—simply because it's unbalanced. (This kind of ossified imbalance in psychology is called neurosis.)

Furthermore, my experience leads me to doubt most binary polar opposites as presented, as there is almost always a third option, or a fourth. I like Jung's typology of psychological types in part because it's a system that presents four loci, rather than a mere linear spectrum of two loci. In fact, perhaps what's true is that there are 12 loci, or attractors, in multi-dimensional space. Of course, that's hard to conceptualize into a soundbyte that sounds pithy and hip by presenting everything as binary opposites.

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, I'd have to agree with that bit about how the dynamic tension between opposites leads to growth. That's nicely put. You've certainly injected a different vibe into our run of the mill comments, for which I thank you. I also thank you for visiting.

 

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