What do Seth Godin, a thug and a serial killer have in common?

In I.D., Philip Davis’s 1995 film, Reece Dinsdale plays John, one of four undercover policemen sent to infiltrate a group of football hooligans at the fictional Shadwell Football Club. As John starts drinking, fighting and copying the behaviour of the thugs he is monitoring, he slowly becomes one of them.In the final scene, we see him at a neo-Nazi march.

In Dexter, Michael C. Hall plays a serial killer who hides his true identity. To fit in with society, he learns to fake the emotions that he lacks but others have. Towards the end of the second series – series 3 hasn’t aired in the UK yet – Dexter is showing signs of developing the feelings he has long been feigning.

But what has this got to do with Seth Godin?

A few weeks ago, I was at Seth’s talk in London. Somebody from the audience asked Seth how he became the person he now is.

Seth replied (and I’m paraphrasing here – Seth was more eloquent than this – but I think I’ve caught the gist):

“When I started out, I had this idea of ‘Seth Godin’, the person I wanted to be. This person had certain standards, and would behave in certain ways. He was ultra-ethical and would do nothing to contradict the principles of permission marketing. Whenever I was faced by a tricky question, I asked myself “what would ‘Seth Godin’ do”. And, over time, I became the person I wanted to be.”

I’d like to make one point, and ask one question.

Firstly, rather than asking “What would Bill Gates do?” to gain perspective when faced by a difficult problem, you can ask what the hypothetical you – the person you aspire to be – would do.

Secondly, if you consistently do that, will you, over time, become the person that you want to be, as Seth has? Or will you just be a fraud whose actions betray your essence?

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11 responses to “What do Seth Godin, a thug and a serial killer have in common?”

  1. Steve Jones says:

    I completely agree. You have to follow your own moral compass. As we built SQLServerCentral.com, we constantly had to stop and ask ourselves “is this how we’d want to be treated as customers” and that helped us. At least I think it did. It cost us some money, but we had great peace of mind.

  2. There’s nothing fraudulent about appealing to a better vision of yourself. Just about every plan I make is based on a future version of myself that is slightly better than I am today. If you think in that way, the action will follow. Sometimes you’ll hit the mark, sometimes not, but at least you have an ideal to which you aspire.
    What I fear are those who have no vision of a better self, no way of escaping their venal core.

  3. Jason Cohen says:

    Agreed, but what are your personal values?
    I know mine have changed over time as I have grown, lived, read, and experienced.
    Perhaps Seth is so single-minded and self-assured that he can put a stake in the ground and run for decades without contradiction or reconsideration.
    But I’m a normal human being. With failings, yet the ability to reflect and change my mind if I find a new idea more palatable than an old one.
    Also, are there any ideas so universal that they shouldn’t be contradicted at one time or another?
    So I agree with the main lines of your argument — that you should *decide* your convictions and strive to maintain them and filter yourself through them and create a personal brand.
    But you also can’t blindly hold onto some invented concept of “right.” Always be questioning.

  4. Totally. If you keep thinking you want to be a certain way, your mind keeps you on the right path.

  5. Corey says:

    Most of changing oneself consists of learning new habits, not having sudden realisations or logical reasoning.
    Seth’s trick is one way of inculcating new habits in oneself. It’s like a form of meditation or visualization. Imagine the person you want to be whenever faced with a decision, and you’ll find it possible to make the decisions that person would make.

  6. bj says:

    I agree at all.

  7. Great philosophy, be true to yourself and sleep soundly at night.

  8. Jim Kring says:

    At our essence we are all animals, but we use our minds to make choices about who we want to be and we decide, ever day, whether that is who we are. We should not be measured by our potential for bad, but our ability to do good.
    “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.” -Plato

  9. Pat says:

    To me, this idea is related to the idea that thoughts, actions and feelings all influence each other.
    E.g. If you want to feel happy, then act as if you’re already happy.
    What this post says is that if you want to BE something, then act as if you are already like that. If you want to be ethical, compassionate, or a neo-Nazi, then act like you are already ethical, compassionate or a neo-Nazi.

  10. Sports Picks says:

    I am into the gaming zone! and shadwell football club is a tough game i must say ,but very enjoyable, and about godwin,his moral ethics are commendable ,however mere mortals may find it difficult adhering to and identify with john more !
    cheers, richard

  11. mody says:

    nice,, keep it up