Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Proving Seth Godin Wrong

Added on by Tom Webster.

I'm going to state this up front--I rarely agree with what Seth Godin writes. And I'll gladly engage in the comments section here with anyone who thinks differently, because I welcome your comments and debate in this space, always. Today's Godin piece, however, I found particularly galling. In "Proving The Skeptics Wrong," Godin takes a hard-to-disagree-with, populist stance against "skeptics" who seek to drag your work down, and instead encourages us to focus on delighting "true believers."

That sells books, I'll warrant, and he's sold more than I ever will (at least, I assume so--my sequel to Hamlet is still sitting on the old Blickensderfer.) But he's got the wrong word. His dismissal of skeptics states that "They don't care. They won't learn."

Poppycock. I'm reclaiming this word right now. The word he is looking for is "cynic." I am emphatically NOT a cynic. I believe in you. I think your idea has merit. I do care, and I most certainly do learn.

But I am a skeptic. A skeptic is not a cynic. A skeptic doesn't rush to early judgement of any kind. A skeptic challenges you, but does not defeat you. A skeptic does not allow you to slide by with intellectual laziness, or straw man arguments, or crap stats, or weak-ass "science." A skeptic makes your idea better.

A cynic seeks to drag you down. The flip side of cynic? I'd call that a pollyanna. You know, those true believers Godin admonishes you to delight. They are merely flip sides of the same coin.

To a skeptic, the sky is not falling, nor is it rosy and sunny. A skeptic merely makes you understand what you know, and what you don't know.

Ignore the cynics. They truly seek to drag you down. But heed the skeptic. I get paid by my clients to be a skeptic. For every mythical business fable about the leader who ignored the "skeptics" and succeeded, there are a thousand, quiet and untold stories about the leaders who avoided the poor decision because the skeptic made them think it through a bit more.

I'm a passionate skeptic. Want to know more about what being a skeptic really means? Check out this five minute Ignite talk I gave a couple of years and 15 extra pounds ago.