Home > Uncategorized > Seth Godin’s Bull-Crap Factory

Seth Godin’s Bull-Crap Factory

I was originally going to write an article of about Seth Godin and how much of his writing appears to me to be empty words, something akin to a sugar high. However, I realized after reading his article regarding permanent recession, I might agree with, or at least not be able to refute, some of his assertions about geography and inefficiency. Upon re-reading his article, the proverbial light bulb turned on and I realized that what I objected to in the article was simple – it’s bull-crap.

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

I work for a family owned company that owns several manufacturing / production facilities. They manufacture goods that are used to create / produce other goods that are sold, and also provide services that aid manufacturers in selling their goods at the retail level. They have significant capital tied up in their business – both land, buildings, equipment, as well as personnel – training, health insurance, 401Ks profit sharing, etc. The owners generate serious cash flow from the business, not just for themselves, but for an entire ecosystem of employees, suppliers, etc. They have accumulated significant wealth and provided for the livelihood of many employees. Comparing that to owning a laptop and being the equivalent of a freelancer is B.S. 

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

I really find the line about owning a factory being a birthright objectionable. In the business where I work nobody gave the owners a factory for their high school graduation. Conversely, hundreds of millions of people likely won’t own factories. This has to do with scale and efficiency. Manufacturing works, generally, on a large scale – allowing a relative few people to produce a relatively large amount of goods. Hundreds of millions of people won’t likely be able to own a factory. They either don’t have the capital (money), knowledge, know-how, etc. to do so. In turn, they won’t be able to produce the kind of wealth that both allows the factory owners to create wealth for themselves and provide a significant number of others with the opportunity to earn a living. Go ahead, try and create the wealth that P&G or Apple does working from home on your laptop. When you succeed, let me know.

Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping… in the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.

What the heck does this mean. Give instructions? To whom shall I give instructions? While burger flipping may not be the career of choice for many, it has provided the foundation of job experience for many who took the skills they learned in the workplace and used them to attain a better paying job in their chosen career field. The same might be said about the military. I spent four years in the Army and another three in the Reserves. I spent lots of time being ordered around by other people – awaiting instructions so-to-speak. I also advanced up the ranks of enlisted personnel to become a Sergeant (non-commissioned officer or NCO). I learned principles of military leadership that have helped me be a better leader at work. I learned I could take, do and achieve more than I originally thought. The price of admission – having to wait to be told what to do.

What is so appealing, and troubling about Seth Godin is that he mixes a narrative that sounds plausible with so much complete and utter bull-crap. There appears to be little connection between his worldview and the world that exists today. In order to create value in Seth Godin’s world you only need a laptop, vision and the courage to begin giving instructions instead of waiting for them. Excuse me, where did that laptop come from? Some large company, with a significant investment in physical and human capital manufactured it. As far as I know, there is no group of freelancers working from home on their laptops who have spontaneously grouped together to create a mass-produced, mass-marketed laptop and successfully compete in the retail space. I also look around my home and see item after item that was produced through the manufacturing model that has existed at least as far back as Henry Ford and the Model T.

None of this is to say that there aren’t problems with manufacturing. I’m also not saying that there aren’t a good number of people working in the way that Godin describes. Unfortunately, Godin’s writing, perhaps through an error of omission, doesn’t even consider political factors, our current debt-based monetary system, etc., that significantly impact the entire economic ecosystem within which exists both manufacturing and the type of work he describes occurs. This ecosystem significantly impacts and influences the decisions that manufactures make on a daily basis. Change the incentives and you can change the decisions and outcomes for – potentially – millions of people.

While policy changes could significantly impact manufacturing and the lives of millions for the better, I highly doubt that any amount of changes could alter the landscape so greatly that millions of people will somehow transform their laptops into factories and generate significant wealth through them. Perhaps Godin’s next book will be a how-to manual describing the process of generating mega wealth from mini netbooks. Of course, once you have a system written down on paper to do so, it will end up being outsourced overseas to someone who will work for pennies on the dollar.

Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I agree. I’m sick and tired of reading “celebrity” authors who are well-connected by cash, family, or just plain luck who attempt to peddle poop that is inaccurate in its delusions of yet another ridiculous utopia. I’m not a pessimist, either. People seldom ever change and there’s nothing new under the sun. Besides. Seth Godin is a fugly-looking smug-rat. As a human being, I can say that because frankly, I’m tired of NOT reading more writing like yours — HUMAN AND REAL! Thank YOU!!!

  2. Tim
    August 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Godin is the zen master of marketing / peddling vagaries and bullshit to millennial aged workers and managers. “Everyone is an artist!”, “Be an indispensable linchpin!”, etc etc. He is also the master of telling the same story over and over again, but with a different twist. Most of those books he writes… are the same book. And all of them are also derived largely from online content that is freely available.

    Gotta hand it to him; he’s made a small fortune off of feel-good pep-talks to young people in business… “Seth Godin is AWESOME, dude” is the call of many a freelancer. He recognized the angst, tapped into it and fed the masses what they wanted to hear.

    This is the price THEY pay for not studying harder in college: eventually they’ll figure out that he’s full of crap and that they wasted their time trying to apply his “message”. Most of which is just common sense. Be indispensable? No shit, Sherlock.

  3. wl
    May 9, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Check out Seth’s email newsletter.

    It’s so arty, farty, & daily. It’s like the Daily Queef.

    So much fancy bullshit.

    GIve me 1 ancient Chinese philosopher who learned only 2 things with utmost sincerity instead of this false prophet any day!

    Lao-Tzu he is not

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