Give and Take

But mostly give

Give and Take

You are probably familiar with “gains from trade”. The notion that society is based on give and take. You help me, I reciprocate, and together we benefit.

The idea is a powerful one and forms the basis of the free market economy.

The invisible hand of market forces, as Adam Smith put it, enables market participants to work for their own benefit, and make society better off in the process. The profit motive fuels competition, from buyers and sellers, resulting in better products and lower prices.

But what if you help me, and I can’t reciprocate? What if you have the capacity to give, and we don’t have the ability to repay you right now?

You write a blog post that helps us, and we’ve never met you. You sing a song that makes us smile, and we never thank you. You write an ebook which changes our world view, and you gave it away for free.

Welcome to the Information Age and the Gift Economy, where the cost of helping one more person is now zero. It’s now easier than ever to give, if you choose to do so.

The problem with this new state of the world is that it requires new thinking.

The people who benefit most from your work may not be the ones who are able to pay you for it. In the world of tech startups, B-School Professors call these people “users”. On one level, this helps to distinguish them from paying customers. But words are powerful things. On another level, this term is used to pigeon-hole. These people can’t reciprocate. They can’t uphold their side of the implied social contract. These people are “users”.

This is old thinking, and the term offends us. You would do much better to think of people who benefit freely from your work as friends.

In a world where you have the capacity to give, and the cost of sharing with one more person is zero, what are you waiting for?

You can’t wait for permission, because nobody will give it to you. And you can’t wait to be paid, because there is no money.

But by giving generously, and creating something remarkable, you can earn the permission to do it again. All the while turning strangers into friends and, if you’re lucky, turning friends into customers, and customers into loyal customers.

It’s a process, and it starts with giving.

Seth Godin

Seth who?

SETH Godin is an American marketing guru born in 1960 in Mount Vernon, New York. Seth is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker and agent of change. Seth is widely regarded as America’s greatest marketer.

Seth is always starting new initiatives, some of his more remarkable contributions are highlighted below.


Yoyodyne, his first internet company, pioneered the use of permission marketing to reach customers online, and was sold to Yahoo! in 1998 for US$30 million.

Seth’s latest company, founded in 2005, is called Squidoo. Squidoo is a community website which allows anyone to build a page (known as a ‘lens’) about any topic they are passion about. The site raises money for charity (pays royalties to its members) and is currently ranked 120th in the US (by traffic) by


Seth writes the world’s most popular marketing blog. You can read it here.


Seth has written thirteen books, all of which have been best sellers. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. His most recent book is called Poke the Box, a call to action about the initiative you’re taking in your life. You can learn more about Seth’s books by browsing his books here and reading some of the Amazon book reviews.

Free Downloads

Here are some manifestos, ebooks and other PDFs that Seth has gifted to us for free.

  1. Poke the Box: The Workbook – This work book asks one basic question, “What would our world look like if more people started projects, made a ruckus, and took more risks?”
  2. Unleashing the Ideavirus: Read and Share – This manifesto answers the question “how do we get attention to ask for permission from the consumer”?
  3. Money for Nothing (and your clicks for free) – Three Secrets to Web Traffic
  4. The Bootstrapper’s Bible – There’s never been a better time to start a business with no money
  5. Brainwashed – Seven ways to reinvent yourself
  6. Knock Knock – Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to building a website that works
  7. Who’s There – Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Blogs and the New Web
  8. What Matters Now – Big ideas from Seth and others
  9. Flipping the Funnel – Giving your fans to power to speak up
  10. Seven Type Rules for Amateur Designers
  11. On the future of the music business


You can view lots of Seth’s talks but clicking the “Seth Godin” hot tag in the Consulting Forum.