We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
With this enticing title, Seth Godin reminds us that we only seem ‘normal’ from a distance. As soon as you get close to anyone, you start to see what it unusual about them. The more you interact, the more their uniqueness becomes undeniable.
In We Are All Weird, Godin celebrates our oddness. Marketing and mass production, he claims, drove us to imagine we were all more similar than we are really comfortable being.
As marketing has moved from a few TV channels with the shows that everyone watched to a plethora of content via the internet, small niche tribes have collected around their quirky passions. We discover, now, that there is no such thing as ‘mass.’
As production starts to go the same way, it is easier and easier for us all to make choices about what we want to do and to be. And the ability to make choices is Godin’s definition of being rich. In fact, Godin argues, this is an opportunity for us all to live by connecting to what we really love, not to conform to what society expects.
Godin has long been an advocate of this ‘tribal’ perspective. Success, he argued in Purple Cow, is based on your product or service standing out, not conforming to the mainstream. Another of his books, Tribes, is all about niche communities who care deeply about sewing, bond trading, Star Trek or social enterprise.
In We Are All Weird, Godin shows that because we don’t share the same media, buy the same products or engage in the same activities, more of us can be classed as weird than ever before.
Godin describes how the change in the normal distribution curve (also known as the ‘bell curve’) reflects many aspects of society. Early adopters, for example, represent the small number at the extreme right hand side of the curve. The laggards, who only buy a DVD player when their 30 year old video recorder finally expires, represent the tiny number on the far left. Most of us are in the bulge in the middle.
But, says Godin, the curve is getting flatter as more of us express our individual tastes in the food we eat, the people we associate with, the work we do and almost every other aspect of our lives. No longer are there so may people that can be classed as ‘normal’. Increasingly, more and more of us exist on the periphery of the curve. We are all weird.
This is a short and easily digestible book. As with Godin’s other works, it has one simple idea which he reiterates from slightly different perspectives.
Godin is such a crisp and clear writer that it is a pleasure to read. But if you are looking for a weighty tome, with complex interweaving concepts, this is not the book for you.
The book itself is also quirky, expressing the weirdness it espouses on its cover. The front has a picture of a strange looking bearded man wearing a pointy hat, and no book title.
And when you unwrap the dust cover, you discover there is an alternative cover on offer. This one has a picture of a swami from rural India on the front, and dozens of small photos of readers on the back. You are encouraged flip and reattach the dust cover to the book to get a ‘much weirder’ option.
Godin’s advocacy of the tribe is echoed by the way he chooses to promote his book. He encourages people to buy more than one and share them, to give their copy away when they have read it or to hold book clubs to discuss its ideas.
Word of mouth, sharing by people, he believes, is the new way to success, beating mass marketing in its effectiveness. It is the way into the small niche groups of enthusiasts and specialists that the book is all about.
So, Godin does as he teaches, but I can’t help thinking this works for him because, well, Seth Godin already has a mass audience.
This celebration of weirdness is funny, serious and easy to read and it is deeply reassuring to those who feel different. You too can find the place that you are normal, it claims, even if your normal involves enjoying dressing up as Santa Claus.