Friction

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses friction and leverage. For many things, we seek to reduce friction because we see friction as obstacles, something to avoid or to minimize. Without friction, we also do not have leverage.

When we row a boat with an oar, the oar creates friction with the water. But the friction also creates the leverage that can move the boat forward. When we ice-skate, we need the initial friction created between the ice and the skates to push ourselves off against the ice and to start the forward motion.

Friction is everywhere. We can think of many forms of the gatekeeper as friction. When we work with those gatekeepers and overcome the friction by gaining their approval, the friction turns into leverage. The friction from the gatekeeper becomes leverage for us because not only we create motion by pushing ourselves off against it but also the friction keeps others out of our lane, thus creating more leverage for us.

The Internet has reduced or minimized the friction for many things we do. We now can publish books without a traditional publisher. We now can produce media without the help of a traditional studio. We now learn many academic subjects that used to be accessible only by attending colleges or graduate institutions. The friction is mostly gone with the help of being connected to everything.

But no friction also means there is no leverage. When everyone can do something without the usual friction, everyone will try. When everyone can do something, it also means the scarcity is gone. When something is no longer considered scarce, the leverage that used to come with the scarcity also disappeared.

So, what can we do to gain the leverage back and distinguish ourselves from everything else that is obtainable without friction? How can we re-establish the friction and make what we do something scarce again? The friction will need to come from permission.

When we gain permission, we gain the privilege of talking to people who want to hear from us. We need to spend the time and effort necessary to build up trust, authority, connection, and a following. The permission of the ability to deliver anticipated personal and relevant messages to the people who want to get them is the new scarcity. That scarcity gives us leverage because there is friction involved.

The new leverage of the Internet age comes from the friction of infinity. The friction is there are too many things to pay attention to. As a result, we willingly reduce the amount of noise that is coming to us by narrowing who we trust. The permission built off that trust is the asset of our future.

We also do not need a mass audience, but we do need trust from the smallest viable audience. We need that smallest group of people who are eager to hear from us, connect with us, and spread the word about our work. When we earn that asset, that asset essentially turn us into our own gatekeeper.

To create the forward propulsion, we need the initial friction to push off against. Once we get going, we work to reduce friction and keep our momentum. So, the time we used to spend pitching the gatekeepers and hoping to get picked, we need to stop. Instead we must invest the time for the people we seek to serve by seeing them, hearing from them, and understanding their needs. And then we need to do something remarkable that they will choose to talk about what we ship.