It’s Not About the Chocolate

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.

  • A question that society often wrestles with is “What is culture and how do we define it?” Back in the 1930’s, economist John Maynard Keynes came up with a thesis that, for humans to be happy, they have to do everything they can to get more. With our abundance of productivity today, does that thesis still make sense?
  • The researches on many cultures tell us that culture can be defined as the common story we tell ourselves. If we tell ourselves a story that we view as normal, that is the culture. In culture, we do it because we think it makes us happy. We do it because we think it makes us fit in or stand out. Culture is what people do, people like us. If the story we tell ourselves is not making us happy, we need to tell yourself a different story.
  • There are two ideas at work here. First, we can change the story we tell ourselves. If we are open to finding a new story, one about participation or sufficiency or meaning and we can surround ourselves with ideas or even better people, we can build a new culture. That culture can make us happier, more productive, more engaged.
  • The second idea is about “having more.” Shawn Askinosie’s chocolate story is not about “having more.” Rather it is about achieving “enough” and use it as a lever and opportunity to create a new culture, a culture where it’s more likely all participants are going to be happy with this story.
  • Some might say the capitalism is enabling culture. Instead, we should think about using capitalism to enable a culture. A culture where the purpose of capitalism is to leverage trade, productivity, and engagement to make us happier.
  • We have a dilemma as people who want to influence the culture because a lot of changes that we would like to make cannot be learned or happen overnight. All the things that are important to us, that we pay for, that we wait in line for, that we remember fondly, are things that were hard-won. Those things involve nuance and sophistication. Often, they required a bit of a leap of faith, trial and error, and digging in deeper. If we are going to try to change the culture, we must make a choice; the choices are race-to-the-top or race-to-the-bottom. The problem of the race-to-the-bottom is you might win, or, worse, come in second and never mattered.
  • We do not need everyone. We do not even need a lot of people. We just need a few people who care, a few people who will enroll in the journey who need to be seen and are willing to see. If we can produce that work gradually, drip-by-drip and day-by-day, maybe we can get under people’s skin. If we can transform them, we can raise the standard. Fortunately, there are people in the world who care enough to be meaningful and specific and focused and difficult as opposed to simply chasing more.