Striving for Authority

Image of Seth Godin for Authority Intensive

Everyone wants to play.

That kid selling cookies (or is it chocolates) is busy raising money for his basketball team (or maybe a trip to Cuba, I didn’t hear it clearly). All I know is that these cookies aren’t the real thing, they’re not Girl Scout Cookies (capitalize them please) and they’re not Thin Mints®.

That email, the one that just came in over the transom, it wants me to buy some miracle potion that’s going to make my hair grow. But of course, I’ve never heard of this person, and it cost her nothing to send me this spam.


We opened up the world of media to anyone who wants to talk, connect or sell. We gave everyone free stamps, free paper, a free broadcast license.

And so I can watch a YouTube video that explains, in detail, how I can make a million dollars in a week if I’ll just send in some money (I think I can guess that this is precisely how you’re supposed to make a million dollars via this method, but that’s a topic for a different post). YouTube is filled with spam and scams and junk, and so is every nook and cranny of the internet.

Hence the need for authority.

Authority is recognizability and trustability.

My neighbor has authority, at least when he’s talking about what’s going on with our block. The local weatherman, by dint of his being hired by someone with an FCC license, has authority, but not about investments, just about the weather.

Obvious, of course.

What’s not obvious is the discipline necessary to earn authority. Now that you can’t be given it, now that you can’t take, now that you have to EARN it, it seems to me that many of us have forgotten that there’s a cost to earning something.

At every step along the way, you’ll feel pressure to stop earning and start taking. To include a few more links. To make a few more bold claims. To sell some ads, to shade some truth, to close the sale. Second prize is a set of steak knives, after all …

But the longer you wait, and the more generous you are, the more your authority is worth. And authority compounds. Walter Cronkite had authority, far more than Ed McMahon, because Ed was happy to put his name on this or that along the way.

Authority comes from consistent generosity, from truth telling, and from empathy. It comes from showing up. It comes from telling your truth and consistently sharing your point of view.

Hence my headline. Authority comes from trying. From striving to get there, by refusing to compromise on the things that matter.

Editor’s Note …

We are thrilled that Seth Godin will be keynoting our content marketing and networking event — Authority Intensive — taking place May 7-9, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. See you there?

About the Author: Seth Godin is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and most of all, changing everything.

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