Seth Godin on Tension

This is part of the Seth Godin on Story wiki. Check out my chat with Seth, dig deeper into the art and science of business storytelling.

When I start working with clients, I’m looking for the conflict … whether it’s theirs or their clients. Conflict is the irreducible seed at the heart of every story.

And conflict creates tension…

When it came Scheherazade’s turn, she had the natural insecurity of a Permission Marketer — she knew that she might be canceled the next day.

Her strategywas brilliant.

That night, before she and the king went to bed, she told him a story. It was personal and relevant, and the king was eager to hear what happened next. A few paragraphs before the end Scheherazade decided that she was too tired to continue and promised to finish the story later. The next morning she turned to the king and said, “I guess it’s time for my beheading.” The king, eager to hear how the story turned out, demurred. “No, my dear. We can wait until tomorrow. Tonight you will complete the story for me.”

Permission Marketing (1999) – Seth Godin

Tension focuses our attention. Tension brings us closer, eager to find out how the tension will be relieved. It takes confidence and guts to intentionally create tension. The workman wants no tension. The cook or the person following instructions in the Dummies guide wants nothing more than to meet spec and avoid the possibility of tension. But the artist trusts the work and the audience enough to delight in bringing the tension to the boiling point before relieving it.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (2012) – Seth Godin

In every myth, there’s tension.

No god is omnipotent, no action is certain, no one exists in a universe with no pushback or risk. The gods, when they act, take a risk. They are engaging with the universe, with one another, with the mortal population, and something might happen.

And this just might not work out for them. It’s this vulnerability that makes it interesting. And of course, it’s the vulnerability that makes each god human.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (2012) – Seth Godin

Sooner or later, it comes to this: great work is the result of seeking out tension, not avoiding it. Great work doesn’t require reassurance, in fact it avoids it. “I’m looking for something that might not work.”

What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn) (2014) – Seth Godin

The way you use Stories, Status, and Connection to Create Tension and Forward Motion is a strategy. A strategy, if successful, gets you closer to your goal. You might need to change your strategy if it fails, but you don’t want to do it often.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See (2018) – Seth Godin

Pattern Match/Pattern Interrupt.

You’re going to do one or the other. The pattern match is business as usual. When the offering you bring matches the story we tell ourselves, the way we tell it, the pace we’re used to, the expense and the risk … it’s an easy choice to add you to the mix.

A pattern interrupt, on the other hand, requires some sort of jolt. Tension is created, and energy is diverted to consider this new input. Is it something worth considering? Most of the time, for most of those you seek to reach, the answer is no. The answer is no because the patterns are established, time is precious, and risk is something to be feared.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See (2018) – Seth Godin

Tension can Change Patterns

If you’re going to market a pattern interrupt, it will require you to provide the kind of tension that can only be released by being willing to change an ingrained pattern. Tension is the force on a stretched rubber band. Pull it at one end and it creates tension at every point…

You can be a cab driver. Show up and ask someone where they want to go. Charge them based on the meter. Be a replaceable cog in the on-demand transport system. You might be a harder-working cabbie, but it won’t change much.

Or you can be an Agent of Change, someone who creates tension and then relieves it.

When they started building fancy casinos in Las Vegas, it created tension for countless travellers. Visitors who just a year earlier were happy in Reno or in downtown Las Vegas now felt like second-class citizens. They asked, “Am I the sort of person who goes to a casino this run-down?”

The very existence of a fancier alternative degraded their experience at their former favorite.

Tension is created. And the only way to relieve that tension is with forward motion. When you arrive on the scene with your story, with the solution you have in mind, do you also create tension? If you don’t, the status quo is likely to survive.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See (2018) – Seth Godin

See Also:

On ArtOn Assets | On Attention | On Authenticity | On Average | On Branding | On Challenging YourselfOn Ideaviriuses | On Intangibles | On Leadership | On Mythology | On Storytelling | On Your Story



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