The rise of the rulebreaker

Seth Godin Your TurnLast night I discovered that one of my favourite authors, Seth Godin, is releasing a new book.

Despite being the author of 12 bestselling books translated into 30 languages, Seth has decided not to write a normal book again: It’s not released through a mainstream publisher and it doesn’t even look like a conventional book.

Having noticed that few people have the patience for a lengthy book on one topic, Seth has created his new book to look more like a magazine. It’s shorter, has less text and a lot more photos and graphics.

Personally, I love the idea! I’m tired of books with one simple idea drawn out over 500 pages because that’s what a ‘serious book’ is supposed to look like.

And instead of trying to make it a New York Times bestseller, he is focussing on selling multiple copies of the book to each buyer who can then sell it or give it to their friends and colleagues in a new kind of “horizontal distribution”. Plus he’s raising the funds to publish it in advance using a crowd-funding platform.

Aside from my excitement for Seth’s new book (which I immediately ordered 3 copies of), I realised something even more important from seeing Seth break all the rules of books and publishing:

This is the era for rule-breaking

Just this week, Thom Yorke of Radiohead released his new solo album as a paid BitTorrent download distributed peer-to-peer for just $6 with more of the money going to the artist.

Also this week, bike shop owner Paul Budnitz announced his new social network Ello as ‘the anti-facebook’ and hit 31,000 requests an hour from people wishing to join.

It’s new technology that is enabling us to smash all the rules in so many areas of life and work. The old rules and restrictions are breaking down – for what we can do for a living and how we can get paid for it, for how we can connect with others and share our passions and expertise, how we build an audience, how we find others to collaborate remotely to help us, and even where we can live while we make a living.

Today we can all be a rule-breaker. All we need is the bravery to go against the norm.

What rule do you want to break?

Is there an industry or field you’d like to change? Or do you want to revolutionise the way something is currently done? What would you like to make happen that would have been hard or impossible not so long ago?

Leave a comment and let me know…



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  • issy Zinaburg

    Hi John
    Great post! I wasn’t consciously aware of the rulebreaker movement per sé but I guess it has definitely seeped into my brain somehow; because, after travelling for 8 months and a lot of soul-searching along the way I finally figured out my revolution!
    …I’ve spent the past few months furiously scribbling away on a rule-breaking interior design Ecourse that helps people who don’t believe that they’re creative design the home of their dreams. I’m launching the next week…so exciting!
    Thanks so much for all your help getting me started down this path! 🙂

  • johnsw

    Nice idea, Issy. I think I could do with something like that!

  • issy Zinaburg

    Thanks John! I’ll keep you in mind in that case! 😉

  • Neens B

    I like rule breaking! The ‘magazine’ alternative to more traditional formats has taken off in Australia. I recently saw an annual report for a great not-for-profit organisation that used a magazine approach over the usual dry annual report. Take a look if you’re interested, here’s the link:

  • johnsw

    That’s great! A financial report I could actually imagine reading

  • Longwayaround

    I’m all for breaking the rules with the education system at the moment. Schools are like jails. They suppress children’s natural approaches to learning, lock them in an unnatural environment, and prepare them for a life of unhappiness which serves to feed a capitalist, exploitive economy. I have been in the teaching profession for over 15 years and can no longer be a part of this system which corrodes creativity, society, and the sanctity of childhood. I’ve finally woken up to this reality after witnessing my own child gradually lose her love of school. This year, I’ve quit my job and have taken my daughter’s education into our own hands. This is deemed illegal where I’m currently living, so will have to soon figure out what I’ll do if the police come after me. So, as you can see, I have a great need to remake myself, hence my interest in becoming a Player.

  • The rule I’d like to break (and no doubt it’s been broken by somebody somewhere already) is that a work of fine art is solely the artist’s vision. I’m beginning to realise, through my work and that of other artists, that personalising a work of art for a client is what makes it valuable to them and irresistible to buy.

  • johnsw

    That’s interesting, Richard

  • johnsw

    Wow, well you have my support in your concerns with the education system. What country are you in?

  • Maikerun

    I’m intending to go and do all the kinds of work that interest and fascinate me in fields, some of which I’m supposed to have proper qualifications (which I don’t have, and which might well be an advantage), and along with that be traveling around the world with my family while I’m doing it. A kind of modern polymath nomad. And as I’m not 100% clear about what I want to do, or how I’m going to do it, I’m not letting that stop me, I’m just disciplining myself to get up at 4:45 every morning and just do something every day before my day-job, logging my progress on my blog called ‘A great mess of stuff’:
    and let’s see where it takes me.
    I’ve believed for too long all the rules, and it was simply my belief in these rules that has held me back. Everybody else has always been rooting for me. So, just by taking action, I am heading into the dangerous but exhilarating realm of rule-breaking; making lots of informative mistakes along the way, and loving it!

  • johnsw

    Wow, I’m impressed! What an adventure.

  • Longwayaround

    Italia. Not so much the “dolce vita”.

  • johnsw

    Oh dear. I hear it’s a little narrow-minded about entrepreneurship too.

  • Teresa

    That´s very brave and admirable!

  • Mike

    Health insurance! Talk about kicking you when you are down. Our premium this year will be £10,300! There’s a big opening for someone who wants to help and not just sit back and rake in the money, or blow it on inefficiency.

  • johnsw

    Wow! What country is that in?

  • Thank you John : – )