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How I failed Seth Godin (and myself)

Noah Kagan
Noah Kagan

April 26, 2013

And why it's important to fail and learn from your mistakes

I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my life like getting thrown into a Tijuana jail cell or wearing the wrong costume in front of my entire school.

Recently, I was able to add another one to the list.

I failed Seth Godin.

One of my favorite thinkers of all-time.

Let me give you a little background.

In our “How to Make Your First Dollar” course, we realized people are VERY afraid of starting a business. It surprised us how much people were scared:

  • “I have too many ideas”
  • “I suck at marketing”
  • “I’m not even sure where to start”

A lot of these were excuses as people were ultimately afraid of rejection and failure.

This was holding a TON of people back from even getting started. Once you get over this hump, the idea, validation, growth and success comes so much easier.

So we created what we call the “Failure Olympics.”

This consists of 6 activities during our bootcamp phase to help people realize they have so much more potential than they believed.

The results are amazing. So many of the students have breakthroughs that helped them move forward in starting a business. Here's what one of the hundreds of changed students had to say:

I failed. I survived. I am focusing on what I learned, how I'll adapt, and feeling so happy that I'm free from the emotional baggage that comes from fearing & hating failure.

- Crystal W.

So I thought to be a good guide to the students that I should let them suggest something I may fail at...

Noah asking students

79 comments later, the students chose getting some kind of business deal with someone famous (Seth Godin) without using my name or any of my connections:

Being Challenged to get deal with Seth Godin

Without really thinking things through I said sure.

Here’s the video of how it all went down:

So I won! I got to work with Seth. Booyah!! Noah NEVER fails…

Seth was insanely generous to mail books nearly the same day for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Here’s the eBay auction for those books (100% of proceeds are donated):

  1. 5 autographed copies of "The Dip" by Seth Godin
  2. 2 autographed copies of "Meatball Sundae" by Seth Godin
  3. Autographed copy of "V is for Vulnerable" by Seth Godin
  4. Autographed copy of "The Icarus Deception" by Seth Godin
  5. Autographed copy of "Whatcha Gonna With That Duck?" by Seth Godin

If you want to donate directly to the fund, click here.

... but before I emailed to brag to ALL you sumo-lings, my friend Charlie suggested I get Seth's approval.

Turns out ... Seth wasn't happy. He felt deceived, and it was all my fault.

CRAP. This is one of my idols. I felt horrible. My morning was ruined and I did it to myself.

I never meant to deceive him. Our Tech Sumo's close friends in Boston were deeply affected by the tragedy in Boston, so this seemed like a good way to attempt the challenge and help them in the process. Unfortunately, that meant I had to use a made-up name. That made Seth feel like I was just using both him and the tragedy, which was not my intention at all.

It’s kinda like when your friends used to dare you to do something and you did it without realizing the repercussions.

My gut reaction was to hide the fear, failure, embarrassment and the rejection.

No one would have to know minus Seth and the Sumo staff.

But after some thinking it dawned on me that I really failed.

Know that feeling of failure?

It's the feeling which holds you back from doing what you really want.

I have had SO much failure in my life (over 1.5 years and $100,000+ spent on failed businesses) but I’ve also had some success (2 businesses generating well over 7 figures).

I wanted to share this failure with you and show you that life does go on.

Here’s exactly how I felt after I heard back from Seth:

Warning. It’s sad and real and what people who run a biz go through.

Ultimately, my sincerest apologies to Seth Godin.

It was never my intention to deceive him or have him question helping people as he so generously does.

The key thing is to learn from failure and realize life goes on.

I learned that I need to think through things more when I’m doing something completely new.

Recognizing that failure is a part of life will help you get what you really want.

Living and learning, Noah “Chief Sumo” Kagan

P.S. There’s some goodness with all this: the auctions helping the Boston victims. Please go here to bid on Seth’s autographed books or here to donate to them directly.