Purple Cow, Seth Godin

I never expected this book to be one of the finish-in-one-sitting books. But it ended up being one. Interestingly so, till Seth Godin does not actually tell you what a Purple Cow is, I did not make the connection. But he moment he did, I immediately thought of The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

In short, the Purple Cow (like the Black Swan) is what doesn’t exist. (I haven’t completed reading the Black Swan, so I’ll refrain from any further comparison)

This is the first book by Seth Godin that I have read, and while it is similar in structure to some of the recent popular non-ficion books of recent times (The Corporation, Blink, and such), it does make for good reading. Recent non-fiction books seem to follow a common structure, which make for dull and monochrome reading. When putting a powerful idea forth, it seems to me that the way to do it, is to present a very short idea in your head and then overload the reader with repetitive examples that prove the point – some examples are straight and directly relevant, some are far-fetched and seek your imagination to contextualise the incident.

While The Purple Cow does something similar, the theory is well presented, formed and delivered. The proverbial proof is well set and relevant to the items that make up the idea. The writing is simple, clear and allows for easy mental digestion. The idea that Godin presents is valuable and quite inspiring. Inspiring, however is a very relative term. Unlike Godin, I believe that most people strive to be remarkable, but allow constraints and circumstances to enslave them. This book is meant for those.

In life and work (and I don’t make a distinction between the two) we are surrounded by a continuum of dreariness and everything pale. When everything is bright-red, bright-red is pale. As I was reading through, the first image that came up was the supermarket shelf where biscuits are stored. It is almost impossible to identify a good biscuit. Heck, nowadays, even the packaging doesn’t stand out. Of the masses he talks of I am the obvious one: I never get carried away by a mass-media ad and never have to buy something that the ad hypes. Buying behaviour is more complex than we seem to have imagined.

If you are one of the (what I believe) many, who are tired of the commonplace and insipid, this is a tangy book that will spice up your thoughts, if not action. This is not an answer book, however, and Godin makes it clear somewhere in the middle. But then, personally, most how-to books have failed for me unless they teach a “tactile” how-to. There are some interesting insights (case studies that you may already know of) that I was happy to discover.

I wish, however that non-fiction structure evolves soon. I wish for a Purple Cow in non-fiction books.


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