Seth Godin’s Akimbo: Helmet Insights

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses his observations on helmet-wearing in sports and the behavior’s implications on shaping our culture.

We play sports for many reasons, but one reason that frequently jumps out is that we use a sport to make a statement. We often use a sport to highlight who we are and how we want to be seen by others.

While self-image is a big reason for playing a sport, we also want our peers to accept that self-image in the same sport. The sport of hockey initially rejected the notion of helmet-wearing because it did not fit with the brave-and-tough image portraited by the sport. Even with a league mandate, helmet-wearing behavior did not become the norm for a long time.

Life is also a team sport, and each of us is on a team. For an area of life we choose to play a part, we care about how we come across and from whom we want acceptance. Social pressure has a lot to do with how we make choices. Those choices we make often lead to culture-building in some fashion.

While our individual choices and behaviors can impact our culture, some government mandates can also significantly impact the overall societal culture.

Some government mandates go a long way towards normalizing certain behaviors. Those behaviors probably will not become a norm if we leave it to the individual adult citizen to make their own choices. The seatbelt, drunk-driving, and texting-while-driving are a few examples of normalized behaviors for the greater good.

Why would we need such normalized behavior mandates from the government? It turns out that, while people want to fit in, we are also lazy. Many of those normalized behaviors can lead to a greater good and do not come easily from individual efforts.

But once the pattern is in place, compliance can often go up in many folds. When we establish a standard, and when the easiest path is to follow the norm, more people will follow the standard. The normalized, rational behaviors are critically important, and they rarely come from the grassroots effort of individuals.

The insight from helmet-wearing is that we can change the system if we can find ways to influence the culture. While each of us has free will, we still like to conform to and be accepted by the group we affiliate with. When we can instill the presumption of people like us do things like this, that is the opportunity we have as we try to change the culture to normalize behaviors that will benefit us.