Asymptotically Correct

In one part of his latest book, Linchpin, marketing guru Seth Godin talks about how “As you get closer to perfect, it gets more and more difficult to improve” (page 66 in the hardcover version).

He’s talking about the concept of an asymptote. “Asymptotes are sort of boring,” he says. “An asymptote is a line that gets closer and closer to perfection, but never quite touches.”

He says, “The chart of the asymptote looks like this:

(The black part is his original chart. I have added the red line and red text.)

There’s one big problem with Mr. Godin’s graph and the problem is that it is not “the chart of the asymptote”, as he claims. An asymptote is NOT “a line that gets closer and closer to perfection, but never quite touches.” An ‘asymptote’ is the limit (either the upper bound or lower bound) that some factor approaches, but never quite reaches.

It’s funny that Mr. Godin would put a graph in his book called “the chart of the asymptote” and then not actually include the asymptote on that chart. It’s sort of like Mr. Godin maybe heard the word ‘asymptote’ from an engineer friend of his and said “Oooh, good word. I’ll be sure to put a ‘chart of the asymptote’ in my next book.”

So, even though Mr. Godin got it wrong, I’ll help you out by correcting his chart for him so that you don’t make the same mistake.

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