A Review of Linchpin by Seth Godin
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Seth Godin on Why You Should Become an Artist
“The lizard hates it when you read books like this one.”
While I hope no one finishes Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? thinking she has the cortex of a gilla monster floating around inside her skull, Mr Godin wants you to gain the courage to overcome the “lizard brain” within.
The primitive brain in reference is the part of us that controls our basic involuntary behaviors, our rage, and our survival skills. Obeying the needs of the lizard brain is what keeps so many workers in mindless assembly line-style jobs. Even if your occupation has never required you to put parts and pieces together on a routine basis, chances are great that you’ve held a position where you clocked in each morning, clocked out each night, and spent your day pushing papers, crunching numbers, and waiting for instructions from your boss – all in anticipation of your next pay check.
But you could be a linchpin. A linchpin doesn’t wait for orders, she makes things happen on her own. She is a leader, an organizer, and a doer. Most importantly, a linchpin is an artist.
Linchpins are indispensable in the workplace. They are so deeply ingrained in the success of your company that your boss is afraid of what might happen to the business if the linchpins leave. A cog, on the other hand, can be replaced. In fact, a cog can probably be replaced by another cog willing to work for less.
In the current economic situation, it’s good to be a linchpin. “I couldn’t have written this book ten years ago, because ten years ago, our economy wanted you to fit in, it paid you well to fit in, and it took care of you if you fit in,” Mr Godin writes. Now is the perfect opportunity to begin sculpting businesses based on the passion of linchpins. The age of outfitting your company with minimally skilled, minimally paid, easily replaceable workers is over. While successful essential companies ride the roughest economic waves and come out ahead through the merits of their linchpin employees, businesses that hirer cheap easily replaceable labor race to the bottom of the competitive market as others easily copy their method.
But this book isn’t about failing businesses. It’s about encouraging every reader – who currently sits complacently at his desk, doing just what’s necessary to keep from being fired – to speak up, step up, and give more. It’s about ignoring your urge to just survive and embracing your ability to create art. Artists create something extra, something that doesn’t easily fit within the mold of “a day’s work for a day’s pay.” Artists have passion, they have ideas, and they do more with their skills.
Even if you’ve never painted a picture in your entire life, you hold the abilities to become a great artist. There is something that you’re great at, and it’s something that you love doing. Mr Godin says that there are plenty of people who can play the flute just as well as you can or program in Python even better than you. The linchpin though, is the skilled person who is able to process and synthesize many different ideas and elements, putting together unique combinations and drawing connections where other people couldn’t.
And linchpins have passion. Their passion isn’t project-specific, it’s people-specific. He suggests that if the internet wasn’t around for a linchpin like Jeff Bezos to start a company like Amazon, you wouldn’t find him just sitting around being a nothing, a nonpassionate lump. His passion would compel him to create greatness elsewhere.
Linchpin is a book filled with microparables and mini case studies for the modern worker. I suspect that any random person could flip to any random page, grab a paragraph, and glean some daily inspiration. However, just to see what kind of poignant wisdom I could grab through chance, I shuffled through the book, stopped on a page, and plopped my finger down. Here is that passage:
Fear of Art
How powerful is the art you are able to create? Do genes and upbringing and cultural imperatives force you to surrender in your quest to deliver art that matters?
Was Harper Lee born to write To Kill a Mockingbird? Is there some combination of genetic gifts and parental nudging that created the perfect opportunity for her to generate such a monumental piece of art?
Let’s go back to the beginning of this book.
Everyone, every single person, has been a genius at least once. Everyone has winged it, invented, and created their way out of a jam at least once.
If you can do it once, you can do it again.
We are all artists.
Like a preacher for the modern work-weary, Seth Godin is rousing and is here to coax greatness from his followers. He wants each and every person to become a linchpin in his own position. However, if you’re looking for Linchpin: The How-To Manual, this isn’t it. Linchpins don’t use maps; Mr Godin doesn’t offer step-by-step instructions for becoming a superstar at work. Yet you can expect to find inspiration, rationale, and gentle directions leading you to the path of artistry.
What may not have been stressed enough in this book is that a portion of the workforce already acts with a linchpin mentality, and they’re growing every day. While you were sitting around contemplating how your life might be different if you were more assertive in boardroom meetings, a linchpin just took your job.
The factory mentality that’s developed over the years is falling, but it’s falling faster within a young generation of workers who have yet to spend half of their adult lives in a cubicle building up their 401k. Upon graduating from college, many within the most recent wave of workers weren’t handed that just-comfortable-enough job. So they got creative. They don’t have a retirement fund to protect, and they don’t have a tenure around the corner. Many don’t understand how we arrived at a place where there is just enough work for everyone to spend 40 hours in the office each week. How did we get to a place where my time is worth exactly $10 an hour, $20 an hour, or $30 an hour?
Linchpins aren’t afraid to assert their ideas and take action. If the worst were to happen, they are confident they can find another job. Many may not be as motivated by money as your typical cubicle cog, but most will work for meaning.
I think that Linchpin compliments Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week and Gary Vaynerchuck’s Crush It! though the three authors have different styles and are approaching slightly different aspects of work. However, the three books together will encourage you toward success by driving you away from the cubicle and onward to greater passions.
For linchpins, this means giving away what you do best. If what you create is an art, what you gain from sharing your art (what you know and do best) is a more fulfilling and passionate career. “Everyday, successful people race to give away their expertise and to spread their ideas.” These people are linchpins.
Mr Godin’s Linchpin is appropriate for people of all types and in all stages of their careers. No doubt, fans of his previous books on marketing, work, and life will be the first to pick it up, but I think it will best speak to those workers who have already started questioning their current positions and who have already begun asserting themselves. After all, it’s easier to make the jump if you’re standing on a diving board. Linchpin might just be the push they need.