Friday, June 4, 2010

‘Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?’ by Seth Godin – Book Review

Buzz this
Great thinkers are so valuable; Seth Godin is one of the most innovative thinkers of our day.  His latest book, ‘Linchpin: Are You Indispensable’ is full of amazing and valuable insights.

Here is the synopsis of this thought-provoking book:

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.”
In bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas.  But this book is different.  It’s about you – your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.
There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor.  Now there’s a third team, the linchpins.  These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos.  They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book.  They delight and challenge their customers and peers.  They love their work, pour out their best selves into it, and turn every day into a kind of art.
Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations.  Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not get the best jobs and the most freedom.
Have you ever found a shortcut that others missed?  Seen a new way to resolve a conflict?  Made a connection with someone others couldn’t reach?  Even one?  Then you have what it takes to become indispensable, by overcoming the resistance that holds people back….
As Godin writes, “Every time I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back.  It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map.  You have brilliance in you, your contribution is essential, and the 
art you create is precious.  Only you can do it, and you must.”  

And here’s Seth talking about ‘Linchpin:’

Here is the biography of the author:

Seth Godin is the author of Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, All Marketers are Liars, Permission Marketing, and other international bestsellers that have changed the way businesspeople think and act.  He’s the most influential business blogger in the world and consistently one of the twenty-five most widely read bloggers in the English language.  He’s also the founder and CEO of and a very popular speaker.  He lives in Westchester, New York.
Visit and click on his head to read his blog.

In the Introduction, Seth makes this assertion:

The system we grew up with is a mess.  It’s falling apart at the seams and a lot of people I care about are in pain because the things we thought would work won’t.  Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back.  They have become victims, pawns in a senseless system that uses them up and undervalues them. (p. 3)

He describes and defines ‘linchpin’ this way:

This is your opportunity.  The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization.  She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.
You reject whining about the economy and force yourself to acknowledge that the factory job is dead.  Instead, you recognize the opportunity of becoming indispensable, highly sought after, and unique.  If a Purple Cow is a product that’s worth talking about, the indispensable employee – I call her a linchpin – is a person who’s worth finding and keeping. (p. 9)

He goes on to explain how the old way our society operated is obsolete:

The system we grew up with is based on a simple formula: Do your job.  Show up.  Work hard.  Listen to the boss.  Stick it out.  Be part of the system.  You’ll be rewarded.
That’s the scam.  Strong words, but true.  You’ve been scammed.  You traded years of your life to be part of a giant con in which you are most definitely not the winner.
If you’ve been playing that game, it’s no wonder you’re frustrated.  That game is over.
There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do. (p. 14)

Being a lifelong resident of Michigan – in the heart of the ‘Rust Belt’ – I have seen how the labor and management have operated in a factory environment.  It is not at all surprising that a system that rewards someone with a ‘tenured’ position when they are not productive should fail.  It goes against what success should be all about.  One should not work as a robot, not should one be treated as one. 

Here Seth explains the oddity of factory work:

Having a factory job is not a natural state.  It wasn’t at the heart of being a human until recently.  We’ve been culturally brainwashed to believe that accepting the hierarchy and lack of responsibility that comes with a factory job is the one way, the only way, and the best way. (p. 17)

Seth explains how the means of production these days – a laptop – have changed everything:

Today, the means of production = a laptop computer with Internet connectivity.  Three thousand dollars buys a worker an entire factory.
This change is a fundamental shift in power and control.  When you can master the communication, conceptual, and connectivity elements of the new work, then you have more power than management does.  And if management attracts, motivates, and retain good talent, then it has more leverage than the competition.
It starts with bloggers, musicians, writers and others who don’t need anyone’s support or permission to do their thing. (p. 24)

As a blogger writing this review on a laptop, all I can say to that is “Hear, hear”!!

Seth explains how one is to stand out and become an indispensable linchpin:

You have no right to that job or that career.  After years of being taught that you have to be an average worker for an average organization, that society should support you for sticking it out, you discover that the rules have changed.  The only way to succeed is to be remarkable, to be talked about.  But when it comes to a person, what do you talk about?  People are not producers with features, benefits, and viral marketing campaigns; they are individuals.  If we’re going to talk about them, we’re going to discuss what they do, not who they are.
You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different.  But the only way to be indispensable is to be different.  That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people.
The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people can care about. (pp. 26-27)

Seth provides a list of what you will get if you want certain things in a job:

If you want a job where it’s okay to follow the rules, don’t be surprised if you get a job where following the rules is all you get to do.
If you want a job where the people who work for you do exactly what they’re told, don’t be surprised if your boss expects precisely the same thing from you.
If you want a job where you get to do more than follow instructions, don’t be surprised if you get asked to do things they never taught you in school.
If you want a job where you take intellectual risks all day long, don’t be surprised if your insights get you promoted. (pp. 29-30)

Seth asserts that schools teach people to practice mediocre obedience:

          We’ve been taught to be a replaceable cog in a giant machine.
          We’ve been taught to consume as a shortcut to happiness. 
          We’ve been taught not to care about our jobs or our customers.
And we’ve been taught to fit in.
          None of these things helps you get what you deserve.
We’ve bought into a model that taught us to embrace the system, to spend for pleasure, and to separate ourselves from our work.  We’ve been taught that this approach works, but it doesn’t (not anymore).  And this disconnect keeps us from succeeding, cripples the growth of our society, and makes us really stressed. (p. 39)

Instead, he thinks schools only need to teach two things (p. 47):       

1.   Solve interesting problems
2.   Lead

Seth explains that children start out as Superhero, are trained to be Mediocreman – but we need to go back to being a Superhero:

If you’re insecure, the obvious response to my call to become a linchpin is, “I’m not good enough at anything to be indispensable.”  The typical indoctrinated response is that great work and great art and remarkable output are the domain of someone else.  You think that your job is to do the work that needs doing, anonymously.
Of course, that isn’t true, but it’s what we’ve been taught to believe.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet or work with thousands of remarkable linchpins.  It appears to me that the only way they differ from a mediocre rule-follower is that they never bought into this self-limiting line of thought.  That’s it.
Perhaps they had a great teacher who lit a lamp for them.  Perhaps a parent or a friend pushed them to refuse to settle.  Regardless, the distinction between cogs and linchpins is largely one of attitude, not learning. (pp. 42-43). 

Seth explains that the work people have been taught to behave in the workplace is ineffective and damaging:

For generations, we’ve been pushing workers to do something inherently unnatural.  We’ve been teaching, cajoling, and yes, forcing people to hide their empathy and their creativity and to pretend that they are fast-moving automatons, machines designed to do the company’s bidding.
It’s not necessary.  No, I’ll go further than that: it’s damaging.  It’s damaging to have to put on a new face for work, the place we spend our days.  It’s damaging to build organizations around repetitive faceless work that brings no connection and no joy. (p. 71)

Mr. Godin is convinced that we should be artists in the marketplace, and not just in the artist’s studio:

I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.  So, yes, I do think you need to be an artist to market tofu, if you want to be any good at all. (p. 91)

Seth contends that there are two parts of us at work – the lizard brain and the daemon:

The voice in your head has revealed the resistance.  It is trying to teach the daemon [a Greek term; what the Romans called “the genius”] a lesson, encouraging it to be more careful next time.  The lizard hates your genius, and tries to stamp it out.  When you hear the dialogue, don’t listen to it.  Remember that it serves as proof of the resistance, and guard yourself even more diligently to ignore it.  (p. 113)

I agree with the concept here, but not the terminology.  Looking at this from a Christian worldview (as opposed to an evolutionary worldview), I see the resistance as being the devil.  Regardless of the difference in semantics, I agree with the point Seth is making here.

Seth is convinced that winners have this trait:

You become a winner when you’re good at losing.  The hard part about losing is that you might permit it to give strength to the resistance, that you might believe that you don’t deserve to win, that you might, in some dark corner of your soul, give up.
Don’t. (p. 115)

He goes on:

Once you’ve given a name to the resistance and you know what its voice sounds like, it’s a lot easier to embrace the fact that you actually are a genius.  The part of you that wants to deny that is the resistance.  The rest of you understands that you’re as capable as the next guy of an insight, invention, or connection that makes a difference. (p. 118)

In other words, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Psalm 139:14)   

Seth believes that we need to be generous with ourselves and others:

          So what’s smart?  Living life without regret.
Now that you know what to call the fear that has held you back all these years, what are you going to choose to do about the resistance?  Now that you understand society rewards you for standing out, for giving gifts, for making connections and being remarkable, what are you going to do with that information?
You have a genius inside of you, a daemon with something to share with the world.  Everyone does.  Are you going to continue hiding it, holding it back, and settling for less than you deserve just because your lizard brain is afraid?
There lies regret. (p. 233)

He concludes this way:

The result of this art, these risks, the gifts, and the humanity coming together is both wonderful and ironic.  The result of getting back in touch with our pre-commercial selves will actually create a post-commercial world that feeds us, enriches us, and gives us the stability we’ve been seeking for so long. (p. 236)

I was amazed by this book; believe it or not, I had to restrain myself from including more quotes than I already have!  The thoughts are so profound.  This is the first book by Mr. Godin that I have read.  I have heard some amazing things about his work, so I knew I wanted to read this latest.  I was not disappointed.  It is worthwhile to me to go back and read his previous books, and to keep an eye out for new ones from this innovative thinker.  I appreciate how he points out some real truths that others may overlook.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Portfolio, a member of the Penguin Group, and was generously provided by the author.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics