Are You a Linchpin?

I have just finished re-reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, and was once again blown away by the insightful collection of thoughts.

In Purple Cow and Tribes, Godin focused on how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book, the reader finds, is all about oneself, one’s own future, and the potential one has in making a huge difference no matter the job or occupation of choice. While it might seem a typical sort of professional self-help tome, it definitely is not. Instead, he focuses on the notion that there used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Today there’s a third team, the linchpins. These are the people who figure out what to do when there’s no rule book, and, one might imagine, no limitations. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.

Linchpins, he points out (and demonstrates through numerous examples) are the necessary building blocks of great organizations. They may not always be famous, but they’re indispensable.

And, in today’s world, they are the people who get the best jobs and the enjoy most professional freedom.

I especially like a section that deals with the tiny voice within us that pushes back when we are tempted to do something extraordinary. He calls this “the resistance”, or the “Lizard Brain.” Having worked in creative endeavors over the last decade+, I know what it is like to encounter the Lizard Brain. Overcoming that sort of resistance can lead to great and innovative things. Godin describes this as: “Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold 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.”

Additional excerpts I found compelling include:

  1. “Abundance is possible, but only if we can imagine it and then embrace it.”
  2. “Organizations that earn dramatic success always do it in markets where asymptotes don’t exist, or where they can be shattered.”
  3. “Work motivation factors (top ten in order): 1-Challenge and responsibility 2- Flexibility 3- A stable work environment 4- Money 5- Professional development 6- Peer recognition 7-Stimulating colleagues and bosses 8- Exciting job content 9-Organizational culture 10- Location and community.”
  4. “Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. An artist is an individual who creates art. The more people you change, the more you change them, the more effective your art is. Art is not related to craft except to the extent that the craft helps deliver the change. Technical skill might be a helpful component in making art, but it’s certainly not required. Art doesn’t have to be decorative; it can be useful as long as the use causes change.”
  5. “A trade leaves things as they were, with no external surplus. A gift always creates a surplus as it spreads.”
  6. “The people you work with won’t change if you don’t believe. The communication and leadership starts with the gift you give, not with the manipulation you attempt.”
  7. “Here is one way to think about the list of what makes you indispensable: 1- Providing a unique interface between members of the organization 2- Delivering unique creativity 3- Managing a situation or organization of great complexity 4- Leading customers 5- Inspiring staff 6-Providing deep domain knowledge 7- Possessing a unique talent”
  8. “The vivid truth is this: now that we have the freedom to create, we must embrace the fact that not all creations are equal, and some people aren’t going to win. That doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It might mean that you’re making the wrong art, drawing the wrong map. If your’re not winning as a stick-broker, perhaps your art lies somewhere else. The challenge lies in knowing your market and yourself well enough to see the truth.”

Essentially Godin challenges all of us to become a linchpin in our organization.

You just have to do things differently, do work that changes things for the better. Make the leap. Become an artist. Do emotional work, whatever makes you tick. Go the extra mile and be remarkable!

It’s your choice.

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