Book Review: “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin

Seth Godin wrote a great book in this new era about how to be indispensable. He first argues his case why the new connected world has changed what’s required of the employees – not the compliant kind – but linchpins that create arts. He elaborates on the “resistance” that faces more people and boxes people into the compliant employees. In the end, he describes what linchpins are really like and he encourages everyone to reach for the higher level of art creations and give the gifts. Very good book. I listened to the audiobook twice and read the book. A summary is as follows:

The New World of Work:
This chapter paints the picture of the new world order, thanks to the Internet, versus the old industrial world. In the old days, the companies own the means of production. Now, it’s your laptop and the Internet. Godin insinuates the old white collar jobs are like the day laborers. If you’re just a hired hand, you’re not much different. “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.”

Thinking About Your Choice:
The author encourages the readers to make the choice to become a linchpin. There is no other choices really. Most of us seek out art – experiences and products that deliver more value, more connection, and more experience, and change us for the better. “What the boss really want is an artist, someone who changes everything, someone who makes dreams come true… If he can’t have that, he’ll settle for a cheap drone.”

Indoctrination: How we Got Here
The chapters goes into details how we’re taught to be a replaceable cog in the industrial machine, to consume our way to happiness, and to fit in. The school should have taught : solving interesting problems, and lead. Godin advocates that we free the teachers from tests and reports and busywork but don’t blame the teachers – blame the corporate systems that are still training compliant workers who test well.

Becoming the Linchpin
A linchpin is someone who can accurately see the truth, understand the situation, and understand the potential outcomes of various decisions, and is able to make something happen. From the outside, it appears that the art is created in a moment. The arts created by linchpins carry massive amount of leverage. Deep knowledge is not sufficient. “Emotional labor is the hard work of making art, producing generosity, and exposing creativity.” Top Ten factors that motivate people to do their best: 1. challenge and responsibility, 2. flexibility, 3. 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.

Is It Possible to Do Hard Work in a Cubicle?
Emotional labor is the task of doing important work, even when it isn’t easy. When you do emotional labor, you benefit. “Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does. Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” Passion is a desire, insistence, and willingness to give a gift.

The Resistance
“Real artists ship.” “Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done. That’s where the audiences is, that’s where the means of production are available, and that’s where your can make an impact.” Shipping is difficult because of two challenges (thrashing and coordination) and one reason: the resistance (the lizard brain). The daemon is the source of great ideas, groundbreaking insights, generosity, love, connection, and the kindness. “Anxiety is practicing failure in advance – it’s needless and imaginary. It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing.” Shenpa (Tibetan word meaing “scratching the itch”) is a spiral of pain.

The Powerful Culture of Gifts
Becoming a linchpin is an act of generosity. It’s difficult to be generous when you’re hungry. Yet being generous keeps you from going hungry.

There is No Map:
Two reasons seeing the future is so difficult: attachment to an outcome combined with a resistance and fear of change. Successful people are able to see the threads of the past and the threads of the future and untangle them into something manageable. There is no map to be a leader, no map to be an artist. If there were a map, there’d be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.

Making the Choice
Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.

The Culture of Connection
How people look at a linchpin: openness, conscientiousness, extra-version, agreeableness, and emotional stability.

The Seven Abilities of the Linchpin:
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.
Humility permits us to approach a problem with kindness and not arrogance.

When it Doesn’t Work
Do you art. But don’t wreck your art if it doesn’t lend itself to paying the bills. When people are committed to their arts, they never stop giving.