Lynchpin isn’t one of those books.
In it, Seth Godin pulls out the white tablecloths and fine china. He serves a seven course meal of ideas to savor slowly.
I spent weeks carefully reading and processing this book. This is a good thing for leaders to do from time to time. Our best opportunities to develop happen when we allow ourselves the space to reflect and slowly ingest what ideas we take in.
> Prior to the Industrial Revolution, gifted artisans made things. The more unique and individual the work, the more valuable it was.
> The Industrial Revolution made producing homogenous products faster and cheaper.
> Assembly lines and factories offered workers a deal: give up your unique skills and ideas in exchange for an adequate but steady paycheck. Schools and corporations championed the idea of fitting in over being unique. Homogenous people were needed as easily replaceable cogs in the factories where those homogenous products were made faster and cheaper.
> This worked well until a few years ago when we reached the peak of manufacturing efficiency. Chasing ever-cheaper means of product production no longer works. The premise behind “the deal” with workers collapsed.
> Now the economy must reinvent itself (and workers along with it). Going forward, successful people will be “linchpins” . . . those who stand out rather than fit in.
> No two people are the same, just as no two snowflakes are the same. Each of us has things we do extremely well. These things are our “art”.
> The best thing we can do with our art is to give it away. When we give gifts without expectation of reciprocity it creates human connection and relationships.
(Pretty deep stuff, huh? I told you it takes time to process!)
> Linchpins are people who not only excel at their unique art (maximize their unique strengths), but create connection between people. They initiate ideas, work hard and make themselves indispensable to their organizations or the independent businesses they own.
> There is a primitive part of our head that Godin calls The Lizard Brain. It keeps us alive through our survival instincts, primarily through fear. By necessity, The Lizard Brain takes priority over the more refined parts of our minds.
> We must learn to disregard the fear messages sent by our Lizard Brain in order to hear our artistic mind. This is what makes us valuable in our post-Industrial Revolution economy.
In short, Linchpin encourages us to stand out, not fit in. We are to use our strengths to be unique (because that which is unique is not easily replaced, even in tough economic times).
The next time you’re looking to challenge yourself as a leader and spend some time in thought, I highly encourage you to read Linchpin by Seth Godin. It’s a great experience and well worth the effort.
QUOTES FROM SETH GODIN’S LINCHPIN
Revolutions are frightening because the new benefits sometimes lag behind the old pain.
The hard work isn’t lifting or shoving or sharpening. The hard work is being brave enough to make a difference.
The culture of gifts has a long history on this planet, and understanding how it brings people together is a critical step in becoming indispensable.
Indispensable Linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next. If you have a job where someone tells you what to do next, you’ve just given up the chance to create value.
Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product you create, because indispensable work is work that is connected to others.
A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.
All of us are geniuses sometimes. The tragedy is that our society keeps drumming the genius part out.
We trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.
Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people.
The educated, hard-working masses are still doing what they’re told, but they’re no longer getting what they deserve.
If you’re not doing as well as you hoped, perhaps it’s because the rules of the game were changed, and no one told you.
You weren’t born to be a cog in the giant industrial machine. You were trained to become a cog.
You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better. – David Marmet
We are surrounded by bureaucrats, note takers, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers, and fearful employees.
There is no longer a clear path to satisfaction in working for the man.
The type of low-risk, high stability jobs that three-quarters of us crave have turned into dead-end traps of dissatisfaction and unfair risk.
The cause of workplace suffering is the desire of organizations to turn employees into replaceable cogs in a vast machine.
The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization.
Like scared civilians eager do whatever a despot tells of them, we give up our freedoms and responsibilities in exchange for the certainty that comes from being told what to do.
People want to be told what to do because they are afraid of figuring it out for themselves.
If you make your business possible to replicate, you’re not going to be the one to replicate it. Others will.
The people you’re hoping will hire you, buy from you, support you, and interact with you have more choices and less time than ever before.
You can always succeed for awhile with the cheapest, but you earn your place in the market with humanity and leadership.
There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do.
Any project, if broken down into sufficiently small, predictable parts, can be accomplished for awfully close to free.
Mediocre is merely a failed attempt to be really good.
Corporations have no right to our attention.
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.
Most schools don’t like great teachers. They’re organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average.
Why are you working so hard to bury your natural-born instincts?
I’ve never met someone who had no art in them, though it’s buried sometimes.
We need you to stand up and be remarkable. Be human. Contribute. Interact.
Take the risk that you might make someone upset with your initiative, innovation, and insight – it turns out that you’ll probably delight them instead.
Consumers say that all they want are cheap commodities. Given the choice, though, most of us, most of the time, seek out art.
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.
Your outlook is completely due to your worldview.
Of course you can do something that matters. I’m wondering if you want to.
If you can be human at work, not a machine, you’ll discover a passion for work you didn’t know you had.
We’ve been trained to believe that mediocre obedience is a genetic fact for most of the population, but it’s interesting to note that this trait doesn’t show up until after a few years of schooling.
‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is not a genetic predisposition. It’s an invented need.
Very few of us set out to be average or to be typical.
The essential thing measured by school is whether or not you’re good at school.
Many successful people got that way despite schooling, not because of it.
Solve interesting problems.
Leading is a skill, not a gift. You’re not born with it, you learn how. And schools can teach leadership as easily as they figured out how to teach compliance.
Calming your boss’ anxiety is the first step in getting the organization to embrace the change you will be making.
It doesn’t matter if you are always right. It matters that you’re always moving.
A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in teeny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.
It is the art and the insight and the bravery of value creation that are rewarded.
Expertise gives you enough insight to reinvent what everybody else assumes is the truth.
You can spend your time on stage pleasing the heckler in the back, or you can be devoted to the audience that came to hear you perform.
Organizations that can bring humanity and flexibility to their interaction with other human beings will thrive.
We spend time and energy trying to perfect our craft, but we don’t focus on the skills and interactions that will allow us to stand out and become indispensable to our organization.
The Linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds.
Innovative solutions to new problems don’t get old.
Art is never defect-free.
They understand that there is no map, no step-by-step plan, and no way to avoid blame now and then.
Things that are remarkable never make spec, because that would make them standardized, not worth talking about.
If it wasn’t a mystery, it would be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth much.
Good art is useless and banal. No one crosses the street to buy good art, or becomes loyal to a good artist. (Do great art.)
We’ve been teaching, cajoling, and yes, forcing people to hide their empathy and their creativity and pretend that they are fast-moving automatons, machines designed to do the company’s bidding.
As our economy has matured and mechanized, seeking out and adhering to the norm has become unprofitable.
Projects are the new resumes.
You are not your resume. You are your work.
If the game is designed for you to lose, don’t play that game. Play a different one.
If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.
You can work for a company that wants indispensable people, or you can work for a company that works to avoid them.
Work is nothing but a platform for art and the emotional labor that goes with it.
The gift is to the giver, and comes back to him. – Walt Whitman
Most artists can’t draw. – Roy Simmons
Great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.
An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.
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.
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.
Art is the product of emotional labor. If it’s easy and risk-free, it’s unlikely that it’s art.
There’s always a gift intent on the part of the artist.
Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo. It is not decoration; it’s something that causes change.
The moment you are willing to sell your time for money is the moment you cease to be the artist you’re capable of being.
When you give something away, you benefit more than the recipient does.
When it is time for layoffs, the safest job belongs to the artist, the Linchpin, the one who can’t easily be outsourced or replaced.
Certain sorts of art make us cry without embarrassment.
If you don’t pinpoint your audience, you end up making your art for the loudest, crankiest critics.
The easier it is to quantify, the less it’s worth.
Passion is caring enough about your art that you will do almost anything to give it away, to make it a gift, to change people.
When an artist stops work before his art is received, his work is unfulfilled.
Everyone, every single person, has been a genius at least once. If you can do it once, you can do it again.
The economy is ruthlessly punishing the fearful, and increasing the benefits to the few who are brave enough to create art and generous enough to give it away.
Creativity is an instinct to produce. – Bruce Ario.
Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done.
I’ve produced more than 100 books, but if I hadn’t, I never have the chance to write this one.
The only purpose of starting is just to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.
Any project worth doing involves invention, inspiration, and at least a little bit of making stuff up.
Being productive at someone else’s task list is not the same as making your own map.
Successful people are successful for one simple reason: they think about failure differently.
You become a winner because you’re good at losing.
Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.
The people who break through usually have nothing to lose and they almost never have a backup plan.
One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.
You’re as capable as the next guy of insight, invention, or connection that makes a difference.
The temptation to sabotage the new thing is huge, precisely because the new thing might work.
Becoming more average, more quick, and more cheap is not as productive as it used to be.
Fear of living without a map is the main reason people are so insistent that we tell them what to do.
The smell of fear is the best indicator we have not to trust the other side.
Don’t listen to the cynics. They’re cynics for a reason.
Late is the first step to never.
Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you’re doing, so except that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
Done is the engine of more.
Trivial art isn’t worth the trouble it takes to produce it.
The difference between a successful artist and a failed one happens after the idea is hatched. The difference is the race to completion. Did you finish?
Anxiety is needless and imaginary. It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing.
Anxiety doesn’t protect you from danger, but from doing great things.
No rewards for worriers.
The very thing you are afraid of occurs, precisely because you’re afraid of it.
A gift always creates a surplus as it spreads.
The astonishing fact is that most successful people in the world are those who don’t do it for the money.
The most successful givers aren’t doing it because they’re being told to. They do it because doing it is fun. It gives them joy.
Great bosses hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to be remarkable.
Respect is the gift you can offer in return.
Abandoning your worldview in order to try on someone else’s is the first step in being able to see things as they are.
The ability to see the world as it is begins with an understanding that perhaps it’s not your job to change what can’t be changed.
When our responses turn into reactions and we set out to teach people a lesson, we lose.
If you deliberately try to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.
Opportunities come after inspiration. We are not inspired by opportunities.
If your agenda is set by someone else and it doesn’t lead you where you want to go, why is it your agenda?
You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.
Being slightly remarkable is a losing strategy. Stand out.
How we respond to the opportunities and challenges of the outside world now determines how much the outside world values us.
Real change rarely comes from the front of the line.
Conventional wisdom is that you should find a job that matches your passion. I think this is backwards.
Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.
When your people do what they do because they love it, it works. Even if they’re not as technically adept as the competition.
If you can do it brilliantly once, just once, then of course you can do it again.
If you burn out along the way, you’re not doing anyone a favor.
Dignity is more important than wealth.
After people have “enough” what they crave is dignity.
The individual who collects, connects, and nurtures relationships is indispensable.
Leadership starts with the gift you give, not with the manipulation you attempt.
Understanding that your job is to make something happen changes what you do all day.
Mentoring is rarely about the facts, but instead is a transfer of emotion and confidence.
Be bolder and think bigger. Nothing is stopping you.
Humility is our antidote to what is inevitably not going to go according to plan.
Humility permits us to approach a problem with kindness and not arrogance.
Trying and failing is better than merely failing, because trying makes you an artist and gives you the right to try again.
If you work for an organization that insists you be mediocre, that enforces conformity in all its employees, why stay?
You don’t start with the confidence of the company; you earn it.
You’re gifted, but you might not be gifted at what you’re doing right now.
Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
The best way to get approval is not to need it.
Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.
Savor obscurity while it lasts.
You are responsible for your own experience.
Power is never given. Power is taken.
Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.
Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.
When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.
Dying young is overrated.
Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.
If your business plan depends on you suddenly being discovered by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.
Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.
Selling out is harder than it looks.
Avoid the watercooler gang.
Put the hours in.
The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.
So, what’s smart? Living life without regret.
The certain thing is that you can change everything. If you choose to.
We can’t profitably get more average.
We’ve gone against our true nature and corporatized, anonymized, and dehumanized as many of our systems as we possibly can.
Which of Seth Godin’s ideas from Linchpin resonate with you? Leave a comment below.