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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Paperback – April 26, 2011
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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 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 figure out what to do when there's no rule book. 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 are the essential building blocks of great organizations. They may not be famous but they're indispensable. And in today's world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.
As Godin writes, "Every day 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."
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Linchpin – this funny little eight-letter word is the main concept of this book. What does it mean to be the linchpin of a company? How does one become a linchpin? Can anybody be a linchpin? All of these questions were addressed in the book. Before addressing all those questions, Godin first explains his definition of a linchpin. He does not mean for people to be like the small pin on a wheel. Instead of the literal definition, he considers a linchpin to be “an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.” (pg VI). Based off of this definition, he considers a linchpin to be a person that the company would not function with out. This person sees the problem clearly and does not panic. Instead they develop innovative solutions and create their own path. A linchpin never follows a map; they create it.
When Godin looks at the corporate world, he sees many cogs. There are far to many people that blindly follow the rules set before them. They show up to work, do as they’re told and then leave. These people are compliant, under paid and in pain because they are not following their passions. This is Godin’s target audience. In order to inspire, you must speak to those in need.
From Godin’s research he has developed seven abilities that make a great linchpin. All of these abilities make the linchpin a unique asset that is indispensible to the company. These seven abilities are 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. Godin describes each of these talents in detail and explains why if a person is special enough to possess all seven, then they can be an indispensable worker.
When explaining his point about why linchpins are the artists of their industry, Godin used a few good examples to help bring his point across. Artists create things, whether it is a beautiful painting, sculpture or new business model. All artists are innovators, creators and visionaries. The sign of a true artist is when they see something that’s so different and yet works so well. While Ev Williams was creating twitter, he did not use a conventional business model. When people first saw his project, they thought it was absurd. No one had ever seen such a thing. However, it’s uniqueness helped spread the word about twitter. Now it is a hugely successful form of social media. By throwing in the real life example of Ev Williams and Twitter into the book, it made Godin’s point more concrete. Without William’s quotes and the well-known success of Twitter, the point would have just been an abstract theory. Because I know the reality of Twitter, I could conceptualize the problems Williams faced and now I see how he overcame them. By using real life examples, Godin was able to better prove his point.
While I felt like Godin had some great examples, he also had some that were sub par. There were many times where the book seemed more like a cliché inspirational speech, than anything of substance. When discussing how one becomes a linchpin, Godin wrote that we all could be CEO’s of top companies. He used the example of Richard Branson and how he built his airline company. Godin tells the story of his idea for Virgin Atlantic and then goes on to say that anyone could do Branson’s job if they thought creatively enough and knew what to look for. While this is a sweet and thoughtful thing to say; it is not accurate. In reality not everyone can be a CEO. It takes a lot of leadership skills, vision and intelligence to be a good leader. It’s important for a good leader to always be looking for new opportunities, make important decisions and understand your audience. Each of those adjectives are characteristics that Branson possesses, however not everyone has them or can learn them. Even if someone did, they are not the only qualities that make a good linchpin or guarantee success. Godin devotes a whole chapter on “becoming a linchpin”. Even if someone reads the advice a thousand times that does not guarantee that they can apply it. While every one is special and has a lot to offer the world, that does not mean they will be the linchpin of their company. It takes practice, intelligence and a lot more than just reading a book to teach the skills needed to succeed.
Overall this book would get a B rating on a traditional college grading system. It brings up some interesting points about how to become a better worker as well as helped me better understand not to let my fear inhibit me from trying a new method. I learned that the best inventions were created by people who looked at things in a different way than the average person. They were able to see the problem, understand it and then had the courage to try something new. This is a useful skill that any body can use in their work or while at home. While that was a useful skill, Godin had a tendency to ramble on in the book. Sometimes his lessons sounded more like a cliché speech, then something I could see myself applying. Godin has accomplished a lot in his life. He has seen much success in the marketing world. If he had incorporated some of those experiences in the book, it would have felt more genuine and less like someone preaching to me about having a good work ethic. This would have helped me to better visualize how his points are feasible. Despite the rambling, the book does have some worthwhile points that are important for anyone in the workplace to understand. For anyone who is just entering the workforce or feels stuck at his or her job, I would recommend this book as a useful guide on how to navigate the corporate world.
Seth Godin needs no introduction. A world class marketer, a best-selling author of a dozen books, an unmatched voice of influence, not to mention a sincerely genuine person on every interview and interaction. He is too good to be real and yet so real, it's hard to believe.
Even so, I did put the book down. I even came close to shipping it off to a friend but I came back to it. I read it. I finished it. I devoured it. I loved it.
Brilliant thoughts expressed in simple form and through stories and facts and experiences. After reading it, you examine your every move; you look at your decisions with fresh new perspective, and you wonder why no one else told you to do "emotional work" and called you an artist all these years when you were trying to give your art to the world. And why you let the "lizard brain" have so much power over your plans and prospects. I have now come to know my lizard brain and I have seen evidence of my linchpin within. What about you?
To permanently shut off the lizard brain may take a long time but recognizing the things that stand in the way of our dreams is the first step toward greatness.
So what does it take to be the linchpin, to become truly indispensable? Is it to write endlessly, to create daily, to be original and authentic and to do it day in and day out tirelessly? Is it to dig deep and find one single genius idea and spend the rest of your days on bringing it to life? Or is it going through one bad idea after another until a good one emerges?