Utilizing his years of experience in the business world, Seth Godin tries to help readers of Linchpin to identify if they are dispensable. He then goes on to summarize the essential features of how people can become a true linchpin to a business.
Ultimately, Godin concludes that the following features are fundamental to becoming an indispensable linchpin:
- Providing a unique interface between members of the organization
- Delivering unique creativity
- Managing a situation of great complexity
- Leading customers
- Inspiring staff
- Providing deep domain knowledge
- Possessing a unique talent
This book summary will delve deeper into these features, considering why we need to make ourselves indispensable and how to achieve this.
Straight off the bat, Seth Godin says that YOU are a genius. It is highly likely that you have something great to share with the world, but society is sadly squeezing the genius out of you. Society is making it hard for you to produce your own personal art society is making you fearful of letting go. Society makes life hard for you in two ways:
- Society brainwashes you into believing that your job is to follow instructions. This is not the case.
- Your lizard brain, or the instinctive part of your brain, is the voice that keeps you safe. However, it is also the voice that keeps you average rather than pushing to be a genius
This book, Linchpin, is all about removing these two shackles.
Modern work encourages dispensability
“If you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you learn to say it better”
The goal for capitalists has always been to have as many easily replaceable laborers as possible. This meant that those laborers, such as during the industrial revolution, put their heads down and just followed orders. The modern world is different, though, or at least it can be. Although capitalist systems still encourage you to allow yourself to be dispensable, the internet and laptops buy you an entire factory of output. You now have workers who just follow orders and industry barons running everything, but you also have the potential for linchpins who leverage something internal and creative to produce value. In this way, Seth Godin described artists as people who can find new answers, new connections, or do things in a new way.
Now, employers have to decide if they just want employees who will follow orders or they want to buy into the new American Dream. The new American Dream focuses on:
- Being remarkable
- Being generous
- Creating art
- Making judgment calls
- Connecting people and ideas
What a Linchpin looks like
Seth Godin describes a Linchpin in many different ways. Firstly, he says that instead of running away from fearful situations, Linchpins run towards fear. They still feel fear, but they acknowledge it and proceed anyway. This isn’t something that Seth Godin claims can be taught, but it is something you can develop and is a prerequisite for success.
Linchpins are not just knowledgeable, which is increasingly unimportant due to the possibilities provided by Google. Instead, Linchpins have a depth of knowledge and insight through a combination of experience and knowledge. Based on these skills, the Linchpin is able to walk into a chaotic situation and create order, while simultaneously inventing, connecting, and making things happen.
Linchpins also free themselves from asymptotes. Asymptotes are the upper limits to success. Those who are dramatically successful are those who are engaging with organizations and fields without these asymptotes.
Art is possible in any environment
“You can’t be an artist when someone owns you”
Seth Godin describes how artists can be creative in any circumstance. He describes art as:
- Risky and daring. If an action is risk-free, it is most probably not art
- Has a degree of complexity to it, as it is a time when you are not being told by others exactly what to do and how to do it
- You cannot be doing art just for money, it must be something you engage within multiple parts of your life
Seth Godin points out that salaried work is often an example of ownership, with you being owned by the organization you work in. This type of work cheapens us. We are allowing ourselves to swap an entire day of our lives for a few bucks, and this ultimately means we are not becoming the artist we could be. Instead, you can use this time to try to be bold and produce art that is not available to anyone merely because they’re the highest bidder. Your own creativity is priceless.
Additionally, working for an organization means you have a boss. It is okay to have someone you work for, but the moment this boss is treated like they are allowed to control your output and decisions, then you’re not an artist but just another cog in the system. You must be your own boss.
You don’t find your passion, your passion should be applied to everything
“Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.”
Seth Godin disagrees with the age-old idea of finding your passion in life. Passion is not dependent on a particular task, it is inside us. You should always try and instill more passion and fire within yourself. This combination of passion and art will help you become a Linchpin. You must also ensure your passion and art are streamlined into the right things; although we should apply our passion to whatever tasks we are given, we must decide who this passion and art is for. This means that sometimes we have to care so much about our art that we give up parts of life that we love in order to spread the rest. An example of this, provided by Seth Godin, was people he knows who write books; they don’t sell many books, yet they still refuse to change anything as they want to stay true to their art. In this way, their art is actually useless as it isn’t being consumed. If art is not consumed then it isn’t even art, it is merely effort.
What resistance will you have to your art?
“We don’t need more genius, we need less resistance”
Resistance to your art will come in many forms. One way to overcome the following resistance is to regularly meet deadlines or ‘ship’. Shipping means hitting the publish button, doing the sales pitch, picking up the phone. Shipping allows your art to be spread throughout the world, rather than just being an idea.
The biggest resistance to the spreading of your art will always be your lizard brain. Your lizard brain is tuned into fear. Fear of being ridiculed, standing out or standing for something stops so many people from actualizing their genius. Here are some examples, provided by Seth Godin, of how your lizard brain might manifest in your everyday life:
- I don’t have any good ideas anyway, there is no point trying
- I didn’t graduate from _, I can’t provide genius ideas
- My boss won’t let me, so there is no point trying
- People will laugh at me if I try…especially if I fail
As well as shipping, another way to fight off this resistance to your creative genius is to rationalize these thoughts and think about why you are having them. Then, think about why having these thoughts won’t help you to reach your personal goals. Doing this will help you move on and ignore these thoughts.
Finally, Seth Godin recommends not setting up a judge for your goals. This means that your art will develop without alerting your resistance. You will not have the worry of what others think.
Don’t give yourself Plan Bs
“If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.”
There is a tendency for people to encourage others to always set up a plan B. People here creative, genius ideas that have an impressive end goal and they become fearful, themselves, of the possibility that this person will fail. Therefore, they encourage their friends/family/colleagues to make sure they have a plan B. They might think they are helping that person but actually, more often than not, the person ends up settling for plan B rather than pushing for your plan A.
As soon as you start telling yourself that you will try your best, rather than telling yourself that you will do something, you are already halfway towards adopting your plan B. This is because you are allowing your lizard brain of fear to come in, which feeds on doubts and worries.
As said earlier, Seth Godin suggests that we have to embrace these doubts and worries. Rather than running away from them, we should run towards them. In the modern world, a huge number of people struggle with anxiety; Seth Godin describes anxiety as fear about fear. Anxiety is killing creativity and imagination, as it is a psychological state which imposes a worst-case scenario method of thinking on you. You can control this anxiety by embracing it and not forcing it away. So, Seth suggests that the next time you’re afraid or anxious that you have forgotten your passport, but you already checked when you were back home that it was packed, don’t feed your fear by checking again. You don’t need to and, as fear is often a spiral, you are kickstarting more fears.
Becoming a Linchpin lets you be generous
“I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin”
Seth Godin explains how we evolved, as humans, to provide mutual support and generosity to each other. Therefore, this means that we are actually made to give rather than to receive. Seth Godin describes becoming a linchpin as an act of generosity in itself, as it is what provides you with the platform to give gifts and expand your emotional labor. The most successful people in the world are not those who are generous in the hope of receiving similar gifts or even receiving something bigger. Instead, the most successful people are those who are just generous as a demonstration of love and respect. Being a linchpin means that you are so influential that you can provide gifts that others could not even reciprocate.
Some may worry about being too generous and this leaves them with nothing. Generosity shows to others that we have more to share in our world than we think, and so generosity from others will increase as you become more generous.
This ties into Seth Godin’s belief that the internet has allowed us to become friends with a larger proportion of people and businesses. See these businesses as admirers with the potential for friendship; if you focus on others as being friendly, then your business will take care of itself.
How do I know what art is for me?
After outlining the ways in which we can encourage ourselves to engage with our unique art, Seth Godin explained how you can know which art is best for you. Finding the answer that is perfect for you will be the key to your success in life. However, you have to be the one to find the best map for you.
The reason art is so valuable is that nobody can tell you how to do it. Seth Godin encourages readers to engage with art but he does not tell readers what to do. Instead, art is the act of navigating without being given a map; you have to forge your own path and discover a new route. Having done this, you will be able to do the same the next time you have to find your way without a map. Importantly, though, to be a Linchpin you must also accept that there are some things that you cannot change in the world. Instead of wasting your time and effort on attempting to control things in the world that you can’t, you should instead focus on navigating this world.
You should not be looking for something that matches your passion, you should instead transfer your passion to what you’re doing. In effect, the world around you is difficult to change but you can apply your art and passion to the world that you have around you.
What does a Linchpin’s work look like?
In the modern capitalist world, where organizations are set up in a way that makes workers highly dispensable, the Linchpin only really has two options for work in a capitalist system.
Firstly, the Linchpin can hire ‘factory workers’ themselves. Most people in the world want a map i.e. they want to be told what to do, to collect their money, and be on their way. Therefore, there are many people who will surrender their time for cheap labor, both in terms of artistic license and monetary value. Therefore, as a Linchpin, you can utilize these people.
Or, alternatively, you can find a boss who understands the value of a Linchpin within their organization. This boss should reward you with the freedom and respect that you deserve and should not give you a map to guide your actions. You can still make a difference through this approach.
Failure is inevitable and we must use it effectively
Failure is part of life. The issue is, failure often initiates our lizard brain. Fears and worries are more likely to crop up when we fail, over-focusing on our mistakes and dwelling on rather than learning from them.
The most successful people learn from their mistakes but they do not automatically tell themselves that they never should have tried something in the first place. Plus, failure does not stop them from trying things again in the future.
As well as being self-critical when we fail, we must also be open to feedback. Some feedback may be hurtful but we are only hurting from it because we allow it to. Learn to understand the difference between feedback you can implement into your life and degrading criticism that won’t help you develop. With the latter, though, don’t take this to heart.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes
As well as being self-critical, upon making mistakes people often produce a sense of nostalgia for the past. For example, they will think about how things could have gone differently if x, y, and z had happened. This is the worst kind of outcome attachment to have as we can’t control the past. All we can control is the present and the actions we take in the future. The most successful people are those who see a future where things have been changed and they move in the present to make this different future a reality.
Being a Linchpin is not a lonely existence
“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”
Although a lot of Seth Godin’s book is about bettering yourself, Linchpins do not succeed alone. Instead, Linchpins are those who build a web of connections and surround themselves with complementary individuals.
Seth points out that psychological research suggests that there are 5 essential traits for doing well with people and these directly apply to the characteristics of a Linchpin:
- Emotional Stability
If you want to become a Linchpin you should focus on these.
7 abilities to focus on if you want to become indispensable
Seth Godin provided 7 clear abilities that you should focus on so you can move towards becoming a Linchpin:
- Creativity – You want to be both original and useful
- Unique Creativity – Your creativity must also be focused on a specific domain
- Delivering Unique Creativity – You must ship your creativity. Create goals and accomplish them
- Managing a situation, organization, or customers of great complexity – During these times, those who just follow a map will fail. This is where Linchpins are integral to an organization’s success
- Inspiring staff – Inspire your staff to follow in your lead. They will leave to follow some orders to actualize your goals but also inspire them to think for themselves
- Providing deep domain knowledge with smart decisions and generous contributions – Be generous in all you do. Be generous to yourself in your education, be generous to your colleagues by providing the team with smart decisions, and be generous with those around you so you can encourage greater overall generosity
- Possessing a unique talent – You need to have a talent that is almost impossible to replace. Plus, you need to be amazing at what you do
Don’t give up
It is inevitable that even with the freedom to create, some people aren’t going to win. Things won’t always work out. It is important from the outset that we understand this is a possibility. We must then plan for how we react if and when we do fail. Seth Godin suggests more of the same. Do more art. Give more gifts. Learn from what you do and then do more of the right things. People who are committed to their art never stop giving.
It is worth having these failures as you are no longer an old-school cog. So, do more art rather than reverting back to the old way of doing things. Trying and failing is far better than just failing.
The key lessons
- React appropriately to every circumstance with art and acceptance on your mind
- Be supportive of those around you, rather than competitive
- Anxiety will kill your creativity and imagination. Do not feed it fear, as it will spiral into other parts of your life