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Linchpin utilizes Seth Godin’s years of business experience to help readers identify if they are dispensable. More often than not, the answer will be yes. However, people are never born a Linchpin. Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. They invent, lead, connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. Importantly, Godin argues you can become a Linchpin by integrating the key features found in this book.

About Seth Godin

Seth Godin is an American author and former ‘dot com’ business executive. Seth Godin is the author of over 18 books. Free Prize Inside won Forbes’ Business Book of the Year in 2004, while The Dip was a Business Week and New York Times bestseller. In 2018, Godin was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Fame. He also runs a blog named in 2009, by Time, as one of the 25 best blogs. 

The Fundamentals 

Seth Godin starts by explaining it is highly likely you have something important to share with the world. However, society is squeezing the genius out of you. It is making it hard for you to produce personal art and makes you fearful of letting go. Society makes life challenging for you in two ways:

  1. Society brainwashes you into believing that your job is to follow instructions. This is not the case.
  2. 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 you to be a genius.

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”

– Seth Godin

The goal for capitalists has always been to have as many easily replaceable laborers as possible. Hence, laborers, including during the industrial revolution, put their heads down and followed orders. The modern world is different, though. Although capitalist systems still encourage dispensability, the internet and laptops buy you an entire factory of output. The world still has workers who follow orders and industry barons who run everything. Still, 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 want employees who will follow orders or 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 ways. Firstly, he explains that Linchpins run towards fear. They still feel fear, but they acknowledge it and proceed anyway. You can develop this ability, and it is a prerequisite for success.

Knowledge is increasingly unimportant due to the possibilities provided by Google. However, Linchpins have a depth of knowledge and insight through a combination of experience and knowledge. Based on these skills, the Linchpin can move into a chaotic situation and create order. Additionally, Linchpins are 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

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 probably not art.
  • Art has a degree of complexity to it. This complexity is based on not being told by others precisely what to do and how to do it.
  • You cannot be doing art merely for money. 

Seth Godin points out that salaried work is often an example of ownership. This type of work cheapens us. We are allowing ourselves to swap an entire day of our lives for a few bucks. Relying on this transaction means you are not becoming the artist you could be. Instead, you can use this time to try to be bold and produce art that is not available to the highest bidder. Your creativity is priceless. 

Additionally, working for an organization means you have a boss. It is okay to have someone you work for. However, you are no longer an artist if this boss controls your output and decisions. 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

Seth Godin disagrees with the old idea of finding your passion in life. Passion is not dependent on a particular task; it is inside us. You should always attempt to 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 appropriate areas. Although we should apply our passion to whatever tasks we are given, we must decide who this passion and art are for. Hence, sometimes we have to give up parts of life that we love. Seth Godin provides an example of the people he knows who write books. These authors 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 useless as it isn’t being consumed. If art is not consumed, then it is effort rather than art.

What Resistance Will You Have to Your Art?

“We don’t need more genius, we need less resistance”

– Seth Godin

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, or picking up the phone. Shipping allows your art to be spread throughout the world, rather than merely being an idea. 

The most significant resistance to the spreading of your art will always be your lizard brain. Your lizard brain is tuned into fear. Fear of being ridiculed or standing for something stops so many people from actualizing their genius. Here are some examples of how your lizard brain might manifest in your everyday life:

  • I don’t have any bright ideas anyway. So, there is no point in trying.
  • I didn’t graduate from _. I can’t provide genius ideas.
  • My boss won’t let me, so there is no point in trying.
  • People will laugh at me if I try, especially if I fail.

Besides shipping, you can fight off resistance to your creative genius by rationalizing these thoughts and thinking about why you have them. Then, think about why having these thoughts won’t help you to reach your personal goals. Doing this will allow you to move on and ignore these thoughts. 

Finally, Seth Godin recommends not setting up a judge for your goals. This means your art will develop without alerting your resistance. You will not worry about 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.”

– Seth Godin

People tend to encourage others to set up a plan B. People hear creative, genius ideas that have an impressive end goal. However, they become fearful that this person will fail. Therefore, they encourage others to make sure they have a plan B. Often people settle for plan B rather than pushing for plan A. 

Many people struggle with anxiety. Seth Godin describes anxiety as fear about fear. Anxiety is killing creativity and imagination. It is a psychological state that imposes a worst-case scenario method of thinking. You can control this anxiety by embracing it and not forcing it away. So, Seth suggests tackling these anxieties head-on. The next time you’re anxious that you have forgotten your passport, don’t feed your fear by checking again. You don’t need to and, as fear is often a spiral, you are kick-starting 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

Seth Godin explains that we evolved to provide mutual support and generosity. Therefore, we are made to give rather than to receive. Seth Godin describes becoming a Linchpin as an act of generosity. This act provides you with the platform to give gifts and expand your emotional labor. The most successful people in the world do not hope to receive similar or bigger gifts in exchange for generosity. Instead, the most successful people are those who are generous as a demonstration of love and respect. Being a Linchpin means you are so influential that you can provide gifts 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. Hence, generosity from others will increase as you become more generous. 

How Do I Know What Art Is for Me?

Finding the perfect art 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 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 path and discover a new route. Having done this, you can 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 there are some things that you cannot change in the world. Instead of wasting your time and effort attempting to control uncontrollable events, you should instead focus on navigating this world. 

You should not be looking for something that matches your passion. Instead, you should transfer your passion to what you’re doing. In effect, the world 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 to make workers dispensable, the Linchpin only has two options. 

Firstly, the Linchpin can hire factory workers themselves. Most people in the world want a map. They want to be told what to do, collect their money, and be on their way. Therefore, many people 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. 

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 you deserve and 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 you fail. You will over-focus on your mistakes rather than learning from them. 

The most successful people learn from their mistakes. Still, they do not automatically tell themselves that they should never have attempted 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 you fail, you must also be open to feedback. Some feedback may be hurtful, but you are only hurting from it because you allow it to hurt you. You must learn to understand the difference between implementable feedback 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 example, they will think about how things could have gone differently if x, y, and z had happened. This is the worst type of outcome attachment to have. 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 imagine a future where details have been changed. 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.”

– Seth Godin

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 there are five essential traits for doing well with people. These traits directly apply to the characteristics of a Linchpin:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • 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 provides seven clear abilities that you should focus on, so you can move towards becoming a Linchpin:

  1. Creativity – You want to be both original and useful.
  2. Unique Creativity – Your creativity must also be focused on a specific domain.
  3. Delivering Unique Creativity – You must ship your creativity. Create goals and accomplish them.
  4. Managing a situation, organization, or customers of considerable complexity – Those who follow a map will fail during these times. This is where Linchpins are integral to an organization’s success.
  5. Inspiring staff – Inspire your staff to follow in your lead. They will leave to follow some orders to actualize your goals and inspire them to think for themselves.
  6. Providing in-depth domain knowledge with intelligent decisions and generous contributions – Be generous in all you do.
  7. Possessing a unique talent – You need to have a talent that is almost impossible to replace. Plus, you need to be brilliant at what you do.

Don’t Give Up

Inevitably, some people aren’t going to win. Things won’t always work out. It is crucial 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 to the old way of doing things. Trying and failing is far better than simply failing. 

The Key Lessons

  1. React appropriately to every circumstance with art and acceptance on your mind.
  2. Be supportive of those around you, rather than competitive.
  3. Anxiety will kill your creativity and imagination. Do not feed it fear, as it will spiral into other parts of your life.

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