“Wait! Are you saying that I have to stop following instructions and start being an artist? Someone who dreams up new ideas and makes them real? Someone who finds new ways to interact, new pathways to deliver emotion, new ways to connect? Someone who acts like a human, not a cog? Me? YES!” Linchpin, by Seth Godin
You have two choices.
1) Get a job, earn a salary, get health insurance and strive for security; or
2) Do work you enjoy, make a difference and unlock the genius you’ve been hiding.
Are you choosing “conventional”? Or “revolutionary”?
Showing up or standing out?
Following the rules or creating the rules?
One book that has inspired me and altered the course of my life is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. Although the book came out in 2010 and I read it only a couple of years ago, I wanted to take a moment to share its insights with you.
Will this book change your life the way it changed mine?
In Linchpin, Seth gives you a choice between two options: either to be a cog in the giant industrial machine, just one small part that makes the machine run; or to stand out and become a linchpin, an essential and crucial piece that’s irreplaceable.
You can be a worker. Or an artist.
Your two choices.
Seth equates today’s white collar workers to factory workers.
“It’s factory work because it’s planned, controlled, and measured. It’s factory work because you can optimize for productivity. These workers know what they are going to do all day – and it’s still morning.”
But it doesn’t end there. Today “machines have replaced those workers. Worse, much worse, is that competitive pressures (and greed) have encouraged most organizations to turn their workers into machines,” Seth writes. “If we can measure it, we can do it faster. If we can put it in a manual, we can outsource it. If we can outsource it, we can get it cheaper…”
Seth’s premise in Linchpin is that you should challenge the working world of today – refuse to be a cog in the machine. Refuse to simply show up and stick it out.
“The only way to succeed is to be remarkable, to be talked about,” Seth writes.
Your new role in the world is to “be remarkable. Be generous. Create art. Make judgment calls. Connect people and ideas.”
Be impossibly good at your job. Be more human, less machine.
“When you’re not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, you’ll get paid what you’re worth. Which is more.”
Less busy work. More art.
Fewer directions. More inspiration.
Less about what you get. More about what you can give.
How do you stand out and become irreplaceable in the world?
1) Be an artist.
Seth talks about how artists are indispensable linchpins.
“Art is scarce; scarcity creates value,” he writes.
And by no means is he implying that you need to start painting and creating sculptures before your next business endeavor.
“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
“Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.”
You can create art not by singing a song or writing poetry. You can create art by affecting someone, inspiring someone, creating a change in others.
You become an artist when you find a new way to do things. You’re an artist when you create joy or pleasure for another person. You’re an artist when you do something original.
And you’re doing all these things not for money, but for the sake of giving and changing people.
“The reason you might choose to embrace the artist within you now is that this is the path to (cue the ironic music) security. When it is time for layoffs, the safest job belongs to the artist, the linchpin, the one who can’t be easily outsourced or replaced,” writes Seth.
And if you’re wondering, you don’t have to quit your job to do this. You can be creative, original, inspiring and generous in the very joy you’re currently experiencing. You can care and you can make an impact on someone by changing the way you think about your work.
“Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.”
2) Give away your art.
Now is not the time to think that Seth Godin wants you to become a pauper and live on the streets, selling your watercolor artwork.
“When art is created solely to be sold, it’s only a commodity. A key element for the artist is the act of giving the art to someone in the tribe,” Seth writes.
When you give away something you care about because of love, care or inspiration, you are offering something that cannot be adequately repaid – and that’s okay. You deliver so much value that people have no choice but to be grateful for and appreciative of your art.
Your smile, your act of courtesy, your thoughtful gesture, your connection with someone in the same industry, your introducing that person to a wine she’ll love – all are small examples of gifts that make you invaluable. Indispensable.
Your small acts of art, given generously, make you a linchpin.
Don’t do it for the money, but for the love of it and for the sake of changing people’s lives. The money will come.
Seth challenges us to give not because we want to receive, but simply as an act of love.
3) Be unique.
Seth relays the stories of Louis Vuitton, Hermes and other French artisans who embraced handmade luxury goods that took time and care to produce.
“Mechanizing and cheapening the process would have made it easy for others to copy. Relying on humanity made it difficult – it made the work done in France scarce, and scarcity creates value.”
Don’t go for the easiest or the cheapest route.
Whatever situation you’re in, ask yourself, “What would the artist do here?” How can you make something special or different to improve the final product? How do you inspire and make your customer’s experience stand out?
4) Raise the bar.
“The problem with meeting expectations is that it’s not remarkable. It won’t change the recipient of the work, and it’s easy to emulate (which makes you easy to replace).”
Choose to be remarkable instead, Seth preaches. In fact, if you can’t be remarkable or exceptional in what you’re doing, don’t do it at all.
Stay away from humdrum, average and already been done. What is the game changer? What can you do that is art?
What can you do that will change someone’s life?
You can do something exceptional as a courtroom lawyer or as a telephone receptionist.
Raise the roof if you have to.
5) Become an expert to question how things are done.
“Expertise gives you enough insight to reinvent what everyone else assumes is the truth,” Seth writes.
If you understand better than anyone else the products you’re working on or the topic you’re writing about, you’ll have more breakthroughs and big ideas.
Mastering a subject or a field allows you to do something special in that field. The better you know something, the more likely you’ll know what’s missing, what doesn’t work or how to make something better.
The more you know, the greater your ability to make meaningful changes.
6) Maintain empathy and engagement.
You’re not paid to care, but you’re freely able to do so.
You don’t have to talk to anyone, but doing so can change someone’s day or improve someone’s life.
Can you look for ways to help people and improve the situation? Can you think about the small things that you can do to show you care?
Can these things be as simple as a smile or a “How are you?”
Can kindness, generosity and common courtesy be art? I’d venture to say, yes!!
7) Break the rules.
The easy thing to do is to learn the rules and follow them. There are rule books, policy manuals and employee handbooks. There are instructions that tell you what to do, and bosses who tell you how to do it.
Can you do it differently even if it means bending the rules?
Can you find a more effective solution? A more creative one? A solution that delivers more value to the people you’re serving?
Are you willing to step on toes to introduce an unexpected solution, or go against the usual way of doing things so that you stand out?
Yes, you might be disciplined or fired. But in Seth’s world, the linchpin says, “If I lean enough, it’s okay if I get fired, because I’ll have demonstrated my value to the marketplace. If the rules are the only thing between me and becoming indispensable, I don’t need the rules.”
Following the rules? Or breaking them and creating new ones?
8) Stay passionate.
Artists are passionate about their jobs and passionate about doing important work that gives a gift to others.
Seth writes that “transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.”
Interesting, and contrary to what we’ve been told. It may be the one point I slightly disagree with Seth on.
It may be easier to transfer your passion to your job, but it’s more fulfilling and satisfying to search for your purpose in the world and pursue that thing you were made to do.
Getting passionate about something you’re not interested in is more difficult, I’d argue, than finding what makes you jump out of bed in the morning.
But can you get passionate about aspects or parts of a job you’re already doing?
I’d say, either way, the bottom line is to do work that inspires passion. Either find a new job or discover what you’re passionate about in the work you’re doing.
In Seth’s world, “ship means hitting the publish button on your blog, showing a presentation to the sales team, answering the phone, selling the muffins, sending out your references.”
Shipping is getting it done. It’s getting the product out the door. Delivering your project to the computer.
If you’re having trouble completing something, you’re likely facing resistance. The solution a la Seth: “Call its bluff, ship always, and then change the world.”
As a linchpin, confront your inner fears and face the resistance you feel.
Your product may not be perfect, but it’s better to get something out the door.
“Shipping something out the door, doing it regularly, without hassle, emergency, or fear – this is a rare skill, something that makes you indispensable,” Seth concludes.
10) Break through the resistance.
People may not like your ideas.
You might fail.
You might be laughed at or fired.
Some of these fears and doubts will stand between you and your work.
The resistance, Seth writes, seeks comfort or wants to hide. Seth encourages you to get uncomfortable when facing resistance.
When you’re feeling uncomfortable, “you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone.”
The only solution to breaking through the resistance, Seth tells us, “is to call all the bluffs at once, to tolerate no rational irrational reason to hold back on your art. The only solution is to start today, to start now, and to ship.”
Finally, you may be wondering what art to make and what gifts to share with the world around you.
That question is the “crux of it. Once you commit to being an artist, the question is an obvious one. The answer is the secret to your success. You must make a map. Not someone else. You.”
Linchpin can change your life if you adopt the revolution that Seth is asking you to lead. The power is not in society’s hands or your boss’s hands.
You’re the artist. You’re the linchpin and you can make it happen.
Photo Credit @MarinadelCastell