Book Review 010: Linchpin by Seth Godin - Are You Indispensable?

In his book Linchpin, author Seth Godin tells the readers that every person faces a choice: You can choose to live day after day, year after year, languidly going through the motions, doing work devoid of excitement and imagination. Or, you can choose a path that promotes uniqueness and ingenuity by becoming a “linchpin” – an invaluable, indispensable employee, the center of a company’s activities. He challenges us by stating that if we believe in our self-potential for greatness, we need to embrace risk, ignite the creative spark within us, and seek out the good in other people to become an influential linchpin. 

If you decide to absorb all of the business teachings of Seth Godwin, be warned that you can very well end up feeling overworked and underappreciated. His message is so effective that it may have unintended consequences of making you the "go-to" person for the entire organization. 

Here are the main lessons of his book:

1. You do not have “Job security”.

Many people may already know that truth be told, they are replaceable. You may be the only Manager in a district, or have hit a million dollar in sales, but we all know you are only as good as your last sale and that the business environment can change in a minute. For over a century, Companies have promised employees decent wages, good benefits and job security in exchange for workers who met expectations, punched their clock in and out, and followed Company rules. Fast forward to the present, where economic and technology changes have wiped out job security. The current workforce is victim to globalization, reduction in force, and reduction of benefits as employers look to cut costs if that means an increase to the bottom line. This generation is different from the previous generation, and that means there are two sides to the coin.

2. Embrace hopelessness or opportunity.

The result of economic and technological changes have brought about a new wave of entrepreneurs and business opportunities, mainly through the internet and ability to connect with people all around the world. Instead of feeling hopeless and stuck, employees can climb out of the trenches and seize the opportunity to create a different, better future for themselves. Our society often discourages change and creativity. Many people are so accustomed to following rules and working diligently, they fail to realize that there other methods, new rules, in which people can stand out and become innovative.

3. Become a “linchpin.”

In the midst of the herd who simply follow the rules, you can choose stand above the crowd by becoming a linchpin – an invaluable, indispensable employee who inspires everyone else. By projecting a winning attitude even when naysayers surround you, you will become the person others ask for help, and when your colleagues depend on you, your firm will pay you accordingly. 

Remember that Linchpins aren’t brilliant all the time. They stand out due to their ability to recognize and seize opportunity. Godwin says that to be a linchpin, you must be smart and crafty, as well as hard working. Linchpins surpass their peers by combining wisdom about the job with shrewdness. Every interaction with your colleagues or clients is an opportunity to act as a linchpin in some way. For example, musicians and artists create work because they must share their gifts with the world. Often times, financial reward is much less motivating. In the same way, becoming a linchpin means becoming an artist. It means performing at your best because you simply can’t do otherwise.

4. Tune out your “lizard brain.”

Your lizard brain is wired for survival and fight or flight. It fears risk and sows self-doubt and mistrust. It evolved earlier and has greater power than the creative part of your brain. Creative, optimistic, successful people tune out messages from their lizard brains. They don’t take failure personally and don’t think of themselves as losers. They gain strengths from setbacks and find ways to pivot and change their plan of attack.

When you reach that uncertain stage about making a change, Godin says go for it - avoid analysis paralysis. To evolve, ignore tasks that aide procrastination. The nearer you are to a breakthrough, the more you will embrace distraction. Surfing the Internet or checking your email is a lot easier than being creative and initiating change. Most people won’t commit to self-discipline, but that’s the key to productivity.

5. Give more, take less.

Generous, committed people understand the power of giving. They recognize the value of supporting others – with time, money or talent – and being part of something larger than themselves. By giving, you are able to fortify bonds between people and strengthen the overall tribe. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), charges no dues and its meetings are free. People attend to receive and to give help – a philosophy that makes AA a powerful, close-knit community. You do not have to wait to become successful to practice generosity. Many people do not chase after money, but it is a result of their efforts of giving value to others first. As you progress to become a linchpin, consider how you can donate your art, your creative efforts, your inspiration and your energy to others around you.

Life will throw you curveballs and challenges out of your control. Remember to develop the right perspective and see things for the way they really are. If you head into a meeting with a client or partner anticipating the outcome, you may find yourself setup for disappointment. Godin warns us not to emotionally invest in a situation with many variables for which we cannot predict the outcome. Linchpins will accept the things they cannot change and move forward. Its easy to settle for mediocrity because change is intimidating. However, you can defy the status quo, look beyond the horizon, and strengthen your relationships. Persevere, and ignore lizard brain self-doubt messages. Don’t get in your own way of success.

Hope you enjoy this book!

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