“Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin

Recommended to me by: Seth Godin’s blog

Seth Godin brings together several of his ideas about how to survive in our changed economy. His main premise is that non-thinking “factory” work is no longer the road to security. “Factory” is in quotes because he uses it to include any job which involves following the rules and doing what the boss says.

He redefines several other words, including “art” (a gift that changes the recipient), and “artist” (someone who gives such gifts in a business context).

I love his idea of “emotional work”, which is one of the possible ways to make “art.” Emotional work includes both confronting ones own resistance, and creating genuine connections with others. I know I’m much more likely to frequent a shop where the employees or owners give me the gift of emotional connection.

Which brings us to his main definition, “linchpin”: someone who does their emotional work, creates art, gives that little bit extra to both coworkers and customers, and becomes essential to a business.

He talks at length about the importance of “shipping” – completing the art or product and sending out into the world – and the “lizard brain” or resistance that gets in the way. This was the most problematic redefinition for me, because he makes it clear that he’s referring to the amygdala and limbic system, which evolved in mammals, not reptiles.

While it’s useful to think of resistance as a separate voice and notice what it’s saying without letting it take over, I was uncomfortable with the dismissive, combative attitude he seemed to be promoting. I’m more comfortable with the compassionate attitude in Cheri Huber’s How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, which I happened to be reading at the same time.

The writing is choppy, reminiscent of his pithy, paragraph-long blog posts. I read his blog with interest every day, but find the style distracting in a full book.

Seth Godin has also published the book’s ideas in a freely available PDF.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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