Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 01-13-2010
I just finished my advance copy of Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? It was certainly different than other Seth Godin books, focusing more on you as a person and what you can personally do to make yourself a necessity at your job or in the marketplace.
Oh, and I should mention before the review, I have a free copy of Linchpin to give away before it hits the shelves on January 26th. After you read my review, answer the question at the end of the review as a comment and I’ll choose my favorite by the end of Friday and ship the book on Saturday AM! (If you win, look for me on the dust cover!)
Let me start by admitting I can’t possibly do this book justice. It’s fantastic, very well-written, and expands much further beyond this already long review. (To read other reviews that might summarize differently/better, go here.)
For me, there were three main themes that stood out throughout Linchpin: Art, The Resistance, and Shipping. (If and when you read this book, you might latch on to one of the other themes, but this is what resonated with me.)
You might be wondering what a linchpin is? Literally, it is a pin inserted through holes at the end of an axle, to secure a wheel in place. In reference to a human, it is someone who is indispensable or unreplaceable for an organization. When the wheels fall off the wagon, you’re not going anywhere. Linchpins deliver unique creativity, they ship (more on that in a bit), and they understand that their job is to make something happen (p. 221).
Godin argues that we have gone from two teams (management and labor) to a third team now, the linchpins. “These are the people who own their own means of production, who can make a difference, lead us, and connect us.” In short, a linchpin is a person worth finding and keeping on your team. You can’t replace them and you need their valuable insight, opinion and production of work.
If you were to pick up this book at any certain point, you might think it was for painters and poets. Art/Artists are heavily referred to throughout the text. But according to Godin, we’re all artists now. As factory jobs disappear and the economy that factory jobs were built on crumbles, it’s now the artists who will have success (p. 18). But factories aren’t just sweatshops and car manufacturers, a factory is “an organization that has it figured out, a place where people go to do what they’re told and earn a paycheck.” (p. 40)
Now that our view of a factory has been shaken, let’s toss Art into the mix. Art isn’t just for painters and poets. Art is “anything that’s creative, passionate and personal. [...] An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.” (p. 83) You don’t create Art as something to keep to yourself, you share that talent or ability with others. And when you diffuse a situation and provide great customer service to someone on your University’s Facebook page, that’s art. And as Godin argues, this is the sort of art that will be indispensable in the near future.
Art is human.
Art is interaction.
Art is original. (“Marcel Duchamp was an artist when he pioneered Dadaism and installed a urinal in the museum. The second person to install a urinal wasn’t an artist, he was a plumber.” p. 85)
Art is the product of emotional labor.
And most importantly, Art is a gift.
For me, this blog and its content is a gift to you. My presentations are a gift to the audience. Everything I post here is a gift that I hope will give you insight or takeaways to do your job better. When Nick Denardis reviews websites each week on educheckup.com, he’s being an artist. When Karine Joly spends hours preparing and sending out her Higher Ed Experts newsletter, she’s being an artist. Artists are optimists, and they have a chance to make things better. Artists have such a passion about their art that they’ll do almost anything to give it away, to make it a gift, to change people (p.98).
Godin goes on to talk about the powerful culture of gifts (giving/receiving art) and how being an artist can be profitable as well, but you’ll have to buy the book to learn that.
What is The Resistance? “The Resistance is afraid. Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if the ideas get out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens. [...] The Resistance is nefarious and clever. It creates diseases, procrastination, and most especially, rationalization.” (p. 107-8)
In short, The Resistance is everything in your mind telling you not to do what you want to do. Moving forward with an idea, suggesting a new way to try things, reallocating your budget towards what makes sense. The Resistance loves when you start a committee instead of taking action. The Resistance wants you to slide into complacency. The Resistances wants you to sit on Twitter all….day…… long. Godin calls Twitter “perfect resistance, because it’s never done. There’s always another tweet to be read and responded to. Which, of course, keeps you from doing work.” (p. 134) He later says “You don’t want to take initiative or responsibility, so you check your incoming mail, your Twitter stream, and your blog comments. Surely, there’s something to play off of, something to get angry about, some meeting to go to.” (p. 194)
If The Resistance is making you uncomfortable reading this, it’s winning. Simply put, The Internet is Crack Cocaine for The Resistance. (p. 134)
Godin jokes that if you sat at your desk and watched TV re-runs you’d probably be fired, but it’s apparently alright for you to update Facebook for an hour because that’s “connecting to your social graph”.
So how do you beat The Resistance? For starters, some people simply don’t want to, and they’ll stop reading about right here. For many, sitting and getting a paycheck is an acceptable way to live. But it’s also the way to becoming dispensable and easy to let go of. It’s dangerous to be complacent and not be adding value to your organization.
For those of you who recognize The Resistance holding you back from what you want to accomplish, it’s time to ship.
Shipping is sending a project out of the door. Pretty mindblowing, right? But to get to the heart of shipping, you have to think about 1) how you ship, and 2) what you ship.
Godin mentions that he’s written 12 books since 1999. How? By shipping. He says:
“Am I some sort of prodigy? I don’t think so. I ship. I don’t get in the way of the muse, I fight the resistance, and I ship. I do this by not doing an enormous number of tasks that are perfect stalling devices, ideal ways of introducing the resistance into our lives.” (p. 135)
Think of what you’re working on right now. Does it have a deadline? (It should.) What is the deadline? Is the deadline a new deadline that has replaced the old deadline? If so, you’re not shipping. (Wait… is this blog your stalling device? I’m honored. )
Godin suggests writing the due date of each project and posting it on the wall, and that done or not, you will ship on this date. He then outlines the steps and techniques he uses to make sure that the project is absolutely finished by that date (you’ll have to buy the book to see that.)
The idea of shipping was the stickiest for me. Getting quality projects and ideas out of the door, and doing it on time. In a world of delayed deadlines and “Phase 2″, it’s easy to get complacent with projects that don’t hit deadlines. That’s what The Resistance wants. Instead, Godin says that “understanding that your job is to make something happen changes what you do all day.” (p. 221)
Final thought: “We don’t have a talent shortage, we have a shipping shortage.” (p. 235) It’s time to ship more.
What We Can Do
Where to start? There is so much talent at each of your workplaces. Some of you are already linchpins, truly holding the wagon together. Others are on the verge, but The Resistance is holding them back. (The topic of pay in Higher Ed is a whole different blog post that could be pulled out of the thoughts in this book).
Maybe your employer isn’t ready for you to be a linchpin and create great things. But once you’re creating (and making them look better), I’m sure they won’t mind.
If you want more out of your job, your life, and your paycheck, check this book out. If you want to be inspired to try harder, to do better, and to accomplish more, read it. If you’re content and complacent with where you are, this will certainly be a hard book for you to get through. If you want to achieve your personal best and make the others around you better, you’ll definitely find some next steps for that out of this book.
It’s pretty simple. Leave a comment before Thursday 5pm EST and tell me about a linchpin that you know. It could be a co-worker, a twitter friend or colleague, a family member, a neighbor. Tell me what makes them a linchpin, in your opinion, and what’s one thing that you can take away from how they do life.
I’ll ship the book Priority mail on Saturday AM, so if you’re in the US you’ll have it by next Tuesday or Wednesday, still a few days before the book hits the shelf. I look forward to your responses!