Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin is a book that has had a big influence on my life in the past few years. Although there is a lot of repetition in this book, which could have been condensed into a single blog post, I would still recommend this book. It is essentially a collection of related blog posts that are fun to read on their own, and there are some interesting tidbits of information scattered throughout. The main ideas in the book are summarized below.
We all grew up being taught to conform to the system, where we follow instructions and obey the rules. This is no longer relevant or a good strategy for success. The best option that we have is to choose to become a linchpin: someone who is indispensable, remarkable, able to exert emotional labour into their work and build human connections.
The system evolved from the days when we needed factory workers - those who were good at following instructions and obeying the rules. We were taught that if we followed the system, we would be taken care of and be successful. This is no longer a viable option.
Acting as a cog in the machine makes you dispensable. In addition, organizations that are built around the system can no longer thrive, as automation and competition will only lead to a race to produce cheaper products at a larger scale. There are diminishing returns in this system as fewer factors distinguish individuals and organizations from each other.
Linchpins know how to solve interesting problems and lead. They take personal responsibility and do the job not being done. They produce art, build connections, and freely give gifts to the world. In the process, they stand out from the average and get rewarded.
Art is defined as the ability to change people with your work. This involves producing creative and innovative work, which requires putting emotional labour - such as passion and love - into your work.
The challenge is that there are no maps or instructions for how to produce art. Part of the value of a linchpin is that they are able to navigate the unknown and create their own maps or instructions, breaking previous rules if necessary.
With the internet, normal people can now own the means of production and are no longer limited to being cogs in the machine or limited in the art they can produce.
Linchpins build connections with and between people. People value connections and relationships more than anything else, and this is a factor that distinguishes between average and remarkable individuals, as well as organizations.
Building human connections requires emotional labour as well as leadership qualities, and cannot be done through a script. In attempting to codify this process, the connection is no longer genuine or effective.
The system is a zero-sum game built on transactions: money is exchanged for a quantity of work or product. There is nothing that distinguishes individuals or organizations from each other, other than the amount of money being exchanged.
Linchpins, however, freely give their work to the world. They give true gifts, as there are no expectations of getting anything in return. In this way, they add more value to the world, differentiate themselves from others, bring groups of people together, and drive up demand for their work. There is no limit to how much value can be added to the world in this way. The more gifts that are given, the more reward there will be in return.
Becoming a linchpin is a choice and not something that you are born with. However, along the journey of becoming and being a linchpin, you will come across the resistance. This is a voice inside that says you are not capable or tries to distract you from your work. It tells you to avoid failure and stay in your comfort zone, while making excuses for not doing the work.
To work past the resistance, you need to have the mindset of shipping your work and putting your art out into the world no matter what. You need to let go of the outcome and not get too attached to it. Do not chase perfectionism. Linchpins that do this are valuable and will eventually find success.