Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How do I begin to sort out my thoughts for this book? I feel like to do it justice I should be writing a 5 page, double-spaced book review for a class in college - except I think Godin would take offense to that!
I would say that there are three, maybe four major points that I took away from this book - The Resistance/Lizard Brain, You are an Artist, Generously Give Gifts/Invest in Emotional Labor, and Ship. What Godin loves most to do is to turn everything upside down on its head, and when you read his words, they just make sense. He says the things that need to be said in today's economy and delights in going against the crowd, "the resistance" or what he also calls your "lizard brain" - that primal sense of fear and anxiety that is coded into everyone's brain, but that can hinder us from doing our best work.
And doing our best work is the essence of what Godin is after here. Different from his other books for companies and marketers, Godin is speaking directly to us, the reader, the proletariat caught in the capitalistic system of having to work to make a living. But he challenges the reader to think about what kind of work are you doing - what kind of economic system are you supporting? Are you supporting an economic system that is based upon a factory and an assembly line, where you just show up to push a button all day long - or are you part of an economic system that is pushing you to do more, that is asking you to do more, that the time of the factory and the assembly line is essentially dead, and do you really want to live your life pushing a button day in and day out?
While I know many people who do want that kind of job, I don't. I want to bring more to the table and I want to live what Godin expresses - bringing passion and emotional labor to my job than trying to search for the job that is going to match my passion - because I may never find that. What I can do is be an artist at my job, because I do have a unique gift to bring to the table - both to my boss, my coworkers, and my customers. When I invest myself into my job, giving a piece of myself without expecting anything in return, I am doing my best work. And when you do your best work, the money follows - eventually. Granted, it takes time, and not everyone will probably be a raving fan, but you will get enough raving fans to keep investing yourself in your job and make yourself stand out from the rest of the button pushers.
What most deters me from being an artist at my job, from giving generously of my gifts, is my lizard brain that puts me into procrastination or hide-out mode. I don't want to be exposed, I don't want to make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, make a mistake and so I don't end up "shipping" - which is a key principle of Godin's thesis. All artists need to ship - because if you never ship, then what are you creating? Nothing. If you don't ship, what are you sharing with the world? Nothing. And the lizard brain, the amygdala that seeks to keep me rooted in my anxieties and away from my possibilities, wins out if I don't ship.
Looking at the book from a writer's point of view, most of Godin's writing reads much like his daily blog. Some thoughts are long, others very short, but you can see each section in each chapter being a blog post (which I bet some of them actually are). Nothing wrong with that style of writing, as it is clearly effective for Godin (and probably for his audience of business people, who let's face it, have very short attention spans in general).
All in all, I greatly enjoyed it. There are other points to the book, like his thoughts on the education system in America that I found really fascinating and enlightening (and makes me wonder, if I am ever able to have kids, if I want them to go through the traditional education system). It has inspired me and I am still ruminating, two days later, over the lessons learned and found myself thinking of his principles often as I was making my way through the book. The fact that they have stuck around in my head that long, makes me realize that this has the hallmarks of being a very good book indeed.
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