“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people deeply care about.”
This book is different. It’s about a choice and it’s about your life. it challenges you to rethink how you do your job.
Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.
You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must. I’m hoping you’ll stand up and choose to make a difference.”
I thought Linchpin was just for someone in a cubicle looking to find ways to get up the corporate ladder faster.
Man was I wrong.
The lessons and information can be applied universally across many work situations and life itself.
To me.. another Seth Godin slam dunk.
Linchpin Notes/Nuggets of Wisdom:
- The world has changed and companies are headed in a direction of hiring you to a faceless cog in their machine (business) for as cheap as possible.
- School prepared you for this scam.
- Most people are afraid to chart their own path and want to be told what to do out of fear. Fear of standing out, or up for something. This economy is punishing the fearful and rewarding the bold artists. You need to ship your art even if it isn’t perfect or finished completely.
- Organizations are trying to high a high percentage of easily replaceable laborers. Workers that are competent, obedient, and as cheap as possible.The danger in this is that one cog that doesn’t care about the company can destroy a companies brand. Think Youtube videos of the kids making Domino’s pizza.
- Making jobs (even white collar ones) obsolete by replacing them with machines and outsourcing their jobs to cheaper labor in other countries like China and India.
- If all things (businesses are equal) the customer will pick the cheapest one. They have less time to make a choice than any other time in history.
- Unions tried to fight back against becoming a commodity by collective action, but every union worker is the same as one another and it’s no different.
- It’ unprofitable to establish a career around just doing what the manual says.
- There is a choice not to become a cog, you can choose to chart your own path. You’re a unique human being with something to say/do.
- Don’t let the lizard brain keep you average and safe. Just putting your head down, doing your work, and hoping to get picked.
- Be fearless, but not reckless. Feel the fear, acknowledge is and do it anyway.
- You can actually enjoy what you do. And in the process make a difference to your co-workers, customers, and release the genius in you.
- “A genius is someone who looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.”
- Companies can succeed by giving workers a platform to be a linchpin, faster service, more human and remarkable. Instead of cheaper, standard, good, ordinary.
- Becoming a linchpin is connecting, innovation, creating order out of chaos, connecting people and ideas, embracing a lack of structure to find new working paths, being generous, doing more than required, caring, original, creative, passionate, rare, solving problems that other people haven’t predicted, in a league of their own, and making a difference in other peoples lives.
- This is a skill that with daily practice of gift giving, making art, and human connections in a linchpin type manner you will become more and more indispensable.
- Be an artist. Give gifts.
- Chart your own path and do not try to copy someone else’s. That is not art.
- Having a face to face connection to others is the best form of human connection.
- You no longer need the factory. The means of production today can be had with a laptop and a internet connection.
- Linchpins world view says that exceptional insights, generosity, and productivity make markets bigger and more efficient.
- Being an expert in your field allows you to know the status quo better and gives you insight to reinvent what everyone else assumes is true.
- Emotional labor is the hard work you do to create art. It involves having vision and doing something about what you see. Making choices.
- Emotional labor is rarely held as a competitive advantage. But it is available to all of us.
- Your job can be a platform for expression, generosity, and art. Every interaction with a customer, or coworker is an opportunity to practice this art.
- Challenge structure, expectation, and the status quo.
- Troubleshooting is an art. A gift from the person with the trouble and the person solving it when everyone else has given up. Putting himself on the line, and giving energy to the cause at hand.
- ” If it wasn’t a mystery, it would be easy. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth much.
- Good isn’t good because its not remarkable and perfect isn’t good because you can’t get better than perfect. You want nonlinear, remarkable, game changing, artistic.
- Optimism is the change agent artists need, because is allows them to believe they can make things better.
- Transferring your passion to you job is a lot easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.
- Being good with people is a form of art.
- All you have to sell is relationships. You can never always be the lowest priced. But you can change someone, connect with them, or make a difference in their life. (How to Win Friends and Influence People, would be a good read to learn more about this)
- Creativity – Personal, original, unexpected, and useful.
- Unique Creativity – Focused and insightful with domain knowledge, position of trust, and generosity to contribute. Most important is delivering unique creativity and shipping.
- If you are not the best in the world at your unique talent its not real. You need to develop other attributes, or get a lot better at it.
- Your job is to make something happen by making your own map since you know your subject so deeply, and leading.
- The act of deciding is the act of succeeding.
The Hierarchy of Value
Tons of people can do the low level work, but rare is the person creating and inventing.
Example of value creation.
Think of France and the hand made Louis Vuitton bags, the Hermes handmade saddles, wine makers, etc. They embraced custom and hand made. ”Made in France? came to mean something that “Made in China” doesn’t. Mechanizing and cheapening the process would make it easy to copy.
They relied on humanity which made it hard work which was scarce. Scarcity creates value.
Worth noting is the Purple Cow argument. In the past companies made average products, and interrupted us in hopes we would buy. But, we have stopped buying. The only way to grow now is to stand out by creating something that people are happy to talk about to others. Treating people with respect and letting word of mouth grow your business.
People don’t talk about things that are the same as everything else. They talk about things that are different. An organization that is built around creating interactions that people deeply care about.
Consumers will say they just want the cheapest price for a commodity. Although if they had the choice Seth thinks they would choose art. Seeking out products and experiences that deliver more value, connection, experience, and change people for the better. Which is a learned skill set that you can learn how to do.
In a world that loves to race to the bottom the only way to win the race is to race to the top and stop playing by their rules. You can’t out Amazon, Amazon.
Going to the top requires an organization to become more human, remarkable, faster, and has a personal connection with its customers. You then hire and develop linchpin workers by giving them freedom, responsibility, and respect using their own best judgement you have an indispensable company that people love. Workers will rise to unseen levels and customers will be delighted.
What a School Should Teach
“We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.”
Schools need to teach people to produce innovative work, deep insights, and art.
Schools teach fear. Fear to not fit in, fail tests, obey authority, show up everyday, don’t ask questions, memorization is important, fear of not getting into college, etc. It’s not necessarily the schools fault. Thats just how the system is setup.
Often being good at school doesn’t mean you will be good at your job.
The opportunity is changing the game. Changing the interaction all the way down to chaining the question.
Schools need to be teaching people to:
- Lead ( be socially smart, open to connection, understand how to build a tribe)
- Solve interesting problems ( not to memorize dates, but questions like “what should I do next?”
Seek out new interesting problems at the one you are working on is solved. And take on harder and more interesting problems as you go.
Law of Linchpins and Leverage
Capitalist need workers who will work for less than the value they create. They difference of what they are paid and what the company takes in is the profit.
The law of a linchpin leverage states: The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value. Most of the time you will be doing what ordinary workers do, but you will also create brilliance in tiny bursts.
Its art, insight and bravery of creating something valuable that is rewarded.
There is no security in mediocrity. Being only slightly better than the next person is insufficient. It will wear you out.
Being worn out and exhausted makes it tough to do the work at the same time. The insecurity of your job wears you out of the confidence and energy that you need to do your job.
Does Every Company Need Linchpins?
Some companies and industries really do not need linchpins. Organizations that are monopolistic, static, safe, cost sensitive, and centralized should hire drones as cheaply as possible.
Cheap drones can be scaled, replaces, and disrespected.
This strategy is fine, but it is unlikely to lead to customer loyalty.
Also if you’re looking for a job, why would you want to work for a company like this?
If they are saying “You’e a cog, you’re replaceable, there’s someone coming in right behind you. Hey, we don’t even have to meet you!” its time for change. Move on and find a company that will let you become a linchpin. Don’t play the game if it is designed for you to lose. Play a different one. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to become a linchpin, or it is unlikely you will never get it.
If your boss won’t raise the bar, you should. The linchpin says “I don’t want a job that a non-linchpin could get”.
Don’t sell yourself so cheaply. Giving away a day of your life for a few bucks. When you are selling your time for money you cease to be an artist that you could be.
A days work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters.
Find a new solution to a problem that has caused others to quit. The art, genius, is to reimagine the opportunity and find a new way to lean into the problem.
As your art gets better and more important, demand for it will go up. You can then be choosier to who you give it to.
When at the end of a day the day’s work doesn’t equal a days pay, that means that at the end of the day a bond is built. You have given a gift that has been received, and people are drawn closer to you.
There are three situations where an organization will embrace and reward someone with a depth of knowledge:
- The knowledge is needed very quickly and bringing in an outside source is risky, or time consuming.
- Knowledge is needed on a consistent basis and the cost of bringing someone from the outside in is too high.
- Knowledge is used in decision making and internal credibility and organizational knowledge go hand in hand with knowing the right answer.
It’s better to build a team that knows what to do. Rather than waiting around waiting to be told what to do.
The future of an organization depends on motivated human beings selflessly contributing gifts of emotional labor. The danger is trying to measure and improve this. It needs to happen organically.
Ruthlessly limit the number of people needed to coordinate a project, and have a linchpin run it.
If you are a linchpin you don’t need a resume. It will just give the employer what they need to reject you. They just scan for keywords to fit into the cog profile.
What should you have instead?
- Great letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects
- A project they can see or touch/experience
- A insightful and compelling blog
If you don’t have anything like this, what makes you remarkable? You may just be brainwashed into compliance.
Great world class jobs don’t get filled by people sending in resumes. Projects are the new resumes.
The Gift of Emotional Labor
The gift is to the giver, and comes back to him..” – Walt Whitman
When you give something away you benefit more than the recipient does. It makes you rich beyond measure. Successful people race everyday to give away their expertise and spread their ideas.
You will benefit from emotional work. Not just your company, but yourself. There is great reward in making someone smile, connecting to a human, being creative, taking initiative, putting on a show, or being surprising. You won’t necessarily get more money for it though. You are after the intrinsic reward.
Art = Anything that is passionate, creative, and personal. Its a personal gift that changes the viewer. The more it changes someone the more effective it is.
Art is original and human through the work of emotional labor. It’s a gift and you can’t do it for the money.
The most visceral art is face to face, one on one with the artist and viewer. Its also in the interaction and what you do.
Causing someone to change their mind is an art. What if you were great at it?
Art challenges the status quo through something new and unique. It is taking a risk and doing something through emotional labor that is difficult.
Making a connection that is not in your job description is a gift. It is being open.
Gifts allow you to make art. Given with no reciprocity in mind is key. You can give gifts in anything you do in life and create art. Even though you need to push down your selfish impulses, the gift is still for you as well as the recipient.
A gift brings tribe members closer together. A gift can make you indispensable. The best kind of gifts are art.
The reason giving a gift makes you feel uncomfortable should make you want to find out why.
Generosity generates income.
The lack of money being made in a transaction brings the two parties together and creates a community or tribe. A bond is created. And the giver usually comes out ahead.
When art is created with the sole purpose to be sold it becomes a commodity. Think of people charging for smiles.
Giving a gift is about the joy it brings. Its not about what one gets from the gift. Although in the future you may get something back in the form of a true gift from someone else. It will make you like giving the gift even more.
The only way to successfully live in this world is to give a genuine gift.
“Passion is a desire, insistence, and willingness to give a gift. I will not feel complete until I give a gift.“. It’s an insistence on doing important work. Even in the face of people not accepting your gift you still need to push forward with relentless to make a difference, solve a problem, and create change that would help people. Chose to make a difference instead of following a manual.
You may need to give up parts of your art in order for it to spread and make a difference. While still having enough passion about it to not let go of the parts that truly matter. There is a middle ground that needs to be taken sometimes.
“Wait! Are You Saying That I Have to Stop Following Instructions and Start Being an Artist? Someone Who Dreams Up New Ideas and Makes Them Real? Someone Who Finds New Ways to Interact, New Pathways to Deliver Emotion, New Ways to Connect? Someone Who Acts Like a Human? Me?
Art has made its way into so many common items in our lives. Think about the iPhone and how its design and function transform millions of people. It is now in all industries and most products.
The reason to choose creating art as a path is because now it is the path to security.
For example, look at corporate layoffs. The people who can be outsourced or easily replaced are laid off. The safest job belongs to the artist.
Passion isn’t project specific. Some get their sense of self from acting passionate. Your challenge may not be finding a better job or boss, but getting in touch with what it means to be passionate.
Making things happen is what passionate people do.
When someone is a linchpin they combine art and passion.
Art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. You take personal responsibility, challenge the status quo, and change people.
Can Your Work Become Your Art?
What needs to change to allow you to create art during the time you spend at work? Creating connections, giving gifts, inventing, and finding joy? In every job there is a way to create art.
The job is not the work. What you do with your soul and heart is the work.
Can you expand the same amount of emotional energy on the job as you do off it?
In the past marketing was thought of as a scalable, predictable, measured way of reaching an audience. Urging people to buy with discounts and coupons through as big of distribution as possible (read to interrupt as many people as the company could afford). But, it is really the job of an artist.
Marketing is changing people through your work. Seeing things as they are, and then creating pictures, stories, and interactions that change the marketplace.
Successful marketing isn’t learned by following what is laid out in a book. You won’t get great growth by following a spreadsheet that everyone else is using as well.
If it is easy to quantify, it’s worth less.
Case study – Jones Soda. The owner doesn’t care what any other companies do. He just does what he needs to do and does it in a unique way. Putting customers pictures on the bottles, weird flavors, sayings, etc. Jones peaked in value at 300 million.
This sort of an artist work can be done with virtually any product. Even Tofu.
To dive more deeply into branding and marketing, Seth’s book called All Marketers Are Liars / Tell Stories is a great read. [Add link here once I complete notes on that book.]
You’re not born to do a certain kind of art. You can do all kinds of art. Writing a blog, the way you interact with a person, a different way to use technology.. its all art.
Focus on an audience that you choose, and listen to them, and exclude others. Make this sort of customer happy. Forgetting about the people who don’t like what you are doing.
Just do something awesome. Its easy to get caught up in the crowd that wants to keep you like everyone else.
Think – What do I want? What do I want to see in the world? And then create that.
The moment when someone wants someone to pay them to do something, or a boss to tell them what to do they are no longer creating art. They are a person taking orders. Their job is to please their boss. They lose the goal of changing their customer. When someone is in control of your outputs and movements you are a cog and apart of their system. You’re not an artist.
Customers don’t care how hard you worked on something. They care about themselves and if a product, service, or interaction changed them for the better.
This is why emotional labor is so much more valuable than physical labor. The emotional labor is what changes someone. People care about that.
Art is not created outside of a box with no rules. Because then you have nothing to react against. You can’t ship if you are too far outside of the box. You need to think along the edges of a box. Thats where things get done, an audience is, and the means for production is that can make an impact.
“the greets shortage in out society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.”
Resistance and the Lizard Brain
The lizard brain only wants you to be safe and eat. Fit in to the tribe for survival. It’s the reason your scared and not doing art right now. Why you’re not shipping.
Its the source of resistance. It wants you to shut up, sit down, and do your day job.
Your genius is where great insights, ideas, love, connection, and kindness come from. Resistance keeps this part of us squandered. It lives in the lizard brain.
You need to allow your genius from within to flourish.
Anguish will be in you if there is conflict between your ideas and the outside world. The gap between the lizard brain wanting to be safe, and your genius wanting to speak out to the world.
Every time you take orders, and not create the manual yourself you are surrendering to resistance.
Resistance is really good at rationalization to keep you from doing things. It is a constant daily battle. Creating conflict on what needs to be done and what feels good. This is why people who know smoking is killing them continue to smoke. The lizard brain is winning and they have no training to beat it.
The trick is to create an environment where the lizard brain sleeps. Create new patterns and habits that controls the lizard brain.
This is likely why most people procrastinate. They need the adrenaline, and sense of urgency of the deadline to push them to deal with the fear. They can’t deal with the fear of completion until the fear of failure is greater.
Public speaking is the number one thing the lizard brain is scared of. It will get you noticed and have massive eye contact. You could get criticized.
You can’t really reason with the lizard brain. It is very difficult to change. The best option is to invest in systems that help weaken resistance.
The voice in your head is often the lizard brain trying to teach your genius a lesson. It will often tell you that you are not good enough. It’s afraid of being more productive so that you will actually have to ship. When you hear this in your head you have to not listen to it. Stop doing the tasks to waste time and avoiding shipping.
Resistances main worry is that you might fail. In reality you will fail. Probably a lot of times. You need to embrace it as a learning experience.
You become a winner because you become good at losing. You learn what doesn’t work each time and it brings you closer to what does work.
Don’t give up.
The people who seek out discomfort are the ones that make a difference. Discomfort means something is changing and others are unlikely to do it. Because they are busy hiding due to giving in to their lizard brain.
When you have a great backup plan.. you end up settling for the backup. When you say “I will try” instead of “I will” you let the lizard brain in and most likely he is going to win. The backup is a sabotage waiting to happen. You start to ask why you should take the risk when there is a comfortable backup plan.
People who succeed normally have nothing to lose, and no backup plan.
If you’re not willing to have bad ideas, you will never have good ones. Every creative person will have a ton of bad ideas to every good one. Keep creating bad ideas, and eventually some good ones will pop up.
You need to accept that you are a genius. And recognize that voice in your head trying to squash it. You are as capable as the next guy of inventing, great insights, and making a connection that makes a difference.
When you allow resistance to win and follow the rules your value goes down. Because others are simply following the rules as well and you are easily replaceable.
“Well-paying employment requires that workers possess unique skills, abilities, and knowledge. It also requires that the labor must be non-commoditized. Most journalists share the same skill sets and the same approaches to stories, seek out the same sources, ask similar questions, and produce relatively similar stories.. The result is extraordinary sameness and minimal differentiation. ”
Doing more of the same things you were doing is not the answer. You need to throw out the rule book and do things differently. To do so requires facing resistance.
Temptation to kill the new things is because the new things might work.
Living without a map is scary. The fear makes us follow someone else’s map, because if it was wrong it wasn’t our map.
Effort and planning are two tools to beat resistance before it beats you.
There are many books and classes that can help you reach your goals. Although the failure rate of people that use them is very high. Why? Resistance is stronger.
When resistance tells you not to do something, listen, read, attend, etc. GO! Just do it. Any route you take that doesn’t lead to success is the result of resistance.
Say what the lizard brain is doing out loud and it may help quiet it.
Whatever way the resistance is coming from is the way to go. Head straight into it. The closer you get to a break through the tougher resistance will fight you. Do what your lizard brain is afraid of. The thing you need to do is what the resistance wants to stop you from.
The goal is to quit the tasks you are doing because you are hiding. Due to the lizard brain. Quit and push through what the lizard brain fears.
If art that you are going to create isn’t worth the effort you need to dream bigger.
People with great ideas are no good if you give in to resistance and don’t continue to fight it. If you embrace the challenge you will have results and make a difference.
Refuse to do any sort of busywork like check email, and twitter. Don’t distract yourself with anything but your work.
It’s that race to completion after an idea is born that makes all the difference.
Get used to the feeling of resistance and don’t let it control you. Don’t try and immediately get rid of it by eating that food, etc. Just let it sit there and reality will show you that it wasn’t needed. And you will stop worrying about things that cause anxiety.
Don’t scratch the itch. Don’t run from it or bargain with it. Stay put. If the challenge is important enough you must overcome resistance. Don’t keep going back for forth fleeing. You must stay and sit with it. When the lizard knows you won’t back down it will back down. You will then get control back.
Unchecked anxiety is the biggest barrier to your goals and yourself.
To launch a project successfully you want to sketch out the entire thing ahead of time. Do all your changing ahead of time with a written deadline. Then, you get the approvals you need and feedback. Start working and finish it.
Setup a system where you are playing the game you want to play.
Example – Grateful Dead didn’t want a gold record, their music on the radio, etc. Their system was resistance proof because it allowed them to avoid having a judge and jury for their work. They only played with people they liked, and enjoyed. This didn’t alert the lizard brain. This art can then be leveraged into more art.
Build a habit of writing things down, prioritizing the ideas, building them, and shipping it. Start now, today, and ship.
We must forge our own path and make our own map in this economy.
The first step is seeing the world as it is. Keeping in mind our own world view and approaching reality with as little bias as possible. You need to accept that people are difficult to change, and embrace their uniqueness that they bring to the table. If you can do that you will go through the world with more bliss and effectiveness. While making better decisions.
It’s good to know that there are certain things that you are just not going to change. It maybe can’t be changed and may hurt your own goals in the process.
Accept the world as it is, and don’t be attached to any outcome, or how you want it to be.
Scarcity creates value. It is scarce to accept things the way they are, and then take action and work to change it for the better.
Successful people can take the past and future and put them together into something manageable.
The truth is that there can be no map. If there was it wouldn’t be art.
Making the Choice
Sometime you don’t need to find a new job to get a new one. Just stand up and start looking for more opportunities to lead, put yourself on the line, push through the dip and make things happen.
You have a choice to fit in, or stand out. You can’t do both.
If you give your boss the gift of art, initiative, insight, or connection they will be less likely to shop around and replace the commodity (you).
If your organization can’t live without a map, and you can’t change it, should you leave?
Find a boss that can’t live without a linchpin. Who values your contribution, and will reward you with freedom and respect. Do the work and make a difference.
Every day is a new chance to choose.
You can choose to respect everyone, have dignity, and give the gift of art. Open yourself up to feedback on your art to help it spread. Focus on the constructive criticism.
If it doesn’t work and you are not changing anyone keep giving gifts. Make more art and keep learning from it. The only other option is becoming a cog again.
If you work for a company that insists that you be mediocre and conform, why stay there? What are you building? It won’t be any challenge, or joy there. Your skills are not increasing. Your market value will actually be decreasing.
If you try to monetize your art and that thing you love to do most likely you will corrupt it. Its important to do your art with no regard to money.
Doing what you love is important as ever. If making a living at it needed. The niche you choose should already have money flowing around and if you are successful will have money flowing to you. Loving what you do is almost equal to doing what you love.
The goal is to find a job, career, or business you can fall in love with.
If you choose wisely you can end up loving what you do to make money. If needed take a day job that allows you to do your art for free. If you find your art is not paying the bills. Just keep doing it, and you may find money starting to come in after that shift.
“What you’re doing might not be working, and you might not be able to do what you’re doing and get paid for it. But I am certain that if you give enough, to the right people in the right way, your gifts will be treasured and your journey will be rewarded. Even if that’s not why you’re doing it.”
You can choose to change everything if you want to. You’re a genius and the world needs your contribution. Anyone that can overcome the voice in their head and has the insight to make the right map can become a successful linchpin.
Art will feed us, enrich, and gives us the security that we have lost.