Review by Sarah Louise Ferrara
Application Rating: Two stickies
Ideas Rating: Five stickies
Style Rating: Four stickies
Would I recommend Linchpin?
I don’t just recommend it. I insist on it. Linchpin is my first experience with Seth Godin, now legendary in marketing circles. Having heard and read such raving from his fans, I was curious to read his most recent publication in the wake of the publicity surrounding its release.
It took a few chapters to get used to his style, which is direct, easy to read and extremely passionate, with a free, almost stream-of-consciousness style. You can feel his energy, enthusiasm and passion on each page. The book is all about one question: Are you indispensable? And if I’m to judge the author on the criteria he himself sets out in this book, Seth Godin is definitely, absolutely a linchpin. The question is: are you?
I’d rate Linchpin as a five-sticky book, despite having only given two stickies for application and four for style. It gets a full five stickies overall simply because this could be the book that changes your life, for ever, and for the better. Even if you think you already know about the concepts explored in Linchpin (and I’m betting that you will; he has a special knack for creating new vocabulary – “emotional labour”, “the lizard brain”, “thrashing” and, my favourite, “ship” – to concisely define concepts and phenomena almost everyone will have experienced in their lives), his words will jump out from the page and speak directly to your soul until you feel the irresistible urge to do something about them.
It’s a two-sticky on application. Although highly inspirational, this is not a how-to manual. Godin even tell us why not:
“There is no map. No map to be a leader, no map to be an artist. I’ve read hundreds of books about art (in all its forms) and how to do it, and not one has a clue about the map, because there isn’t one.”
Simply put: if there is a map, there is no art. So no step-by-step instructions to follow here, I’m afraid, although the chapter on Resistance does offer some excellent tips on how to fight the Lizard Brain (more on that later).
The magic of this book lies in the ideas, and the way they are expressed. As you read, you might feel (as I imagined I did) the synapses in your brain sparking and crackling as new connections and neuropathways are born and formed. The author’s own passion for his “art” is palpable and infectious. Linchpin is thought-provoking on a grand scale: on my Kindle I made notes on or highlighted no less than 38 sections. Not one paragraph, not one sentence goes to waste. Page after page, he fires ideas at you with little or no time to digest the last before another one is heading your way. For this reason, you might find it easier to read in short bursts, to give the ideas time to settle in your brain and make themselves at home before you move on to the next section, because there’s no respite. And you’ll definitely want (and need) to read it more than once.
It must be said that none of the ideas are particularly new. It doesn’t matter. You need to hear them again, and Seth’s passionate style will tug at your heart and soul, forcing you see the ideas and concepts from a fresh angle: your own.
The author has a specific talent: he takes a generic idea, but will make you, the reader, feel as if he has been looking over your shoulder and is now speaking directly to you, about your situation. Throughout the book I found it to be specifically, spookily applicable to the situation I find myself in at this very moment and my niche; other reviewers have said the same. This ability to speak directly to the heart and guts of the reader means everyone gets to take away something different from the experience (and it is an experience) of reading the book.
Seth Godin’s style is wonderfully direct, conversational, and alive. You won’t nod off with this book; his words reach out, grab you by the throat and won’t let go until you get as excited and passionate as he is that being indispensable is vital. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO, small business owner, artist, author, store assistant or waitress. His message is direct, loud and clear: be a linchpin, not a cog. Be indispensable, and make it meaningful.
Having said that, the book is lacking a rock solid structure, and seems to consist of a series of stream-of-consciousness blog posts strung together. I can’t call them articles or essays: they just don’t have the form. I don’t necessarily consider that to be a negative point, as the author’s passion and drive make it flow. His habit of repeating himself works – in its own way – to drive the point home, and overall it all fits together well to provide a unique, signature style.
My Biggest Insight:
My favourite part of the book, and biggest insight, is the chapter on the Resistance and the Lizard Brain. This is not a new concept; the term “resistance” was coined and the concept covered in detail by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, and Godin refers to this book and its author several times. If you’ve read The War of Art, you’ll know exactly what the resistance is. Seth Godin takes it one step further, providing us with some powerful imagery (the Lizard Brain, anyone?) and the definitive advice on how to fight the resistance, advice that is both the goal of resisting the resistance and the cure.
Simply: get it shipped.
Some of the powerful concepts in this book (and how you start applying them today):
Shipping means getting a project finished and out there. It means having the courage to share your vision and creativity with the world. Shipping means getting your product – be it a blog post, ebook, website design or proposal – out the door on time, even if it’s not ready or perfect. The Lizard Brain (the author’s term for the brain stem, that prehistoric part of the brain we have in common with reptiles and which ensures our survival by forcing us to seek shelter against risky situations) wants you to tweak the project and polish it, rearrange it, rewrite it, start again, or preferably just rip it up and go home: anything other than actually getting it out there and exposing yourself to the world. Shipping is the antidote to the resistance. Godin says it over and over again: “Real artists ship”, and “as every successful person will tell you, the ideas aren’t the hard part. It’s shipping that’s difficult”. The only solution “is to start today, to start now, and to ship”.
1) The old system of finding a safe job, following instructions, getting paid and being taken care of is gone. The old system consisting of factories and cogs within them who followed orders. The industrial age is over, and the rules have changed. Now talent and creativity, not obedience, are rewarded.
2) The new rules reward artists, or linchpins. A linchpin is someone who does work that matters, who is indispensable. They are someone we can’t do without.
3) Linchpins don’t wait to be told what to do next. They figure it out for themselves and do it.
4) Linchpins are in control of their Lizard Brains. The Lizard Brain is the part of the human brain stimulated by fear, and its job is to protect its owner from being laughed at or criticised. The Lizard Brain hates creativity and vision. The Linchpin’s biggest challenge is overcoming the primal instinct of the Lizard Brain to convince you to just keep your head down and survive. Otherwise known as the resistance, self-sabotage, fear of success, fear of failure, or fear of being laughed at.
5) Linchpins ship. They get the product out the door and into the world, and then they start work on the next. Linchpins hit the “publish” button even if it feels uncomfortable.
6) Linchpins are generous, sharing their art in the form of gifts. This can mean simply going over and above the call of duty, or literally giving away their art – not in a callous attempt to exploit the law of reciprocity, but out of generosity and a desire to create change in others.
7) Art is defined as “the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person”, and “a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another”. Art has nothing to do with paintbrushes and canvases; linchpins are artists, not painters. “If art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind, then you are an artist”
Emotional labour is needed now. Emotional labour is doing something that is mentally or emotionally difficult: creating something that might attract criticism, engaging in personal relationships when you don’t feel like it, starting a difficult conversation when it could be avoided.
9) Linchpins are indispensable, and linchpins do work that matters: their “art”.
10) How do you know if you are indispensable? “If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable”. In other words, use initiative to create something unique, or if you are just going to carry out a task to order, make sure you do that task exceptionally well.
Where To Get This Book (Nope, this ain’t an affiliate link)
Author: Seth Godin
Kindle Edition: 256 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (February 4, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0749953357 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-0749953355 (paperback)
Thanks to Sarah Louise Ferrara