“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.” -Seth Godin
Seth Godin has a fascinating new book out called Linchpin. If you like Godin’s other books then you’ll like this one. It’s written in his classic style of storytelling and enthusiasm. Some would argue that his books are just extended blog posts – that there’s not enough meat to actually make a book. And while I agree that his books can get repetitive the message is so good that it’s worth hearing repeatedly.
One of Godin’s past books was called Purple Cow and it talked about how to create a remarkable business that people talk about. Linchpin is about becoming a remarkable person that people talk about. After reading through the book, I would summarize it with these five quotes and lessons:
1) Be Different
You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to become indispensable is to be different. That’s because if you’re the same, so are plenty of other people.
You can’t become a linchpin by doing what everyone else is doing. You have to be remarkable and to do that, you have to be different. No one will talk about you and say you have to hire this person if you are the same as everyone else. Being different almost always means going beyond the training manual because anyone can follow the manual. What matters is the person that takes initiative to take the customer experience or product to the next level.
2) Give Gifts
When done properly, gifts work like nothing else. A gift gladly accepted changes everything. The imbalance creates motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection.
In his book, Godin gives the example of an expert sales coach that gives away all of his secrets in a free online book. Is that stupid because now everyone knows his secrets? Or is that wise because now everyone knows that this guy has knowledge to spare and if I ever need a sales coach he’d be the first one to call. Now that I’ve seen his work, I know he’s good.
3) The Web Makes it Easier to Shine
The Web has made kicking ass easier to achieve, and mediocrity harder to sustain. Mediocrity now howls in protest.
On the web, remarkable content spreads quicker than ever before. I once wrote a blog post entitled how long you can wait that talks about how delayed gratification is the key to success. On a whim I submitted it to stumbleupon and the next day I had thousands of views. The post struck a chord and traveled faster than I could have imagined.
In the world we live in, if you do something wonderful (with the help of twitter, digg, stumbleupon and facebook), news can travel like lightning.
4) There is No Map
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.
In the book, Godin talked about his favorite negative review which said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Godin has all these great ideas but he doesn’t tell you how to do any of them”! To which Godin replied, there is no map — if I could tell you how to do it then it would be a commodity and wouldn’t be remarkable anymore.
Some people just want to be told what to do, and in fact some businesses encourage that. Godin spends a lot of time talking about the old-school factory mentality of getting people that are just cogs and replaceable parts. You give them a manual and they do the work and everyone’s happy (or are they?). Maybe the business makes money, but are they really remarkable or are they just racing to the bottom? And what about the employee, they are just interchangeable cogs.
According to Godin, a better model is one where people bring their talents and creativity to help a business race to the top rather than just following a map.
5) Work is Your Platform for Art
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in the other.
This was my biggest takeaway from the book. The idea being that “Art” is something that changes someone by making a human connection. And to be remarkable, you must bring your art to work. The greatest business people are the greatest artists. They change people and the world with their art.
Jonathon Ive, who designed the iPod and the iPhone, is an artist and he’s impacted millions with his art even if they aren’t hanging it on their walls. Not only has he impacted millions of consumers, but he’s made millions for his company.
Perhaps Ive is a little too blue sky for the average person to relate to, so Godin goes on to talk about the barista in a local coffee shop that is always smiling and welcoming. This barista goes out of his way to make sure customers are comfortable and happy. He’s the reason that people go the cafe and therefore is highly valuable to the business (ie – a linchpin). His art is his connections that he makes with people, and according to Godin everyone has some kind of art that they can bring to work.