How To Be Indispensable

Indispensable Jun 11, 2014

I just finished Seth Godin’s Book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? It’s a book that I will need to read at least two more times to fully digest. It’s also a book I think everyone should read.

If you haven’t heard of Seth Godin, look here. I’m not even going to try to cover his accomplishments in a blog post that I already know is going to be longer than I want. His blog is worth subscribing to, regardless of what you do or who you are. (You can get it delivered right to your inbox.)

The title of this book implies that it’s about being an indispensable something, and since the book is often found in the Business and Self Help categories, you might assume that the book is about being an indispensable employee, entrepreneur, or business owner. You’d be right, but you would also only be scraping the surface. Godin’s definition of a Linchpin is someone who creates art. He then defines art as a gift that is intended to create change.

If this sounds like a broad definition, that’s because it’s intended to be one. A lot of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is about what techie types like me refer to as “soft-skills” and how, when viewed with Godin’s definition of art, those skills finally seem as important as they really are. Art might be creating what we “traditionally” think of as art, such as painting, writing, or film. But it can also be creating something something more “technical” like software. Or it can be as simple as  making life better for someone.

The graph below, which I adapted from Godin’s hand draw version in the book, is a great example of what the book has to offer.

Four Different Quadrants
The Linchpin Scale

On the horizontal access we have a measure of passion. How much effort are you willing to put into your art? What sort of obstacles are you willing to overcome?

On the vertical access we have a measure of attachment. Attachment can mean attached to a set of rules, a specific outcome, or a specific solution. I was tempted to change this axis to neasure “flexibility,” but decided to stick with Seth Godin’s definitions. It’s his book.

On the lower left hand side we have the Whiner. The Whiner is attached to his world view and to how he thinks it should be, but he’s stuck since he has no passion – he lacks a willingness to create any change. The battle cry of the Whiner is “It’s not fair!”

On the lower right hand side we have the Fundamentalist. Regardless of what community you are in the Fundamentalists are easy to find and probably well known. Combine a rigid attachment with a lot of passion and noise is always part of the result. Often the only result. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) not a lot of change is likely, since that rigid attachment almost always precludes even talking to someone with a different view, let only working together to make something happen.

The upper left hand corner is interesting. What happens when you combine a lack of passion with a lack of attachment? You get a Bureaucrat. When in doubt, fall back on rules and “It’s not my decision/fault/problem.” You know where to find them.

The upper right hand side is the home of the Linchpin: a passion to affect change combined with an ability to discern what a successful outcome can look like. Where the fundamentalist is focused on a rigid definition of success, the Linchpin is looking at what some might call the “big picture.” A desire to make things happen, combined with an ability to adapt is a recipe for results.

Where are you on this graph? Is your position always the same for every situation you are in? I know I tend to shift around, but now that I have it for a frame of reference, I think it will improve my ability to get things done.

This is a lot to try to cover in 500 words, and I am already well over that. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is worth your time and your money. If audio is your thing, there’s an edition read by Seth himself.

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