10 Quotes From Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin

| July 19, 2017
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Every now and then, I try to pick up a book like this in the self help/motivational genre. Once you have read a few of these, they can get a bit repetitive. When the author is taking broad strokes across several types of industries, you won't leave with specific, actionable advice.

Having said that, I tend to find each self help book has 1-2 key takeaways worth thinking about. These books are also great to dive into every couple of years as your career evolves, potentially becoming more relevant or serving as a gut check to bring you back on track.

The theme behind Linchpin involves being unique, special, and irreplaceable. In a world where computers could replace you, or systems could easily bring in the next employee at your departure, you need to figure out how you can go above and beyond to be the linchpin to your firm or customers. A linchpin also doesn't need a rule book, and delights others because that's what they love to do.

As I'll elaborate on in my notes, the read comes at a good time for me. With each passing month, my financial planning practice is growing and I continue to contemplate my specific niche. I am constantly pondering the balance of: should I be enrolling in classes to deepen my knowledge for a specific set of people, or should I focus on making their experience incredible and unique?

I have two critiques about the book. First, Seth Godin is a bit erratic in his writing. While I have plenty of notes, upon review, they really seem to go all over the map. My second critique is a word of caution: nobody is indispensable, and nobody is a linchpin. While I applaud the theme of self improvement and philosophically approaching your role, one should not believe they ever achieved the status of being a linchpin, for they will soon be fired or replaced by the younger, hungrier version of themselves. Thus, one must realize that until you reach retirement, there is no sunset where your innovations are no longer necessary.

With that, here are 10 of my favorite quotes from Linchpin:

If you can use your productivity advantage to earn five dollars in profit for every dollar you pay in wages, you win. Do it with a million employees and you hit a home run. The problem? Someone else is getting better than you at hiring cheap and competent workers. They can ship the work overseas, or buy more machines, or cut corners faster than you can. The other problem? Consumers are not loyal to cheap commodities. They crave the unique, the remarkable, and the human.

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The Best Reason to Be an Expert in Your Field: Expertise gives you enough insight to reinvent what everyone else assumes is the truth. Sure, it’s possible to randomly challenge the conventions of your field and luckily find a breakthrough. It’s far more likely, though, that you will design a great Web site or direct a powerful movie or lead a breakthrough product development if you understand the status quo better than anyone else. Beginner’s luck is dramatically overrated.

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The other reason? Because it tells you whom to ignore. It’s impossible to make art for everyone. There are too many conflicting goals and there’s far too much noise. Art for everyone is mediocre, bland, and ineffective. If you don’t pinpoint your audience, you end up making your art for the loudest, crankiest critics. And that’s a waste. Instead, focus on the audience that you choose, and listen to them, to the exclusion of all others. Go ahead and make this sort of customer happy, and the other guys can go pound sand. In the words of Ev Williams, founder of Blogger and Twitter, The core thing would be just do something awesome. Try not to get caught up in the echo chamber. That is probably the toughest thing when you are trying to break out and do something original.

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Let’s go back to the beginning of this book. Everyone, every single person, has been a genius at least once. Everyone has winged it, invented, and created their way out of a jam at least once. If you can do it once, you can do it again. Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person. How and where you do that art is a cultural choice in the moment. No one wrote novels a thousand years ago. No one made videos thirty years ago. No one Twittered poetry three years ago.

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When you started reading this book, did it make you squirm a bit when I called you a genius? A lot of people are uncomfortable with that sort of permission, authority, or leverage. If you’re a genius, after all, then you need to deliver genius-quality results. You’ve almost certainly been brainwashed to believe that you aren’t a genius, that you’re working at the appropriate level, earning what you’re supposed to earn, and doing what you’re supposed to do. And some of that brainwashing has been consensual, because your resistance sort of likes low expectations. Once you’ve given a name to the resistance and you know what its voice sounds like, it’s a lot easier to embrace the fact that you actually are a genius. The part of you that wants to deny this is the resistance. The rest of you understands that you’re as capable as the next guy of an insight, invention, or connection that makes a difference.

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Old-school businesspeople argue for copyright and patent protection and say, “I can’t tell you my idea because I’m afraid you will steal it.” Old-school thinking is that you get paid first, you sign a contract, you protect and defend and profit. They say, “Pay me.” Artists say, “Here.”

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The linchpin has figured out that we get only a certain number of brain cycles to spend each day. Spending even one on a situation out of our control has a significant opportunity cost. Your competition is busy allocating time to create the future, and you are stuck wishing the world was different. We’re attached to a certain view, a given outcome, and when it doesn’t appear, we waste time mourning the world that we wanted that isn’t here.

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You don’t want to take initiative or responsibility, so you check your incoming mail, your Twitter stream, and your blog comments. Surely, there’s something to play off of, something to get angry about, some meeting to go to. I know someone who goes to forty conferences a year and never seems to actually produce anything.

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Three Ways People Think About Gifts 1. Give me a gift! 2. Here’s a gift; now you owe me, big-time. 3. Here’s a gift, I love you. The first two are capitalist misunderstandings of what it means to give or receive a gift. The third is the only valid alternative on the list.

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The easier it is to quantify, the less it’s worth.

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