Tag Archives: Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part XIII


Seth Godin does not provide detailed solutions to practical employment dilemmas of the functionary kind. Godin is abstract, a marketer, and he’s a journalist without the experience of working in an Amazon or Apple corporation. His advice that linchpin’s should be artists seems so out of touch with what it is like to work in startups, or businesses generally. At one point he says, schools should teach two things: 1) solve interesting problems, and 2) be a leader. The only problem is a scarcity of leadership positions that are sustainable, Godin. The Functionaries Paradox is that if everyone believes that they are a leader/entrepreneur, it becomes extremely difficult to get anything done in a business team. There are still millions and millions of functionary roles that need to be completed in Western society. Godin, in fact, is speaking to a very small pool of risk taking entrepreneurs but trying to mask it as if a midlevel manager in a corporation can be linchpin without compromising their execution of tasks, and their functionalist remit. Entrepreneurs or linchpin’s as he calls them are UNEMPLOYABLE. He provides no examples of linchpin from bankers to lawyers or doctors, he is talking about entrepreneurs and more loosely about marketers (whom he loves as it’s what he does) while pretending that being a linchpin can work in any business. Marketers frequently under emphasize the scarcity of resources, the scarcity of eye balls, and time which limits the number of Squidoo.com users, or in the case of the linchpin, the number of leaders that can actually aquire leadership positions that are meaningful. Godin can’t say that he’s talking to a small group of risk takers, because then most job-stability focused people will put the book down. He’s repackaging the ethos of the entrepreneur, and more vaguely the artist.

(This is a series of posts on Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part XII


Seth Godin’s Paradox ie. the Functionaries Dilemma. Seth Godin is a pop-culture synthesizer, who repeats himself over and over again as if his audience is truly “lizard brained.” Everyone knows he is deducing these arguments based on his macro-observations. He has limited experience in successful business management having created a mediocre enterprise like Squidoo.com. His primary goal is to convince the reader that you can be the linchpin without his giving substantive advice on how to be one in a practical context. His advice is “to be an artist,” along with a series of similar “be different” slogans. Linchpin is a marketing pep-talk designed to suggest that his target market is ANYONE who is working today. In reality, he is talking about entrepreneurs because most entrepreneurs espouse exactly what he is saying, and Godin wants to convince others to join in the innovative. By pretending that the pie is unlimited, he can argue that his readership can all participate in this linchpin ethos. But framing his book in the way he does, Godin is able to build a larger target market of book purchasers (to use his marketing-think). The trick is that functionaries are very useful for entrepreneurs because those workers never realize that they could do what the entrepreneur is doing. It is difficult to occupy that same space as the leader/entrepreneur/artist inhabit. As with much of his marketing-think, Godin is preaching to the converted who already understand his points, or preaching to the lizard brained who are not going to apply his advice anyway.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part XI

(V) The Linchpin Is More Emotional, Gift-Giving, Visionary, and Mature.

Artists Ship!

You should click send on your blog, you should ship your creativity, do not delay because the lizard brain will stop you. You should resist the thought that you should not create art. What slows us down is the thrashing, and the coordination. Thrashing is adjusting of ideas as they are being developed, and coordination is the getting everyone to agree to an objective. The reason that a startup has an easier time getting a product to market than a corporation is that it has few people to coordinate. TO overcome the coordination problem you need to be exceptionally secretive which calls for the exclusion of certain people, then you need to appoint one person to run it. Write your ideas down, action them, then ship them. DO not be selfish. Linchpins must be generous…

The Linchpin is An Entrepreneur:

How to become a linchpin:

1)    Hire plenty of factory workers. Scale like crazy. Take advantage of the fact that most people want a map, most peoapl are willing to work cheaply, most people want to be the factory.

2)    Find a boss who can’t live without a linchpin. Do the work. Make a difference.

3)    Start your own gig. Understand that an organization filled with linchpins is itself indispensable.

Richard Branson was in Puerto Rico when his flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled, so he decided to charter a private flight, and the got a blackboard and wrote “Seat to Virgin Islands, $39.00”. He sold enough seats to make it to the Virgin Islands on time.

Linchpins do two things for the organization. They create emotional labour, and they map out what do next. Being indispensable means:

  1. Providing a unique interface between members of the organiszation;
  2. Delivering unique creativity;
  3. Managing a situation or organization of great complexity;
  4. Leading customers;
  5. Inspiring staff;
  6. Providing deep domain knowledge;
  7. Possessing a unique talent.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part X

(V) The Linchpin Is More Emotional, Gift-Giving, Visionary, and Mature.

I don’t care to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx

Be Passionate/Stand Out/Emotional Labour & Anticipate What Is Next/Have Vision

Figure out what to do next before your boss does. That’s what being a linchpin is about. Do not conform, but swim upstream. You need to become an artist in your own right. You need to persevere, be talented, be charming, and only then can you be the linchpin. You can be a linchpin if you agree to that you can do it. You need your company to rely on you as a particular employee. The law of linchpin leverage: the more value you create, the fewer hours you actually need to work. Most of the time, entrepreneurs are doing administrative work. Marissa Mayer at Google is a linchpin because she solves problems that people haven’t predicted, haven’t seen and connects people who need to be connected. Nobody cares how hard you worked on something, it’s not an effort contest, but the measure is whether it is good art.

The Gift Economy

You need to be emotionally involved in your company because if you don’t care you will not be a linchpin. You should not be a cog according to Godin. JetBlue invests in its flight attendants. Godin calls for a generousity of labourers. This is a marketer’s thinking that generousity will be the future, a gift based economy. Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. You must create art, you must choose to create art. Do not become of the could have, should have, didn’t persons. Art is creative, is not commerce, is unique, involves labour… The problem is that he aspouses an emotional labour that is self-less which means low paying anyway. MBAs want to put everything in a spreadsheet while Godin wants to contact the emotional self. Our gift culture has collapsed in exchange for a money based system, instead of sharing a cab with a stranger, you might just go alone. This is the wrong way to live your life. The Metcalfe Law: the more people have a technology the more valuable that technology becomes. This was invented by Bob Metcalfe who created the Ethernet cable. The more people have facebook, the more useful it can be.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part IX

(IV) The Zero Sum Game within the Economy Is A Lie.

New wealth can be created by reinventing a business model. Godin believes that the pie (economy) is not limited, and does not delinate how large the pie could be. The example is Kim Berry of the Programmers Guild, a non-profit lobby in Congress to ban Visas for talent programmers from outside the US. For him, it’s a win/lose, not a win/win to have diversity and foreign competition within the US programming community. This is completely absurd since programmers can be anywhere, and still program via telecommuting. Also, great talent can create innovation and more productivity, this then leads to more demand, the programmers guild could grow tenfold by enlarging the pie.  The scarcity of resources might make it clear that wealth is derived from 1st resource acquisition, 2nd the specialists within finance, et cetere, 3rd the service technology and industries but Godin believes the pie can be enlarged, while Berry believes that there is a limited size to the macro-economic pie.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part VI

(II) Conformity = Dispensability (continued)

How to get things done by Bre Pettis:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action, and completion;
  2. Accept that everything is draft, ie not perfect;
  3. There is no editing stage;
  4. Fake it until you make it;
  5. Procrastination must be crushed;
  6. Get it done, so you can get something else done;
  7. Once you’re done, you can throw it away;
  8. Laugh at perfection
  9. Failure counts as done
  10. Doing something makes you right;
  11. Destruction is a variant of done;
  12. Done is the engine of more,
  13. If you have an idea that is published on the internet, that counts as done.

You Need To Push Hard ie. Sprint Towards Innovation.

STOP CHECKING your blog, inbox, online sites that you visit. Stop the bullshit cycle that is slowing down your productivity. You need to pull an all-nighter or two in order to make sure that you project kicks ass. You should write down the due date, post it on the wall. Godin writes down his ideas, prioritizes them, builds them, and ships them out the door. It’s a habit that produces revenue & results.

(This is a series of posts on Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part V

(II) Conformity = Dispensability (continued)

The ABC (attendance-base compensation) that we received in school or in work is misleading. In the work world, the average subsidize the mediocre, and the above average get screwed over. The classic Marxist theory is espoused by Godin, the exceptional workers in the factor realise that it does not pay to do factory work at factory wages only to subsidize the boss. This is a fine statement in practice, yes, but how easy is it to create an alternative to the factory? A resume is another way to conform, you do not need a resume but you need to pitch yourself. Do not try to grid it out in business, according to Godin.

Resistance Is Your Lizard Brain Acting Up

Your brain is just an evolved version of that of the lizard’s brain. We are programmed to fear uncertainty, and to not take risks. At work, sharing ideas will always leads to others attacking it because they didn’t create the idea. If they do like it, then they will turn around, and use it themselves. You should not fear failure, you should embarrass failure, and learn from it. You should seek out discomfort in order to grow. The people who break through usually have nothing to lose and almost never have a back-up plan. They are all or nothing. You need to start thinking up bad ideas, in order to create a possible good idea. You should mix the way things work, to challenge how it might actually work. The temptation to sabotage the new thing is huge, precisely because that new thing might work. Godin is betting that you won’t do anything and it won’t really matter because he’s already sold me this book…

Signs that the lizard brain is active:

  1. Don’t shop on time. Late is the first step to never;
  2. Procrastination, claiming that you need to be perfect;
  3. Ship early, sending out defective idealism hoping they are rejected;
  4. Suffer anxiety about clothes to an event;
  5. Make excuses because of lack of money;
  6. Do excessive networking to have only friends around you;
  7. Deliberately isolate yourself from the community;
  8. Demonstrate lack of desire for new skills;
  9. Be snarky;
  10. Start a committee instead of taking action;
  11. Criticizing the work of your peers…

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part III

(I) The Race To The Bottom (continued)

When Walmart enters a rural market, businesses close, jobs disappear, and the town declines, according Godin. This is acceptable because Walmart has low prices for every possible item. Macroecomonic theory is irrelevant to people making a million tiny microeconomic decisions every day in a hypercompetitive world. Those decisions repeatedly favour fast/cheap over slow/expensive. Godin accepts that we cannot halt capitalism through the freezing of prices, and industries, so we need to think differently in order to produce a viable solution for the race to the bottom.

Critique of the Race To The Bottom: If you think, as Godin does, like a marketer, then yes, it might appear to be true that the service industry is collapsing but it is instead becoming more specialized, and developing in unanticipated ways. He should be arguing that increased departmentalization needs to be bridged through better on the job training. Human capital is falling for those who do not invest in teaching themselves how to be productive. Self-taught people generate more value. Godin believes that factories in the service industry have collapsed, he is not entirely correct, as new industries have been born.

(This is a series of posts on Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part II

(I) The Race To The Bottom (continued)

You need to avoid the race to the bottom. Wikipedia is massive, popular, and built for free thereby destroying the Encyclopedia Britannica. No single person could have created Wikipedia. A team of hundreds of thousands have created it, in fact. But by breaking the development of articles into millions of one-sentence or one-paragraph projects, Wikipedia did not need to rely on a handful of well-paid experts but instead relies on a loosely coordinated massive group of knowledgeable people, contributing small slices to the whole.

CastingWords does transcription for less than fifty cents a minute. John Jantsch took an interview he did with Godin, and posted it to a site that uses a crowd as its labourers. For a few dollars, the site took the recordings of interview, chopped the audio into tiny bits, and parceled it to anonymous labourers who transcribed the interview in little sections. Less than three hours later, it was put back together and the typed transcript was delivered to John Jantsch. Here we see that Jantsch wins, and the transcribers lose. The factory is planned, controlled, and measured, it’s factory work because it is optimizing the productivity of a product. The automation of the jobs of the past has made it so that millions of people are underemployed. Bringing back the human touch is valuable to society.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Part I

Seth Godin repeats the same core points over, and over again with variations on the quality of examples over a 225page book. His argument is not very rigorous because most entrepreneurs recognize them as a valid way of thinking:

(I)   The Race To The Bottom In Prices Is Inevitable;

(II) Education = Dispensability;

(III)Workers Are Increasingly Interchangeable;

(IV) The Zero Sum Game Within The Economy Is A Lie;

(V) The Linchpin Is A Person Who Is More Emotional, Gift-Giving, Visionary, and Mature.

(I) The Race To The Bottom

For over 200 years, Western economies have been standardizing, and automating their work force for increased productivity. In the process of the industrial revolution, a great deal of organization has been built within society to ensure a foundational education, and functionality within the work force. There were managers and labourers in oppositional struggle within factories, and corporations.

The death of the factory in Western economies is certain, according to Godin, as a result of the collapse of these product producing business models. Seth Godin contends therefore that being a functionary is no longer possible. Wages are racing to the lowest levels possible, Amazon is automating its delivery workforce through robotics, McDonald’s has drive thru employees taking orders in a call centre in North Dakota rather than in the localized McDonald’s itself. Technology has driven the cost of employees down, while unions are losing the battle against outsourcing to India, South Korea, China et cetera….In order to avoid being a functionary, you must become your organisation’s Linchpin.

This is a series of posts on Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?