Linchpin : Are You Indispensable?

An actionable summary of Seth Godin’s bestseller.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is Seth Godin’s attempt to describe a new way of working for all of us. Showing up at our job is not enough anymore. The ones who conform, follow instructions and give an honest day’s work for a day’s pay are just going to become invisible cogs of a giant machine. These cogs are easily replaceable and insignificant in the management’s eyes. This book presents an elegant and seductive solution: become a linchpin i.e. someone indispensable.

Picture Credit: skOre_de’s Flickr

The Big Idea

The Linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create and make things happen.

You are a genius. (line 1, pg. 1)

Same Game, Different Rules

The law of mechanical turk that was celebrated during the industrial revolution created huge amount of cost efficiency — where any part of the ‘factory’ is truly interchangeable including the people. The old economy awarded employees who showed up, followed instructions, stayed loyal and remained a replaceable cog in the ‘factory’.

Nowadays, this is not the case anymore. The attendance based compensation system is history. Great jobs no longer spell out in detail what is required. Simple tasks are being automated and outsourced. Hence, to move forward in our career, we have to be the 'new player of the game': A Linchpin.

Who are linchpins?

1. Makers of Great Art

Linchpins don’t require constant direction to create their art. Linchpins exploit emotional labor as a competitive edge. They change generic work into art by incorporating emotional labor in it. Through great art, linchpins inspire and lead others. Hence, it becomes truly impossible to compensate them fairly.

2. Tamers of The Resistance

A linchpin is always in conflict with the resistance to ship on time. Losing to the resistance will cause one to waste time aimlessly or contemplating insignificant things (e.g. Is it perfect?* Will people laugh at me? Do I have enough money to advertise? Do we have enough data,? etc.). A linchpin acknowledges the resistance in the lizard brain (i.e. old brain) of his, but fights it bravely to produce his gift to the world — his art.

3. Nurturers of Tribes

A linchpin doesn’t need authority to be influential. A linchpin connects with others in a genuine and authentic way and as a consequence, will be influential. Just like an artist, a linchpin gathers friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients, fans, followers — a tribe by performing his art and sharing his gifts.

4. Generous Gift Givers

Linchpins thrive by giving away most of their art as gifts. Seth argues that the new economy values art more than effort — The future of an organization depends on motivated human beings selflessly contributing gifts of emotional labor. Gifts of emotional labour create a community(tribe) around the linchpins that later leads to many commercial opportunities.

5. Effective Shippers

A linchpin always ships, regardless of what happens. He knows the only way to create a masterpiece is to finish it. He doesn’t keep his work a secret or focus on perfection. He hustles them out the door.

A linchpin works until he runs out of money or time. Then, he seals and ships.

How to Become a Linchpin? — There’s no clear path

No one is a linchpin by design. You will first have to decide to be one and then slowly work your way. You might fail in your first try. The conversation might not happen. The product might not sell. Your boss might be unhappy. The people are not moved by your art. The best thing to do next when these happen is to make more art and to give more gifts. Learn and move forward.

The linchpin’s way of applying for jobs

  1. Seth argues that the resume gives everything that the employer needs to reject you.
  2. He says a recommendation letter (proof that you are a linchpin), project case studies (proof for your art), make a blog (proof of your gift) and build a reputation that precedes you (proof of your tribe).

How to solve a coordination problem in a team?

  1. Relentlessly limit the number of people allowed to thrash in a project. Keep all the project to the initial phase of the project and limit more and more as it gets closer to the shipping date.
  2. Appoint one person to be accountable for every decision made in a subpart of the project.

How to consistently ship on time?

  1. Get feedbacks from day 1: Get everyone involved as early as possible where it is easy to make any significant changes.
  2. Limit the number of inputs as you get closer to shipping date.
  3. Break every single project into smaller tasks and everyday, find 3 tasks to accomplish that will bring you closer to shipping.
  4. Be accountable for the shipping date : never make a committee decision. Stamp your name to the decision and be prepared to ship on time.
  5. Be clear of your definition of success — are you satisfying your critics or are you making art. Decide on your own matrices and worry about them alone. Nothing else.

How to thank correctly for gifts?

Always say thank you followed by what did you do with their gift. Example:

SK to Seth : Thank you for your awesome book. I made a summary and made it available for the world with medium.

Bonus : Seth’s Workflow

  1. Seth puts himself on an internet diet — where he checks his mail/social media sites 5 times instead of 50 — in order to ship his art.
  2. Seth says a short sprint through a task helps in getting it done as there’s no time to stop and worry about unnecessary details when you are sprinting.
  3. Seth’s pre-art blueprint (what needs to be done before starting a project):
    a. Write down the due date (read: shipping date).
    b. Use post it notes or index cards and write down every single notion, plan, idea, sketch and contact (read: tribe member) that is related to the projects. (read: art)
    c. Thrash out the idea with your team. Be brutal about it.
    d. Put the cards into a database and organize it.
    e. Go through the database and make a complete,clear and concise description of the project.
    f. Get a decisive approval from whoever necessary and then, Start.
    g. Ship.

Tweet These Quotes

  • Three words that can kill an organization: NOT MY JOB!
  • Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world.
  • We don’t have a talent shortage, we have a shipping shortage.
  • You are not your resume. You are your work.
  • The internet is the crack cocaine for the resistance.
Now, go make epicness.

Thanks for reading this far! If you got value out of this book digest, it would mean a lot to me for you to scroll down a bit farther and hit the recommend button.

SK lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is a social entrepreneur and he writes about productivity, entrepreneurship and lifehacks at