Lets come to the point

I had a bad dream last night. I imagined to be the CEO of Fortune 500 company and my company was famous for application that had millions of subscribers. You might be wondering how was it bad then …


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How You can Become a Linchpin in your Field

While not all of us aspire to being some famous person that holds the keys to success in an industry, we all dream of being indispensable. Of being someone that is a leader in a small field. Even if that niche is obscure, being the person that is the “go to” in that obscure field is a desirable position.

This small scale genius is available to all of us according to Seth God in Linchpin. We don’t have to be amazing at everything. We’re not striving to be a polymath1, just to have a small piece of genius for ourselves.

Okay, maybe not all of us have that dream. Some of us may have had it drummed out of us by circumstance. Maybe we had crappy parents like Gru in Despicable Me. Parents who always showed little to no interest in our fledgling genius.

Again, this is where Linchpin comes in with Godin trying to persuade us that we have an opportunity to have a niche of genius.

Godin feels that the world we live in requires this niche genius. People who are willing to step out and make a difference.

We need this because the old story of being average at an average job is no longer a viable way to any type of stability. Long gone are the heyday’s of factory work, where you could show up and push that lever reliably and get paid an awesome wage and expect that you’d be better off than your parents.

Now we are in a world where the ability to show up and crank widgets is no longer tied with earning a wage to support a family on.

We may try to cling to this as we aim for a “living wage” in jobs where showing up is 98% of the skill required, but it’s simply no something that is sustainable. If you’re at a job where showing up and not being drunk are two of the main keys to your employment, then that’s something anyone can do and thus has little value creation.

Godin tells us that we need to divorce ourselves from the notion that we have a right to a job that pays well. Maybe we’ve been brought up to think that, but we’ve been lied to. Showing up and sticking it out, does not mean we will earn well or that we provide more than passable value to the economy.

Much of the world is grappling with this transition, and not in ways that are attempting to grow with the change. They’re trying to prop up the old dream of showing up being a kill value skill. Many people feel that showing up should mean that society owes us.

Society owes you little outside of rewarding you for the value you create. Being a barista is not of high value. The key skill for 99% of barista’s is showing up smiling and not smelling terrible. With some training anyone can make coffee.

This shouldn’t be depressing though because the means to create huge value in the world is so much more accessible than it was before. There are more niches to occupy and the means of occupying them is so much easier than it was before.

I’m sitting here in Starbucks drinking the cheapest coffee on the menu writing. While I have an iPad and a portable keyboard and numerous other things that make the experience easier for me, none of them are required. A $200 computer gives you the same access to the market that I have. That $200 is all the means of production that you need.

If the means of production are similarly accessible to most of us, what does it take to become a Linchpin. It takes the acknowledgement that the rules of work have changed and instead of whining about it, diving in to learn the new ways that we can create value for our employers and for the market at large.

For most fields this means that we also need to eschew the standard ‘multitasking’ that is a requirement and single task. We need to sit and focus on our field and value creation and by doing so we’ll outpace those around us. The sad part is that in the midst of this being a required skill, focus is one of the resources we have that is fast being trained out of us.

While many people rail against the change and strive to bring about rules to govern wages which attempt to bring back the old equations, they forget that if they’re in a job that competes on price they’re an expense on the books.

Instead of asking ourselves “How can society take care of me” we should be asking ourselves how we can get better.

What would it take to be that person that is so much more valuable? Wolud it take a dedication to reading? Would you need to spend some of your own money on courses? Do you need to step out of the safe cocoon of coddling and take a risk?

Yes this risk means that you may fail. You may need to get up again and see if it works the second time, or the third time, or the 568th time. But, are you willing to take a risk and provide more value?

While we may agree that being a Linchpin is worth huge value, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that Linchpin’s are brilliant all the time. In fact, Godin says that the more value we create the less time we spend doing that activity.

While we must recognize that much of our life is average and that almost everything we see on the news and social media is a highlight reel, we need to ensure that we don’t organize our businesses around average.

Average is safe and secure but it holds back those among us that can be exceptional. The exceptional will chafe against the inane rules that are brought about. They’ll be exhausted by the rules bringing about mediocrity and leave to be amazing somewhere that’s nowhere near your average.

Seriously, who woke up this morning and wished to be average. While it may not have been work success that you wanted to excel at, it may have been being an amazing parent, or to have the best lawn in the city.

There is also a fallacy in thinking that once we have a job that suited to being amazing, we’ll rise to the challenge.

Your fabled job that is ready for your awesomeness, is looking for awesome people. While you wait to be awesome you’re teaching yourself that it’s okay to be average. To show up and quarter-ass something. You’re not in a position where your ideal job would even consider you.

If you want a job where you can full-ass something, you need to be full-assing it now. You need to be reaching out and creating value somewhere, even if it’s in the evenings and weekends on the side with your crazy project idea.

It’s that crazy idea that will build you into the person that gets work that is totally on board with your full-assing.

Being just a bit faster or better than the competition is not a key to being a Linchpin either. Cranking out 2 extra widgets a day will not significantly increase your value.

Someone is always willing to put in another hour and do just a bit more. They’re willing to do it for just a bit less. They’re willing to race you to the bottom and in the global economy we have online, many of them have a huge advantage in their economic leverage. They live somewhere that the cost of living is so much lower that working for 10% of your wages means they are fabulously wealthy relative to their peers.

More faster is rarely the answer to success.

So, where does that leave us? How do we find a space where we can be a Linchpin? A space where we can carve out value and enjoy doing it?

It’s not way out in the middle of a new niche. Then you have to train all your potential customers that there is value in what you do. It’s along the edges of what is currently seen as value.

Simply reading isn’t valuable though. Shipping material based on that reading is valuable.

Instead of writing we’ll organize our sock drawer according to ISO standards. We’ll publish all kinds of images on social media to show our productivity. We’ll walk the halls and talk to people and furiously return email instead of getting down to creative work4.

Looking busy is so bad because it tricks us into thinking that we’re making forward progress when we’re really shuffling deck chairs on the sinking ship of our productivity.

Another fear in shipping our work is that it won’t get the traction we hope. By not shipping we can keep fooling ourselves into thinking that if we shipped we’d be successful5.

Winner ship and fail. Then ship and fail. Then ship and get a bit of traction. Then more failure and more small traction. At some point it all comes together and they have a winning combination. The key is they shipped instead of sitting back on and staying successful in their head.

I know you may have been hoping that by reading Linchpin, or this look at it, you’d come out with a clear map of how to become a linchpin. How to win at work and gain the success you want.

Well, you won’t find it here or in Linchpin by Seth Godin. Godin says that maps are for cogs in the wheel. You don’t become a Linchpin by being a cog and following the well trodden path of others.

That’s how you become average, one among many.

Your road to becoming a Linchpin will be lined with ideas you’ve tried and failed at6. You trial your ideas, evaluate them in light of their traction with others and their traction in your work. Then you adjust and pilot again.

You must make the choice to try new things, to show your ideas, if you want to be seen as a linchpin in your field. You can’t hide behind the tried and true processes that others have followed.
more of the status quo.

I’ve been in the position where I see phrases I use get much more traction in the mouths of others. It’s infuriating and for a time I let the success of others with “my ideas” harm me. What I realized eventually was that though I came up with the idea first, I didn’t have the career capital7 to gain traction yet.

At work your ‘crazy’ idea is not valuable in the eyes of your boss because you have never taken the time to establish that you have anything valuable to say. Many people have been convinced their whole life that by virtue of existing they have valuable ideas that everyone should listen to.

Your idea may be great, but if you want people to listen to it you need to spend time showing them that you have the track record to back up the crazy. A wall of participation ribbons is not how you do this.

I have a coaching client who wanted to change the language at work around ‘preventable accidents’. This implies that the person could and maybe should have, avoided the circumstance. That extends to one of their work trucks getting hit while parked. This language placed blame on the person in the eyes of my client.

But he was new at the job and thus didn’t have the capital to get his boss to make a change. He did however have the career capital to make a comment about the language to colleagues in the safety department, who almost always agreed with him.

Then his thoughts started to invade their conversations as a team and the boss heard about it. They are now in discussions about changing the language officially on their forms.

Taking the longer term approach allowed my client to make a change and increase his career capital because everyone acknowledges that he originated the idea.

Before I give you my verdict, let’s look at one final quote.

If you want to be a Linchpin, you need a superpower. If you want to develop a superpower, then you need to read this book. If you’re not sure that you need a superpower and feel like showing up should be worth huge value, you should read Linchpin. You won’t like reading it because you’ll realize showing up is of almost no value, which is why you’re getting paid so little, but you need to read it anyway.

So, yup you need to read Linchpin by Seth Godin.

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