Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Become indispensable and transform your life today

Here is the review of Seth Godin's Linchpin that I just posted on Amazon:

Linchpin is the most personal work by Seth Godin and his most passionate and compelling call to action yet. When you are done you'll want every person in your organization to read this book. Few of the messages here are new, but the combination of ideas and the clarity of the writing makes this book, like Godin himself, indispensable. In short, his message is: The world is changing. Obeying the rules doesn't cut it anymore. To have an extraordinary life, you must be remarkable. And you can start now, in your current job, without waiting for permission.

I'll include here a short synopsis of the book, a list of all his recommended reading, and then a series of quotes that I wanted to re-read myself.

Synopsis by chapter:

The New World of Work: The industrial revolution demanded workers who follow instructions. The world has now changed, and there aren't any more good jobs where you get rewarded well for obeying the rules. What the world now demands is people who are remarkable and make a difference, people who don't need to be told what to do.

Thinking About Your Choice: Everyone can choose to become indispensable. You can start now, in your current job.
Indoctrination: How We Hot Here: School indoctrinates us to obey authority and doesn't have much to do with becoming educated. Draws heavily on John Taylor Gatto.

Becoming the Linchpin: Become an expert in your field. Do emotional labor - be willing to make a connection and be remarkable. You'll need to work without a map. Avoid jobs where there is a standard of perfection, because there is no profit once you start up the asymptote. Instead, find a job where there is no upper limit on performance. Instead of a resume, have a portfolio, a set of recommendations, a blog, a reputation for being remarkable. In skiing, the one who leans the most wins the race. A linchpin leans into the task.

Is It Possible to Do Hard Work in a Cubicle? Defining art - in the sense that has nothing to do with a paintbrush. Art defined as anything that's creative, passionate, and personal; as a personal act of courage, something that produces change in another person.
The Resistance: This chapter draws heavily on The War of Art. Artists ship. Tips on overcoming the resistance. Signs that the lizard brain is at work. Quoting a Bre Pettis blog post on the "cult of done." You ship by not doing things that want to distract you. Take a news vacation. Take an Internet diet. Shenpa - Tibetan for scratching the itch. Avoid checking your email - learn to live with the itch and don't scratch it.

The Powerful Culture of Gifts: Gifts make you indispensable. Give gifts without any expectation of a payback. Gifts signal to the world that you have plenty more to spare. Gifts make a tribe.
There is no map: Prajna: a life without attachment and stress. Don't take it personally - don't try to teach fire a lesson when it burns you. Learn to navigate disruptions and inconveniences in stride. Don't get attached to outcomes. "Lab assistants do what they're told. Scientists figure out what to do next." "Art is an act of navigating without a map."

Making the Choice: Burn your copy of Candyland. Don't teach your children or employees to be map readers and rule followers. "More cowbell." A bigger badge isn't going to help you get things done. Don't wait to be given authority. Make it happen with what you have now. Fill in the following sentence: "I could be more creative if only..."
The Culture of Connection: Give genuine gifts.

The Seven Abilities of the Linchpin:
1) Providing a unique interface between members of the organization
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
"We can't profitably get more average"

Suggested reading:
On Gifts and Art:
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Gift, by Lewis Hyde
The Gift, by Marcel Mauss
Art is Work, by Milton Glaser
Man on Wire, by Philippe Petit
True and False, by David Mamet

On Sociology and Economics
The Lonely Crowd, by David Riesman, with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney
From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932, by David Hounshell
The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills
The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale, by Richard Weiss
The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Stone Age Economics, by Marshall Sahlins
Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back, by Douglas Rushkoff
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by Max Weber
The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, by Bill Bishop
The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, by Richard Florida
The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, by Daniel Brook

On Education
Weapons of Mass Instruction, by John Taylor Gatto
Schooling in Capitalist America, by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis
Learning to Labor: How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs, by Paul Willis

On Programming and Productivity
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr
Software Project Survival Guide, by Steve McConnell
Joel on Software, by Joel Spolsky
Zen Habits, by Leo Babauta

On Science, Evolution, and the Brain
Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History, by Stephen Jay Gould
Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World, by Alex (Sandy) Pentland
Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, by Gregory Berns
How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

On Wisdom
Don't Bit the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions, by Pema Chodron
Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World, by Lama Surya Das
Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh McLeod
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh

On Overcoming Resistance and Getting Creative
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity, by David Allen
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, by Garr Reynolds
A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Garr Reynolds


Stop asking what's in it for you and start giving gifts that change people.

The compliant masses don't help so much when you don't know what to do next.

Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.

There are no longer any great jobs where someone tells you precisely what to do.

It's easy to buy a cookbook (filled with instructions to follow), but really hard to find a chef book.

The Hierarchy of Value: Lift / Hunt / Grow / Produce / Sell / Connect / Create and invent

The only way to get what you're worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.

If you want a job where it's okay to follow the rules, don't be surprised if you get a job where following the rules is all you get to do.

Take a risk that you might make someone upset with your initiative, innovation, and insight - it turns out that you'll probably delight them instead.

Would your career advance if you could figure out a way to do an even better job of following your boss's instructions?

We train the factory workers of tomorrow. Our graduates are very good at following instructions. And we teach the power of consumption as an aid for social approval.

It's almost impossible to imagine a school with a sign that said:

"We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems."
Being good at school is a fine skill if you intend to do school forever. For the rest of us, being good at school is a little like being good at Frisbee. It's nice, but it's not relevant unless your career involves homework assignments, looking through textbooks for answers that are already known to your supervisors, complying with instructions and then, in high-pressure settings, regurgitating those facts with limited processing on your part."

What they should teach in school: 1. Solve interesting problems. 2. Lead.

Your job is a platform for generosity, for expression, for art.

If you don't have more than a resume, you've been brainwashed into compliance.

Art is anything that's creative, passionate, and personal.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

Art is the product of emotional labor. If it's easy and risk-free, it's unlikely that it's art.

Art is any original idea that can be a gift.

The greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce.

Artists think along the edges of the box, because that's where things get done.

It's not an accident that successful people read more books.

It's interesting to say it out loud, `I'm doing this because of the resistance.' When you say it out loud, the lizard brain retreats in shame.

Giving a gift makes you indispensable.

`Teamwork' is the word bosses and coaches and teachers use when they actually mean, "Do as I say.'
Gifts not only satisfy our needs as artists, they also signal to the world that we have plenty more to share.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo.
The difference between "If" and "And"

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