That's the question Seth Godin prompts in his book Linchpin: Are You Dispensable?
In this critically acclaimed read, Godin tells you how to be just that. He describes an approach to making yourself more productive, more valuable to an organization, and overall, more difficult to replace.
What he describes in his book is a strategy to make art of your work, in a way that makes you truly indispensable to your team.
Simply showing up to work on time and doing your job isn’t enough to succeed in the modern business world. It might put you ahead of the average, lazy employee, but you will always be seen as a worker bee.
To accelerate your career, you have to be irreplaceable.
What is a Linchpin?
Linchpins operate on a totally different level than workers or average employees. They have little direct competition and they know it.
They are often recruited for better jobs rather than having to apply through traditional channels like their peers.
They receive higher compensation because by their very nature give more than they take, so a “fair salary” for linchpins is nearly impossible to define.
Linchpins also expose themselves to more risk and open themselves up to more vulnerability.
According to Godin and most of history's brave hearted, however, the rewards far outweigh the costs.
What Sets a Linchpin Apart From The Average Worker?
To briefly illustrate how a linchpin compares to the average worker, let’s take a look at seven common descriptions of each, as observed by Godin.
An Average Worker:
Keeps their head down
Shows up on time
Sucks it up
Is easily replaceable
Is a commodity
Creates own tribe
Creates great art
Makes judgment calls
The distinction between the two is clear, but Godin stresses the point that linchpins are NOT born with any special gifts -- they simply decide what they want to do and figure out how to get it done.
Linchpin = charm + talent + perseverance
Let's take a look at a few of these characteristics more in-depth.
Linchpins Make Great Art
When we think of art, we typically think of painting, sculpting, singing, and dancing, however, art isn’t limited to these disciplines.
According to Godin, “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
Note: Great marketing checks all of these boxes.
Linchpins transform generic work into art through emotional labor.
Emotional labor, Godin explains, "is the task of doing important work, even when it isn't easy. Emotional labor is difficult and easy to avoid. But when we avoid it, we don't do much worth seeking out.”
It's here that they gain their biggest competitive advantage.
Linchpins Tame Resistance
Godin borrows the concept of resistance from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, where resistance is the part of your mind that leads you to procrastinate, make excuses, and do anything else that prevents you from sharing your genius (your art, talent, gifts, etc) with the world.
Everyone battles with resistance but linchpins are different because they actually defeat it.
Rather than worrying about their art being perfect, what others will think of them, whether they have enough data, or other distractions, the linchpin persists through doubt and fear to get their art delivered.
Linchpins Nurture Tribes
A linchpin builds their tribe in two ways:
They genuinely seek connections with others in an authentic way
They share their art with others
Linchpins grow their tribe through influence, as opposed to collecting as many contacts as possible. The result is a loyal, dedicated network that grows on its own.
The result is a loyal, dedicated network that grows on its own -- no iron fist or Kool-aid needed.
Linchpins are Generous Gift Givers
According to Godin, “The people you work with won’t change if you don’t believe. The communication and leadership starts with the gift you give, not with the manipulation you attempt.”
A linchpin thrives by giving away most of their art as gifts, which have more value than effort and often leads to commercial opportunities.
This idea also reigns true for brands using inbound marketing. If you want to be "linchpin" in your buyer persona's mind, you should share your expertise generously through quality content.
Linchpins Are Effective Shippers
There are plenty of talented, creative workers out there, but linchpins are unique because they always ship.
When a linchpin sets a deadline for a project, they deliver on time, every time. No matter what.
Godin says, “we don’t have a talent shortage, we have a shipping shortage.”
When it comes time to ship, resistance wants us to question whether the project is perfect or ready for the public to see. Linchpins do the best they can all the way up to the deadline, then they ship and move on.
How Do You Become a Linchpin?
In my full synopsis, I'll share Godin's four tips for becoming a linchpin in your life as well as actionable advice on how to implement them.
To start diving in now, click "keep reading" below.