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Posts Tagged ‘Linchpin’

More than a week since Seth Godin’s latest book “We Are All Weird” came out, and I still can’t get myself to buy or read it. It’s been reduced to $ 2.99 on Amazon (e-book version) so not even price is an excuse. If you know me, that’s weird! I’ve been an admirer of Seth’s work for many years, I am a first generation member of his online club “Triiibes”, and his work has greatly inspired and helped both my business and the way I look at this world in general. So what happened?

Ever since “Linchpin”, a monumental turning point in Seth’s focus, he has carpet-bombed the world with more of the same: the “Domino Project” illuminating every aspect of his topic, workbooks, e-books, “Graceful” – a book that blew by me unnoticed – and now “We are all Weird”.

My issue with all this is: Linchpins have always existed, they aren’t Seth’s or anybody else’s invention, and repeating the message over and over again won’t change a thing: being special cannot be learned. If you don’t have the virus already you won’t even know about these books. It’s in you or it isn’t. It is a combination of character, pain level and a spark. You don’t need another book to bring out the Linchpin you already are. And that’s all that needs to be said about it.

My final turnoff was Seth’s blog advertising the new book: I kept on reading his synopsis waiting for ANYTHING new, a new angle, a new topic, a new idea. But: nada, it read like a summary of “Linchpin” followed by raving reviews written by some of my fellow Triiibes-folks (in other words: his most loyal fans). Adding those reviews sunk the whole blog from a level of “personal, heartfelt and urgent” straight to the bottom of “buy my book” advertising. All of his own lessons forgotten?

I continue to admire Seth for his earlier work, and for his always brilliant and creative mind, but he has lost me on his current path. The world didn’t stop turning two years ago, important transformations are taking place and I am waiting for the day when Seth will emerge from fighting his demon to contribute thoughts and inspiration to the things that really matter right now.

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Published as the second book of the “Domino Project” series, “Do the work” re-emphasizes in a concise and easy to read way the theme of resistance that Pressfield wrote about in “The War of Art” so impressively. While the latter is still a must-read, “Do the Work” may serve as either a teaser for the real thing or as your second building block to start off on your path as a “Linchpin” – an analogy used by Seth Godin in his book of the same name urging us all to live more self-determined and fulfilled lives than we do today.

“Linchpin” is leaning heavily on Pressfield’s picture of the lizard, a symbol of the reptilian brain, that is holding us back by creating fear of change in us all the time, and so it makes sense to have him provide the second booklet of the series. Other than Godin, Pressfield does, however, tackle the aspect of failure and how to deal with it, which makes “Do the Work” special to me. In a recent discussion I asked Seth about why he is apparently ignoring the fallout of failure (see also my previous review on “Linchpin” on this blog to get the details of my argument), and he answered that – given a choice between my gloomy hyperbole of having to deal with failure and his hyperbole of looking forward to eventual success, he’d prefer his. Fair enough, but the issue remains and if Seth probed this “hyperbole” among his most faithful followers in his “Triiibes” club he might change his point of view.

Either way, Steven Pressfield helps us stare failure in the eye, and despite is brevity  “Do the work” provides a clear view of how to be considerate of the possibility of failure, and how to deal with it when it happens – without falling victim to the lizard brain. As such, “Do the Work” is a necessary and useful addition or even a missing chapter of “Linchpin” you should definitely read.

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Seth Godin just launched the first part of a new series of manifestos expanding on the idea of “Linchpin”. It is titled “Poke the Box” and written by Seth himself; from what I understand more manifestos will be contributed by other authors and will follow in short succession.

The book is leaning heavily on the “Linchpin” theme and its message is probably best summarized as: Don’t be afraid of failing. It matters that you start things, and that you go all the way; some will fail but some will succeed. Then build on what works but when you reach the point where things shift from “adventure” mode into “routine” then go and do something else.

I think I never disagreed with Seth so much as on this message. His thesis culminates in borrowing the analogy of a dandelion, a flower relentlessly spreading its spores all over the place with the effect that some of them will make it, just as a matter of statistics. This works for dandelions receiving sunlight and water for free, but I’m afraid it does not work for humans. To their credit, dandelions don’t have a brain so they deserve a break.

Seth also touches on the aspect of capital; and while relentlessness and passion are important assets to succeed in business, without resources and money it is just not going to work that often. Retelling anecdotes of the few that made it doesn’t help either. There is always the story of the cancer patient who became a Tour de France winner, the small town acting talent who became a Broadway star, or the iconic dish washer turned millionaire. Fact is: while this is true for a fortunate 2%, the “rest” is left in the dust, ends up in poverty or with a second class career. Not for lack of starting but because EVERYBODY started. We’re not the dandelions, we are the spores. Making yourself visible in an environment like this without the right connections or the boost of “right circumstances” Malcolm Gladwell describes in “Outliers“, the question of whether or not you succeed is down to quite a bit of luck. There is a very thin line between winning and failing in life, and it is only partly in our control.

Luckily, we have a brain.

Pardon my Taekwondo analogies, but if you want to break a board with your bare hand you better get it right the first time. Not because your brain can not be brought to reset and build enough confidence for a second strike, but because after the first strike your hand is battered, and you are starting to feel pain and physical exhaustion. Maybe you even broke a bone.

When you start a new business, whatever it is, you will probably need some money. Fail and your financial resources diminish. Fail again and you’re broke. More importantly, your credibility gets invested in each of your endeavors. Without people who believe in you succeeding is not possible, be it as customers or investors. Even a satisfied customer from your first business will be irritated if you shut down on him / her, perhaps leaving a product unserviced or an urgent demand unmet. Shut down twice and you’ll be labeled as unreliable. And even Seth would think twice about investing in a person approaching him for funds for the fifth time, telling him dandelion stories. It just doesn’t work that way. And to decide to just forget about the audience you just disappointed and look for a new one is not everyone’s game, either.

So what about poking the box then? Poke it, but don’t poke it like a baby would. Take one step at a time, but remember your last step and reverse it if the result isn’t what you want. Look under the hood – who says you can’t open the damn thing and check it out?

Check it out because your box might be a bomb – and you don’t want it to go off in your face.

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Linchpin cover I am grateful for the opportunity to review an advance copy of “Linchpin” by Seth Godin, marketing visionary and bestselling author of books like “Permission Marketing”, “Purple Cow” and “Tribes”.

At first glance, Seth Godin’s new book “Linchpin” is one for the self-improvement section rather than the marketing shelf. But then, marketing is all about interaction, communication and relationships. Each of Seth’s books is about the essence of marketing AND people at the same time, two things that are inseparable. This one just zooms in a lot more on you, the reader.

Written in bite size chapters like all of his more recent books it is easy to read, although the weight of Seth’s words suggests that you spend more time on each chapter than with the previous ones. This particular style of writing is common to quite a few authors these days, Americans in particular, and I am not a big fan of it, especially as the key phrases of the book are being repeated quite often, mantra style.

Just ignore it and you will discover a work of art that is an impressive humanitarian statement as well, a book containing much of Seth’s personal life experience, a book that comes across as very authentic and honest. I have the privilege of knowing Seth and experienced first hand that the generosity he describes as a key factor of life in “Linchpin” is part of his own nature as well. Seth is not only giving examples of his (and other people’s) success stories, he openly talks about his defeats, too. Examples of “art” are ranging from Richard Branson to a man few people know who is serving coffee at a restaurant, both of which are equally relevant.

You should further ignore scientific inaccuracies concerning the reptilian (“lizard”) brain which Seth urges us to switch off as it fights our efforts to move forward and leave the comfort zones of our lives. I am not a scientist either but this part of our brain is there for a reason; it warns us of danger and triggers basic decisions such as “run” or “fight” subconsciously. I don’t think we can afford to live without these instincts and would prefer a concept in which we acknowledge and respect our reptilian brain and seek balance with it, knowing when to listen and when to overrule it. This doesn’t take away from the book’s message, though: Seth is more generally speaking of the “Resistance” as the phenomenon in our heads we need to fight, and I can go with that perfectly well.

The word “happiness” is not in the book per se but that’s what it is all about. Its vision of our future is an optimistic one, it does actually give you the tools to become a happy person but it also holds you accountable for creating the roadmap to your individual happiness by yourself – there is no other way, and I am sure he is right. The beauty also lies in the prospect of receiving kindness and gifts from other people including businesses and companies of all sizes who will benefit from having Linchpins like you as employees, or fade into mediocrity. Uninspired companies make average products, commodities, which customers buy at the lowest price, forcing companies to cut cost and become even more average. Rather than pushing a rock uphill, there is a fascinating way for each of us to start from the top of the mountain, like an avalanche gaining momentum with every step.

“Linchpin” will be available in everywhere on January 26, 2009.

ISBN 978-1-59184-316-0

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