Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (English)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (English)
Seth Godin
Introduction
 
Lots of people that I know are forced every day to be something that they’re not. They’re forced to hide their creativity in a world that doesn’t appreciate it. That’s not the case anymore.For so long, the world wanted people to fit in, to be put into a mold and asked to be exactly like others. This worked for a long time, for almost a century. Today, being the same as other people won’t benefit you. On the contrary, it’ll get you nowhere.
 
Imagine going to your daily job, one you’ve been working at for almost 15 years. Suddenly, your boss knocks on your office door and tells you they’re going to let you go. They found a cheaper replacement. What would you do? I don’t know how you would react. I know for sure that if you read this summary, you won’t have to find out.  You will learn how to be indispensable, instead of being a cog in a machine that can easily be replaced.
 
The New World of Work
 
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. For example, why would you hire a professional bag designer and pay him a lot if you could hire 10 barely trained bag designers who would do the job faster and make more products in the same amount of time? This is how the world has been for the past 300 years and employers couldn’t have been happier about it. That’s not how work is in the new world anymore.Hector woke up every day at 6 am, went to the corner of his street and waited. Hector was a construction worker.
 
He waited every single day, with 6 other competitors, for a truck to pass by and pick him up. When the truck finally came, the driver rolled down his window and picked 3 people. He didn’t care which ones, he just picked the cheapest because they were all the same.Whether you like it or not, you’re Hector. You send your CV to a company that you want to work for. Your CV lies there on a desk along with hundreds of other CVs, hoping to get picked. Often, you don’t get chosen. Why? Because you’re exactly the same as everyone else.
 
The Law of the Mechanical Turk states that any project, if broken down into little and predictable pieces, can be done almost for free.Take a look at CastingWords.com. This is a website that transforms voice recordings or interviews into written form. How does this website work? It works by breaking the voice recording into several small pieces, and then dividing those pieces amongst several employees. Each employee would transcribe his part, and then all the parts connect to produce the final product.
 
How much does CastingWords pay those people? They pay 19 cents for every minute transcribed. The average professional charges two dollars for every minute transcribed. It turns out to be much cheaper to apply the law of the Mechanical Turk. Instead of paying an average of 80 dollars per project, the client only pays 15 dollars!Most bosses want you to become the next Mechanical Turk. Is that what you want? The new world no longer compensates those who are just cogs in a machine. What’s the solution to this problem? You need to become a Linchpin.
 
Linchpins are artists. They don’t simply follow rules, and most importantly, they’re indispensable.James owned a factory that produced clothes for a reasonable price. While interviewing his workers, he realized that he had 3 choices. He could either hire a perfect worker, who earned him 30$ an hour, hire a good worker who earned him 25$, or hire an average worker who earned him 20$ per hour.
 
The problem is James won’t know who’s a perfect worker and who’s mediocre until he hires them. He has to pay everyone a set price at the beginning. How much do you think James is going to pay them? Less than 20$ an hour.James paid all workers the same amount of money to compensate for the least amount of profit. The perfect workers were getting paid much less than they deserved. Eventually those perfect workers will quit. This is how the perfect workers get screwed by being a simple part of a huge cog machine. 
 
As humans, we are not usually known in our careers by who we are but rather by what we do. To be indispensable, you need to be different. You have to produce value and emotions that customers and employers care about. You have to stand out and be different than the millions of other employees around you.

Thinking About Your Choice
 
Ask yourself one question. Can you be indispensable?Yes, you definitely can. It’s important to know that lots of people already are. It’s also important to know that they were not magically born with something that made them indispensable, but instead, they worked hard to earn that title. They worked hard to be indispensable in a world of dispensable people.
 
There are two choices. You can either become a person who thinks that to succeed in life, someone else has to lose. Option two, you can be a person who always thinks of a win-win situation.Kim Berry, the leader of the Programmers Guild, kept pushing Congress to limit the number of H-1B visas given to foreign talented computer programmers. Kim thought of life as a win-lose situation. He thought that for every foreigner who worked as a programmer in the US, an American loses the opportunity to become one.
 
Why not think of life as a win-win situation? Why not think of the market as unlimited and expandable? Why not think talented foreigners working as developers to create something good, opens up more opportunities for local talent?You might think that all people who became successful had something extra, something that you don’t have. That’s not true. Steve Jobs was adopted. Nelson Mandela changed the entire world from a prison. Lots of other people succeeded with much less opportunities than the ones you have. 
 
The American dream used to be “Work hard, do as you’re asked to, and you’re going to get rewarded.” That’s not the case anymore. The new American dream is, “Be different, create value, be passionate, and you’re going to get rewarded.”Become a Linchpin. Become someone companies can’t replace easily, and you will be rewarded for it. When you become a Linchpin, you become more passionate about your job because you’re more connected to your customers.
 
As an employer, hire Linchpins. Who do you think is going to make you more profit? Is it a person doing exactly what he’s told to do without thinking? Or is it someone who creates art, a person who’s passionate about his job and makes products that emotionally connect with the customers?Also, when you hire Linchpins, your business becomes a Linchpin itself. It becomes unique, and it connects to people on a far larger scale than what you were planning for.
 
Linchpin employees create value and produce more than they get paid for because they love what they do. They’re free spirits who accept nothing but perfection. As an employer, you need Linchpins to become a Linchpin.
 
Becoming the Linchpin
 
Linchpins are essential for any organization. They hold the organization together, and without them everything would fall apart.The more value you create in a job, the fewer hours of labor. That’s the law of Linchpin leverage. You get to be creative and do exceptional things with only a few minutes of your time. The rest of the time you’re doing normal average tasks like everyone else. Creativity and exceptionalism only come in short bursts and will shape your work by making the task much easier and more connected with the customers. Eventually, you will get paid more.
 
Marissa Mayer, one of the people who helped shape Google, is a perfect example of a Linchpin. Marissa knew exactly how to create value at her job. She used her art to create a user interface that connected with customers emotionally. She’s the biggest reason why people prefer Google over other search engines such as Yahoo! or Bing, even though they provide almost the same search results. 
 
Marissa knew that providing optimal search results was important, but not the most important thing in her work. She knew how to connect the customer needs with the programmers. Eventually, they created a user interface that was the best in the world. 

Let’s imagine that you own a restaurant with four waiters. Three of them do their job perfectly while the fourth one is just okay. However, the fourth waiter knows how to handle sudden problems that arise daily. If one day you had to fire one of your employees, who do you think it would be? It’s definitely NOT the problem solver.Solving problems is part of any job and cannot be explained or taught because it comes through experience.
 
Consider a doctor who stops to talk to his patient, he listens and cares about their needs. A barista that goes out of his way to ask a customer about their day, or a pilot that comes out of his cockpit to calm a kid down. Easy, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can change someone’s idea about you. It can make you a Linchpin. Stop your show every once in a while to listen, care, and show empathy. What will you lose if you stop the show so you can emotionally connect with people?
 
The Resistance
 
What if you created a masterpiece, an art that no one had ever seen? Then something inside you, the resistance, prevented you from shipping that art. What good would that do you? Nothing. This is exactly why shipping is as important as creating.When you first try to adapt to shipping, your work might suffer sometimes, and that’s okay. Take for example, Saturday Night Live. It literally has the shipping process right in its name. The show airs every Saturday night whether or not work has been done. Honestly, sometimes the show sucks, but they don’t stop.
 
They keep on going and then produce exceptional material for their audience next Saturday. Whatever you do, never stop shipping.Why is shipping so hard? Why do some projects fail because of shipping? There are two big challenges. The first is thrashing, and the second is coordination. The reason behind them is resistance.
 
Thrashing means adding small details to a big project to fix it or make it better. Imagine a company developing a game. If you watch closely, as they approach the deadline more and more, thrashing occurs. I’m not saying that thrashing shouldn’t occur at all. However, there is a right time and place. Thrash early and fix your product early. The earlier thrashing occurs, the better it is for everyone.
 
The other challenge is coordination. If you’re trying to introduce three people to each other, it would only take three handshakes. Add one person to that equation and you’re left with six handshakes. Add another one, and you’re left with ten.There’s a reason why start-ups succeed more than larger companies. They have fewer people, and thus, coordination is easier between the start-up employees.
 
What about the reason, the resistance? Resistance is basically the “lizard brain” talking. It sits there inside your head, scared and hungry. All your “lizard brain” wants to do is survive. It doesn’t care whether you succeed or not. It just needs to survive. That’s the resistance. Your “lizard brain” wants you to stay stuck in your place.The opposite of that is your demon. A demon in Latin means the genius inside you.  Every single one of us has a genius inside, and it’s always fighting the resistance. Whether you succeed or not depends on who wins, your “lizard brain” or your inner demon?
 
How do you get over your “lizard brain?” How do you beat it? It’s simple. Write down your deadline. Write it on a large piece of paper and hang it on your wall. That’s the first and most important step because no matter what happens, shipping is going to happen on that day whether you’re done or not.

The second step would be to write down every single idea you get. Write it on postcards, small notes, anything and everything. Then go fishing, get the help you need and invite people to help you with that task.What’s next? Thrash. Thrash now, thrash early, not when you’re approaching the deadline. However, that might be hard to do since it’s a challenge to your “lizard brain.” The deadline is so far, and the “lizard brain” doesn’t feel the need to get anything done now.
 
To beat the “lizard brain”, keep writing everything you think of on it and keep asking your colleagues to write more and more. Then organize those cards in a database such as FileMaker Pro. Explain clearly to the people you work with that this is their last chance to thrash. This is their last chance to get ideas even though the deadline is still far away.
 
Then take the outline to your boss only. Take it to the person who decides what the final product should look like. Ask the boss if that outline is okay and if not, then what changes do they need? Lastly, ask them this question. Once you deliver what they ask for, would they ship? Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t accept, “We’ll decide when we see the final product” as an answer. Tell them you need a definite answer now. Finally, go build your project thrash-free and ship it right on time. That’s what Linchpins do.
 
The Seven Abilities of The Linchpin
 
First, build a strong connection within the organization.Linchpin companies don’t want people who are only there for the money. They want people to work for the right reasons. A good example is the online shoe company Zappos. They offer their employees $ 2,000 if they quit their job. Zappos does this because they want their employees to be at work for the right reasons. If some employees are working for money, then they can take the $ 2,000, and quit right on the spot. Zappos wants the employees to be creative, to be Linchpins. 
 
Second, deliver unique creativity.
 
Unique creativity is never enough. You can always do something unique and great that has never been done before. Remember, do not fall short when shipping. You need to create something unique, creative, and most importantly, you must ship.
 
Third, manage a situation or an organization of great complexity.
 
If solving problems had a manual, then there wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. This is why Linchpins are essential to any organization. To be a Linchpin, you need to be able to manage problems that arise. These are problems that were not mentioned in the manual.
 
Fourth, lead customers.
 
Be flexible and emotionally connect with your customers to provide them with a unique experience. Everyone that interacts with customers delivers an experience to them. That experience has to reach out to their emotions. 
Fifth, inspire your staff.
 
Fear doesn’t work. You can threaten your employees to become creative or they’re fired. That won’t work. To inspire your staff, you need to show them their true talents. They need to understand that their job makes a difference, and only you can deliver them that feeling.
 
Sixth, provide deep domain knowledge.
 
Having a lot of knowledge is never sufficient when trying to become a Linchpin. No matter how much knowledge you have, the internet will always have more. This is why it’s important to combine that knowledge with the ability to make smart decisions.
 
Seventh, have a unique talent.
 
Discover your superpower. We are not talking about average powers like being compliant and following orders. We are talking about a skill that makes you hard to replace. It’s something that makes you indispensable. Once again, it’s not something you’re born with, but rather something that needs work. This is something we can all achieve. The difference between Linchpins and average people, Linchpins know what that superpower is, and they work on it.
 
Work on the qualities that make you a Linchpin. Develop them. Make them better and unique.

What if my boss won’t let me?
 
There are two situations here. The first one, you’re at a place where your boss doesn’t allow you to become a Linchpin. He doesn’t allow you to be creative, and he only wants you to follow orders. Why are you staying? You’re not learning anything anyway. You’re not growing, and you’re definitely not happy. This is not what you deserve, leave that job!The second situation, and the most common one, is that you “think” your boss won’t let you become a Linchpin. You haven’t actually tried to become one because you’re too scared to do so. 
 
It’s true that your boss won’t cover for you. They need to be able to answer when the higher boss asks why they let you do what you did. You need to sell your plans to your boss. It requires them to have confidence in you.What do you do? Improve your skills. Learn more. Seek more experience. The time will come that you will be competent enough. You will be allowed more control over your time and your tasks. Do not ask what the company can do for you. Find out what you can do for the company. 
 
Conclusion
 
In the new world of work, becoming a Linchpin is essential. There is no place for cogs who simply follow orders. To survive, you need to become a Linchpin.If you’re not indispensable, then you might wake up one day and find out that you’re being replaced by a cheaper alternative. There’s nothing, literally nothing, that can stop your boss from replacing you.
 
On the other hand, if you’re a Linchpin, then you’re valuable to your company. You’re difficult to replace because you’re one of the few people who actually holds the company together.You learned that there’s a “lizard brain” and a demon inside of us. The “lizard brain” wants to survive. It doesn’t care whether you succeed or not. Risks make your “lizard brain” scared, and that’s the resistance that you have to beat.
 
On the other hand, the demon inside us wants us to thrive. It is our inner genius that wants to take risks and become indispensable. Decide who’s going to win the fight. Is it your “lizard brain” or your demon?You also learned about the seven abilities of the Linchpin. First, do not work for money alone. Second, deliver creativity. Third, learn how to deal with difficult problems. Fourth, connect with the customers. Fifth, see how your job makes a difference. Sixth, make smart decisions. Seventh, develop your unique skill.
 
Your company’s confidence in you won’t happen overnight. Trust needs to be earned, and your boss has good reasons for not taking risks. You need to prove yourself first. Do not ask what the company can do for you. Find out what you can do for the company. That is how you become a Linchpin.

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