The book „Linchpin“ by Seth Godin talks about how you stop being just a cog wheel in your job and start being someone who is indispensable.
So Godin writes that most of us have become cogs in a giant industrial machinery. We follow orders, obey, keep our heads down, work reliably and consistently and in exchange we expect that we get to keep out jobs. After all, we’ve always been doing as we were told, right?
Unfortunately, this equation doesn’t work anymore. Since being a cog means being interchangeable, people nowadays lose their jobs and get replaced even if they are doing exactly what they are told. To be precise, they are being replaced because they are doing exactly what they are told. They bring no real value to the table. They can do just as much as the next guy.
This is where the linchpin comes into play. Seth Godin writes that a linchpin is someone who stands out. Someone who is not blindly obeying orders, but thinks for himself. Someone who is creative. Someone who is able to think outside the box, someone with a vision. Someone who isn’t afraid to make decisions and has the guts to take responsibility for them.
These are the people who really add value to any kind of company. The people who go the extra mile. It is not difficult to do as you are told. But it is difficult to not know what to do and figure it out yourself. These people are the linchpins. And they are the ones who bring progress and innovation. That’s why they are indispensable for every company.
The problem though, according to Seth Godin, is that our society trains us to be cogs rather than linchpins. At school we are trained to do as we are told rather than follow our own curiosity. At university and later at work it is often the same. So little by little most of us give up on our dreams, our ambitions, our passion for greatness. And instead settle for numbness, mediocrity and uniformity.
What Seth Godin says people should do to not fall into that trap and become a linchpin instead, is to become more in touch with creating their art (he also calls that ‘giving your gift’). This art doesn’t have to be painting or writing or singing or anything like that. It simply means doing something that is unique, that could only be done by you and the special talents that you have. It also means to just do it out of purely altruistic reasons and for the happiness that it brings to other people. It could be something as small as being the friendliest coffee shop employee there is. Or it could mean helping out at a project of your company, even though you are not even officially part of that project.
Do more than you are asked to do. And don’t wait for permission to do it. But don’t do it just to score extra points either. Do it because you can’t help it, do it because it is your passion. Take risks. Pay the price for it (may it be in time, in effort or in money). As Godin says, “If it’s easy and risk free, it’s unlikely that it’s art”.
Leave the map behind that guides you the way. Stop relying on other people to tell you what to do. If you are thinking for yourself and find solutions that weren’t there before, you are creating art.
And if you are creating art, you stopped being a cog and started being a linchpin.