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How to be indispensable: More cowbell

  • Jan 18, 2010
  • by
You are a genius. That start to Seth Godin's new book got my attention. If this guy knows how smart I am, then I definitely want to listen to him.

Godin proposes that we must become indispensable in our jobs. The days are gone when we could show up to the factory (or cubicle), follow the instructions and then be guaranteed a regular paycheck. The market has always favored the cheaper alternative and it is easier to find those alternatives. Journalists, car factory workers, chicken slaughterhouse cutters and engineers have all learned that there is someone willing to do their job for less. The solution to this downward spiral is to become an artist - someone that invests their emotional energy into their job to deliver something that is uniquely different. Like a linchpin that connects two rail cars, indispensable employees can't be removed and discarded.

Godin explains that indispensable artists are a combination of dignity, generosity and humanity. This is a person who can walk into a chaotic situation and create order. They also connect people and naturally give gifts. Just like the famous Saturday Night Live skit that features the cowbell player of the Blue Oyster Cult, artists invest completely into their art - always willing to give more cowbell.

SNL: More Cowbell - Click here for video

The author spends much of the book convincing the reader that things are truly bleak for the average order taker. He convinced me of this fact in 10 pages, so I wanted to quickly skip to the part where told me how to solve it. People have critisized Godin in the past that his books present all problem and no solution. His unapologetic response - "There is no map." Art is intrinsically new and applies to that situation. He can't map out the solution, only give you the motivation to put in your passion to solve the problem.

The art of shipping is the concept that grabbed me the most in Linchpin. The only purpose of starting is to finish according to Godin. Shipping is the practice of regularly finishing the project (art) you are working on. It doesn't do any good to come up with great ideas and then not put them out there. Also, it doesn't do any good to continuously refine them and never actually ship them. I can really appreciate this discipline after working in several startups. You are always in the dark about what the customer really wants until you put something out there for them to evaluate. So many marketing meetings arguing about feature sets, messaging, pricing, bugs, packaging without any real knowledge of what the market wants. Once it is out there the customer tells you what they like and don't like. Then you can refine and ship again.

Godin's book is inspiring. I lept off my chair when I finished the book eager to share what I'd just learned with the world. Although the book doesn't give the reader a map to the treasure, it confirms your faith that exerting the extra emotional labor, delivering unique creativity, and investing in developing your domain knowledge will pay off.

Disclosure: I got a free preview copy of Linchpin that is scheduled to be released on January 26. Godin put together an innovative pre-release marketing program with the hopes that people will share their feelings about his book with their friends. You can buy the book here - I don't make any money from it.

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February 02, 2011
I completely agree with this. My mom always taught me that growing up as she, herself, is one of those artists that create order out of chaos. She always told me, "learn as much as you can about your job and the jobs around you, so that you can jump in and problem solve at a moment's notice". I think I still need to work on it a bit but, I'm glad that there's a book out there teaching people this most valuable lesson! Great review, Travis!
February 06, 2010
Great review and valuable ideas. I'll be picking this one up. Thanks for the recommendation!
January 19, 2010
Thank you. Great review. I agree with you, very inspiring, and also very different from his other books. This book is full of wisdom and generosity.
January 18, 2010
thanks Travis. Great review. Seth should be stoked you picked up preview copy because i'm ordering it for my kindle now! his marketing approach is working!
January 18, 2010
I've never read a Seth Godin book before, but your breakdown of this has me juiced and intrigued for this one. More cowbell! :)
January 18, 2010
Great review, Travis! Definitely a book I would love to read. I'm looking forward to hearing Brian speak at Twiistup next week. Hopefully, he has copies of the book to sell. :)
January 18, 2010
Haha... it reminds me of the time I spent here on Lunch! ;-) Ship them all out! I love your enthusiasm :-) Good for you!
January 18, 2010
Excellent review. Sounds like a great read. I would subscribe to pretty much everything Godin has to say here. There is no longer any room for the complacent and the slipshod. Successful organizations hire the best people and turn them loose. Sounds like a book I would like to read. Good job here!
More Linchpin: Are You Indispensabl... reviews
review by . February 28, 2010
I've been reading Seth Godin's books since "Permission Marketing" debuted in 1999. His blog is on my Browser's home page. He's the first thing I read in the morning.    There are hundreds of good books that span across the career/self-help/business category. This book defies categorization in the standard sense. If I had to pick three must-read career books, they would have to be "Purple Cow," "The Dip," and "Linchpin." All amazingly written by Seth Godin.    Super …
review by . January 26, 2010
Others have their own reasons for praising this book. Here are five of mine. First, this is by far Godin's most personal book in which he reveals more of his emotions and "soul" (for lack of a better term) than he has in any of his previous books. Also, from the beginning, he establishes a direct and personal rapport with his reader. I felt that he had written this book specifically for me. Although he and I have never met, I felt as if he were speaking to me and discussing ideas with me as if we …
Quick Tip by . April 16, 2010
May be the most important book I have read in the past several years.
Quick Tip by . February 15, 2010
Good audio interview from Seth Godin in this Mashable story: http://mashable.com/2010/02/14/seth-godin-linchpin
About the reviewer
Travis Murdock ()
Ranked #153
I love to review favorite restaurants and movies. I'm also a gadget geek and enjoy learning about new music. I work for the public relations firm Edelman.
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Amazon Exclusive: Hugh MacLeod Reviews Linchpin

Hugh MacLeod is an artist, cartoonist, and Web 2.0 pundit whose blog, gapingvoid.com, has two million unique monthly visitors. His first book, Ignore Everybody, was an Amazon Top Ten Business Book of the Year and aWall Street Journalbestseller. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review ofLinchpin:

This is by far Seth’s most passionate book. He’s pulling fewer punches. He’s out for blood. He’s out to make a difference. And that glorious, heartfelt passion is obvious on every page, even if it is in Seth’s usual quiet, lucid, understated manner.

A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—her role is just far too unique and valuable. And then he goes on to say, well, seriously folks, you need to be one of these people, you really do. To not be one is economic and career suicide.

No surprises there—that’s exactly what one would expect Seth to say. But here’s where it gets interesting.

In his best-known book, Purple Cow, Seth’s message was, “Everyone’s a marketer now.” In All Marketers Are Liars, his message was, “Everyone’s a storyteller now.” In Tribes, his message was, “Everyone’s a leader now.”

And fromLinchpin?

"Everyone’s an artist now."

By Seth’s definition, an artist is not just some person who messes around with paint ...
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ISBN-10: 1591843162
ISBN-13: 978-1591843160
Author: Seth Godin
Genre: Business & Investing, Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
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