Top Five Books of the Year: Number Three…

Joe Boylan turned me onto Seth Godin four years ago.

In the passing time, I’ve been a loyal devotee of the Seth-fueled-business gospel, one that I have found to conveniently revolve around merit as opposed to flash and trash.

Godin is an interesting dude who writes in a simplistic style and conveys very obvious ideas about markets, social interaction, leadership and communities in an easy to read manner. I would imagine many professors in the academic establishment have a hard time recommending him because he does not come across as scholarly or pedantic enough in his writing to win their acclaim (even though he’s a Stanford MBA). Usually, this style of writing annoys me to no end.

But it doesn’t with Seth. The reason is that Seth is like a great surfer of knowledge, a business-prophet-Kelly-Slater who rides the waves of competition with perfection, but also shows up at the 50 foot monsters and is the best in the world there, too. Seth smells what’s happening as it is happening and tells the story of the movement before most anyone else realizes the movement is happening. Seth is a trendspotter who is moving into philosophy and calling it a business book.

Linchpin is the latest example of that.

Linchpin operates on the premise that there is a third (and new) class of people in work; whereas there was management and labor, now there are also linchpins. These are the people who lead, the people who solves problems without a map, the people who achieve critical break-through actions. Many of these people are smart, but it’s their emotional intelligence that makes the indispensable. It’s a nice idea in an economy with 10% unemployment… “how to be irreplaceable at work.” But it could also be a death sentence. For those looking for more security, they won’t find an ounce of it here.

Seth can take an idea (the schools are broken) and unpack that idea into something challenging and meaningful. He asserts (I believe correctly) that the entire education system was constructed to create helpless, lever-pulling, button-pushing automatons for the factory-based modern world. No one has moved in to understand the reasons behind the origins of the system and whether or not those origins are aligned properly with our present day reality. Look at the relentless obsession with school metrics and testing and filling in bubbles for scanners and ask: how will that help lead anyone? How will that solve a problem of the future? How will this connect people into something more… civilized? But because we are products of a “take stability, be afraid, find security in the factory” mentality, most people are unimaginative and ingrained in the rudimentary tasks of the day. So they build more factories. Whether these factories are the micromills for steel Fred Crowley fancies popping up around El Paso County, a cube at T. Rowe price, or a static real estate website doing the same old SEO everyone else is doing… creative answers are rare, and that makes leadership and initiative all the more vital.

Sounds obvious, right? Well think about your life. What fear-based illusion do you keep active in exchange for apparent stability somewhere else? If it is so

What to get Ben for Christmas

obvious a trap, why does everyone continue to engage in this agreement?


Linchpin was the idea behind Catalyst, which was the idea behind Pikes Peak Urban Living.

Today was a fantastic example of what Hannah and I have tried to do with PPUL: neither of us have been to the office. We’ve texted probably 50 times today. We’ve talked three times. We’ve helped five different powerful alliances form between creative business people before lunch. We are both off to attend our elementary school functions this afternoon where we will be ourselves and be interested (genuinely) in what’s going on in the lives of others this afternoon. Hannah and I are both big picture thinkers and both love connecting people. Connecting people is deeply satisfying for us both. Helping people get where they need to go – the right way, with critical information that is not spun-up justification for a payday –  is hugely important to us both. It’s why we work well together, respect one another, and people come to us for something of value.

This is the magic of Godin: Seth puts words to something we know to be true and says over our shoulder:

“Do you see that? You do see what you’re doing, right? That right there? That’s your art. Don’t under-use that term, please. If you don’t connect those two, no one else will. By connecting those two, is there more possibility now, or is there less? Do you see what you just did? Do you see why that is good?”

The power of Linchpin is in the criticism of Godin. His previous book Tribes was criticized by one reviewer because he didn’t provide a map for leadership, and said it was as if someone picked up the phone and was hit by leadership lightning. Seth’s reply? “And…?” Essentially, that critique is correct. But the fact that someone is looking for the how-to-manual is evidence of how deep the fear of failure is in society and the need for people to be told what to do. There is no map for leadership. There is no how-to manual for connecting people. There is no perfect system to unlock artistry, initiative or over-coming massive road blocks. There is no creativity pill. It takes action. It takes being willing to make mistakes, and ship.

You might not like Linchpin. I can more readily recommend both Purple Cow and The Dip. Purple Cow is still the most relevant book ever written on the permission-based marketplace and The Dip is Linchpin inside-out, educating people on quitting, and keeping people from agreeing that quitting is failure. But Linchpin is the most revolutionary book Seth has written since Purple Cow, because instead of using the idea of indispensability as the security blanket, he instead forces the reader to equate indispensability with their own defined terms, their personal passions, and ultimately, their satisfaction.

It’s cements the need for heretics, unicorns in balloon factories and helping people deepen relationships. That’s not a bad read.

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