18 January 2010 1 comment

Notes on Seth Godin’s Linchpin, part 1

18 January 2010 · 1 comment

in Uncategorized

Knowing in advance you’ll be writing about a book changes how you read it. For me, it meant I read Seth Godin‘s new book, Linchpin, with pencil in hand , marking ideas I liked (or didn’t) and capturing thoughts and questions as they occurred to me.

But I’m still processing it, my reactions to it, and how the book does and doesn’t coincide with what Seth himself said about the book last Friday during the “Linchpin Session,” a two-hour talk and follow up Q&A that were also part of his launch efforts.

So, instead of a review (at least for now), I give you my notes. Or rather, a list of what struck me as I read it. The thoughts and phrases. The questions it raised in my head. The comments I scrawled in the margins.

For in many ways, it’s never the book itself that sticks with you. It’s what you take from it.

So here are my notes on the first half (my additions are in green):


  • [Love the treatment of the table of contents]
  • The Powerful Culture of Gifts [?]
  • Art [?]
  • …Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product you create…
  • Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you’ve got soemthing to say, say it, and think well of yourselve while you’re learning to say it better. —David Mamet”


  • [Artists, Lizards, Linchpins—so many metaphors!]
  • People want to be told what to do because they are afraid (petrified) of figuring it out for themselves.
  • [ability to scale = easily replicatable = no moat (Ben Graham?)]
  • If you make your possible to replicate, you’re not going to be the one to replicate it.
  • Or win by being faster, more remarkable, and more human. [Faster – Better – Cheaper]
  • That’s the scam… [My issue with (a former employer)…]
  • *There are several sections throughout… [These are ingenious…necessary or not?]
  • Services like Casting Words do transcription for less than fifty cents a minute using the Turk [!]
  • …easy to scale… [Why is scale so important? When is big enough big enough?]
  • …read my short chapter, “The Resistance,” on page 101… [2 plugs—letter, here]
  • The linchpins leverage something internal, not external, to create a position of power and value.
  • You don’t become indispensable merely because you are different. But the only way to be indispensable is to be different.


  • Limited or Unlimited?
  • [*]
    Be remarkable
    Be generous
    Create art
    Make judgment calls
    Connect people and ideas
  • [p. 36: Non-profits get this half-right—they treat their artists like artists, but everyone else like factory workers.]
  • As a result of these priceless gifts, expect that the linchpins on your staff won’t abuse their power. In fact, they’ll work harder, stay longer, and produce more than you pay them to. [tenure as counterpoint?]


  • …artistic leadership is something that’s equally (or more) possible and productive.
  • The launch of universal (public and free) education was a profound change in the way our society works, and it was a deliberate attempt to transform our culture. And it worked. We trained millions of factory workers.
  • It’s almost impossible to imagine a school with a sign that said:
    “We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, an dto interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.”
    And yet that might be exactly what we need.
  • It appears to me that the only way they differ from a mediocre rule-follower is that they never bought into this self-limiting line of thought.
  • [Charm / Talent / Perseverance diagram: Charm = Attitude, Talent = Ability, Perseverance = Access]
  • The thing is that we need a school organized around teaching people to believe.
  • And as Carnegie saw, the best way to do that was to build a huge educational-industrial complex designed to teach workers just enough to get them to cooperate. [(Former employer) again…]
  • The essential thing measured by school is whether or not you are good at school.
  • What They Should Teach in School
    Only two things:
    1. Solve interesting problems
    2. Lead


  • [*]
    Depth of knowledge combined with good judgment is worth a lot.
    Depth of knowledge combined with diagnostic skills or nuanced insight is worth a lot, too. Knowledge alone, though, I’d rather get faster and cheaper from an expert I find online. If I need a great direct mail letter, it’s far cheaper and faster to hire a great direct mail writer to write me a letter than it is to hire someone an have him on staff for the one letter I need every month, right?
  • Far better to build a team that figures out what to do instead. [*]
  • Krulak’s law is simple: The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.
  • We spend our time and energy trying to perfect our craft, but we don’t focus on the skills and interactions that will allow us to stand out and become indispensable to our organization.
  • No one honestly asked, “Where do you put the tired?” but it’s a fine question….The fatigue was there, but some people understood that putting it aside was the single most important factor in succeeding.
    If you seek to become indispensable, a similar question is worth asking: “Where do you put the fear?” What separates a linchpin from an ordinary person is the answer to this question.
  • Posture for Change [*]
    If I tell you to stand by, you’ll simply stand. You can stand by a on a corner or at a desk or in a job. Standing by requires a certain posture, because  you may be doing it for a while.
    If, on the other hand, I ask you to move a couch, dislodge a stuck door, or otherwise cause change in your environment, you won’t do it from the same posture. You’ll choose to lean into the task, because if you don’t transfer your weight, you have no chance of moving anything. [nice image]


  • “But all artists see.”
    We can see what’s right and what’s wrong. We can see opportunities and we see around corners…. Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator. [waits a long time to define]
  • [¶ that begins, “What makes someone an artist?”: Art is art. But there is good art and bad art.]
  • Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.
  • Doing it as part of commerce so denudes art of wonder that it ceases to be [good] art. There’s always a gift intent on the part of the [good] artist.
  • If art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind [think differently about something], then you are an artist.
  • The passion wasn’t in making the money—it was making a difference.
  • Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to et in touch with what it means to feel passionate.
  • There are two reasons why it’s vital to know whom you are working for. The first is that understanding your audience allows you to target your work and to get feedback that will help you do it better next time.
    The other reason? Because it tells you whom to ignore.
  • [following ¶ that begins “Deciding what to leave out…”: I have an issue with judgmental thinking. Is it necessary to be that way to differentiate?]
  • But I don’t believe you need [only] to be an outlier to be an artist.

Tomorrow: my thoughts on The Resistance, The Powerful Culture of Gifts, There is No Map, Making the Choice, The Culture of Connection, The Seven Abilities of the Linchpin, When it Doesn’t Work, and the Summary.

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