19 January 2010 5 comments

Notes on Seth Godin’s Linchpin, part 2

19 January 2010 · 5 comments

in Uncategorized

I suspect Seth Godin really wanted to start his book at Page 101, the section on “The Resistance.” In many ways, the first half seemed like a 100-page run up to that section, one that could be summarized in four words: you can do it.

The book took an interesting turn after that. Here are the notes from the second half:


  • Artists thing along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done.
  • As we’ll see, the greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce.
  • Shipping something out the door, doing it regularly, without hassle, emergency, or fear—this is a rare skill, something that makes you indispensable.
  • The challenges:
    1. Thrashing
    2. Coordination
    And the reason:
    The resistance.
  • The Resistance: Your Lizard Brain [Hello, left field!]
  • [Two ¶’s on p. 110 before The Man with Two Brainstie into panic disorder…?]
  • Successful people are successful for one simple reason: they think about failure differently
  • They learn that the tactics they used didn’t work or that the person they used them on didn’t respond.
  • [p. 12o: I’m not the market for this book→so much is spent convincing that his thesis is valid…. But I know I’m different. Now what?
    He had to choose his persona—the one he chose is the persona who doesn’t yet know their potential.
  • When Did the Resistance Take Over Your Life? [Why didn’t it?]
  • [top of p. 123: → Linchpin ≠ Contrarian ← ]
  • What’s left is the generosity and humanity worth paying for.
  • It turns out that the three biological factors that drive job performance and innovation are social intelligence, fear response, and perception.
  • One antidote is pursue multiple paths, generating different ways to win. [+ repeated exposure, +…. find antidotes to three things on previous page]
  • So, the resistance is wily. It works to do one of two things: get you to fit in (and become invisible) or get you to fail (which makes it unlikely that positive change will arrive…)
  • When you say it out loud (not think it, but say it), the lizard brain retreats in shame. [*]
  • 6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  • 13. Done is the engine of more.
  • The resistance will help you find the thing you most need to do because it is the thing the resistance most wants to stop. [*]
  • The first approach is to seek reassurance.
  • The second approach is to sit with anxiety, don’t run from it. Acknowledge it, explore it, befriend it. It’s there, you’re used to it, move on. No rewards for worriers [*]. No water to put out this particular fire.
  • Shenpa is a Tibetan word that roughly means “scratching the itch.”
  • You can’t make a useful map when you’re busy exaggerating the downside of every option. This is prajna. If you can’t teach the world a lesson, accept it, don’t get attached to a different outcome.
  • P.S. Never let the lizard send an email. [!  🙂 ]
  • The best way to overcome your fear of creativity, brainstorming, intelligent risk-taking, or navigating a tricky situation might be to sprint.
  • You can’t sprint forever. That’s what makes it sprinting. The brevity of the event is a key part of why it works.
  • You can’t sprint every day, but it’s probably a good idea to sprint regularly. It keeps the resistance at bay.


  • The magic of the gift system is that the gift if voluntary, not part of a contract. The gift binds the recipient to the giver, and both of them to the community. A contract isolates individuals, with money as the connector. The gift binds them instead.
  • [section that ends on p. 159 with “Real gifts don’t demand reciprocation…”: This is all a great explanation for why some of us find the drive to monetization so distasteful.]
  • [top of p. 161: How do you make a living from / while giving gifts? How do you survive without cheapening or “removing the art” from the gift?” (Added later:) Answer is here → four ¶’s that start with “The first circle represents true gifts…”]
  • When you focus on the second circle, when you work to charge more people more often, your art suffers. Instead, we profit most when we make the first and third circles as big as we can.
  • Or consider the family that exchanges cash at Christmas. If everyone is giving and getting the same amount, there’s not much happening, is there?
  • Great bosses and world-class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give people their people room to become remarkable.
  • I hesitate to use the phrase “gift economy” because as soon as I do, people wonder what they’re going to get and how much they’ll have to pay for it. [The Non-profit Conundrum]
  • [top of p. 171, added to after completing book: Structure of book/concepts: Broken System, Art, Resistance, Gifts, Maps (or, why there are no tactics in this book), Making the Choice, Skills (…isn’t this a map?)]
  • The street performer is a great metaphor for you and your work. She stands on the corner, busking for tips. Most people walk by. That’s fine. If someone walks by, changing your act to attract her or running after her is a foolish game. The performer seeks the people who choose to stop and watch and interact and ultimately donate.
    Great work is not created for everyone. [probability curve!]
  • “Thank you and…” [tell them how their gift changed you]
  • It was a gift. If you want to repay it, do something difficult.
  • Respect is the gift you can offer in return.


  • You can’t make a map unless you see the world as it is. You have to know where you are and know where you’re going before you can figure out how to go about getting there.
  • …the ability to see things as they truly are…prajna
  • If you accept that human beings are difficult to change, and embrace (rather than curse) the uniqueness that everyone brings to the table, you’ll navigate the world with more bliss and effectiveness. And make better decisions, too.
  • Fire is hot. That’s what it does. If you get burned by fire, you can be annoyed at yourself, but being angry t the fire doesn’t do you much good. And trying to teach the fire a lesson so it won’t be hot next time is certainly not time well spent. [ 🙂 ]
  • If you’re able to look at what’s happening in your world and say, “There’s the pattern,” or “Wow, that’s interesting, I wonder why,” then you’re far more likely to respond productively than if your reaction is “How dare he!”
  • But she’s unable to accept the world as it is, so has a meltdown. [Find Sweet Honey in the Rock quote (from “Good News” on the Breaths album)]
  • The Quadrants of discernment [*]
    On one axis is passion. The other, attachment
    Each corner represents a different kind of person and the way he responds to situations at work.
  • Here’s another way to describe the two axes: One asks, Can you see it? The other wonders, Do you care?
  • Tell the Truth [ → Ah, Cassandra! (This section should come with a warning!)]
  • Lab assistants do what they’re told. Scientists figure out what to do next.
  • Scientists never believe that it’s all figured out, totally settled. They understand that there’s always another argument or mystery around the corner, which means that the map is never perfected.
  • [After end of chapter: No there’s no map, but can’t we teach people how to be mapmakers?]


  • “If only” is a great way to eliminate your excuse du jour. “If only” is an obligator, because once you get rid of that item, you’ve got no excuse left, only the obligation.
  • The power of choice is just that. Power.


  • The Five Elements of Personality
  • …five traits that are essential in how people look at us: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability.
    Here’s the thing: these are also the signs of the linchpin.
  • Honest Signals in Everyday Life [We’re the tuner, the amplifier…Khayyam!]


  • [Apparently I didn’t take any notes on this section. Interesting.]


  • Do your art. But don’t wreck your art if it doesn’t lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy.
  • …your efforts won’t always get what they need to succeed.
    There are two tactics that can help you…
    1. Understand there’s a difference between the right answer and the answer you can sell…
    2. Focus on making changes that work down, not up…


  • The act of deciding is the act of succeeding.

So that’s what I noticed and thought about while reading Linchpin.

I’m curious to know:  what do you read for when you read a book? What do you take with you?

  • sethgodin

    Great stuff. But the first 100 pages say not just “you can do it,” but really important, “you must do it, do it now, or you're toast.”

  • True–I underplayed the eventual crispiness one would suffer from ignoring the call to change. 😉

    That point becomes much more concrete in “Making the Choice,” where the message I took away was, “If you want change to happen, it's up to you.”

    It must have been an interesting conundrum for you when deciding for which persona(e?) you wrote the book. Do you write for the person who sees themselves as indispensable already (or at least sees themselves as having that capacity), or for the person who isn't yet aware of that potential?

    The book read to me like it was aimed towards the latter, the person who sees and desires change, but doesn't yet see that *they* are the ones to will create it. With that in mind, the first half read to me like you were making the case to those folks:

    1. The system is broken
    2. Here's why
    3. Here's the new system as I see it
    4. Here's the new role you (can choose to) play in it–and have to if you want to see change happen
    5. You can do it (and yes, you're toast if you don't)

    The second half was interesting to me for a different reason. For as much as you say “there is no map,” after the mini-book on “6. Why you don't want to do it,” you *do* seem to provide one (though admittedly it's like the continent view in Google maps as opposed to the city block level…).

    Thanks so much for commenting–I love any book that challenges me to think about things in a different way (your very definition of art…), and so I'm relishing the fact I'm still working through what I think about certain aspects and ideas in it days later.

  • sethgodin

    Your notes are stellar

    and, as you guessed, it's not a book written for people who are already linchpins (other than to give them a tool to explain themselves to their inlaws!)

  • Merci

    Loving this entire dialogue. Just finished the book and while the content is truth the way it is said is beauty and art!

  • Glad you're enjoying it!

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