Am I alone in the assumption that everybody hated homework? Anything that encroaches on your playtime takes the form of the devil, and so I watched with baited breath as my son started comprehensive school. Would he also be jabbed with that searing pitchfork? Well it seems that not much has changed in the past 26-years. Seeing my son pull out his first homework assignment was a step back in time. It was French – one of my personal favourites – and it was interesting to see the process from outside in, as it linked nicely with my reading fodder at the time: The Linchpin by Seth Godin.
The fuse was lit and the boy had accepted the mission. Find and record five interesting facts about France. Those were the rules – simple and direct. My son put a different twist on the mission. He decided that his revised mission should read: find and record five interesting facts about France in as little time as possible. In order to be quick, the research had to be slight and the written word short. Basically, the task was to get the homework done whilst expending as little time and energy as possible. The mantra: just do what is necessary and not a word more. I have to say I was impressed with my son’s final product, but it could have been so much better. After all, how many other children were going to write something about the Eiffel Tower? But if you remember, the mission was not creating a great piece of homework; the mission was to be quick and painless.
“You need to be different, stand out from the crowd and start forming a habit of behaving in this way,” I exuberantly bellowed, “Let’s get this man excited to pick up a Jude Davy textbook.” I said to him.
My son nodded, agreed with me in principle and then carried on with his mission to build the greatest Minecraft universe on the Internet.
Linchpin is a very brave attempt at describing the world of being different. After all, if you are the same as everyone else then it is going to be a struggle to be recognised and march forward in life. The book starts with a little history lesson; Godin trying his best to explain why we feel that just doing the basic French homework is enough. He then moves through the era of business and standardisation, quite rightly pointing out that if a monkey can do your job then you have a potential problem on your hands.
A linchpin is somebody who makes him or her as indispensable as they possibly can. It was a very interesting read and brought back plenty of memories of my own experiences; both being the linchpin and managing businesses that were devoid of linchpins. The book read like a spirited whirlwind, with Godin seemingly writing whatever was on his mind. You would think that the book would end up in an eclectic mess, but he just about pulls it off and manages to package a story with a beginning, middle and an end; all three parts crammed with interesting stories and ideas.
At the end of the book I wanted to find Godin in a pub somewhere and buy him a pint. I wanted to shake his hand, thank him for his sweat and effort and then ask him how to get my son to want to create the best piece of French homework in his class. I think that’s the best compliment that I can pay. The Linchpin is very definitely worth a read for anybody who is fed up at being the same as everyone else.