Book 30 of 52: The Linchpin by Seth Godin

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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.

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I spoke to my son about the need to go the extra mile. About how important it was to WOW his new teacher. Everyone was going to have a slice of The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in their escargot pie.

“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.


Comments

  1. Sounds like a very interesting read, Lee. And good job on the homework advice. With you in his corner, your son has a bright future.

    • Hi Linnea,

      Thanks for the compliment. Before I was a father I thought fatherhood would be so easy. I remember thinking how bright he would be because I could impart so much knowledge and wisdom on him. As it happens it turns out to be so tough to change their way of thinking even at such a young age.

      Thanks for commenting as usual.

      Lee

  2. Interesting review, Lee. May not be the book for me, however. I never wanted to be indispensible, but I abhored the idea of being ordinary. In maturity, I find that “extraordinary” is hard to reach and I may have to settle for “above average.” Does he cover that?

    • Hi Ellen,

      I bought the book along with two-others as part of research for a book project I am working on about creating the job of your dreams. One of Godins points, is you can make your current job the job of your dreams if you really want to. But in order to do that you really have to face the things you don’t like, change them and excel.

      I remember in my railway days when we had to make people redundant. I abhorred seniority because it didn’t enable be to select he Linchpins. When everyone is relatively the same in terms of length of service, qualifications and sickness and absence records who do you pick? For me I always wanted the people who volunteered to work overtime, helped you out at short notice, got on with the job without being asked and directed constantly and more importantly did whatever it took to make the business a success regardless of what their job description said. Those people were ‘above average’ so if that sounds like you then he does cover that.

      Regards

      Lee

  3. Hi Lee,
    Haven’t read you in awhile and really enjoyed your post.

    I smiled at your advice to your son “Let’s get the teacher excited to pick up a Jude Davy textbook.” Spoken like a true writer!

    Since my sons were homeschooled – they didn’t have the competition factor. My angle (as teacher I had the power) was getting them to research things that interested them. Of course, in the end, it’s still homework. It’s hard to overcome the “get it done as quickly and with as little effort as possible so I can get to Minecraft” mindset.

    Lastly, I heard the “indispensability” advice from a seminar leader once. It really is excellent and much needed advice in this economy where employees are easily replaceable.

    Great post, Lee.

    • Hi Peggi,

      I am extremely interested in homeschooling myself (should I have more children in the future). Would you mind if we connected so I could tug at your ear about it? If so send me an e-mail to lee.davy@btopenworld.com.

      Thanks

      Lee

  4. Maybe fatherhood is harder than you expected but at the same time, it’s the most rewarding challenge imaginable hey mate ?!?!?!?

    Maybe this is naevity on my part and maybe this will change as my boys get older (first goes to senior school next year), but I just want them to be polite, happy, good kids.

    I believe, figure out what it is they like and let them channel their energies into that as they would give it more effort anyways. I have this pet hate for the education system, why force kids that constantly bunk off to go to school and learn things they’re obviously not interested in, obviously not going to pass and obviously be a distraction to the other kids when there. Take them to one side, find out what interests them, figure out what jobs then may interest them in the future and teach them things down that route. For example, my best m8 was always going to drive a machine, so were his bruvers, all 3 bunked off school constantly, when there, all made their classes worse for the other kids. Guess what ? They’re all machine drivers and doing all right for themselves, but why waste 2-3 years of their lives teaching them about the battle of Hastings or how to map read ? it’s a waste of time and resource.

    Anyway, went on slight off track rant there. What I’m saying is, IMO, give kids the help and support to follow their dreams and in return you’ll get more effort and appication out of them and they wont end up sitting at a desk like a lemming on groundhog day wishing they’d had the opportunities to follow a career more to what they’d like which is now out of reach (training and costs etc)..

    Hope my point comes across and that makes sense anyway…lol

    Cheers
    Coggy

    • Hi Coggy,

      Your point does come across excellently, so thanks for making it.

      I was discussing schooling with my girlfriend just yesterday and we are going to do some research to see if there are educational systems out there that do cater for the individual. We believe that they exist and so it’s just a case of finding out where they are. You can also consider homeschooling as an option as well, and this is certainly something I have considered.

      Keep commenting

      Lee

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