And that is exactly the point.
Godin put them there, inside his book, because they all chose to make a difference. They’re all indispensable. They’re all geniuses. We can all choose to make a difference and be indispensable and be geniuses, too. Just because our face is another in a sea of anonymous eyes and noses and mouths doesn’t mean that our only option is to blend in. “The problem,” Godin writes on the first page, “is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.” We want to be able to show up to the office every day and have others tell us what to do until we go home again. But do we really?
Godin spends the first 224 pages of the book building us up, driving out of our minds the evil that he refers to as the Resistance – anything that keeps us from reaching our true creative potential. Part coach, part shrink, part earwig who has burrowed into our brains and discovered our innermost thoughts, Godin does nothing but persuade us that any of us can become a linchpin. (Spoiler alert: He does spend six pages warning us what can happen “when it doesn’t work,” which is sobering, but only so much so after hundreds of pages of positive reinforcement.) How can you become a linchpin and make a difference? Some advice:
Give gifts, but not because you want gifts in return. Godin posits that the best gifts are those that can’t be returned with other gifts: A song, a video, a book – art, yes – but also a presentation or a new way to solve an old problem. By giving gifts that don’t leave themselves open to reciprocating gifts, we build up a relationship with our recipients, we are bound together. And though gifts aren’t about the money, the more relationships you have, the more you are able to later generate income.
Don’t worry about a Plan B. If you have a backup plan, more often than not, you end up settling for that backup plan. “Why take the risk,” Godin writes, “when there’s the comfortable alternative instead? The people who break through usually have nothing to lose, and they almost never have a backup plan.” Dream big. And focus only on what you really want.
Also, don’t ignore the truth. Just because you want something to be true doesn’t make it true. Scarcity creates value, Godin writes, “and what’s scarce is a desire to accept what is and then work to change it for the better – not deny that it exists.”
And do your job, but do your job better. If you’re limited in how you do your job by an old-fashioned job description, if you know you can do it better, listen to the old Nike slogan and just do it. Don’t ask permission to do new things that will allow you to work better. Give yourself a new job without leaving the one you have. Choose to make a difference.
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.