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January 25, 2010
Why it's important to be a linchpin and an artist
Q: What is a linchpin, and why is it important to become one?
A linchpin is the part you can't live without, the thing that makes a difference. In every organization there are one (or several) people like this. It might be the brilliant inventor who creates the impossible, but it's far more likely to be the great sales rep or customer service person who makes a connection, or the marketer who knows how to tell a story that resonates.
In a post-factory world, manning the assembly line isn't so critical. Stuffing the candies into the boxes, running the punch press, following the manual... these are easily replaced roles, ones where neither the worker nor the organization gains much on the margin. If you want real job satisfaction and security, then, you need to figure out how to do the unexpected, to do work that matters and to create human interactions.
Q: You talk about linchpins being artists. What's the difference between a conventional marketer and one who thinks like an artist? Can you give an example of a marketer who is an artist?
Art, by my definition, has nothing to do with painting and everything to do with connecting with people in a generous way and causing a change to take place. A movie director is making art when she makes you cry. A product designer creates art when the UI is better than it needs to be and it creates efficiency or even joy. Marketers can find plenty of Dummies books and manuals and insider PDFs that demonstrate, step by step, how to follow the rules. That's easy and not particularly valuable. A marketer becomes an artist when she goes out on a limb, does the unexpected or the risky and makes a difference.
I'd argue that you two do art when you stand up and give a talk about the 1%. Or Biz Stone was an artist when he figured out how to launch and scale Twitter's marketing. Or Scott Monty at Ford when he does a car show rollout that bypasses the cocktail parties at AutoWeek in favor of individual interviews with social media mavens. The second time someone does something, it's a copy. The first time, it's art.
Q: We understand the concept of "physical labor" when it comes to work, but you stress the importance of "emotional labor." What do you mean by that, and can you give us an example?
I don't know about you, but I haven't gotten paid to do physical labor in a really long time. Maybe typing.
Emotional labor is the act of smiling when you're scared, or getting on a plane when you're tired. It's dreaming when you don't feel like dreaming, caring when the other person is (frankly) acting like a jerk. Emotional labor is work with your heart and your soul and your feelings. We seem to feel it should be easy, but it's not. It is, though, important.
Q: We love this quote in the book: "The easier it is to quantify, the less it's worth." Can you tell us, and our MBA friends, why this is true?
If you can quantify it, then probably someone before you figured out a why to grind it out. And if you can grind it out, someone can grind it out cheaper than you can.
On the other hand, the really valuable stuff, the stuff we pay a lot for, is unquantified. Things like creating joy or security or happiness. No easy measurements for those, thus they are art, and art is always worth more than the predicted.
We measure the quantified because we can. But we should create the unquantified because it's so rare.
Q: Our lizard brain tells us to "Shut up. Don't stand out. Don't speak out. Blend in." If we want to be a linchpin, how do we silence this negative part of our brain?
Steve Pressfield calls this the resistance. The voice in your head that destroys your art. There are a myriad of ways to defeat it. You can distract it. You can trick it. You can steamroll it. You can seduce it with small steps. I'm not sure there's one best technique, but I know for certain that it must be done. My book has only one goal: to sell you on committing to this very task.
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Wow...strong, inspirational piece! I have to say, I've been reading Seth Godin's blogs for a few weeks now and had about decided to take them off my RSS feeder because I felt they were too "fluffy" to warrant my time right now. These words make me reconsider - thanks for the post!
I'm in a deadend job, I really need to take some advice and get some small business going! =)
It's great to get an inside scoop on Seth's thinking behind his latest book. I'm very honored that he would call me out as a lynchpin - almost fanboyishly so. :-)
As a one person marketing team I totally get what Seth is saying. It's one thing to track our #'s and see how well an email or ad performs but it's quite another to come in and feel like you're doing a worthwhile job and to have customers thank you on an almost daily basis.
And yes...Scott does kick ass. :D
Very few will implement Seth, you struck the chord on the unquantifiable being the most important. We, I don’t want to throw capitalism under the bus here, but the way it has been implemented in the last century can not continue in the world that Jackie and others talk about where the customer is the marketer. Why? A company’s relationship with me can not be measured, and to those that say it can fail to grasp the emotional side of a relationship. Try the balance sheet approach with your spouse, your kids, or any other relationship that matters. Is that what we are talking about here, relationships that matter?
Business is in a difficult spot, wrapped in a straight jacket of expectations, short-sightedness, and yes, the downside of being extremely efficient due to technology and productivity advancements. It creates a volume mentality, a commodity mentality, and that’s not what relationships are about.
Charts and tables are the friends of corporations, not me and perhaps not its employees. This is the dilemma companies, investors, and consumers will need to resolve over this, the second decade of social media.
Being first is key. Focus on doing what no one else has done. When you are first, you are the leader by default.
Just finished reading Steven Pressfield's 'The War of Art' and enjoyed his treatment of Resistance. Looking forward to Linchpin after this interview, but they were sold out at my local book store. Guess I'll download a copy for my Kindle as soon as I finish this post!
I'm a marketing researcher so I often think in terms of a satisfaction questionnaire. In this case I can't get one question out of my mind... "How likely would you be to recommend your job to your son or daughter?"
Don't disagree with any of the individual points here, but I just don't believe that you could design a marketing organisation which was full of artists wanting to do emotional labor all the time. In my experience good marketing is as much about project management and painstaking analysis as it is about ground-breaking concepts. I often see younger people frustrated becuase they are being asked to work at the grindstone rather than suffereing for their art, so we need to manage those expectations of our trade.