We are often told being extraordinary makes us special. We each write our own story in life, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson suggests, perhaps the sameness of our cosmic composition is what makes each of us fundamentally special from start to finish? This eliminates the need for permission and invites us all to be remarkable.
Our connected era has evolved society away from the industrial age. The factory (existing organizations that have an established system in place) and replaceable cogs that follow instructions to keep the vast machine churning has faded in favor of those who unite tribes, are champions of change, and willing to make a ruckus. Back in 2010, Seth Godin gave those who choose to be indispensable a name: Linchpins.
Linchpins are artists who consciously care enough to go beyond mediocre. Linchpins solve interesting problems and make judgement calls without a map. They welcome weird. They are scientists who stay curious. They are generous and passionate about the art of connection. Through an inclusive, positive-sum lens, linchpins lead and let others lead without seeking credit. They are fearless, in that they are unafraid of things they don’t need to be afraid of. Linchpins leave resumes behind with work that transcends time as they build at speed of trust and relentlessly #givefirst, knowing that accelerating others generates unmatched energy.
The skills of a linchpin are hard to quantify with tradition metrics, but a willingness to bring your true genius to work is an open invitation for us all. Over time, the linchpin’s art often becomes meaningful to many, which makes work less about trading time for money. In this centered state of career nirvana, nobody can compete with being you. Cogs in a machine are replaceable and can therefore be paid less. When you are a linchpin, you have leverage and there is no option but to reward you for work that is a creative expression rooted in lasting purpose.
“Leaders don’t get a map or a set of rules. Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin.” -Seth Godin
If indispensability is so accessible, why doesn’t everyone accept the invitation to be a linchpin?
One primal reason is the indoctrination of an education system that was designed to produce factory workers. From an early age, we are brainwashed to pursue perfection, to color in the lines, to follow instructions, to care what others think, and to define success by worldly consumption. Educational transformations are all around us and great teachers willing to be linchpins are activating students to go beyond the system. Instead of molding obedient factory workers who’s only hoping to be taken care of by factories built on promises of the past, we can teach people to take initiative. To invite doubt. To passionately explore one’s superpowers. To solve interesting problems while leading us with reverse charisma and confident humility.
Another reason why some stay complaisant, is the outdated promise of an American Dream. Gone are the days of clocking in on time and keeping your head down just long enough to climb a ladder built to resist change. The factory worker’s willingness to play it safe may extend a sense of temporary security, but this is a choice that makes you easy to replace with cheaper labor, faster tools, and advancing technology. Whether it’s fueling innovative action as an intrapreneur at an organization that prefers linchpins over factory workers, diversifying your career portfolio with an inventive side hustle, or building pain-killing projects as an entrepreneur, we may only live once and life is too short not to enjoy your work.
What makes you indispensable?