Three lessons from Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” on what it takes to be indispensable in anything you do
I settled into my seat in the back of the plane, soaring through the clouds on my way to Austin, Texas. I was curious how flying would be during Covid. In an unlikely way, it was a far more pleasant flight than many I’ve had in the past.
The reason? The flight attendant, Kraig, made it his mission to assure everybody around me that the plane was safe and sanitized. More importantly, he went out of his way to make the flight enjoyable.
Kraig was attentive and kind; he was cracking jokes to ease some of the Covid anxiety — he was being human. In his own way, Kraig is an artist, an indispensable Linchpin, and the reason I’d pick the same airline. I’m sure many others would say the same.
Author, blogger, and marketing guru
More than just a cog in a machine — a linchpin is a human being, an artist, somebody who gives without expecting anything in return.
Being a linchpin in business takes becoming so valuable that the company can’t easily replace you. What you do, what you produce, and how you act changes how people think about the brand.
I believe Godin’s knowledge applies to much more than just the business world. I’m inspired by how it pertains to the art of living, as I believe Kraig exemplified the linchpin in all of us.
The Human Touch of an Artist
With my face covered and my headphones on, I just wanted to get the flight over with.
I tried to relax. As I glanced down the middle aisle, I noticed Kraig approach a woman half out of her chair, scrutinizing the plane as if calculating our impending doom.
I could only imagine how many of these small fires Kraig has to put out every day during this time. I looked out the window, doing my best not to listen. Yet when I looked back, they were laughing. What happened?
They seemed like two friends chatting over coffee, not a flight attendant and a worried passenger. He’d worked his magic — by being a human being, he created a connection, and not only did she feel better, but I did too.
“Art doesn’t have anything to do with a paintbrush,” Godin writes.
“Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another. Some artists work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient.”
From what I saw, Kraig loves his job. He lives to make people feel good by turning flying, an already anxiety-inducing activity compounded by Covid, into something to look forward to.
He could very well have done the bare minimum, but he took his job personally.
When we think of art, we tend to think of something that we can see, touch, hear, or taste that represents a creative mind. However, Godin writes that we all possess the creativity and the human touch needed to be artists.
I wholeheartedly agree.
“If art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind, then you are an artist,” Godin writes. “Art is not related to craft, except to the extent that the craft helps deliver the change. Art is human. A machine can’t create art, because the intent is what matters.”
Art doesn’t have to do with making something for money with tools or ingredients or a pen. It’s anything that comes from the heart, an act that tells another human being: you’re not alone. I’m here for you. We’re in this fight together.
An artist gives through love, connection, and gifts, expecting nothing in return. Perhaps your gift is putting on a play at the local theater to build excitement in the community — maybe it’s a call to provide solace to a friend in need.
For the artist in all of us, to not give our gift to the world would contradict the desire that we feel deep in our souls. All we must do is adhere to that call.
The Gift Is to the Giver
In the words of Walt Whitman:
“The gift is to the giver and comes back most to him — it cannot fail.”
I strive to make this principle an essential focus in my life. The light that binds us is built upon a give and take, an influx of inspiration that’s then given back to the world in a way that only we can deliver.
“You best give a gift without knowing or being concerned about whether it will be repaid,” Godin writes. “The magic of the gift system is that the gift is voluntary.”
Putting my writing out in the world is all I can hope to do; my writing is a semblance of my spirit, and it can’t be confined to the space beneath my bones.
I long to share what I learn on each step of this journey because looking back at the end, the result will only be worth the struggle knowing that I gave each step of the way, striving to make the world a more thoughtful, connected place.
“Some people think you can’t be generous until after you become a success,” Godin writes.
“They have to get there’s, and then they will give back. The astonishing fact is that the most successful people in the world are the ones that don’t do it for the money. Artists say, this is for you.”
“Real Artists Ship”
It’s gratifying to discuss this point on the final day of my November Writing Challenge.
“Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog,” Godin writes. “Shipping means showing your presentation to your sales team. Answering the phone. Selling the muffins. Sending out your references. Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world.”
Before my challenge of publishing a new piece every day of November, I would write an article and then sleep on it to revisit with a fresh perspective.
I would submit my best work to top publications and not hear back sometimes for two weeks, often being rejected. This month, I’ve shipped every single day, and I’m proud of that. As Steve Jobs famously said:
“Real artists ship.”
We often get attached to the idea of perfection. We want our work to be as polished as it can be. So, we sleep on our idea for a day or two to give ourselves the time to tweak.
“The point of being done is not to finish, but to get other things done,” Godin writes. “Once you’re done, you can throw it away. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring, and keeps you from being done.”
When a thought, an idea, or an urge comes from the heart, the only thing that prevents us from taking action is fear. We fear what others might think if we stood up and spoke our minds.
We have an idea to call a friend, yet we don’t follow through. When we don’t act on our thoughts, impulses, and intuition, they remain just that.
We fear that others have had the same idea as us, so we bury the dream of starting that business. But I’ve learned this month by having a daily deadline that getting our art out into the world only makes room for more ideas, more opportunity, more inspiration.
“Shipping something out the door, doing it regularly, without hassle, emergency, or fear, this is a rare skill, something that makes you indispensable,” Godin writes.
“Not shipping on behalf of your goal of changing the world is often a symptom of the resistance. Call its bluff; ship always. The work is about making a difference. Ship things that make a change.”
I resonated with this book because at this stage in my life, I wonder what my impact will be, what legacy I’ll leave, and how I will begin creating it. Yet, I’m already leaving my mark each time I decide to smile at a passing stranger or post an article that expresses my beliefs.
Kraig is an artist. He gives his gift of joy day in and day out because it’s who he is. He ships his comforting words to passengers without wondering if he’ll receive any praise in return. We all possess the capabilities to be indispensable in anything we do.
Laugh in the face of resistance, the voice that tells you to pull back on the reigns. Ship; compliment a stranger, share your idea.
You are an artist with a gift to give. The world is waiting to receive it.