Book Review – Linchpin by Seth Godin

In 2003, I was working with my father in his small sheet metal fabrication shop. We were struggling to keep customers and attract new ones. I read Purple Cow from a milk carton and it changed my life and the trajectory of our company.

Lightning does strike twice.

I keeping changing my mind as I think what Linchpin is about. Seth Godin is certainly writing about work, how it is changing and the opportunities that will create, but it is also about art and change and gifts.

The first part is available in any number of books. The Spring 2010 business book season is full of them. Dan Pink’s Drive, The Heath Brothers’ Switch and 37 Signals’ Rework are all about doing, what gets us to do things, and how we get ourselves to do things different. That is covered in Linchpin as well.

It’s the second part, the ‘what’ we should do, that deserves attention. Here Seth does what he always does: expands the meaning of words. Art is not a painting hanging on the wall in a museum, but rather “a personal gift that changes the recipient.” Art creates change, whether stump speech or chocolate cupcake, stone arch or science fair experiment. Everyone can see themselves as artists.

Artists give gifts, Seth says. On this point, most readers will struggle, but Seth comes back to it multiple times. We think of gifts with wrapping paper and bows, given on special occasions. Seth is not talking about the holiday reciprocity with we have come to expect. He says those expectations cripple art and creates an arms-length quid pro quo. Give without expecting anything in return.

Linchpin has done the same for me that Purple Cow did. Books are often about timing and hearing what you need to hear at the right point in time. I write this review as I start off on a new path in my life, and Seth told me a bunch of things that I needed to hear or maybe just needed to be reminded of.

(You can also listen my interview with Seth Godin here.)

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