I was one of the lucky early few that signed up by making a donation to the Acumen Fund, to get an advanced copy of Linchpin by Seth Godin.
Seth has asked people to read it, think about it and give a thoughtful review. I couldn’t wait to tell you about it until I finished the book- I’ve found myself quoting concepts in the first few chapters to friends already, so I thought it was time to share.
Seth starts out the book by talking about how the old American dream and template we’ve all been fed is history. There are tons of people who still believe all you have to do is follow the rules and you’ll get a job where you then follow the rules and get rewarded. But the bottom line that many folks are finding out is that following the rules has ended up being a sucker’s deal, a bait and switch bargain. The safety and security of jobs and pensions and retirement at a reasonable age, in reasonable health, where you enjoy a permanent vacation until you die is history, and we just have to accept that. It sounds harsh, but I think we all know that’s true.
As someone with young kids, I know I have to prepare them for a very different world than the one I grew up in, and that is both scary and challenging. They’re going to need flexibility, maintain those qualities of being curious, being creative and innovative problem solvers for the rest of their lives. With schools still programmed, in many sectors, to produce widgets for giant “work” machines, how can I counteract this effectively? Certainly, my kids are growing up exposed to innovative thinkers making their own game every day, but I know I still have to find more opportunities for them to flex these muscles on their own now, so they are willing to do so as they get older as well.
Seth encourages all of us to be creative, to be artists, to become remarkable and indispensable. I wanted to find an exception to this rule, but I found I can’t. At first, I thought- well, you know the professions- Doctors, Lawyers- we need those folks to make everything else work- how much real creativity do you have as a physician? Well, and then I took a closer look at what my husband does every day. Sure, he’s an OB-GYN, but he’s involved with research, working on projects including looking at fetal growth curves, how they can eventually eliminate prematurity, and other projects that at the heart of them require this creative problem solver mentality. He has to take everything he knows, figure out the problems that are still there, that cause problems big and small every day, and design research protocols to try to make them better, so each patient coming through his clinic gets the best care possible. It means getting the doctors and nurses and patients in the practice to consider different schedules, to try new clinics like “birth control before breakfast” and step out of their own comfort zones and potential myopia. He has to ask people to try to do things differently and make a difference- not just by bringing new people into the world (which is pretty amazing in and of itself) but to be able to do so in a constantly changing environment, with financial pressures, with each patient having their own unique set of problems, and being able to improvise on the fly. The best doctors do this well, and do become linchpins, not only to their patients, but to their colleagues and institutions where they practice.
I wanted to find some exception to Seth’s rule, being a believer that education and formal college educations are not worthless, but have value beyond memorizing facts. I want to believe we do teach people things in school that matter and its not all about grinding creativity out of people. But I think becoming a linchpin is not about whether you’ve had any formal training or education in anything- it’s ultimately about taking your cumulative knowledge and experience from every thing you have ever done, and be willing to use all of it, at any time, as tools to solve the next problem.
For example, I started reading Seth Godin and a bunch of books in the “business/management” section of the bookstore, not long after my husband introduced me to Marcus Buckingham and the Strength-based approach to, well, everything. I rapidly found that all the books in the education and parenting section of the book store, where I frequently spent time, were missing the boat. The really interesting stuff about managing people, developing them to reach their full potential, and the like were all sitting in the business section. I realized that running a family is exactly like running a small business, and everything I knew had infinite applications outside of the box one might put them in. “Pediatric logisitics”- managing kids/people, schedules, activities, performance (grades), camp, and keeping an eye on the larger issues at the same time are all the same skill sets I use in my business, in running Podcamps, in every other aspect of my life as well.
The main point here is this- you have to be a person who strives to make a difference in everything you do. You have to care. You need to look out for yourself, but you also can’t afford not to look out for others as well. You need to be able to use all of your experience, no matter where it’s from, and weave it into a new solution to try and make a change for the better. There are no more silos. There are no more boxes. It’s all about bringing all your resources to bear to try to solve problems big and small, and not being afraid of having a “crazy” idea. Those crazy ideas in the hands fo the right people, shared with other people who care, mean all sorts of resources can be marshaled and then moving the needle becomes easier than ever.
Thanks, Seth, for the jolt of espresso to my creativity, and for reminding me how important it is to care . Thanks for the reminder that we have to be willing to try the “impossible” (which turns out only to be a bit difficult) and can be accomplished if we just try to see the possibilities rather than shut down because it seems risky or scary.
I look forward to the chapters to come.