Linchpin – An interview with Seth Godin on creativity and resistance

Seth Godin

Seth Godin publishes a marketing blog with over 500,000 daily readers, has authored several best-selling Marketing books, and created an entire publishing platform with Squidoo. Its fair to say that we at FUEL are big fans. We were stoked for the opportunity to sit down and have this interview with him about his new book “Linchpin: Are you Indispensable?” which will be released tomorrow, January 26th.

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CE: Your new book, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable, lives up to its name by going so far as to say “you must” make the hard changes necessary to “stand up and choose to make a difference”. When thinking about it as a concept I couldn’t help but hear Brad Pitts rant in the movie Fight Club… “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars.” Although I agree that the age of ‘falling in line’ has reached an end, not everyone can be a linchpin. Right? Do you see a world where every person can be ‘indispensable’? Or is it an ideal which when pursued will make our lives and the world better?

SG: Not buying the “not everyone” line. What chance is there that everyone will do something brave and generous and insightful? I’m not arguing that everyone should do this. I’m arguing that YOU should.

CE: To illustrate the concept of the linchpin pursuit, you reference Charlie Chaplin, Shepard Fairey, Thomas Hawk and others; people with both singular and life long accomplishments.  Is the concept of being a ‘Linchpin’ a destination or a lifelong pursuit?

SG: I’m pretty sure it has to be forever. Once you decide to do work that matters, to be generous, to make a difference and to connect and lead, it’s hard to go back to being a cog in the machine, focusing on compliance. I’m not saying you should quit your job, but I am arguing that you should quit complying with your perception of the status quo.

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CE: Your books often analyze peoples behaviors and how those behaviors impact a particular product or business theorem, Linchpin seems to be speaking more directly to the people themselves. In fact you state that “It’s a book for you, your boss and your employees”.  What motivated the shift in focus?

SG: What I found from the thousands of conversations I have every month is that strategy and systems will only take us so far. If the underlying belief system is flawed, if we’re building on top of a broken mindset, then the strategy can’t and won’t work. People read Tribes and said, “this makes sense, but I can’t do it,” and my only answer was to ask, “why not?”

CE: We aren’t going to lie, you left us intrigued but confused with your chapter on the Lizard Brain.  Where was the idea of the lizard brain conceived? What points are you really trying to build or break into by using the Lizard Brain metaphor?

SG: The science is clear: our amygdalla is the prehistoric brain, the part of our brain that worries about fear and survival and revenge. And that function is activated whenever you consider giving a speech, making a change, taking a risk. Most of us were brainwashed into believing that the safe thing to do is listen to the lizard, keep our heads down and fit in. Nonsense! That might have been true when there were saber tooth tigers, but not now. In fact, now the way we succeed and thrive and reach our goals is to do precisely the opposite of what the lizard proposes.

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Steven Pressfield calls it the resistance. The voice that shoots us down, that creates writer’s block and holds us back. Elizabeth Gilbert points out that people don’t get “engineering block.” How come? It’s because that activity doesn’t feel risky. Alas, all that’s left to make a living from is work that feels risky, work that offends the lizard.

CE: “The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.” You make a clear distinction between survival & success. (Survival being the primary goal of ‘the lizard brain’). Do you have a definition of success?

SG: I think success is getting your share at the same time you elevate the community. Success is spreading your ideas, getting paid what you’re worth and making a difference for (and to) other people. I don’t think success is showing up, doing what you’re told and then going home and watching television.

CE: As a blogging network we have seen the amazing power of giving, in fact many of our articles are submissions from people who are giving back in the form of advice, insight and experience, to their respective communities. In your chapter, ‘GIVING, RECEIVING, GIVING’, you share some of the positive cultures associated with giving. There is however a counter culture which has arisen; for every honest attempt to give, 10 disengenuos avenues spring up looking to exploit. We have seen the floodgate open on people wanting the benefits of giving but do so just by easily replicating the actions of actual givers.  It has resulted in a devaluation of all the content. What happens in the linchpin economy when the gift system doesn’t return the benefits?

SG: The posers aren’t going to go away, nor are they going to get what they seek. Those that give as a front for selfish behavior won’t get very far, even less once the cloak of anonymity is taken away. Thomas Hawk continues to give, so does Gina Trapani and so does Jacqueline Novogratz. There’s no confusion about these guys. We like them, we appreciate them and we trust them. So they succeed because they help us thrive.

CE: You reference some truly creative examples of reaching out, however part of what makes it wonderful and successful is that it is out of the norm -Do you believe that this giving mentality could work for the whole of society?  Wouldn’t it then become status-quo and loose momentum for everyone?

SG: I’m not optimistic that we could reach that point, but if we did, I’ll have a party and invite you. Wouldn’t it be cool if the new status quo was talented artists who gave as much as they could and tried to change our community for the better at every turn?

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CE: “An artist is an individual who creates art. The more people you change, the more you change them, the more effective your art is.” – from chapter ‘Artists who Can’t Draw’ – Seth Godin

FYC’s audience is made up of a large group of people deemed ‘creatives’ and include Creative Directors, Freelancers of all sorts, Designers, Photographers, Fine Artists and Marketing people. This groups livelihood hinges on the ability to create various forms of art, and in many cases they CAN draw. As a group should we be looking inward to our professions to become Linchpins, or can it only be achieved by reaching outward?

SG: I think many of the people in this community aren’t artists, actually, but people working hard to do a job or please a client. Artists do more than that. They inflame critics and they make change and they do things that make themselves and others uncomfortable. Art is not about decoration, it’s about change. And to your point, it’s both inward and outward, but it takes passion and commitment and restlessness.

CE: We have really enjoyed this today but we cant finish the interview before calling you out on one of the statements you make in your chapter, ‘Reality’. You claim that “you couldn’t have written this book ten years ago, because ten years ago, the economy wanted you to fit in”.  Yet, for over 10 years you have held and propagated this well received (albeit radical) position against just ‘fitting in’. Which leads us to the obvious question… Are you a prophet?

SG: Nah, prophets are mostly dead. I think I notice things that are happening and point them out to people who realize that yeah, I’m right. This time, though, we need to hurry. There’s a revolution happening and this is our chance to run with it.

Designer, Maker of Things | Creative Director – @boomtownroi You should follow him on twitter @chadengle .

 

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