I’ve read it twice to make sure. There’s no doubt in my mind that Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” is a powerful and important book for anyone in the world of work. In fact anyone who wants to contribute in any way – whether entrepreneur, employee or volunteer.
A key theme in the book is fear (aka ‘the resistance’) and how it holds people back from doing what they know they are capable of achieving. This is a topic many motivational speakers and writers touch on. I had forgotten this until yesterday when attending a little send-off do for Keith Taylor who has just stepped down from being a councillor (after 11 years!) to become an MEP.
Without any thought I had worn a t-shirt I’d received a few years back when attending Anthony Robbins’ “Unleash the power within” event. I’d been given the ticket as a gift, and had gone deeply skeptical, but ended up totally into it. The t-shirt simply reads:
the firewalk experience
fear into power
And so a few people had asked me if I’d seen or done the firewalk. Yes, I’d done the firewalk, I replied without any thought (because I had done it) and they all became very curious and interested about the details of how it’s achieved. I talked about the focus and preparation needed.
As I cycled home I realised that this was a reflection of the power of fear. I had overcome fear (and deep skepticism) to do the firewalk a few years ago and reflecting on it, I did still feel empowered by that memory. If I can do that, surely my goals are all worth a try!
Godin cleverly reminds us all of such moments in his book. He says we have all been geniuses at some point in our lives – we’ve solved a problem, got ourselves out of a fix, improvised, entertained and surprised ourselves. This, he argues, is what we need to enable ourselves to do more often. Rather than assuming one is either ‘a genius’ or just an ‘ordinary person’, we need to aspire to more moments of genius. This is a useful change in perspective when most of us just don’t feel like a genius, that’s a label for ‘special people’, which is a self-defeating narrative for the 99.99% of people not publicly declared a genius.
Godin’s book has also had me reflecting on my on aborted doctorate. I spent five years diving in and out of it, under intense psychological pressure (of my own making) to finish the darn thing. I’ve realised that the reason I was unable to stop sooner was my concern about other people’s views. In particularl my supervisor, and doctoral classmates. We had been in this together and they had given time to this endeavour too. I knew I could do the PhD, I just didn’t want to.
That might sound odd, but I realised that neither the process nor the result of doing the doctorate held any interest for me any longer, though I could quite clearly see what I had to do to complete them. Very clearly in fact, as my wife was nearing the end of her ten year doctoral voyage.
So a fear, of other people’s opinions, was holding me back from doing the right thing. I overcame it and felt marvellously liberated by withdrawing from the doctoral programme. Instead I was able to focus my energies on politics, where time and passion are now being poured!
I can’t recommend “Linchpin” strongly enough. The book, especially the sections on education and management, tie in strongly with Sir Ken Robinson and Tom Chapell’s themes which I recently blogged.
UPDATE: Seth Godin has, for the sheer hell of it, announced a ‘Linchpin Day’ so I’ve set up a meetup in Brighton & Hove for 7.30pm on June 14th, join us!
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