August 28, 2010

REVIEW: Linchpin is simple, weak on meaning, and poorly written

Imagine the worst motivational speech ever given. That's Seth Godin's Linchpin.

Now the premise of the book is an admirable and important topic to cover: how can you make yourself indispensable at work? Godin correctly summarizes the situation we now live in-- If you are just a gear in a machine, if you do what you're told and nothing more, if you want to be paid just for showing up, if you want a profession that does not require you to be creative-- then sucks to be you. Those kinds of jobs are rightly being shipped away overseas to be done by equally qualified people at a fraction of the price. What are left are jobs that require creativity, problem solving, and original thinking, and there begins Godin's advice.

The gaping, cavernous-sized flaw with Godin's book is that the vision he offers is one that precludes regular work environments. He wants people to devote themselves entirely to creating "art" but never reconciles this noble pursuit of self-actualization with employment realities. The 'artist' Godin describes cannot work for a boss or really fit into a team. Instead they are merely creative people who when given the possibilty to expand beyond their job descriptions are able to usher in a new corporate ideology or system for doing things that improves the company. If it's news that people should be doing that, they you should take Godin's book and smack yourself in the face.

Perhaps I hated the book because of all the annoying and extremely repetitive words and slogans he used to described observed phenomenon. Baser instincts -- risk aversion and keeping one's head down -- is restyled "lizard brain." The status quo is restyled "the resistance". Creativity is mislabeled as "art", and the definition he gives for "art" (something you give for free that changes someone else) is so bad that it would necessarily include sniper bullets. It's clear that Godin means that the true 'art' is not the picture on the canvass or whatever, but the origination of the ideal/concept/argument behind it's meaning.

I have not read Godin's other books (he has a lot of them), but given the fact that he writes exclusively about about marketing and management, two literary fields heaping with bull shit, I will speculate this. Godin doesn't really know what he's talking about all the time. He uses cute, nerdy, not-really-at-all-funny terms to describe generic things without exploring their real meaning or implications. He is being paid by the word and really stretches it out. And he tries to come off as inspirational, but instead his prose is just weak and repetitive.

Here's my book in less than 20 words. "Find what you love and do it. Invent. Create. Inspire. Get paid. But don't do it for the money."

Read it
Skim it
Toss it

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