This post will be slightly off-topic: Seth Godin published his latest book yesterday: Linchpin (affiliate link) and I think it is important that as many people as possible absorb the ideas that it contains.
Seth's books have evolved over the years. What started with insights about marketing (he is the one who opened up our eyes to the fact that anonymous spam email campaigns are not effective), is now moving into the area of leadership and in Linchpin even broader: what is the purpose of the time you spend day in, day out.
If there is one unifying theme in all his books it would be: "the good guys can win" (came up with this while listening to Leonard Cohen's song "Everybody knows"). You can be successful by doing remarkable things, without a need to cheat, interrupt, or lie.
The book opens with a grim analysis of history. Over the past 100 years we have built a society (education, advertising) that trains people to be cogs: cheap, willing, replaceable, numb, insecure people that man the production lines and purchase the stuff that the factory churns out.
It is time to escape the trap and change. It's urgent. Not changing will get you fired, and/or bore you to death, and/or rob you of your dignity, and/or paralyze your abilities and talents as you live and work in constant fear. On top of that, all of us own so much stuff that we do not even know what to do with it anymore.
The linchpin is a small but critical part that holds the wheel in place. Seth wants us to become one. "Us", the target audience of the book seems to be today's army of middle managers filling cubicles in office towers around the world.
You can see that Seth is a blog writer, the book contains many smaller ideas that are bundled together in one book cover.
- Emotional labor creates art: work that touches people, changes them.You are not born with a talent for art, you do not have to be able to know how to draw to be an artist. If what you do changes people, it's art.
- Gifts are powerful and will pay back somehow. Be generous without running an ROI calculation in your head. If you want a copper plate with your name in return for your gift, you do not feel emotionally strong enough about it. It is probably better not to give at all in that case.
- The resistance is strong. Our "lizard" brain wants us to be safe, warm, and comfortable and tells us all the time to back away. One defense against the resistance is to "ship" at the time you set yourself, even if your product/idea/post is not 100% perfect.
- The Internet/social media can be powerful to connect with people and spread ideas, but when it teams up with the resistance it becomes a huge time waster. We feel connected Twittering away, but the clock is running as well: "what happened to your art when you were Tweeting?"
- Anger, anxiety, and a longing for revenge are destructive and time-wasting emotions deeply rooted in our lizard brain. Anxiety is very often used as a motivator in big corporates: do as I tell you or I will fire you. People under constant stress cannot perform. There is no art when you are running away from a tiger that's chasing you.
- There is no map, no manual about how to become a linchpin. And no, this is not about Seth being lazy and not giving us the solution, being a linchpin is the exact opposite of following a manual with standard procedures.
- It is hard to see clearly, especially when you are in the trenches doing routine cog work, spend time in useless meetings, busy reading 100s of Tweets or stressed out about the upcoming performance review
- Being a linchpin gives meaning to who you are and what you do, but will not necessarily turn you into a millionaire. But hey, we own already too much things anyway.
You can see that it took Seth a long time to write this book.
- It bundles different ideas. Some passages are clearly written at the height of the economic crisis last year (linchpins don't get fired, be a linchpin to hold on to your seat).
- The language is much more deep and abstract than in Seth's other books. Many sentences require re-reading. One explanation is that they come from a set of ideas collected in a note book over a longer period of time.
Now for some connections to presentation design and public speaking:
- Fear of public speaking is a prime example of the resistance and the lizard brain teaming up
- Presentation design is the ultimate act of making people see clearly
- Public speaking is a rewarding opportunity to touch and change people