Just finished Linchpin by Seth Godin. I could agree with the massive amount of reviewers who claim this is Godin’s best book to date, but I haven’t read any of his others (Although The Dip is already on my desk). Or I could agree with those who say this is the best business book of the year, but I haven’t read any other business books either. That’s fine, I cannot classify this as a business book anyway. Linchpin is more than a guide to the changing economy, it is actually quite the opposite. Linchpin is 236 pages of GOYA (Get-Off-Your-Ass). The delivery is not accompanied by a self-help tone, nor by the aggressiveness of a the typical high-energy motivator. Instead, Seth Godin calls your bluff, explains why the endless stream of excuses is so convincing, and then demands forward motion. It is likely that reading this book will make you very uncomfortable. If you are always comfortable you can’t grow.

When I first decided to share this book on here I thought about doing the obvious. Saying how much I liked it, including some of my favorite inspirational quotes, and urging everyone to buy a copy to read. On second thought, as a tribute to the spirit of creativity and the book, I’ll do something a bit different.

Here are five reasons why I would be the worst, and quickest fired guidance counselor of all time:

  1. I understand there are different ways people learn. Not any of that visual/auditory/kinesthetic nonsense, but the real difference. Some people are able to accept the standards while others crave to change them. It’s not rebellion, it’s the urge of creativity and real leadership.
  2. I would press students to not worry about their grades and resumes and transcripts and activity lists. Those things are too regulated to capture a person’s uniqueness or passion.
  3. On top of #2 I would ban the phrase “It looks good for college.” Volunteering, or joining a club for the prospect of university acceptance is like climbing a mountain to stand on the top. If you aren’t passionate about the climb itself (the process/volunteer work/activity) then the only way of reaching the top is by some stroke of luck.
  4. I’d ask the students this simple question: You want to stand out as an adult, to avoid a cubicle, to make a difference… so why are you already buying into the very same system that supplies the cubicles and undermines individualism.
  5. Here is where a very direct relation to Linchpin comes in. Instead of referencing some powerful quotes I want to bring in an entire chapter.

Give Yourself a D

The A paper is banal.

Hand in a paper with perfect grammar but no heart or soul, and you’re sure to get an A from the stereotypical teacher. That’s because this teacher was trained to grade you on your ability to fit in. He’s checking to see if you spelled “ubiquitous” properly and used it correctly. Whether or not your short story made him cry is irrelevant. And that’s how school stamps out (as opposed to bakes in) insight and creativity.

My heroes Roz and Ben Zander wrote an incredible book called The Art of Possibility. One of the most powerful essays in the book describes how Ben changes the lives of his hyperstressed music students by challenging each of them to “give yourself an A.” His point is that announcing in advance that you’re going to do great–embracing your effort and visualizing an outcome–is far more productive than struggling to beat the curve.

I want to go further than that.

I say you should give yourself a D (unless you’re lucky enough to be in Ben’s class). Assume before you start that you’re going to create something that the teacher, the boss, or some other nitpicking critic is going to dislike. Of course, they need to dislike it for all the wrong reasons. You can’t abandon technique merely because you’re not good at it or unwilling to do the work. But if the reason you’re going to get a D is that you’re challenging structure and expectation and the status quo, then YES! Give yourself a D.

A well-earned D.

Give Yourself a D, Linchpin page 59

I love this exercise. It is one that as a guidance counselor I would advise every student to try at least once. The point isn’t to provide a reason to slack off. It actually provides a reason to do more. If you’ll receive a D no matter what you do, then why not go all-out. Try something new, something the rubric doesn’t cover. Why not?

The demise of creativity in school is just one of the many topics covered in the book. It is the foundation and explanation of why we fear creativity and one of the parts I find most interesting. It closely parallels this fascinating conversation from TED:


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  1. top five | Jack Pope - January 18, 2011

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