Mar 29, 2010

Lincphin by Seth Godin, A Review - Part I

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin's latest book, changed my worldview and entertained me while it happened. I have to share it.

What does this book have to do with climbing? It is not latest guidebook or crank harder manual. It is a book about philosophy and motivation. It is a way to approach the current changes in the world. There is no doubt the climbing world is changing, e.g. rise in absolute numbers, the role of climbing gyms, and the Internet. What does that mean for sport that places importance on history and lifestyle? Seth Godin has insights that can help make sense of what is happening. First, I will outline Seth Godin's argument. Then show how it applies to climbing.

Seth lays out how the “factory model” worldview is now outdated. In recent history, there was industrialism of the workplace. Society moved from farmers and artisans towards factory work. Factory work can be making widgets, e.g. cars, computers, or carabiners. It can also be providing a service, e.g. plumbing, accounting, or a climbing gym. Factory work depends on people showing up and following orders. It is relatively easy and secure work. However, there is always someone that will do it faster and cheaper. With the advent of the internet, it is easier to find faster and cheaper. He argues in order to thrive in the modern workplace people and businesses have to be linchpins. What is a linchpin? Literally, a linchpin is a fastener that prevents a wheel from coming off an axle. It is inexpensive, but critical if you want to go anywhere. Metaphorically, it is a person or businesses that matter and get things done.

What prevents people and businesses from becoming linchpins? Fear. Seth Godin's calls it the “lizard brain.” It is the prehistoric part of our brain that wants to be comfortable. It only cares about safety, food, and sex. He contrasts that with the “Daemon.” It is the phylogenetically newer part of our brain that is creative and solves problems. He argues these two parts of us are frequently at odds. The lizard brain prevents us from "shipping", completing projects, by listing excuses. He calls those lists of excuses "The Resistance." The resistance prevents ideas from becoming reality. Sometimes it even prevents ideas. It is the “Shadow” of T.S. Eliot's Hollow Men. Schools and most jobs encourage the lizard brain, but in order to be successful now, we need to quiet the lizard brain.

Part II will discuss how this book is useful as a paradigm for the current state of climbing.