Founders Circuit
Collection of inspiring entrepreneur stories, startups and struggle

Seth Godin - The Linchpin

From stepping into the world of entrepreneurship at 16 to getting a degree in computer science & philosophy and MBA from Stanford Business School to authoring several bestselling books to being called America's #1 marketer, Seth Godin, the indispensable, has done it all. He is now back with his next book "The Linchpin - Are you Indispensable?" to challenge you to rethink the way you do your job and draw your own map. We are happy and excited to have Mr. Seth Godin on CE. Check out our Small Talk with Seth -

CE: Before we go further, do you think engineers should care about marketing? Aren’t we supposed to create something remarkable and wait for marketers to come?

Seth: I'm going to boldly say that every thing that bothers engineers about work comes down to a misunderstanding of marketing. Dilbert-type bosses, cut budgets, lame products... they all exist because of bad marketing, no marketing or too little marketing.
Marketing is the art of spreading ideas, of telling a story that sticks, of getting people to understand why your idea is worth money. I don't care if you're brilliant, if your marketing doesn't work, you fail. Yahoo! beat Alta Vista because of marketing, not code. Go down the list... if you can get your ideas to spread, you get to build what you want.

CE: What made you foray into the world of marketing?

Seth: I studied engineering and computer science in school, but wasn't smart enough to do either. What I discovered quickly, though, was that I was brave enough to do marketing.

CEWhy did you decide to write Linchpin, your latest book?

Seth: Linchpin recognizes the seismic shift of the revolution we're living in. Our new times mean that any engineer can spread an idea, do work, build code, design devices--whatever engages them--without a corporate patron, without bureaucracy. If the idea is good (like Linux) the system lets you find fellow travelers and make something happen. Of course, this isn't true for every device and every market, but it does mean that the insight and brilliance of the individual is far more important than it was just ten years ago. My argument is that right here, right now, the most motivated among us must choose to ship stuff, to make a difference, to do the work and change things.

CEYou have mentioned, “The system we grew up with is a mess”. Could you talk a bit more about it?

Seth: The system was the factory system. The idea of vast, faceless corporations treating you like a cog in a giant machine, and repaying you with steady work and retirement benefits. Well, the deal is off. The big organizations have done too many lay offs, outsourced too many times and broken too many promises to be trusted.

CELinchpin challenges us to rethink how to do the job, to stop complying with the system and to draw our own map. We’ve heard that lot of times. Isn’t it easier said than done?

Seth: You betcha. That's why it's worth so much! Scarcity creates value. But knowing it CAN be done is half the battle. I don't think we have a shortage of people willing to work hard. I think we have a shortage of people will to do art, to be brave and to fail (often).

CE: Through Linchpin, you have suggested that everyone is a genius at some point of time and it’s the society that keeps drumming the genius part out. Why do you think the society does that? Is there a way out?

Seth: A genius is someone who solves a new problem in a new way. And all of us have done that at least once in our life, even if it involves finger paint at kindergarten. Society and corporations together dreamed up schools that would train compliant factory workers (I didn't make this up... it's literally true). Sit in straight rows. Don't interrupt. Conform or be reprocessed (have to do the grade again). Fill in the little circles with a #2 pencil, etc.

The way out is for parents and individuals to focus like lasers on reinforcing the other behavior, the questioning, the why, the invention and the art.

CEPeople don’t buy products, they buy stories. Does that apply to self/personal marketing as well? If yes, how do we come up with a story to sell our skills in the job market?

Seth: Well, if you've got a standard resume, you've already lost, haven't you? I don't want to take the time to hear you, I just process it in the database.
The answer is to have projects, not resumes. To have a blog and a reputation. To have so many people clamoring for your best-in-class insight that you get job offers and requests and have to choose, not the other way around. This sounds ridiculous until you realize that the great engineers of our time, the programmers who are worth a fortune, the materials specialists, the inventors--they have no trouble getting noticed.

CEHow can one find out whether (s)he is a leadership material?

Seth: Of course, you already are. The only question is whether you've practiced or not. Larry Page is not charismatic. Bill Gates is not glib. Charisma doesn't make you a leader, leading gives you charisma!

CEWhat are the essential qualities one must possess to become the linchpin?

Seth: I think it all boils down to one: Choose.
If you choose to do the work necessary to become indispensable at something, you'll succeed. Maybe not in this market or that market, but somewhere and in a big way. But first, choose.

CE: Thank you for participating in Small Talk. What is your message to our CEans?

Seth: Go, make something happen.

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