The Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Linchpin

I’d normally start a book review by talking about the book, but this time, I’d rather talk about the author.

Seth Godin has been called a revolutionary thinker, a pioneer, and a trendsetter, among other things. And while those descriptions are true, I think it’s better to understand Seth as a really good weatherman.

A good weatherman tells you how things are, why they’re that way, and the way they’re likely to be tomorrow. That’s it.

People don’t get that about Seth – and while there’s plenty of room to disagree with his ideas, many of his critics focus on the fact that his work often doesn’t tell you what to do. That’s not a critique of his work; it’s just showing that they miss the point of Seth’s work.

Think about it this way: a weatherman can’t tell you whether you need an umbrella. He can only tell you that it’s raining now and likely to rain later today. It’s up to you to figure out what to do with that information.

If you’re staying in, you don’t need an umbrella. If you’ve got to be out in the weather, you need to plan accordingly. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you might want to think about the opportunities available given the conditions.

If you think about that going into reading one of his books, you’ll find a ton of value. If you go into it wanting a how-to book, you’ll probably be disappointed.

All analogies aside, Seth’s books report and predict trends, and his books consistently demand and expect that you’ll be reading them with your thinking cap on. The how-to you’ll get from him is not how to act, but how-to think.

I, for one, really appreciate that, and it’s why I buy every one of his books. Given that a large amount of what I do is help people think, it’s obvious that I’d like authors who help elevate and clarify my thinking.

Thank you, Seth, and I wanted to share that.

Why You Should Read Linchpin

The challenge of reading Linchpin is to recognize that Seth is talking to three different audiences – he’s talking to employees, employers, and entrepreneurs. There are a lot of insights for employees and employers, but I want to focus on entrepreneurs.

Though the content of the book is consistently high-value, I think the highest leverage ideas for creative entrepreneurs come in these 5 (of 14) chapters:

  1. The Resistance
  2. The Powerful Culture of Gifts
  3. There Is No Map
  4. The Culture of Connection
  5. The Seven Abilities of A Linchpin

These chapters describe the reality of being a creative entrepreneur. Whether it’s the insights into the biology of resistance, the mechanics of gift giving (and how to do it correctly), the nature of working without a map, or the social dynamics of creating art, you’ll find a surprising amount of Ahas! as you read.

I’d like to pause on the abilities of a linchpin, though. There are two abilities that are critical for creative entrepreneurs: 1) delivering unique creativity and 2) possessing a unique talent. If you master your unique talent, which for creative types is their unique creativity, and focus on delivering it, you can make up the rest as you go along. If you can’t get those right over the course of time, you might as well pack up your bags and go home.

That sounds harsh, I know, but the paradox is that figuring out how to do those two things is both the simplest and hardest thing to do. The chapters I listed above explain why.

Linchpin is largely a synthetic manifesto – it’s like a healthy fusion of A Whole New Mind, Free, The War of Art, Trust Agents, and The Dip. Something being synthetic doesn’t make it any less novel, valuable, or artful; in a world of so much discrete information and so little understanding, it’s incredibly valuable to have someone tie all of them together. That’s Seth’s art.

Again, a weatherman doesn’t necessarily tell you new information; he takes all the reports, observations, and conditions and tells you a meaningful story that helps you understand what’s going on. A good, useful forecast is a synthesis in this way, and Linchpin is just that: it’s a book that helps you figure out how to thrive by becoming indispensable.


The Dip was a catalyst that changed my life and it’s on my list of “All Time Favorite Books Everyone Should Read.” While reading this book, I kept thinking about whether Linchpin was better than the Dip, which says a lot about the caliber of this book. Right now, I can’t tell you whether Linchpin is better than the Dip, but really, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s what I can tell you: Buy Linchpin. Read it once now and come back to it six months from now.

Get out there and change the world.

The links to the books in this post are affiliate links and this review falls under my review guidelines. Please purchase them by using my link if this review helps you make an informed purchase. Thanks!

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  1. says

    Well said Charlie. Highly creative people ( and artists) kind of put the structure out there so we can play in it, make the map, create the thing, guess with enthusiasm for the guessing. The brilliance is in setting up the context to encourage that play. Creating the space, giving permission, handing out some tools will net a gazillion times more wonderful, unexpected and truly treasurable results. Seth has done just that don’t you think?
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..Win =-.

  2. says

    Good write up.

    …Seth is talking to three different audiences – he’s talking to employees, employers, and entrepreneurs.

    It appears the Shakespeare Method is quite popular huh! :)

  3. says

    Ordered this bad boy last year, aka end of December on pre-order. Amazon sent me an email the other day saying it’s been shipped. So I’m just waiting!

    I’ve been picking away at books recently and I plan to read this front to back right away.

    From your review, and Hugh MacLeod’s blog interview I really feel I made the right decision. It’s right in line with where I am heading and it will surely elevate my thinking.

    .-= Scott Webb´s last blog ..Overcome Fear of Failure in Pursuit of Passions =-.

  4. says

    Personally I found The Dip to be very disappointing. I’ve found Godin to mostly be useful for inspiration, which like coffee, can be useful in moderation I suppose. His ideas are pretty basic–stand out, work hard, rebrand things to appear different, embrace technology, etc.

    I won’t be purchasing Linchpin after seeing what I think to be the damage done by “Tribes”–co-opting the tools of grassroots political organizing for commercial causes.

    Perhaps Godin’s best quality is his ability to create vocabulary used in the blogosphere.
    .-= Duff´s last blog ..The “Negative Social Mood” and Bill Harris =-.

    • says

      I’m glad you commented, Duff.

      It’s interesting that the Dip wasn’t your thing. I didn’t get it on my first pass of it, but I listened to the audio version on a trip and it really sank in then. It came at a time in my life that I needed to think seriously about how I was going to thrive, and, clearly, doing everything wasn’t making it happen.

      You’re right about some of his work being pretty basic. So is the Golden Rule. And the Tao Te Ching. Implementing the stuff is the hard part.

      I think you should read Linchpin, for a couple of reasons:

      1) There’s a bit of a discussion of conflict theory and educational theory there that I think you’ll appreciate being mentioned. I doubt you’ll like that it stays on the surface level, but I think you’ll appreciate it nonetheless.
      2) Like Tribes, I’m sure it’ll introduce some viral memes. It’s good for a critic to read the source and react to it rather than the commentary.

      Given your comment, I’m pretty sure we disagree about the impact of Tribes. The same book that “co-opted the tools of grassroots political organizing for commercial causes” can also be used to make those grassroots political and social organizations much more effective. True, entrepreneurs have absorbed and implemented the ideas more, but should we blame the Wright Brothers for the B-1 Bomber?

      The institutions that were once the outlet for social change are now either bankrupt, apathetic, or highly ineffective, and it turns out that entrepreneurs are often in the best position to actually affect social change. Unfortunately, the same people who were once catalysts for change now stall it because of their long-standing views of capitalism, business, and entrepreneurs, in general.

      Obviously, you and I will disagree about this – at least in the details – but there’s a long conversation to be had here. Perhaps for another day?

  5. says

    Love this review of Linchpin! I’m impressed you were able to pull your head out of the concepts far enough to make your spot-on “weatherman” analogy.

    I’m still lost in underlining, pulling quotes, dog-earing the pages and trying to convince everyone I know that they need to get their hands on a copy of this book.

    I also loved The Dip (probably quit my last job because of it) and I think Linchpin goes a step further and offers a multitude of concepts to digest.

    Kudos on a great review! Thanks for sharing your art.
    .-= Megan Strand´s last blog ..A Letter to Everyone On Seth Godin’s Linchpin =-.

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