Are You a Linchpin, Answer

This is a followup from my previous post, Are You a Linchpin, Assignment, see also Linchpin and the Art of Photography.  The easy answer to this question is, yes, of course I am a Linchpin.  It’s about like asking someone if they think they have any value in this world at all.  Well if they didn’t think so, they probably wouldn’t be here.  The hard part about the answer is not the yes or no, but the why.

Explaining to someone why you have value is not as easy to quantify.  I have value to my family because I cut the grass and hopefully bring joy to their lives, I have value to God for a variety of reasons, but can you quantify your value at work?  The value we have at work is the value we create.  It isn’t given to us by our boss, or written in a manual, or presented to us on a nice easy to follow map. Value is what we make of it, and how we use this creativity of ours to add value above what we are paid, because we want to, not because we are paid to do so.

I add a created value to my team, not for the tasks that are easily documented, but for the unique perspective I bring that only I have because only I have lived my life.  I am a technology troubleshooter, teacher, trainer, arbitrator, writer, photographer, problem solver, and all around idea negotiator, who generally doesn’t like hard and fast rules but concepts and ideas to work with.  If it can be easily explained and easily written down, anyone could do it, anyone could easily replace my value.  It is the unquantifiable that makes me a Linchpin.

To me being a good editor is an art, the art of a Linchpin.  I know how to edit content and copy, but I am lousy at it.  No matter how many times I read something I still miss obvious grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors that leap out to a good editor, or even a fair one.  We have a great editor on our team (@farrowj on Twitter) but even if you could write down exactly what she does, and if I tried to follow it, I would still be a lousy editor.  I doubt she has ever written it down either.

Being a Linchpin or not is more about choice than destiny or fate.  You aren’t just born a Linchpin and you are made one by your boss or customers.  You are a Linchpin if you choose to become one, choose to share your unique art with others beyond what is written in a manual.

Are you a Linchpin, and if so, why?

Linchpin and the Art of Photography

This is the final followup from my previous posts, Are You a Linchpin, Assignment and an upcoming post Are You a Linchpin, Answer.  I took the above photo of Seth Godin back in 2009, see Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin // Review, and shortly after I took that photo shoot, I gave up my art for dead.  I had spent the better part of 15-17 years chiseling away at my art of photography and had felt like I was rarely valued for that art (monetarily speaking). In fact, in over 15 years of actively shooting, I probably made less than $1,200 total ($1,000 of that coming within the last 6 months of that 15 years), on an investment of probably close to $30,000 or more in equipment.  With a degree in Accounting, schooled in the ways of business, that didn’t compute.  Expenses always have to be less than revenue, but I was looking at it totally wrong.

Rarely does a book motivate me to make an actual change. Many books motivate me, but not enough to do anything about it.  Linchpin on the other hand was one of those that just happen to light a fire under my feet and get me to look at my art in another way. Mainly, that an art is done for the sake of the artist, and those who receive his gift.  I knew this from the moment I picked up a camera, but over time and many other circumstances, I had forgotten that.

Profit, something which I was always taught was a simple mathematical formula; “revenue minus expenses equals profit”, was totally rearranged in Linchpin.  Godin explains profit, from the business side, as the value you, the artist, add or contribute minus the amount you are paid.  Same thing really as the MBA version, but when you look at the work, as “value” it adds something more than just money, it changes everything.

A fast food worker at McDonald’s can add a wide range of value to the company, yet they are pretty much all paid the same thing, minimum wage, so there is no reason to create or add value above a certain level, but that doesn’t mean some don’t create and add value where it is not needed or appreciated.  Brother Lawrence was one such person. A 17th century monk, and someone who had enormous value to add to all of society in his book of letters, spent much of his life doing dishes, as a cook.  His conversations with God and letters to his friends make an incredible book, and it is free, you can read it right now, doesn’t cost you a dime.

My art of photography had created value for years.  I gave it away to the wrong people, businesses and companies, and tried to charge those in my close circle.  So thanks Seth, I am going to get back to the business of creating my own unique art.  I don’t know how I am going to accomplish that, I have no equipment, no resources to buy any equipment, and at the moment, no clients to shoot for, but those are just details.  I have going on 2 decades of knowledge in my own art, the equipment is just a tool.

How to Determine if You Are a Linchpin :: Assignment

This week I was given a seemingly easy assignment. To answer the question; are you a Linchpin, and if yes, why? If you are familiar with the phrase that Seth Godin has made into a coined term at this point, the immediate answer to that question is easy, yes, of course. But the longer I thought about the second part of the question the more I got knotted up into a self debate of what exactly is a Linchpin before I could determine the why of the yes or no.

In short, a Linchpin is the irreplaceable person. You might say that in today’s culture and business market, there is no such thing as a person who can’t be easily replaced.  For a large percentage of the workforce, this is probably the case, but the key to that statement is “easily” replaced.  Many jobs today are just mental factory workers, plug and play, just take out person A and replace them with person B and in a short period of time, no one will notice the difference, certainly not the balance sheet.  It’s all about the value that each warm body adds to the factory by following the manual or map for each task.

The factory workers today are programmers, accountants, customer service reps, students (all positions I have done in the past), any position that can be given a set of procedures, required to then follow them without any thinking or creativity required, expected, or desired, to complete their task.

A Linchpin on the other hand is someone who creates spurts of enormous value to the company or organization by doing those tasks that can’t be written down in a manual because they require art, the art of thinking, the art of challenging the status-quo, the art of being a problem solver or troubleshooter, a person who is hard to replace in a replaceable world.

How about it, are you a Linchpin, and if so, why? I’m still thinking about it myself but I’ll let you know next week.