A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.
This choice doesn’t require you to quit your job, though it challenges you to rethink how to do your job.
It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map.
Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what is in it for you and start giving gifts that change people.
Not by doing something that is easy or that you have been trained to do, but by understanding how the rules of our world have fundamentally changed and by taking advantage of this moment to become someone the world believes is indispensable.
The take-care-of-you bargain — not working now
An opportunity to actually enjoy what you do, to make a difference to your colleagues and your customers, and to unlock the genius you have been hiding all these years.
It is futile to work hard at restoring the take-care-of-yourself bargain. the bargain is gone, and it’s not worth whining about and it’s not effective to complain.
The average comes from a little voice inside of their head that is angry and afraid. That voice is the resistance–your lizard brain–and it wants you to be average (and safe).
Every day, if you focus on the gifits, art, and connections that characterize the linchpin, you will become a little more indispensable.
The problem is that the bureaucrats, note takes, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers, and fearful employees are in pain. They are in pain because they are overlooked, underpaid, laid off, and stressed out.
“Making the choice
If value is created by what you choose to do (as opposed to what you were born with), then the essence of becoming a linchpin is s choice. Deciding to overcome the anxiety (false fear) associated with leading and connecting is the choice that few are willing to make.
The culture of connection
Linchpins don’t work in a vacuum. Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product you create, because indispensable work is work that is connected to others.
The seven abilities of the linchpin
What does it take to be indispensable, the person they can’t live without?
When it doesn’t work
There are no guarantee that the marketplace (commerce) will embrace your ideas (art). And when the connection isn’t made, blind persistence isn’t always the best approach.
Today is a turning point, a once-in-lifetime moment in time when you get to make a choice.
Every day, people like you are choosing to go down a less well-defined path, one in which they make choices and make a difference. It turns out that not only does this fulfill our potential as workers and citizens, it is also precisely what the marketplace demands. Instead of focusing on complying with management as a long-term strategy for getting mroe stuff and being more secure, we have a chance to describe a powerful vision for our future and to actually make it happen. This new dream isn’t about obedience, it’s about vision and engagement.”
Continue from Godin’s book
“Is it possible to do hard work in a cubicle?
To become indispensable involves doing difficult work. Labor in the best of the word. The act of bringing your whole self to work, of engaging in tasks that require maturity and soul and personal strength, and givers of gifts. They bring humanity to the work, they don’t leave it at home. The hard work isn’t lifting or shoving or sharpening. The hard work is being brave enough to make a difference.
So, why is this so hard? It turns out that it’s biological. It turns out that it is biological. Deep within your brain lies the amygdala, the lizard brain. It sets out to sabotage anything that feels threatening, risky, or geneous. Until you name, recognize, and deal with the resistance, you will stay frustrated.
The powerful culture of gifts
Art is a gift. A real gift, not part of a deal, not a transaction entered into with reciprocity in mind. The culture of gifts has a long history on this planet, and understanding how it brings people together is a critical step in becoming indispensable.
There is no map
Indispensable linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next. If you have a job where someone tells you what to do next, you have just given up the chance to create value.”
Seth Godin is my favorite author. I read a couple of his books. I read this one last year — Linchin: Are you indispensable? I took some notes while reading it. Below are the reading notes.
“Thinking about your choice
And it is a choice. A choice to buy into the fear and the system or to chart your own path and create value as you do. It is your job to figure out how to chart the path, because charting the path is the point.
Indoctrination: How we got here
The scam is that just about everything you were taught in school and by the media was an invented myth, a fable designed to prep you to be a compliant worker in the local factory.
School exists for a reason, but that reason might not be what you think it is.
Become the Linchpin
The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, some who can invent, connect, create, and make things happens. Every worthwhile institution has indispensable people who make differences like these.”
The incident that I described in my last few postings is by no means an isolated one. In fact, I hear more grievances from my colleagues than I care to share.
During our March monthly department meeting, we invited a person from outside the company to hear our work-related grievances. One prerequisite to our free expression is to ask the manager to leave the meeting. Isn’t that interesting! As one colleague put, “I will be able to say what I want if she is present.”
That says a lot about democracy, freedom of speech, and all the lofty ideas thrown around in the air. In fact, everybody knows absolute freedom of speech is an illusion. Then, what can we do regarding the grievances that people might have?
I always have this idea–having a grapevine blog, an internal blog where people share anonymously their work experience with a healthy dose of decency. It can be checked and monitored by an outside inspector. It serves as a window for the management to know what is in peoples’s mind while working at their office.
Well, just a thought.
I was upset and arguing back and forth, to no avail. Guess what, the same high rate was charged on my April paycheck. I contacted this HR person. She told me they would fix it and refund the extra charge on my next paycheck. Finally in May I did get the value low rate but no refund at all. Foeget it. I am tired of the whole thing. I hope I could put it behind me totally.
The cost of this event goes beyond the cost to me. Here’s the list of collateral damages of the event:
(1) It sucked my energy when I was arguing with HR.
(2) It cost me time when I had to contact here and there to resolve it. And of course, it cost me time to record the whole thing here in order to forget it.
(3) It creates a distrust of HR and other people. That benefit rep disappears totally after my last contact with him. How dependable that can be!
(4) The worst part is this bad memory and negativity associated with dealing with HR
I apologize if I have sounded negative. Too bad that’s one of those unpleasant experiences that I thought it beneficial to share here so that readers can learn something.
The final take-home message: when it comes to your interest, don’t trust anybody else. You have to be careful, be it bank, HR, or credit card or anybody other than you.
The KU HR person told me I was a smoker because I did not complete a smoking history statement.
This is a big joke. I told her, “Number one, I have never smoked in my life. Number two, if this smoking statement was required to get the value rate, I am sure I have completed it because I would not risk paying a high rate by refusing to complete it. If I have not done it, it must be because I was not told to do so. Number three, if I have completed it, there is a possibility that they lost the form.”
The HR contact person, who was unkind, to say the least, told me that HR could not make mistakes. It was me who didn’t complete this form and caused this high rate. I could complete, signe on the smoke form and fax it to her now to get the value rate from now on, but they could not fix the past.
I don’t get it. Aren’t HR human beings? How can you be so certain HR people are error-free? Plus, who has more incentive to be careful and not making mistake? Of course, I have the incentive because it is detrimental to me if I make a mistake. I am not that stupid to deliberately hurt myself. On the other hand, HR has zero incentive to be diligent. It costs them nothing if they make mistakes.
I work for KU Cancer Center. There is one HR (human resources) controlling the whole KU employees. The HR office is as remote as stars in the sky or worse than that, at least you can see the star.
Toward the end of March, when I talked to a benefit representative, I realized I was charged a higher rate of medical insurance premium, like over $40 more than what I should pay per month. The rep promised me to investigate into the matter. Nothing came back after a few days. So I contacted him. He told me he contacted HR about it and was waiting to hear from HR.
He could wait but I couldn’t as next pay period was coming soon and another extra charge would be taken from my paycheck. So I called my insurance company, blue cross blue shield KC. I was told it was HR who determined the rate.
I spent nearly a day search for a HR contact person and finally got an answer.
On 5/3, Friday evening, my daughter went to bed very early. I, on the other hand, normally go to bed very late because I don’t have to get up early the next day.
I often share some good article on facebook. That day I was going to post a link there, I saw a friend of mine posted a picture showing snow in early May. To my surprise, I saw a response from the former CEO of the practice that I once worked.
I was even more surprised when I saw how much information people share on their facebook or on other social media, and how they actually share all their postings to the world without any restriction.
I have not done any research on the consequences of this sharing. But for some reason, I don’t think it wise to overshare your information online.
I read this story on Huffingtonpost on 5/2/2013 — a group of young college or post graduates having one thing in common: a huge debt on their backs.
What is disturbing to me is this sense of unjustice or being misguided or being abused or this I-am-not-to-blame attitude. Like a girl who has borrowed deeply for a creative writing major says, “I’m all for paying high prices for good value — and my education was certainly of quality — but I’m not in the market to be abused. From interest rates to the ease of borrowing, to confusion of terms and steadily climbing price of college tuition, I guess I have to thank all of the higher education system while I have the floor to speak. To the loan companies, the banks and private colleges: thank you. I and my peers will forever be indebted to you.”
Furthermore, she questions “why are my poor peers and I being punished for wanting to do what we love in the first place? Is my generation not one of information-hungry self-starters? Are we not the focused dreamers raised on Harry Potter and ADHD medication?” I would say she punishes herself for getting herself into this situation.
Sounds like a bunch of dreamers out there, not knowing they need to grow up, make a living on their own and be financially responsible in the first place before they can talk about their grand impractical dreams. Somebody got to pay for their immaturity and not doing research on job market before plunging themselves into a life of debt burden.
Here are the four energy needs that we all need to meet in order to perform at our best: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The important point to remember about the need and productivity is “only when employers encourage and support us in meeting these needs that we can cultivate the energy, engagement, focus, creativity, and passion that fuel great performance.” p. 9.
Nice thought, though I believe the author has moved into an ideal world or thinks in a too simplistic manner. I cannot see how an employer encourages and supports the employees in meeting their needs. Very often employers have their own agenda, and encouraging and supporting employees are seldom part of their agenda.
Continued from previous posting.
Another interesting point about the three violinists is, on the average, those in the top two groups slept 8.6 hours a day, while the bottom group slept an average of 7.8 hours.
Anders Ericsson’s study suggests that higher performers work more intensely and recover more deeply than low performers. The high performers generate the highest value by working intensely, without interruption, for no more than 90 minutes at a time and no more than 4 hours a day.
Ericsson believes 4 hours a day might represent “a more general limit on the maximal amount of deliberate practice that can be sustained over extended time without exhaustion.”
That is to say, we actually only need to work for 4 hours a day instead of 8 as we do today. Beyond 4 hours, we are only dragging our feet around waiting for the time to go home, without being productive at all.
I must say there is something true in this statement.
Continued from previous posting.
The high performers not only work with high concentration and take intermittent break, they also do the hard thing first. No procratination.
The author cites the 1993 study done by Anders Ericsson. The study involves 30 violinists around the age of 8. They were divided into three groups based on ratings from their professors. The study required them to keep a diary of all their activities. All of them agreed that “practice alone” had the biggest impact on improving their performance.
Here’s the interesting part: nearly all of them agreed that practice was the most difficult activity in their lives and least enjoyable. But what made the top two groups different from the bottom one was the top ones “practiced an average of 3.5 hours a day, typically did so in three separate sessions of no more than 90 minutes each, mostly in the mornings, when they were presumably most rested and least distracted. They took renewal breaks between each session.”
The bottom group practiced an average of 1.4 hours a day, with no fixed schedule, but often in the afternoon, which suggested that they were procrastinating and avoid doing the “least enjoyable.”
It seems low performers not only work less but also are likely to be procrastinators.
Continued from previous posting.
We don’t actually produce more values by working longer hours. In other word, the best way of being productive and getting more done is not to work longer and more continuously.
Here’s what the author explains, “the more hours we work and the longer we go without real renewal, the more we begin to default, reflexively, into behavior that reduce our own effectiveness–impatience, frustration, distraction, and disengagement–and take a pernicious toll…”
Because, as many studies suggest, “we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest.” Without this intermittent break, we “live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaged in any of them–or fully disengaged from any of them.”
Continued from previous posting.
Here’s the paradox of this confusing culture of demanding more and more and resulting in less and less. According to the author, “The ethic of more, bigger, faster generates value that is narrow, shallow, and short term. More and more, paradoxically, leads to less and less.” p. 4
As we try to meet the outside demand for more and more, we exert ourselves to the maximum, give away our time and life to the fullest, run fastest, thus leaving ourselves less and less time to breath, to reflect the meaning of our experience, to feel and think like human beings.
In our attempt to make ourselves richer externally and materially, we empty ourselves spiritually and become shallow living organisms.
Indeed, it is time to slow down, pause, think, reflect and live like a human.
On 4/27, the day my daughter came back from Minneapolis with her school, I started reading this book by Tony Schwartz: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, published in 2010.
The book touches many problems that we are so familiar with today, like workplace growing bigger and faster, like people putting in more and more time into their work but feeling like getting less and less done, like transaction speed increasing exponentially, like rappers bubbling faster and faster, like more emails to answer, like more customers to serve, like more places to go, more meetings to attend, more tasks crying for your attention, yet less time for any of them…
The consequences of this “furious activity” is it exacts a series of silent costs: less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term.”
Sounds like we become more like machines and less human in the way we live.
Today I will pay a visit to China, like last year, except my daughter will go with me this year. Because of this, we will need to make a trip down south to see her grandmother.
During our last monthly meeting on 4/25, we talked about how to send secure emails to outside groups. This reminds me of one incident some years ago when I just started working at research section.
When I put patient’s name on the subject line in my email to a coworker, she forwarded my email to the manager who gave me a dress-down on protecting patient’s privacy, and much more, making it sound a severe break of law.
I don’t mind taking a lecture from the manager, but why couldn’t this coworker tell me directly? In fact, this is exactly the culture of my workplace, where talking behind your back is the norm. It went with all the other coworkers in my office at that time. Too much gossiping around.
Something I really want to forget.
Here it is, in case the image doesn’t show up — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Now there is even a name for this kind of behavior when you spend endless hours in a trance scrolling through pictures after pictures or exchanging meaningless conversation or clicking here and there opening hundreds of browser tabs. This is called “flow.”
This is fully analyzed in the article “Online flow experience, problematic Internet use and Internet procrastination,” by Andrew Thatcher, etc, carried on Computer in Human Behavior journal, vol24, issue5, 9/2008, 2236-54.
Flow is defined as “a total absorption in the work at hand.” Procrastination is to avoid doing what one should do. The irony is flow becomes a tool for a procrastinator to avoid doing his/her work.
We want people to be in a flow state when they are doing what they should do, like fully occupied in their work, but if people use flow to avoid doing their work, they set themselves up for the life of a loser.
Joseph R. Ferrari’s Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done caught my attention as I was postponing working on my second paper. Of course, I was thinking of many other people in the similar situation.
I am sure I have written a lot on this topic. But the problem persists and the topic is permanently relevant. Most people procrastinate now and then, but about 20 percent of the population are procrastinators. Ferrari says “A procrastinator is someone who habitually and consistently delays tasks.”
Here are some of his suggestions:
(1) Try to find out why you postpone tasks.
(2) Keep a to-do list or planner, and update it often.
(3) Set your priorities, and tackle the most urgent matters first. After the most pressing tasks, do the worst jobs next. Putting them off will just make your whole workload seem more impossible.
(4) Set realistic goals and deadlines. Don’t bite more than you can chew.
(5) Set some strict rules on using cellphone and email checking
(6) Team up with the most productive friends or colleagues.
(7) Be punctual.
More on this later.
I read this piece of news on 4/18, posted by Dominic Gates on The Seattle Times.
“The head of engineering at Boeing Co.’s Commercial Airplanes unit informed managers Thursday the jetmaker will reduce its engineering workforce by up to 1,700 positions this year, with as many as 700 job cuts coming through layoffs. Layoff notices to the first of those employees will go out today.”
I don’t need to get into the details of why and when. The news reminds me of the time when Sprint was laying off people in thousands and I was one of them in early 2001.
Over a decade has passed since then. We expect the end of tunnel is near and economy will pick it up soon. But it doesn’t seem so. I shared the news with my daughter. She said they shouldn’t have any problem finding another job soon. Glad she is optimistic about job market. Let us hope there are plenty of jobs for engineering people.
On 4/17, I received an email from a friend of mine, who asked me “Can you give me your he-xin-jia-zhi-guan (core value) with a limited words?”
Never mind why he asked this and why it has to be “with a limited words” and I know I have the tendency to get lengthy. I wrote the following,
For myself, do the right thing, do my best and have a goal to live by every day, enjoy what I have at the moment.
Towards others, be nice and respect human beings for their intrinsic value.
I have tried to live with less prejudice but it’s hard to be free from it.
The only justification for them is, they make me happy. Indeed, do the right thing is the only way that will leave me happy. I will be tortured and unhappy by my own wrongdoings.
On 4/23, the day my daughter went to Minneapolis with her school, I read this piece from a book. It is writer Sherwood Anderson’s letter to his son written on 1927. I love it and am amazed how wise he was as a father to a teenager child.
“The best thing, I dare say, is first to learn something well so you can always make a living. Bob seems to be catching on at the newspaper business and has had another raise. He is getting a good training by working in a smaller city. As for the scientific fields, any of them require a long schooling and intense application. If you are made for it nothing could be better. In the long run you will have to come to your own conclusion.
The arts, which probably offer a man more satisfaction, are uncertain. It is difficult to make a living.
If I had my own life to lead over I presume I would still be a writer but I am sure I would give my first attention to learning how to do things directly with my hands. Nothing gives quite the satisfaction that doing things brings.
Above all avoid taking the advice of men who have no brains and do not know what they are talking about. Most small businessmen say simply — ‘Look at me.’ They fancy that if they have accumulated a little money and have got a position in a small circle they are competent to give advice to anyone.
Next to occupation is the building up of good taste. That is difficult, slow work. Few achieve it. It means all the difference in the world in the end.
I am constantly amazed at how little painters know about painting, writers about writing, merchants about business, manufacturers about manufacturing. Most men just drift.
There is a kind of shrewdness many men have that enables them to get money. It is the shrewdness of the fox after the chicken. A low order of mentality often goes with it.
Above all I would like you to see many kinds of men at first hand. That would help you more than anything. Just how it is to be accomplished I do not know. Perhaps a way may be found. Anyway, I’ll see you this summer. We begin to pack for the country this week.
Ok, I read this article, “10 Crap Things About Adulthood” by Lizzy Shramko, on 4/18/2013. Here is the list.
9. Health Insurance. High deductible. Low deductible…
8. Your body.
6. Coffee addictions.
5. Business Casual.
4. The more money you make, the more money you spend.
3. Dreams are dead. You would think that more experience leads to higher aspirations and lofty goals. Not true. People have been beaten down with pragmatism and a shitty economy, when you couple that with having to pay your bills and health insurance copays, this one kind of makes sense. You no longer have time to dream about all the cool shit you want to do. You’re not going to Paris. Your shitty app company is never going to launch. This is probably the last year you will be jamming with the guys. So forget about your dreams.
2. Being a woman. You thought being a girl as a teenager was shitty and confusing, well buckle up and get ready for a never-ending crap ride of sexual harassment and double standards.
1. Racism. Police officers don’t stop racial profiling. Neither do TSA agents or people who work in department stores. In fact, it gets worse. As with the aforementioned dudes it’s as though white people grow more and more indignant and refuse to acknowledge their privilege. If you bring up anything about race they will crouch down in a defensive position and attack. You might even be accused of reverse racism. Actually you will most definitely be accused of reverse racism.
It’s been a month since Shawnee Mission office has merged with ours. To help people get to know each other well, we received the following as a self-introduction. We were asked to complete and post them by our desks so that other people passing by will have some fun reading and getting to know us. I thought it fun to share them here.
HI, MY NAME IS ______________________________________
GET TO KNOW ME……
What was your favorite food when you were a child?
What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
What is one of your favorite quotes?
What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
What is your favorite form of exercise?
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?
What sound do you love?
If you could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?
If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
If you were immortal for a day, what would you do?
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
If you could know the answer to any question, besides “What is the meaning of life?”, what would it be?
If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
What would you name the autobiography of your life?
What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?
What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?
When was the last time you had an amazing meal?
What do you miss most about being a kid?
What is something you learned in the last week?
What story does your family always tell about you?
On 4/16, I read this one about U.S. economy. “IMF Lowers 2013 Economic Growth Forecasts” by Scott Neuman.
“The International Monetary Fund has lowered its projections for global economic growth, including in the United States, citing sharp cuts in government spending and the struggling eurozone.
The Washington, D.C.-based international lender’s World Economic Outlook shaved its 2013 forecast to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent. It also trimmed its projection for 2014 to 4 percent from 4.1 percent.
The IMF on Tuesday also pared back its forecast for growth in the U.S. economy this year, to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent.”
From this I think of many college graduates who have already been unemployed for a year or even longer. The dreadful part is this prolonged economic downturn will indeed create a lost generation.
Which is better, positive or negative?
I have tried to find out how the authors determine positive and negative. Or what do they mean by positive and negative? Which one is better? No, the authors do not answer these question directly. They make no value judgment as to which is better.
But, from the way they are presented here, all positive instincts — Action, Fight, Acquisition, Association, Mating, Parental care are better than negative ones — Flight, Avoidance, Privacy, Refusal, Filial dependence, if you look at the pairs in terms of survival of the fittest.
Furthermore, all habits associated with positive instincts seem better than those associated with negative one.
My understanding is, those who possess predominantly positive instincts are in better position to compete and survive in the world.
What about the ordinary people? If the heroes are innovative as it is shown in the table, its opposite is imitation.
That is, according to the authors, “As submissive natures unite with masterful individuals (heroes) to make the order and operation of a society, so the imitative majority (the ordinary folks) follows the innovating minority, and this follows the originative individual.”
I would say the minority people who can truly change the course of history are not necessarily innovating. Sometimes, it is simply because they are powerful or they have money power.
What is history in a large picture? It is “the conflict of minorities; the majority applauds the victor and supplies material of social experiment.”
Wow! It is so true when we look at the wars today. The minority like Bush and his gangs wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, whatever excuses they gathered. Who supplied human materials? The vast majority of ordinary people!
Don’t societies and civilizations make progress throughout history? What about social evolution? It is, according to the author, “an interplay of custom with origination” of extraordinary persons.
The authors call these persons “initiative individual –the ‘great man,’ the ‘hero,’ the ‘genius’ –regains his place as a formative force in history. He is not quite the god …; he grows out of his time and land, and is the product and symbol of events as well as agent and voice; without some situation requiring a new response his new idas would be untimely and impractical.”
Next, the authors give examples like Churchill, Napoleon, Marx, Lenin and Mao Tsedong.
The situation demands someone to jump out and lead. The higher the crisis, the higher is the hero’s place. The hero might remain normal and unknown if not for the special occasion or events.
“Events take place through him as well as around him; his ideas and decisions enter vitally into the course of history.”
So wonderfully said!
I have such a fond memory of the holidays that people celebrated during my childhood, May First International Workers’ Day being one of them. Of course, what follows is June first Children’s Day. Back then, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now.
Only after I arrived and settled in America did I begin to appreciate and understand these holidays. I also realized how provincial and parochial the mainstream American culture is. To the extent that I really don’t want to be associated with this culture.
For this International Labors’ Day, let us remember the famous rallying cries of communism articulated by Karl Marx —
Workers of the world, unite!