Are You Indispensable?
Seth Godin


These days, I’m reading this book like it’s the holy scripture. I’m taking down notes at every turn, nodding as I go along, reciting it word-for-word for anyone who cares or not cares to listen. I’m the manic street preacher. It first goes to why we are unhappy at work and why it’s all our fault that we are not doing anything about it.

I only I could highlight the hell out of this book like a secondary student cramming for exam. But I’m 32 now and social decorum dictates that I do no such thing to a library book.

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labour, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about”

In Bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is different. It’s about you—your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.

There used to be two teams in every workplace; management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order our of chaos. The figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.

Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organisations. Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not be famous but they’re indispensable. And today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.

The Resistance

So, why is this so hard? It turns out that it’s biological. Deep within your brain lies the amygdala, the lizard brain. It sets out to sabotage anything that feels threatening, risky, or generous. Until you name, recognise, and deal with the resistance, you will stay frustrated.

What differentiate human from those apes in Space Odyssey 2001

Evolving a Brain That Could Create Civilization

Quick oversimplified biology lesson: here are four of the major systems in your brain. (Note: “system”is more of a conceptual hook for understanding what happens as opposed to a biological truth or hard wiring.) As you go down the list, each system becomes more civilized bust less powerful:

1. Brain Stem—breathing and other unconscious survival function
2. Limbic System—the lizard brain. Anger and revenge and sex and fear
3. Cerebellum—coordincation and motor control
4. Cerebrum—the newest and most sophisticated part of our brain, and also the one that is always overruled by the other three parts.

There are four lobes to the cerebrum, and their functions are the stuff to be proud of:

Frontal Lobe: reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, problem solving

Parietal Lobe: movement, orientation, recognition, perception of stimuli

Occipital Lobe: eyesight (and the essential, overlooked, and underrated orbitofrontal cortex, which integrates the lizard brain with your rational mind)

Temporal Lobe: hearing, memory, and speech

You can’t give a speech while drowning. You can’t fall in love while having a heart attack. You can’t write a sonnet at the same time you’re vomiting from being on a roller coaster.

The metaphor goes like this: the older a brain system is on the evolutionary scale (and the closer to the brains tem), the more power it has to suspend the actions of the younger systems. And the lizard brain within the limbic system is the loudest example of this metaphor. You rarely have a heart attack (I hope) and you probably won’t get so dizzy that you fall down, but your amygdala regularly suspends all civilized activity within your brain and takes over, putting you in a lockdown.
pg 109 (Evolving a Brain That Could Create Civilization)

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs. via dooce

Eye Contact and the Lizard Brain

The Rotterdam Zoo now distributes special eyeglasses for visitors to the gorilla area.

The glasses are sort of like the 3D glasses from the movies, except that they don’t change what you see. They change what the gorilla sees. The have a picture painted on them of your eyes looking to the side.

This way, when you are near the gorillas, it doesn’t look like you’re making eye contact with them. Which is threatening. Which freaks the gorillas out and has led to attacks.

Eye contact, all by itself, is enough to throw your lizard brain into a tizzy. imagine how scary it must be to set out to do something that will get you noticed, or perhaps even criticized.

There’s a reason that the number-one fear reported by most people is public speaking. Public speaking is one of the worst things the lizard brains can imagine.
pg 112 (Eye Contact and the Lizard Brain)

bokito kijker

I first heard about this story on Q.I. This is the story about this old lady who thinks she has made a connection with the alpha male and sat near the enclosure everyday gazing endearingly with the man in the house. And like any alpha male or rebellious adolescent, Bokito did not like being looked at.

What Cha Looking At, Ya Punk

On May 18, 2007, Bokito jumped over the ditch that separated his Rotterdam enclosure from the public and violently attacked a woman, dragging her around for tens of metres and inflicting bone fractures as well as more than a hundred bite wounds. He subsequently entered the nearby restaurant, causing panic among the visitors. During this encounter, three more people were injured as a result of the panic. Bokito was eventually sedated with the help of a tranquilizer gun and placed back in his cage.

The woman who was attacked had been a regular visitor to the great apes’ enclosure, visiting an average of 4 times per week. She had a habit of touching the glass that separated her from the gorillas, while making eye contact with Bokito and smiling at him, a practice that is discouraged by primatologists, as apes are likely to interpret human smiling as a form of aggressive display. Zoo employees had previously warned her against doing this, but she continued, claiming a special bond with him: in an interview with De Telegraaf she said, “If I laugh at him, he laughs back”

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Jerry Seinfeld

Fear of Public Speaking

Why is it that a common, safe, and important task is so feared by many people?

In Iconoclast, Georgory Berns uses his experience running a neuroscience research lab to explain the biological underpinnings of the resistance. In fact, public speaking is the perfect petri dish for exposing what makes us tick.

It turns out that the three biological factors that drive job performance and innovation are social intelligence, fear response, and perception. Public speaking brings all three together. Speaking to a group require social intelligence. We need to be able to make an emotional connection w ith people, talk about what they are interested in, and persuade them. That’s difficult, and we’re not wired for this as well as we are wired to, say, eat fried foods.

Public speaking also triggers huge fear response. We’re surrounded by strangers or people of power, all of whom might harm us. Attention is focused on us, and attention (according to our biology) equals danger.

lastly, and more subtly, speaking involves perception. It exposes how we see things, both the thing we are talking about and the response of the people in the room. Exposing that perception is frightening.

In contest between the rational desire to spread an idea by giving a speech and the biological phobia against it, biology has an unfair advantage.
pg 124 (Fear of Public Speaking)

Amplifying Little Thoughts

Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? If you take a second, you probably do. Now, do you remember what internal dialogue and little thoughts you had racing through your mind a few minutes before lunch yesterday? Almost certainly not.

Little thoughts are ephemeral. They come, and inevitably, they go. We don’t remember them an hour later, never mind a week or a month later.

A decade ago, I came up with the idea for Permission Marketing. In the shower. I still remember the where and the when. it was one of those ideas, something that could easily disappear. The resistance would be happy if all your little brainstorms disappeared, because then they wouldn’t represent a threat, would they?

The challenge is in being alert enough to write them down, to prioritize them, to build them, and to ship them out the door. It’s a habit, it’s easy to learn, and it’s frightening.
pg 148 (Amplifying Little Thoughts)

The Linchpin, the Artist, and the Map

So many times we want someone to tell us what to do and so many times that’s exactly the wrong approach.

Diamond cutters gave intrinsic understanding of the stone in their hands. They can touch and see exactly where the best lines are, they know. The greatest artists do just that. They see and understand the challenges before them, without carrying the baggage of expectations or attachment. The diamond cutter doesn’t imagine the diamond he wants. Instead, he sees the diamond that is possible.
pg 174 (The Linchpin, the Artist, and the Map)

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