Seth Godin is the author of over ten bestselling books about marketing, change, and work. He advocates for independent thought and against passive acceptance, challenging individuals to shrug off the status quo and embrace their potential as artists and creators. I recently met with Seth to discuss his new book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
According to Godin, the current economic recession isn’t the bursting of a bubble or even a temporary state, as the media pundits would have you believe. It’s the dismantling of the industrial age.
“Today’s economy has fallen apart,” he argues. “There is no more money to be made in building factories filled with average people making average stuff as cheaply as possible. We’ve raced to the bottom and it’s made us rich. But it’s a race that has no winners. We’ve shifted work down to the lowest common denominator and we haven’t anywhere to go.”
This void has created major opportunities for change; change that demands people abandon the comfort of monotony. The jobs he describes as “factory-like” don’t necessarily take place in actual factories.
“We can all agree that the worker who puts widget A into widget B all day is a factory worker. But I want to argue that someone who fills out the same insurance form every day, who plugs numbers into a spreadsheet every day, is a factory worker as well. All of these jobs can be taught from manuals. And as soon as a job can be written down in a manual, you can find someone else to perform the task more cheaply.”
As formerly American jobs become outsourced with greater and greater frequency, it’s easy to see that this is true. But what can we do about it?
Godin wants people to accept that they’re living in a revolution and to prosper from that realization.
“We’ve been teaching our children to fill in circles with number 2 pencils, to take notes, to listen and not question. And in the past, people could easily make a living from doing just that!” says Godin. But he believes that time has ended, and that children should instead be taught how to solve interesting problems and how to become leaders.
“We need to think hard about what tools we’re really giving them,” he argues. “Doing what’s socially acceptable is easy and convenient. But I don’t care if your child is accepted to Harvard. If he or she isn’t learning how to connect people and how to make positive change, then the $250,000 of debt you’re going to accumulate isn’t worth it.”
Godin wonders why anyone would choose to plug in data when they could create art instead?
“Can anyone become an artist? I feel really strongly about this. Art used to mean painting. And to be sure, there are still painters today. Playwrights are artists. So are poets. But I define art differently. An artist is any individual who brings his or her humanity to a problem, and solves that problem in a way that hasn’t been done before. So, we’ve all been artists at one time or another. Art is about challenging the status quo, about making human connections. The opposite of art is being a cog in the machine, doing solely what you’re told,” he says.
And thankfully, Godin believes the opportunities to make money solely by doing what someone else tells us to do are fading.
Godin says, “All that’s left is art. Making our work matter. What better thing could there be?”