Do you have a lizard brain? Seth Godin, marketing genius and author of the new book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, believes we all do, and to be a successful entrepreneur we need to learn how to resist the messages it is trying to tell us.
Last week I, along with more than 800 other attendees at an event here in Southern California, listened with rapt attention as Seth Godin called for us to be transformative, to accept our genius status, and to do “work that matters.” In an interview with Steve Cunningham on Internet news blog Mashable, Godin explained that the lizard brain is our “original brain, the brain that a chicken has. [And it speaks] up on our behalf all the time. [The] lizard brain is responsible for fear and revenge and anger and … survival.” All this leads to hesitation and resistance, as that little voice in our head tells us, “Don’t do that, you’ll get in trouble. Don’t do that, they’ll laugh at you. Don’t do that, it won’t work.”
Godin claims that our brains are hardwired to “run and duck” and that they “push us to fit in,” the very antithesis of how an entrepreneur should think. We need to quiet these lizard brains of ours because, as Godin explains, “the very thing we’re scared of is the very thing that offers the opportunity.” Successful people, or “artists” as Godin dubs them, are those individuals who have “figured out how to deal with their lizard brains.”
As Godin says, we have to be willing to be laughed at in order to solve problems and lead the way. But if we just “run with the pack,” he says, we have no right to envy “the successful person who does the opposite.”
There are several aspects of this for business owners to consider. One is what Godin calls “The Boss’s Lie.” When preparing to hire a new employee, have you ever had these thoughts?
- “What I want is someone who will do exactly what I tell them to.”
- “What I want is someone who works cheap.”
- “What I want is someone who shows up on time and doesn’t give me a hard time.”
As Godin points out, these are not the type of employees who will help your company grow, who will help propel you forward. On the contrary, says Godin, what you really want is “someone who changes everything, someone who makes dreams come true. What the boss really wants is someone who can see the reality of today and describe a better tomorrow. What the boss really wants is a linchpin.”
So what exactly is a linchpin? According to Godin, a linchpin “is the essential element, the person who holds part of the operation together. Without the linchpin, the thing falls apart.” Obviously, as he points out, the “easiest linchpin examples to find are CEOs and entrepreneurs.”
But to build a successful business, you ideally want to create an organization with some linchpin employees. Just this very thought scares many an entrepreneur. They think submissive employees are easier to control, and of course they are. But they’re also not going to drive sales, develop new products, or create customer loyalty. Linchpins do that. Linchpins go beyond the mediocre. Linchpins are not happy doing average work. (Obviously, however, you can’t have an entire company of linchpin employees. And some jobs demand you follow the rules and color only within the lines.)
In his book Godin addresses the concept of the “American Dream” and how it’s changed over time, particularly after the end of the industrial era. The old American Dream consisted of these basic rules:
- Keep your head down.
- Follow Instructions.
- Show up on time.
- Work hard.
- Suck it up.
The new American Dream, Godin says, is rapidly being embraced around the world. And the rules have changed considerably:
- Be remarkable.
- Be generous.
- Create art.
- Make judgment calls.
- Connect people and ideas.
Working these concepts into your business practices may not seem easy at first glance, but Godin believes that if you do these things, you will be rewarded.
Godin also believes that to be successful, you must, as he puts it, “ship it.” What he means by this is that it’s not enough to simply have great ideas; you must also see them through and get them into the marketplace. All too often our shipping dates (this is not literal, ideas can be shipped as well) are missed because our creative ideas are developed without any outside feedback and only when they’re ready to launch do we let everyone weigh in. Arguments ensue and delays set in. Instead, Godin advises that we hash out our ideas early on to get the kinks worked out from the start.
I have been a Seth Godin fan for a long time, and listening to him speak was one of the most valuable hours I’ve ever spent. I left his speech full of inspiration, and hope you can use his ideas to propel your own business to the next level.