The Book that Changed my Life

Ok, maybe not my life, but definitely my career, and how I think about my role in my job. Linchpin, by Seth Godin. Now, if you read this blog, ever, you will know that I think Seth Godin is brilliant, and I read most everything he writes. Linchpin by Seth Godin

I was reading Linchpin last year, as an Executive Director of a non-profit, while we were working in Haiti, with children orphaned after the earthquake. I was doing something meaningful and amazing. But I really wasn’t happy. I wanted more growth of the artistic side in my life. I needed to do work that mattered, not just to others, but to me. I was looking to take some risks, to make those things happen, but was terrified. Godin wrote
Anxiety is practicing failure in advance....It’s fear about fear....Anxiety is the exaggeration of the worst possible what-if, accompanied by self-talk that leads to the relentless minimization of the actual odds of success.

The overarching theme of Linchpin is that business as usual isn’t going to work. Our economy has changed, so that the cog-in-machine mentality is no longer viable. Each worker has to bring something creative, unique, and perhaps even risky to their role. Often, this means creating your own job, but sometimes, it’s just finding ways to create “art” in your current situation. For me, it meant a bit of both.

Linchpin helped me clarify and prioritize what I really wanted in my life.  Godin writes about art a lot in this book. As he does, he means that art can be created in any job, even corporate or factory jobs, because it comes from the intention of the person doing the job.  He defines art as “...a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” Another definition he uses is “Art is a personal gift that changes the recepient.”  When I read it, realized how important the “art” (dance and theatre) part of my life was to me. That I LOVED my non-profit work, and didn’t want to give it up. But that I needed to find a way to feed my artist side.

I left my ED job. I took a job with a private family foundation as a grants manager. It was less consuming than the ED position, but I was still doing work that made a difference in the lives of others.  And, I had more time to grow as an artist. I’m only part-time. Leaving lots of time to be in the theatre, in the studio, in the classroom- performing, creating and teaching. This balance has made me not just a better artist, but a better non-profit worker.

I think the most important thing I learned from Linchpin is to take a risk on myself. I’m worth it. And the world needs people committed to making art, in every field. People interested in being human, making connections, taking risks. People who are willing to give of themselves to help other people find their art, their gifts, their change. Linchpin ends with this beautiful paragraph:

The result of the this art, these risks, the gifts, and the humanity coming together is both wonderful and ironic. The result of  getting back in touch with our pre-commercial selves will actually create a  post-commercial world that fees us, enriches us, and gives us the stability we’ve been seeking for so long.