Would they miss you?
This question lies at the heart of Seth Godin’s best-selling book, Linchpin, challenging us in every sphere of life.
Are we really as indispensable as we assume we are?
Are You Making an Impact?
What would happen if your business closed its doors?
What would happen if your church or non-profit ran out of capital and disbanded?
What if your family broke up?
What would happen if you gave up social media?
What happens if you died in a car accident?
Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?
The World Needs Linchpins
Being a vital part of our world means we’d be missed if we were gone. Our invaluable contribution would be noticed, and the space we inhabit would be less __________ (fill in the blank with the value you add) because we were no longer shaping it.
Today, our cities need citizens who see themselves as linchpins. Our neighborhoods need residents who see themselves as contributors. Our churches and non-profits need members and donors who see themselves as givers, not merely consumers. And our businesses need team members who are looking to serve, not be served.
We need linchpins like we never have before.
What Do Linchpins Do?
I believe linchpins do three things, which make all the difference.
1. Linchpins serve where they are.
It’s tremendously difficult to be planted and focused in one area today. We pick our heads up and constantly check out what others are doing somewhere else. While the knowledge and connectivity are enlightening, the result is often a lack of focus and effectiveness where we are.
We want to lead and have influence, but we don’t understand those come from serving others. I remind my team and church often, “If serving is below you, then leading is beyond you.” We must resist the temptation to want to stand on a stage without putting in the work to build it first.
I love the spirit of John Wesley. He once said, “Do what you can with you have where you are.” This kind of faithful optimism is what changes the places we live, work, study, and play.
When we serve where we are, our location often grows because our service opens new doors. We make an invaluable contribution where we are and gain opportunities to make additional contributions other places.
If we cannot serve and make a difference where we are now, we’ll never have the chance to do so anywhere else. If we cannot find value in loving and serving the people we know today, we’ll never love and serve the people we want to know in the future.
2. Linchpins neighbor, instead of asking, “Who is my neighbor?”
One of the most powerful stories about what it means to be a neighbor comes from the pages of the Bible. This famous story is known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Ever the interactive and provocative teacher, Jesus responds to a question about who is one’s neighbor by telling a story of a man who is beaten and robbed. This wounded traveler is ignored by preoccupied religious types, but later cared for and financially served by a devalued and marginalized outsider. Jesus turns the original question back to his audience and says, “Who acted like a neighbor?”
I don’t know about you, but I often end up in conversations about “Who is my neighbor?” and “What does it mean to be a good citizen?” These are worthwhile discussions, but talking about them can become a substitute for doing something in response.
If we want to be indispensable in our communities and companies, our next step is to neighbor the person in front of us, instead of asking who is worthy of being neighbored. We can do for one person today what we wish we could do for every person some day.
3. Linchpins choose to be engaged in solutions rather than critics of what’s broken.
Author and leadership speaker Andy Stanley has a quote I really appreciate. He says, “You can make a point, or you can make a difference.” We can win arguments but lose friends, overlooking the most important battles.
It’s never been easier to be a critic or express outrage online. Yet, neither one actually engages us in real change.
In this era, criticism and cynicism are at the height of modern fashion. As a recovering cynic, I know the temptation to be an expert on all that is broken and not as it should be. I’ve personally mocked others’ efforts while doing nothing myself.
The truth is critics and cynics rarely change the world.
The people who’ve made our world a better place – activists like Dr. King and Mother Teresa, innovators like Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci, artists like Bono and JJ Abrams – they haven’t created or led from cynicism. They’ve led from the deep belief that they can be part of a solution. Their creative work and inspired contributions weren’t fixated on what was broken; they were driven by what could be.
In his famous speech, Citizenship in a Republic, President Theodore Roosevelt talked about being a critic or a change agent.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
As I write this post, it seems that the bonds of our union in the United States are being stretched and common ground is eroding. When interacting online, it feels like many people are waking and going to bed angry and afraid. It often feels easier to be the critic on the sidelines than the man in the arena. After all, who wants to get crucified next on Twitter?
This reality could make us depressed and defeated.
But I believe this crisis holds unprecedented opportunity. Even the littlest acts of citizenship and neighboring matter today. A brief interaction with a person can change their day or week. Building a bond with someone on the other side of an issue can have a massive downline impact. What’s happening locally has never meant more globally.
Let’s not miss the opportunity to be linchpins.
Doing what we can, where we are, with what we have.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash