Bob Dylan & Leadership

I have been devouring Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Godin’s aim is to enlighten, encourage, and equip people to become an indispensable leader in their organization rather than a nameless, faceless cog that can be replaced anytime.

One of the things that keeps people from standing out and excelling at work is because they believe that they have to become perfect in order to become great. That is not the case. Godin uses Bob Dylan as the perfect example.

“Bob Dylan knows a little about becoming indispensable, being an artist, and living on the edge:

Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly . . . exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I’m no mainstream artist. . . . I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers—bluegrass singers, the black cowboy with chaps and a lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Quasimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the roller-coaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it . . .

The interviewer then reminded Dylan, “But you’ve sold over a hundred million records.”

Dylan’s answer gets to the heart of what it means to be an artist: “Yeah I know. It’s a mystery to me too.”

Avoiding the treadmill of defect-free is not easy to sell to someone who’s been trained in the perfection worldview since first grade (which is most of us). But artists embrace the mystery of our genius instead. They understand that there is no map, no step-by-step plan, and no way to avoid blame now and then. If it wasn’t a mystery, it would be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth much.”

I am about halfway through Linchpin and I am ready to declare this a must for you to read- regardless of your job and regardless of your position. Come back tomorrow for some more choice quotes from this incredible read.