Be Indispensable

be indispensable.

“hey man, I need you on this call! We are talking about diversity in marketing - u free to hop on?” 

The above was a text message received a couple of weeks ago. It may seem simple, but when I read this text on my way to Chipotle, my brain traversed through a few thoughts, ideas, and "aha moments." My biggest takeaway was that to truly be a changemaker, a disruptor, or to leave a legacy -- you must be needed. Being truly needed isn't simply a skill, but it is that skill layered with perspective, artistry, and empathy which makes you indispensable or absolutely necessary.

I believe that a part of the human condition is a desire to feel wanted or even accepted. We all want people to like us, right? Now, the feeling of being needed, now that's next level. Being needed shows you are valuable, essential even - now that's a great feeling.

Being the tech enthusiast I am, Apple is an excellent example of the idea of 'being indispensable.' Steve Jobs was notably known for disrupting the tech industry with innovative productions, radical thinking, and relentless pursuit of improvement. The success of Apple was driven by Jobs, his perspective, and his work. After his passing, Apple just hasn't been the same. Tim Cook, the current CEO, hasn't taken the same risks as Jobs, Apple's portfolio isn't expanding at the same rate, and the company is reactive to competition rather than proactively changing the tech ecosystem as it once did. 

I say all of this to say -- Steve Jobs was indispensable. In fact, he was the crux of Apple's success, because of his drive to out-perform any and all expectations by coupling his skill and perspective. 

It's your responsibility to be intentional about every activity and commitment in your path and transcend the status quo. Outperform the expectations that are on you or your job title and begin to develop perspectives that are unique. It is your well-informed, unique perspectives that will make you a linchpin.

linchpin, as Merriam Webster defines it, is a person that is vital to an organization or enterprise.

 Being a linchpin indicates a few different things. It shows that you’re well-informed and well-versed in a topic, it shows your perspective is differentiated, and lastly - it shows that you are indispensable, and thus, not easily replaceable. It’s similar to a statement I got from a friend - “it is less important to be well known than it is to be worth knowing.”

I revisited a book I read in college, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? This book shifted my perspective and trajectory as it pertains to the work that I do - especially as it pertains to my work in corporate America.

Now, I bolded "work" because your work and your job are not synonyms (the thesaurus is a liar). Your job is a description of what you do and when you have to do it. It can be summarized in bullet points and can be taught through training. If you quit today, your job can easily be replaced. If you are underperforming, you can easily be replaced.

The work that you do is a little different - that’s when you sprinkle some sauce on that job and add a little art & finesse to it. When you think about an artist - you think about someone brave enough to challenge the status quo, someone that adds creativity to what is currently in the market, someone that is bold and is willing to challenge what’s in front of them - take that artist energy and apply it to your job.

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that matches your passion. - Seth Godin

Now I can't say I agree with the above quote 100%, I can appreciate the essence of coupling what you have (both your passions and your job) to get what you want - fulfilling work. 

Ask yourself:

  • How can you go from checking the boxes of your title to driving change at your company

  • How can you bring your passions from outside the workplace into your current role at work? 

  • What energy and creativity can you bring to the "extracurriculars" - this may be your employee resource groups, recruiting activities, or partnerships?

  • How can you become more sought-after both at your job but also in your industry? 

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people. - Seth Godin

A few closing thoughts to take into this month:

You are not your resume, your Instagram feed, or your LinkedIn page - you are the work that you produce. 

Your art is your "special sauce," your artistry is what resonates with your audience, your customers, your coworkers, or whose lives you don't even intend to touch. 

No one really cares how hard you work, they care about the quality of the content your work produces. It's all about impact and connection.

Just as leadership is a skill, so is being indispensable or being a linchpin. You can train yourself to matter (as funny as that sounds).

Focus on quantitative metrics to be rewarded, focus on qualitative metrics for your legacy. Anyone can "hit the numbers," but the individuals you read in your history books were able to create a feeling.

Being indispensable takes concerted emotional effort (i.e. it's not easy), learn to work with empathy, connect emotionally, navigate intentionally, and make a blueprint for others to follow. 

My challenge to you is for you to turn your job into your work - something that you own and something that someone can’t replace. When you aren’t in the room, you want others to wish you were in the room. When you are in the room, you want people looking at you asking, “so what do you think?” At that point, you’ll be a linchpin. You’ll be indispensable.

Brandon Miller