Linchpin on my mind

| April 6, 2010

In his book LinchpinSeth Godin offers repetitive and often simplistic arguments, and actually makes a difference. By the end I really couldn’t fault him for his mistakes. He crafts his story into a compelling meditation on life and work.

He throws a lot of words and ideas at the problem of how to be indispensable, but I think he nails it here: emotional labor is tough, and the value of this kind of work will increase over time. Well, at least I hope so (I’m not exactly betting on my knowledge of cooking). Expending emotional labor and “giving gifts” is tough. The emotional labor of selling an idea is tough. The emotional labor of working with a group is tough. It’s also fun.

I still remember my experiences in classrooms during my first year in grad school. I remember feeling, for the first time in my life, that I chose education – that I didn’t have to be there. It was such a freeing feeling that for the first time in my life I participated. I raised my hand. I spoke up. I spoke out. I challenged others. I tried to move the conversation.

Those interactions weren’t easy. They probably weren’t perfect either (hey, who hasn’t been snarky about the student who spoke one too many times?). But for the first time in my life I was really attentive to emotional labor as something that was worth doing. I think it came with the territory: if you aren’t going to engage others intellectually and academically in a class in graduate school, when are you planning to do it?

I found undergraduate classrooms more difficult to navigate. It sometimes seemed as if too many people felt they had to be there. At those times, the best I could do was carve out a niche where I could work alone. Maybe the opportunity to engage others was there for me if I worked for it. But I’m not sure. I’m sure it can work at any time – in the classroom and beyond – as it worked for me in grad school.