Indispensability sounds wonderful. Doesn’t it? The other day, I picked up Godin’s book, Linchpin. It had been sitting in a “to read pile” for about a year now, so I thought it might be time. I opened the book, and the flap said:
“There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there is a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead, connect others, make things happen and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenged their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it and turn each day into a kind of art.”
Sounds wonderful. Sounds impossible.
How many people are truly indispensable? These stories sound great. Are we setting the bar so high that most of us just sigh at the thought of trying to turn every day into art? Are these unattainable goals for most of us that merely create envy or depression at the though of our rather normal jobs?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that all of us need to have passion about what we do. But every job has its “crappy stuff”. Every professor I know hates marking papers and exams. It’s just not fun. There is absolutely no reward, and usually lots of punishment in the form of line ups of complaining students.
Several years ago, researchers looked at the happiness of men who attended the Harvard Business School in the 1930s, and followed them for over seventy years. What did they find? A great range of happiness. What predicted their happiness? Not money, or status or a nice wife or even a nice home. The best predictor of happiness was lower expectations. Lower expectations lead to less likelihood of disappointment.
Our jobs don’t need to be the be all and end all of our lives. While they can be fulfilling, they are not the only path to fulfillment. So I say, don’t set yourself up for disappointment. You don’t have to be indispensable in order to be effective in a workplace. Do your best, be conscientious and consistent, be engaged. We can all make a difference, but none of us are truly indispensable (at least at work).