Lizard brain

The folks who are always busy filling up notebooks with tips and tasks are just as afraid. Looking busy is not the same as fighting the resistance. Being productive at someone else's task list is not the same as making your own map.

The reason the resistance persists in slowing you down and prevents you from putting your heart and soul and art into your work is simple: you might fail.

Successful people learn from failure, but the lesson they learn is a different one. They don't learn that they shouldn't have tried in the first place, and they don't learn that they are always right and the world is wrong and they don't learn that they are losers. They learn that the tactics they used didn't work or that the person they used them on didn't respond.


The road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it's those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing.

Why push through the dip, why take the risk, why blow it all when there's the comfortable alternative instead? The people who break through usually have nothing to lose, and they almost never have a backup plan.

You Don't Need More Genius. You Need Less Resistance.

The freedom of the new kind of work (which most of us do, most of the time) is that the tasks are vague and difficult to measure. We can waste an hour surfing the 'Net because no one knows if surfing the 'Net is going to help us make progress or connections.

guys who don't fit in, who don't follow the score, who know the rules but break them. They are artists. Many others have been indoctrinated by the system and frightened by the resistance into following instructions.

The Huffington Post, which soon will make more money than any newspaper in the country, threw out the rules. They have no printing plants, no revered style manual, not even a fancy building. Instead, they're staffing up with artists and change makers. If they succeed, it will be because they confronted the resistance.

Shipping an idea went from taking a month by boat to a few days by plane to overnight by Federal Express to a few minutes by fax to a moment by e-mail to instantaneous by Twitter. Now what? Will it arrive yesterday?

So, what's left is to make--to give--art.

Fear of living without a map is the main reason people are so insistent that we tell them what to do.

Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

Done is the engine of more.

Your work is to create art that changes things, to expose your insight and humanity in such a way that you are truly indispensable.

Your work is to do the work, not to do your job. Your job is about following instructions; the work is about making a difference. Your work is to ship. Ship things that make change.

The goal is to quit the tasks you're doing because you're hiding on behalf of the lizard brain and to push through the very tasks the lizard fears.

I can't avoid the work because I am not distracting myself with anything but the work. This is the hallmark of a productive artist. I don't go to meetings. I don't write memos. I don't have a staff. I don't commute. The goal is to strip away anything that looks productive but doesn't involve shipping.

The difference between a successful artist and a failed one happens after the idea is hatched. The difference is the race to completion. Did you finish


Anxiety doesn't protect you from danger, but from doing great things. It keeps you awake at night and foretells a future that's not going to happen.

P.S.: Never let the lizard send an e-mail.

In the linchpin economy, the winners are once again the artists who give gifts. Giving a gift makes you indispensable. Inventing a gift, creating art--that is what the market seeks out, and the givers are the ones who earn our respect and attention.

As soon as it is part of a system, it's not art.

Gifts not only satisfy our needs as artists, they also signal to the world that we have plenty more to share. This perspective is magnetic. The more you have in your cup, the more likely people are to want a drink.

making art is not about getting rich. Art is a gift, a gift from the artist to the viewer, the listener, the user. The moment it ceases to be a gift, some of the art is lost.

The most successful givers aren't doing it because they're being told to. They do it because doing it is fun. It gives them joy.

Great work is not created for everyone. If it were, it would be average work.

The ability to see the world as it is begins with an understanding that perhaps it's not your job to change what can't be changed. Particularly if the act of working on that change harms you and your goals in the process.

the right effort in the right place can change the outcome, and she reserves her effort for doing just that.

Successful people are able to see the threads of the past and the threads of the future and untangle them into something manageable.

When an angry customer is standing at the counter, we can curse his poor judgment or the world that brought him to us, but the linchpin has figured out that accepting the situation and improving it clearly beats the alternative.

If your agenda is set by someone else and it doesn't lead you where you want to go, why is it your agenda?

If they're teaching your kids or future employees to be map readers and agenda followers, make them stop.

The alternative is to draw a map and lead.

The resistance encourages you to avoid the work, and our society rewards busywork as well. Serious artists distinguish between the work and the stuff they have to do when they're not doing the work.

Linchpins don't need authority. It's not part of the deal. Authority matters only in the factory, not in your world.

Real change rarely comes from the front of the line. It happens from the middle or even the back. Real change happens when someone who cares steps up and takes what feels like a risk. People follow because they want to, not because you can order them to.

The linchpin is able to invent a future, fall in love with it, live in it--and then abandon it on a moment's notice.

The power of choice is just that. Power. The only thing we have to do is remember that we control the harnessing of that power. We choose.

Don't let your circumstances or habits rule your choices today. Become a master of yourself and use your willpower to choose.

It's not merely about hours worked. It never has been. Do the work and get whatever help you need to do it as well as you are able to.

If you work on an assembly line, of course it matters how many hours a day you stand there. This new model is very different. Ji Lee is a provocateur and artist famous for his street art. He also happens to work at Google. I have no doubt that he's added millions of dollars in value to the company through his orthogonal thinking and big ideas. And I also have no doubt that if he stopped doing his external projects and showed up at work more often, his productivity would plummet.

What will make someone a linchpin is not a shortcut. It's the understanding of which hard work is worth doing. The only thing that separates great artists from mediocre ones is their ability to push through the dip. Some people decide that their art is important enough that they ought to overcome the resistance they face in doing their work. Those people become linchpins.

In the case of personality, most psychologists agree that there are five traits that are essential in how people look at us: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extra-version, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability.

Virtually all of us make our living engaging directly with other people. When the interactions are genuine and transparent, they usually work. When they are artificial or manipulative, they fail.

The linchpin is coming from a posture of generosity; she's there to give a gift. If that's your intent, the words almost don't matter. What we'll perceive are your wishes, not the script.

The people you work with won't change if you don't believe. The communication of enthusiasm and connection and leadership starts with the gift you give, not with the manipulation you attempt.

If you actually work for an organization that insists you be mediocre, that enforces conformity in all its employees, why stay? What are you building? The work can't possibly be enjoyable or challenging, your skills aren't increasing, and your value in the marketplace decreases each day you stay there. And if history is a guide, your job there isn't as stable as you think, because average companies making average products for average people are under huge strain.

Maybe you can't make money doing what you love (at least what you love right now). But I bet you can figure out how to love what you do to make money (if you choose wisely).

Do your art. But don't wreck your art if it doesn't lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy.

Here's an artist's dream:

The Art Institute of Chicago hires world-famous architect Renzo Piano to build an extension to their building. Together, they reach you on the phone by conference call. "Ellsworth, we'd like you to create a huge mural for our new museum. You can do what you want, call us when it's done, and we'll send a check today."

What you're doing might not be working, and you might not be able to do what you're doing and get paid for it. But I am certain that if you give enough, to the right people in the right way, your gifts will be treasured and your journey will be rewarded. Even if that's not why you're doing it.

The barrier to success is a choice. Up to you.