Poke The Box, by Seth Godin


I am reading, and by reading I mean listening (thank you Audible), “Poke the Box,” by Seth Godin.  A really cool short read.  This is a book about taking action.  Here are a few notes that I took away from the book.

Poking the box is about starting stuff and starting now.  Godin states, “What would our world look like if more people started projects, made a rukus, and took risks?”

He references companies throughout the book where the employees were rewarded for innovations. Google just to name one.  What started as an internet search engine is now an empire.  The employees are encouraged to innovate.

A great idea that stuck with me as I listened to Seth read his work, was the idea of defining yourself as a starter.  We  always ask, what do you do?  He responds, “I start stuff.”  Being the initiator.  Further, “The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.”

“The simple thing that separates successful individuals from those that languish is the very thing that separates exciting and growing organizations from those that stagnate and die.  Starting.  What if more people began to speak up, notice things, and start things? Our world, the people around us, and our attitude about what we did all day would change. All it takes is initiative. Even just a bit.”

“How To Get Started In Three Easy Steps.  Winners have turned initiative into a passion and a practice.  Here’s how:

1. Don’t think about it.
2. Just start.
3. Keep starting.”

The idea in this book is that failing is ok.  Pouring ideas into the world and starting it is what matters.  Successful people fail all the time, but they don’t care, they keep starting.  Waiting to be chosen will keep everyone from starting.  Why does anyone need to validate your idea?  Just start.  Pick yourself.  No one else will pick you.

While reading this, a Jim Rohn quote came to mind, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

Back to the book, “Get Into The Habit Of Starting.  Make your schedule before you start. Don’t allow setbacks or anxiety or fear to push you to distract yourself from your task. If you’re doing hard work and still getting rejected, failing, working it out, writing and rewriting and rewriting—this is not the best time to slack off. Keep going, nap later.”

Starting is a habit.  Develop it.

“Choose one thing you could start today. Make it simple—make file folders—or make it grand: write a proposal to Delta airlines to eliminate the Styrofoam cups they use and replace them with the recycled cardboard cups you are going to develop and design with advertising space for additional revenue.  Got it?  Ok, now do it.”

The biggest concept I took from the book was the idea of the Lizard Brain.  The Lizard Brain is basest form of creature brain.  This brain is the survival mechanism that we all have.  This inspires fear for the sake of survival.  We are wired to fear certain situations so that we remove ourselves from potentially dangerous situations.  This would also be described as the flight mechanism of “fight or flight.”  The lizard brain speaks to us every day.  This fear trigger keeps us from doing acts that would be perceived as risky.

A quote from the workbook,

“Adventure comes with no guarantees or promises. Risk and reward are conjoined twins—and that’s why my favorite piece of advice needs translation but no disclaimers: Fortuna fortes adjuvat. ‘Fortune favors the brave’. In other words, there are many good reasons not to toss your life up in the air and see where it lands. Just don’t let fear be one of them.”  -Mary South

“Making Mistakes Is Essential.  Now that we know how to poke, we can take the drama out of it.  Poking means seeking embarrassment. If you’re not flailing around embarrassed all the time, you’re not shipping enough. To poke means to do and ship so much that mortified becomes your norm.  Yep, you crave it. You demand it. Soon, just like Lady Gaga and Steven King and the Governor of California, success and persistence and poking will speak for itself.    Every innovation and accomplishment in our world started out with a long list of failures.  Mistakes are a part and parcel of poking. You have to experiment, and that means putting yourself out there, seeing what happens, taking a chance at not knowing what the outcome will be. Risk failing. In our acceptance that we’ll fail, once or twice, maybe twenty times, we’ll get to a place where failing is natural, and we accept it as so. Once we do this, we’re more powerful and increase the chance of an eventual success.”

“Ever Been Called A Failure? You’re In Good Company.  In Poke the Box, there’s a list of famous people who failed many times, including Harlan Ellison, Steve Carrell, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Wright, Mark Cuban, Mehmet Oz, George Orwell, Michael Bloomberg, Nan Talese, and it goes on and on. You don’t need to be famous to fail, but it’s nice to know that even the most successful among us started out probably right here.  Did that list surprise you? Wouldn’t you like to be included? It takes guts to constantly and consistently fail, and that’s what it takes to be the Walt Disney’s and Gloria Steinem’s of the world.  A long list of failures, a large dose of resilience, and the ability to keep starting.”

Some Ideas from the Workbook:

Where Do I Start?  Is there an area of your life that needs poking? Can you make things better for you and those around you?
• If you never pick the restaurant, can you make reservations next time?
• Can you be the person in your family who exercises consistently?
• If you’re laid back, can you start initiating and planning activities?
• If you wash the dishes every day and someone else cooks, can you switch roles?
• Can you start to solve the problem while other people are still talking about it?
• Can you say your idea at a meeting even though you’ll be thought as strange?
• Can you apply for the job that you think is out of your reach?
• Can you propose that you work from home two days a week because the office noise is too distracting?
• Can you start on the project because you think it’s a good idea even if you don’t have buy-in from your boss?
• Can you organize the family reunion even though it will be stressful to do so?
Once we learn how to take initiative we see opportunities all around us.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other idea that really spoke to me is that we are walking to Cleveland.  If we were walking to Cleveland, we would start over and over, one step after the other.  After the first day, we wouldn’t give up because we didn’t make it there.  We knew that we wouldn’t get to Cleveland on the first day.  Why would we be hard on ourselves for not getting there.  As a matter of fact, it will take quite a few days.  But each day we would wake up and start again.  One step after the other, until we are there.  But start every day.  We are walking to Cleveland.

Another summary, “Go. Change The World.  If you were invited to give “the talk of your life” as TED talks invite us to do—what would it be about?  What would you want to teach others?  What would you personally want to learn from the experience?  If you were given the opportunity to start something that could change the world, what would it be?
What will the world look like once you take initiative?  Why are you waiting to start? What are you waiting for?”

If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count!!  “If you are not making a difference, it is almost certainly because you are afraid.”  Be intentional!  Answering the phone is intentional.  Intentionally Initiate!  Make a Rukus!  Create a culture of initiating.  Give people permission to initiate.  What might be a board-level decision at a competitor’s company will become a matter of day to day action in a culture where the team is free to start and initiate!

“The very simple act of initiating is actually profoundly transformative.  Forward motion is a defensible business asset.”

What is safe?  Nothing is safe.  Selling is not safe, you might, in fact you will, be rejected!  Speaking up is not safe, people might be offended.  Innovation is not safe, people might fail, perhaps badly. “Now that we have that out of the way, what are you going to do about it?  Hide?  Crouch in a corner and work as hard as you can to fit in?  That’s not safe either.  Might as well do something that matters instead.”

“Go Go GO!”

“If you get in the habit of shipping things, of making a difference and of poking the box, that is your doing, and the rest of us will take pleasure in enjoying the fruits of your bravery.  If you don’t start though, if you pull back into your shell, if you recoil in fear at this extraordinary opportunity, and obligation, then blame me.  I clearly didn’t do a good enough job of cajoling and daring you into doing the work you’re capable of, the work that matters. You can’t lose.  So Go!”

Fun and easy read.  In closing, the idea that convinced me to start this blog.

I reference the workbook, the workbook was written by Ishita Gupta, Amy Richards, and Alex Miles Younger.


About rjkunz

MkD for Aflac CA/BA Rampage. Father of 5. Husband to 1. Friend to All. Well, many.
This entry was posted in Book Review. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Poke The Box, by Seth Godin

  1. Great book. I love Seth’s directness. Great post, also. There really is nothing to it but to do it.

    Mark Blasini

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