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Start Something Now – Comments on Seth Godin's "Poke The Box"

I signed up a while ago to get Seth Godin’s latest manifesto, “Poke The Box“,  then forgot about it.  Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I opened my Kindle, found it there and started to read.

Big mistake.

Not because it’s bad. Actually, it’s good. So good that my mind started racing about all the projects I want to start, but haven’t yet. So good that I was tossing and turning about my Big Hairy Audacious Project and wondering if I’m being audacious enough.

And that’s the point of this manifesto.

“Poke The Box” refers to those “busy box” toys for toddlers, which have dials and cranks and buttons and make noise and flash lights. Do something and there is a response. The child’s face lights up and wants more, so she pokes it more, discovering the joy of initiating stuff.

But somewhere in the system, we bleach initiative out of children, so when they become adults, the natural action is to conform, to wait for permission.

The message Seth Godin started in “Linchpin” continues with his latest missive:  Get Going, Do Something and Ship It. Initiative creates momentum, and momentum generates power.

The directness of the message in Poke The Box makes me uncomfortable. Because I really don’t have any more excuses holding me back.

Making you uncomfortable is the point of this slim book. I’m sure that when you read it, you won’t be able to sleep either.

Here are some of the passages I highlighted:

  • The first imperative is to be aware—aware of the market, of opportunities, of who you are. The second imperative is to be educated, so you can understand what’s around you. The third imperative is to be connected, so you can be trusted as you engage. The fourth imperative is to be consistent, so the system knows what to expect. The fifth imperative is to build an asset, so you have something to sell. The sixth imperative is to be productive, so you can be well-priced. The seventh imperative is to have the guts and the heart and the passion to ship.
  • The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.
  • We have built the largest economic engine in history. All the tools are here, cheaper than ever before. The market is waiting, the capital is waiting, the factories are waiting, and yes, even the stores are waiting. They’re waiting for someone to say “go.”
  • Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow.
  • Ownership doesn’t have to be equity or even control. Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen
  • When can you start? Soon is not as good as now
  • The market responds to the power that comes with capital. My favorite kind of capital is the last one, of course (initiative). It turns out that this is the most important capital of our new economy.
  • In a world where news travels instantly and the state of the art is visible to all, the half-life of an insight or an innovation is short and getting shorter
  • I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance…and if you have anxiety about initiating a project, then of course you will associate risk with failure.
  • Most things break. Most ideas fail. Most initiatives don’t succeed. And if you’re the one behind them, if you’re the guy who’s always starting something that fails, then it seems you’re doomed.
  • The first rule of doing work that matters: Go to work on a regular basis.
  • The problem: you can’t get blander than bland. You can’t grow by becoming even more predictable and ordinary. You might have a dependable and predictable and cheap product, but if the market wants something better, you’ll be stuck playing catch-up.
  • When the cost of poking the box (ptb) is less than the cost of doing nothing (ø), then you should poke! [ptb<ø—> poke]
  • The connected economy of ideas demands that we contribute initiative. And yet we resist, because our lizard brain, the one that lives in fear, relentlessly exaggerates the cost of being wrong.
  • Poking successfully also requires tact. You’re trying to change things, not have people recoil in anger or fear from your poking.
  • Poke, but be smart about it.
  • Excellence isn’t about working extra hard to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing.
  • Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.
  • How often do our heroes stand still? It’s hard to imagine Spock and Kirk landing on a planet and just relaxing for a month or two. Just hanging out has nothing to do with boldly going where no one has gone before.
  • The factory has programmed that adventurous impulse out of us. The economic imperative of the last century has been to avoid risk, avoid change, and most of all, avoid exploration and the new. An efficient factory fears change because change means retooling and risk and a blip in productivity.
  • Implicit in all of my ranting about poking is this: You already have good ideas, already have something to say, already have a vivid internal dialogue about what you could do and how it might make things better.
  • Starting means you’re going to finish. If it doesn’t ship, you’ve failed. You haven’t poked the box if the box doesn’t realize it’s been poked.
  • If you don’t finish, it doesn’t really count as starting, and if you don’t start, you’re not poking.
  • The challenge is to focus on the work, not on the fear that comes from doing the work.
  • The person who fails the most usually wins
  • I’m not encouraging you to be bold and right. I’m not encouraging you to figure out how to always initiate a smart and proven and profitable idea. I’m merely encouraging you to start. Often. Forever. Be the one who starts things.
  • We often turn to authors and experts for instruction on what to do. If we only knew what to do, the thinking goes, then we’d do it.
  • The shortage is in people willing to do it. To take a leap. To walk out onto the ledge and start. Apparently, many of us have forgotten how to do it.
  • I believe there is. I believe that if you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then this goes beyond “should” and reaches the level of “must.” You must make a difference or you squander the opportunity. Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us.
  • It’s impossible to have a “success-only” policy. That policy itself will guarantee that there will be no successes.
  • Starting doesn’t mean controlling. It means initiating. Managing means controlling, but that’s an entirely different skill.
  • If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.
  • The alternative to planning on late is to initiate before it’s required, to ship before deadline, to put the idea out there before the crisis hits. This act of bravery actually gives you influence, leverage, and control in a way that planning on late never can.
  • Instead of propositioning everyone within reach of your e-mail box, invest some time and earn the right to ask. Do your homework. Build connections. This makes the risk on your part a lot bigger because you’ve invested more than two minutes. Initiating when you have more to lose is often better than just winging it.
  • If you know someone who needs permission, share this with him. If you needed permission, think about the mentor or coach or friend who gave this to you. Someone is giving you permission. Someone, perhaps indirectly, hired you, funded you, trained you, encouraged you—all so that you would see something that needed to be done and do it.

Special offer: If you’ve read this post up to here, then you’re ready to Poke The Box. Send me an e-mail with your address and tell me about the Big Hairy Audacious Project that you are working on or you want to start, and I’ll send you a copy of Poke The Box, my treat. The e-mail must be timestamped before Mar 31 2011. Let me know if you want the Kindle or paper version.

For more information

“Poke The Box” on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1936719002

Get the FREE workbook that goes with the book: http://www.thedominoproject.com/2011/03/poke-the-box-the-workbook.html

Seth Godin’s Blog (always intriguing): http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

My Kindle Notes Page (you must sign in with your Amazon ID to see): https://kindle.amazon.com/work/poke-box-seth-godin/B004KS3CGW/1936719002

My review of Poke The Box on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/review/R38JY4PYSH8FBD/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm


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