Seth Godin says Poke the Box, is a “Manifesto about Starting”. It is a highly relevant book for every single one of us and especially for managers and entrepreneurs. It imparts life wisdom in a refreshing way. Take initiative to start, finish and ship often.
Drawing on his own childhood memories, Godin came up with the unusual title. As a kid, his uncle had designed for him a buzzer box. It was a box with switches, lights, and other controls. Poking different switches and controls would lead to different outcomes like blinking lights, buzzing sounds, etc. This teaches a child that different actions have different outcomes. He learns.
Another great example from the book on this is a question about computer programmers. Is there any guarantee that they will learn or get good? All programmers learn the exact same way: trial and error. More appropriately for this book summary they ‘poke the box’.
It is all if this then that (IFTT). Make a change and see what happens. Make another change and look again. They keep poking the buzzer box until they learn how it all works. This of course is a real example but also a metaphor for any other vocation.
Godin urges us to just start. It is more important than being right or perfect. Feel inspired and encouraged to begin taking action. As an entrepreneur, encourage and empower employees to act and initiate action. In other words: ‘Poke the Box’. He wrote another book more dedicated to becoming important at your work and it is titled Linchpin.
Educational institutions, family, and social environment, teach us to follow the norm. We are provided roadmaps in life and told to follow them, as straying may lead to danger and failure. Godin urges his readers to be brave enough to draw your own map and chart your own journey.
Do not be a follower. Be a leader. Initiate even if you have little or no authority. Draw your own map which other people will follow. He says, “Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them." A wonderful book that drives this point home is about the rise of Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built.
Godin says, "The more you do, the more you fail...The person who fails the most usually wins." Anticipate and welcome failure. It is but a stepping stone to success. You learn a lesson and get better.
Failure is rarely fatal. It is the hallmark of a person strong enough to strike out on his own and navigate unknown paths. This person is an ‘initiator’ and will face challenges like being wrong, being foolish, wasting time, etc. These challenges will only hone the initiator into becoming a winner.
Failure is only short term and temporary as long as you continue to create and ship innovative ideas. A couple other legendary books about failure are The Innovator's Dilemma and Antifragile.
Fear takes the form of ‘The Resistance’. The best opportunities are lost when we fear. Resistance has sabotaged many great chances.
Our “lizard brain” (from his book Linchpin) is always holding us back. Godin says this about resistance/fear - "Naming it helps you befriend it, and befriending it helps you ignore it...The purpose of this manifesto is not to magically extinguish your fear. It's to call its bluff."
Ignore your lizard brain. Remember, the cost of poking the box is less than the cost of not doing anything. The boundary is in your head, not in the action. To tackle fear and understand how to leverage failure read the book Antifragile.
While Simon Sinek’s best selling book Ego Is The Enemy might suggest that ego is a negative, Godin has an interesting take on ego. He says over time, the word ‘Ego’ has taken on a nasty connotation. He pushes the reader not to view ego as a villain. He believes that ego is okay. It pushes you to be an initiator. Ego is good as long as it does not seek credit.“Tell your ego that the best way to get something shipped is to let other people take the credit.” A lesson fully supported by Navy SEAL Jocko Willink in his book Extreme Ownership.
Be an initiator wherever you are in your organization's hierarchy. Reject the tyranny of picked (picked by an investor, picked for a promotion, picked to lead a project). Pick yourself. Never think of starting ‘soon’. Start NOW. If you enjoy Poke The Box, you will likely enjoy the book Be Fearless as it is on the same vein.
Seth Godin has accomplished so much – author of 19 bestsellers, over 7,000 blog posts, a most wanted marketing guru, founder of several companies, popular speaker and trendsetter. Most of all, he is a teacher.
His books have a depth of concepts and have stood the test of time. They have been translated into 35 languages. He founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).
In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well.
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.
It is a small wonder that at age 60, his estimated net worth is about $60 million.