Seth Godin has proven to be an idiosyncratic gadfly. He is not trying to write the classic business book full of facts, figures, and charts; instead, he seizes on a simple concept and then he spends his time provoking you to see things from his perspective.
Poke the Box is the quintessential example of this approach.
The title comes from Godin’s childhood. As a boy, his uncle brought home a buzzer box and placed it in his cousin’s crib. The box was large, scary, and intimidating, but his cousin found it interesting. Before long, he began to poke at it to see what it would do. Godin concluded, “Life is like a buzzer box. Poke it.”
Poke The Box
Poking the box is Godin’s metaphor for doing things in life. Work can be hard, but we can’t let intimidation prevent us doing what needs to be done.
Sometimes we are afraid to fail, and that keeps us from getting started. To prevent disappointment, we brood and analyze, and prepare and over analyze, but this is a fool’s errand. We are so concerned about failing that we guarantee failure.
We never get started or we dabble and never actually ship the product, publish the book, close the deal, or finish the project. We succumb to the illusion that if we do not release it to the world, we cannot fail. But this also guarantees failure.
We all know people who are full of great ideas, but they never actually implement them. They too are guaranteed failure. As Godin wrote: “You’ve certainly met these people. They’re too busy taking notes to get anything done… To stop this process, one needs only to do two things: Start…And then…Ship. Can’t do the second if you don’t do the first.”
Start. Do. Ship.
That is the formula. It is fairly simple.
Will you make mistakes? Yes. Is that ultimate failure? No. Not starting is ultimate failure. Godin explained, “Not starting is far, far worse than being wrong. If you start, you’ve got a shot at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if you don’t start, you never get a chance”
But it is not safe to just do when you might fail. That is true, but it is not safe not to do either. Godin concluded:
Selling is not safe. You might (in fact you will) be rejected.
Golf is not safe. My grandfather died playing golf.
Speaking is not safe. People might be offended.
Innovation is not safe. You’ll fail. Perhaps badly.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what are you going to do about it? Hide? Crouch in the corner and work as hard as you can to fit in?
That’s not safe either.
Might as well do something that matters instead.
What About You?
What box do you need to poke? What is stopping you from poking the box? What will you do today to start poking?