Poke the Box: a Book in Review Part 1
Early this year, while at my my local library, I found Poke the Box by Seth Godin. Poke the Box is a small, business book with a wacky cover that illustrates how ingenuity and intention lead to great results when the scrappers of business Poke the Box. I have to say, the name and the cover with the shocked and happy little guy pulled me in. Poke the Box was enjoyable and made me think about a few situations and plans differently. I enjoy books that turn my thinking slightly to a different bent--the literary equivalent of a Hail Mary in football.
Reading for me needs to include the mental equivalent of standing slightly off balance and having my head cocked with "glad you made me think about this differently or made an everyday situation unique and/or entertaining" in my frontal lobe--a sideways spring in my step so to speak. This is why I pair Sherlock Holmes books with C.S. Lewis' works and enjoy reading about neuroscience.
What changes our minds? What keeps us productive and healthy? What causes a failure to remain a failure or a failure to lead to success? Is the key to success brains, ability or plain stubbornness honed into something useful called persistence? What sets the heroes apart from the defeated? I have always believed that when it comes down to brass tacks, it is not our physicality that sets us up for success, but our will and our ability to pick ourselves up because we refuse to give up (interject Winston Churchill WWII speech here).
Why are the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings film trilogies such blockbuster hits? Are the leading characters strong and brilliant, or, are they the smallest of characters with a persistence to save the world only because they are--unexpectedly--the most qualified? What makes Hobbits or other heroes qualified? Perhaps it is that Hobbits and other heroes from Spiderman to Wonder Woman realize that it is true that good people don't fight because of what or who is in front of them, but because what or who they love who are behind them.
Perhaps the heroes and heroines are what stand between their beloveds and the destroyers of the beloveds' worlds. It is really quite simple and why heroes are usually underdogs and scrappers: unlikely in many ways, and yet, completely believable in others. Perhaps actions are driven by initiative, but the best and most successful initiatives are more often than not driven by love.
Seth Godin's premise is that intention and initiative are what enable individuals to embrace opportunities that arise--to Poke the Box, which leads them to success. Following are some of my favorite quotes from Poke the Box with page numbers included:
"No, the opportunity is bigger than that--it's to see that all around you are platforms, opportunities, and entire organizations that will come to life once you are driven enough and brave enough to contribute the initiative they are missing." Godin (6) .
"Life is a buzzer box. Poke it." Godin (7) .
"What do you do here?' That's a question I often ask people in organizations. . . . Almost no one says, 'I start stuff.' . . . Where is the VP of starting? How many no's have to be surmounted before you get to a yes? Clearly, there's a guy in charge of the plant or the sales force, or the money. But who is in charge of 'yes?'" Godin (9) .
"When you do this, what happens? When you do that, what happens? The box reveals itself through your poking, and as you get better at it, you not only get smarter but also gain ownership. Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen. . .. No one has influence, control, or confidence in his work until (they understand) how to initiate change and predict how the box will respond." Godin (10) .
"I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance." Godin (14) .
"We have little choice but to move beyond quality and seek remarkable, connected, and new. Remarkable, as you've already figured out, demands initiative." Godin (21) .
Tom Peters changed everything when he decided to devote his life to spreading the word about the ideas in In Search of Excellence. . . . 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." Godin (34) .
"How often do our heroes stand still? It's hard to imagine Spock. . .landing on a planet and just relaxing for a month or two. Just hanging out has nothing to do with 'boldly going where no man has gone before.'" Godin (35) .
"If you had a chance to do a TED talk, what would it be about? What have you discovered, what do you know, what can you teach? You should do one. Even if you don't do one, you should be prepared to do one." Godin (41) .
"He took the wrong start and revised and improved and innovated until the enterprise we know and love came to be. The hardest part, it seems to me, was the first one, the wrong one. Poking does not mean right. It means action. . . .'This might not work' isn't merely something to be tolerated; it's something you should seek out." Godin (42) .
So go ahead, "Poke the Box," and see the bigger picture that you create by letting go and starting something!