Let me begin with a professional and personal disclosure: If Seth Godin weren’t a friend of mine, I would probably hate his guts.
He makes those of us in the word-slinging, meme-spreading trade look like a bunch of ne’er-do-well slackers. He is so preposterously creative and so endlessly productive--a new blog post every day, a new book every year, dozens of efforts to raise money for charity, Squidoo, the Domino Project, and more--that I once suspected "Seth Godin" was really a cover name for an army of elves toiling in a work camp near the Hudson River.
But after reading this remarkable book, I’ve discovered Seth’s secret: He’s willing to poke the box. To start. To initiate. To begin. That’s all.
Indeed, the message of this book is so profoundly simple and so simply profound, I can encapsulate it in a single word.
Don’t cogitate. Don’t ruminate. Don’t plan on getting started or wait for permission to begin.
Of course, that’s a little scary. Starting is a risk. Things might not work out. You could flop. But one theme of this book--and it’s a theme that you should write on a rock, imprint on your brain, and inject into your bloodstream--is that we ought to be much more concerned about mediocrity than failure. "If you can’t fail," Seth writes, "it doesn’t count."
Like the man who produced it, Poke the Box is inspired and inspiring. I’ll place it on my shelf alongside two other extraordinary books: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. If you enjoyed those two, you’ll love this one. It will simultaneously stir your heart and kick your butt.
Which brings us to a final question: When should you get started on that project, that business, that work of art only you can deliver to the world?
Seth has the answer to that, too: "Soon is not as good as now."
In other words, go. --Daniel H. Pink
Seth Godin: Conformity used to be crucial--fitting in, not standing out. Compliance used to be the heart of every successful organization, every successful career. The reason? We all worked for the system, in the factory, doing what we were told. Now, though, compliance is no longer a competitive advantage.
Poke the Box is about the spark that brings things to life. We need to be nudged away from conformity and toward ingenuity, toward answering unknown questions for ourselves. Even if we fail, as I have done many times in my life, we learn what not to do by experience and doing the new.
This isn’t the same thing as taking a risk. In fact, the riskiest thing we can do right now is nothing.
I’ve had an extraordinary run, creating a dozen nationwide bestsellers, starting Internet companies and giving speeches around the world. The key thing I bring to the projects I take on is not more talent than most (I don’t) or even more hours than most (hardly). My contribution is a willingness to poke, to start, to lean into the project and to get it out the door.
Question: What will I learn from reading Poke the Box?
Seth Godin: Hopefully you will learn lots but do more. Start thinking about when you’ve taken initiative in a way that really meant something to you and your team, your family. When was the last time you did something for the first time? How did it feel?
There are no step-by-step how-to instructions in Poke the Box. Instead, you’ll find a series of layers, a foundation for taking a different approach to your work. Instead of learning to be more compliant, I want to push you to be the one who takes initiative.
Question: Why did you write this book?
Seth Godin: I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from almost a million people over the years, to talk with CEOs and bosses and customers around the world. And they all tell me precisely the same thing: it’s the motive force they demand, the person who will shake things up and move them forward.
Static is not an acceptable state. The status quo is no longer something we want at work or in politics or in any organization we care about.
The market is just waiting for people to step forward. I wrote the book for those people, the ones who’ve been hesitating to take the leap.
Question: Why did you start The Domino Project?
Seth Godin: The Domino Project is my latest attempt at "poking." It’s an independent publishing imprint founded by me and powered by Amazon. This is an opportunity to publish "idea manifestos" committed to readers, rather than being bookstore friendly. It’s named after the domino effect--where one powerful idea spreads down the line, pushing from person to person.
I have two audacious goals: I want to change the people who read (not enough do) and I want to change the way books are published (they’re too hard to find and spread). I honestly believe that a book can change a mind like nothing else, and that’s our focus. To help anyone to do work they’re proud of and to make a difference.
Question: Why Amazon?
Seth Godin: I partnered with Amazon so we could leverage what we both do best--Amazon is the leader in global distribution, multiple format production capabilities, and reaching people in the right way, and I want to spread powerful ideas to the people who want to read them.
For 15 years, Amazon has been building an audience and gaining our trust. Many surveys identify them as the most-trusted new brand in the world. Now that Amazon is interacting with more people more often, they have a chance to bring those customers new ideas in innovative ways. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring ideas worth spreading to a huge and eager audience.
Question: Who is Seth Godin?
Seth Godin: I’m an author, entrepreneur, and a person who starts things.