Review of Poke the Box

I’ve read again Poke the Box from Seth Godin. It’s an enjoyable short ebook.

Imagine that the world had no middlemen, no publishers, no bosses, no HR folks, no one telling you what you couldn’t do. If you lived in that world, what would you do? Go. Do that.

Grow the reader initiative is the main goal of Seth Godin. Our society doesn’t train us to take initiative and lead so we think we aren’t prepare to do it.

The lesson of Icarus is burned into all of us, even those who can’t remember their Greek mythology. The gods get angry at those who would dare to fly, and the penalty is incredibly severe. In Australia, they call it the “tall poppy” problem. Don’t stand up and stand out, or you’ll get cut down. We’re trained to fit in, not to stand out, and the easiest way in the world to fit in is to never initiate. Don’t speak up. If you see something, don’t say anything.
All of this work is wasted if the least understood (but most essential) input is missing. If no one says “go,” the project languishes. If no one insists, pushes, creates, cajoles, and launches, then there’s nothing; it’s all wasted.

The author talks also a bit about the anxiety and the risk of failure.

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.
Make your schedule before you start. Don’t allow setbacks or blocks or anxiety to push you to say, “hey, maybe I should check my e-mail for a while, or you know, I could use a nap.” If you do that, the lizard brain will soon be trained to use that escape hatch again and again.
Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek out.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the center ring, high above you on the trapeze, they will now attempt a triple flip….” The way he said attempt led us all to believe that this might not work. Attempt. Not perform. Not display. We weren’t there to see the acrobats do something great that they had done again and again. No, we were going to see something new, something risky, something interesting.

It’s also interesting how our ego is related with our initiative, and many times it’s great to have ego… if we have it under control.

When our name is on a project, our ego pushes us over the hump and drives us to do even better work. Ego drives us to seek acceptance, to make a difference, and to push the envelope. If ego wasn’t a key driver in the process, then creative, generous work would all be anonymous, and it isn’t.
But tell your ego that the best way to get something shipped is to let other people take the credit.

The author is completely right on the blockade that a founder sometimes has when investors ignore him. On those moments the founder can lose the initiative and forget all the great work he has done.

Entrepreneurs often find themselves waiting to be chosen by a venture capitalist or investor. They need that selection in order to validate their work and to get started on actually building a business. “Pick me, pick me” acknowledges the power of the system and passes responsibility to someone else to initiate. Even better, “pick me, pick me” moves the blame from you to them.
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.

In order to achieve success you need to risk that success, and the path to reach it isn’t clear and will have lots of good and bad surprises.

The greatest challenge any successful organization faces is finding the guts to risk that success in order to accomplish something great. And risking that success ultimately becomes the only way to accomplish something great.
It’s impossible to have a “success-only” policy. That policy itself will guarantee that there will be no successes.
“Not what I expected to find” This is how you know you’re hearing the report of a good scientist. Science that comes up with results that surprise the investigator is probably valid, because the self-fulfilling bias hasn’t shown up.
Part of initiating is being willing to discover that what you end up with is different from what you set out to accomplish. If you’re not willing to discover that surprise, it’s no wonder you’re afraid to start. Starting doesn’t mean controlling. It means initiating. Managing means controlling, but that’s an entirely different skill.
There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way, and not starting.
– Siddhrtha Gautama