Review of Seth Godin’s Poke the Box

I recently had the pleasure of reading Seth Godin’s latest book, Poke the Box. It’s a nice, light read and something that can be fit into an afternoon visit to your favorite coffee shop.

As with other Seth Godin books that I’ve read, the message first strikes you as self evident. “Of course this makes sense. Who wouldn’t know that?” But Seth has a way of taking the obvious, and using it as a means to teach a lesson.

I’d like to share some of the things that have stuck with me from this book. Incidentally, as I was reading it, Twitter provided a temporary outlet to tell the rest of the world what I was gleaning from the pages. There were a lot of bite-sized pieces of information, perfect for the 140 character limit on Twitter.

The basic premise of the book is that a lot of people are afraid of starting, of experimenting with new ideas, of ‘poking the box’ to see what happens.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.
Not going all the way, and not starting.”
Siddhartha Gautama

The Starbucks story provides an example of how it’s ok to start, and be wrong at first. One of the founders, Jerry Baldwin, had a vision of a company that would sell coffee beans and tea leaves. His vision turned out to be wrong, and it was only after his business partner Howard Schultz visited Italy and developed a passion for espresso, that the company took the direction for which it is known today. Jerry Baldwin was wrong, but because he started, it allowed for the company to know it was wrong, then change direction.

The person who fails the most usually wins

Talk to any person who is successful and they will share with you their list of failures that helped bring them to where they are. If you fail only once, i.e. fail big, it’s game over. If you never fail, you’re either very lucky, or you’ve never tried succeeding. It is in allowing yourself multiple smaller failures, and learning from them, that you move forward to successes. Poke the box, figure out which ideas resonate, and then ship them.

Why is this message relevant now?

Today’s market is obsessed with novelty. In a world where information can spread quickly, the most remarkable ideas win.

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