In this book summary of Poke The Box by Seth Godin, you’ll find my notes, high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.
Poke The Box Summary
The world is moving too fast to sit in place and go through live being told what to do or waiting for permission. You need to start taking initiative if you want to accomplish anything meaningful.
Don’t get confused by the myth that you need to start some world-changing idea or giant company. Your job is to bring life to something small and grow from there.
Continual innovation is the only way to thrive in this fast-paced world.
If you’re not moving forward personally and in your career, you’re actually moving backward compared to everyone moving forward.
The first rule of doing work that matters is to set a schedule that your brain has to follow and then show up to work hard.
Society rewards not the people who follow maps, but the ones who draw maps. Be a map drawer.
Taking action, or as Godin says “poking the box,” doesn’t require you to be right, just that you move forward.
Most businesses experience the highest growth in the first five years and then it slows down. Why? Because they stop trying new ideas and start looking at efficiency and hiring over market disruption.
“If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.” This is in regards to starting a new project, it has to be one where there’s risk and something real on the table or it won’t be worth your time.
It’s impossible to lose in life if you continue to create and ship new ideas or projects. You’ll either succeed or fail, and both mean you’re moving forward.
The worst thing you can do is to try to fit in and limit your creative output to the world. That’s a terrible way to live!
What you accomplish comes down to what you take the initiative to start and finish. Commit to a project you believe in and go do it—that’s how you make a difference in this world.
The opportunity, challenge, and thrill comes from focusing on the work, not focusing on the fear that the work brings you.
You’re going to, and supposed to, fail. Failure is a good thing. Because after each failure you learn a lesson and get better. True innovation is founded on failure. So fail more! You can’t lose in the grand scheme.
Three Favorite Quotes
“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.”
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way, and not starting.”
“Today, 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.”
Action Steps For You
You have to take initiative in this world. No one can give you the life, excitement, and joy you want by giving you a list of rules to follow.
Happiness comes from doing work you’re curious about and where you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. The fact that it’s not guaranteed success makes for all the interest.
As Seth Godin writes so powerfully, when you don’t start and try new things, you’re essentially stealing from the people around you, your community, and yourself.
So ask yourself this: What box are you going to poke? What project are you going to start—no matter if it looks extremely profitable or just interesting?
Odds are you already know the exact idea that you want to start.
Now start it. Take action to finish it. And then you’ll learn and be better from it after.
Keep poking the box for the rest of your life, and you’re going to turn out more successful than you ever imaged.
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