Book Notes: Poke the Box

March 6, 2011

Poke the Box is Seth Godin’s latest book/manifesto.  This is different from his other books in that it runs only 70 pages and is published as part of a new venture with Amazon called The Domino Project.  You may remember last year Seth Godin rocked the world by suggesting he was done with mainstream publishers.  This is where he’s landed.

Poke the Box is a short, 70 page manifesto about the importance of starting.  Godin makes the case that the ability to take initiative is a trait that consistently characterizes those who succeed.  The ability to begin creating is what separates the talkers from the doers.  Not making lists, planning, organizing, networking, or amassing followers.  Starting.  There are how-to steps here, just a foundation for taking a new approach to what you do.  This is a sequel to Linchpin.

I struggle with this myself.  Around the first of the year and well before I read Poke the Box I committed to spending a little less time around the water cooler and more time creating.  Thus I’ve been a little less visible on Twitter.  I’m desperately working to shut off distractions.  Poke the Box resonated with me.

Consider this quote about Godin’s friend and Twitter.  It’s worth processing:

Apparently, my friend has set the phone to chime every time one of the people he follows on Twitter posts something. This gives him the chance to read it and respond, making him, presumably, a truly valuable follower. He’s hoping that polishing his relationships in this way will act as a form of networking, making him more integrated into the Tweeters’ lives and perhaps businesses. All this polishing. Stand on an urban street corner and you can see it happening. Dozens of ostensibly busy people, staring at their palms and their fingers, polishing their relationships. The challenge is that it’s asymptotic. Twice as much polishing isn’t twice as good. Ten times as much polishing is definitely not ten times as good. Whether you’re polishing a piece of furniture or an idea, the benefits diminish quickly. The polishing turns into stalling. I wonder what would happen if instead of rushing to Twitter, my friend used that chime to do something original or provocative or important? What if the chime was his reminder not to polish, but to create?

In a way that only Godin can do he marries motivation with raw logic.  I would strongly suggest that if you are in the business of doing or creating, drop what you’re doing (temporarily) and read Poke the Box. It’s a quick read.

The Amazon link above is an affiliate link.


Andre Blackman March 6, 2011 at 8:57 am

I also need to put up my review – I completely agree with you on this review Bryan. And like you pointed to, it weaves well with his Linchpin book around the world needing you to…start something.

Did you see the workbook that came out with it?

DrV March 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I missed the workbook. I’ll look for it. I love collateral stuff.

Greg Smith MD March 6, 2011 at 10:56 am


Once again, great minds. Just downloaded it to the Kindle app on my iPad (you’re going to love your iPad 2 by the way) and will read next.
I love how Merlin Mann looks at this. He too is radical in the way he tells it like it is, sometimes leaving those he is talking to slack-jawed.
What is keeping you from shipping?
I love that. It’s the problem to be solved in a nutshell.
We need to create and ship.
Nuff said.

See ya around the Twitterz, but not as much. :)


DrV March 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I love/loved Merlin Mann. And whatever happened to him? Seems he vanished from the face of the earth. But he did take some of Godin’s angles.

You must have 25 books in the que!

Ed Bennett March 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

This post struck a nerve, as I’ve been lost by the distractions of Twitter, and other social media services. Time to step back, focus and create more than I consume. Thanks for the push, I look forward to reading the book.

kishan March 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Thanks Dr V, Andre Blackman, will latch on to your suggestions.


Jackie Fox March 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Excellent and I will get Poke the Box into the line-up along with Alone Together. The quote about polishing really resonated with me. I just turned off my Twitter text messaging for @ replies, and not only because my text charges have skyrocketed : ) I commented recently somewhere else that the noise in my head that used to come from trying to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis is now caused by a constant swirl of tweets and posts.

Here’s wishing all of us more time to reflect.

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