Young Upstarts

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[Review] Poke The Box

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

With a secondary title like that, you can bet that “Poke the Box” – Seth Godin’s first title under The Domino Project – is going to be all provocative and punchy. And boy, the renowned marketing cum motivational blogger sure doesn’t disappoint in that department.

Beating all records as Godin’s shortest book ever at less than 90 pages, “Poke the Box” has a simple message: Go and start something now. Billed as a “manifesto”, the slim volume is full of catchy one-liners urging one to initiate, instigate and innovate. Some of its quoteworthy phrases include the following:

“Curiosity drives us to the haunted house because the thrills lie in what we don’t expect, not in what’s safe.”

“Art is hard. Selling is hard. Writing is hard. Making a difference is hard.”

“The market is obsessed with novelty. So go make some. We’re tired of your old stuff.”

“Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.”

“Forward motion is a defensible business asset.”

And so on.

What I like about the book is that the riffs (and rants) do not just urge you to go Go GO – they actually offer some sensible words of advice too. For example, one shouldn’t just be a serial starter (what Seth termed as a “hypergo” person) but end up quitting each enterprise before they could see fruit. Rather, one should aim to finish and ship what’s started.

Other than the key message of poking the box (i.e. starting and shipping), Seth also offers the following vignettes (paraphrased in my own words):

– One should overcome one’s “lizard brain” and the fear or laziness which it brings

– One should never stop trying, attempting new stuff, or being wrong.

– Don’t settle for a “cog” job, even if you’re not an entrepreneur.

– Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat. In any case, the cat (or yourself) has nine lives.

– Don’t be afraid of getting out of your cage. The boundary is in your head and not in the system.

– Hiding your spark or burying your ideas from your organisation is tantamount to a sin.

As a quick picker-upper, “Poke the Box” shines with the usual Gordin glisten. Treat it like a shot of espresso through your jaded, work weary system. However, don’t expect to receive anything more than an energetic clarion call to start a new venture/project/idea. Like its title suggests, the book is more of a kick in the butt than a business manual.


Walter is a seasoned marketer and publicist with almost 19 years of experience in marketing, communications, social media engagement, events management, strategic planning and corporate development. A judge of the Singapore Blog Awards, he blogs at Cooler Insights.

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