It has been a really long time since I have read any of the Seth Godin books , so picked up his latest book – “Poke the Box”. Books from Seth are usually filled with nuggets of wisdom culled out from marketers / entrepreneurs/purple cows that he comes across. To me, I love the way he writes; Straight to the point, no bullshitting, no nonsense and blends his message with anecdotes and interesting insights.

Firstly something about the man on the cover; Seth says

“The man in a hurry is an archetype, first discovered in the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. He’s you, the excited, optimistic experimenter who understands that risk is misunderstood and that forward motion is the key to success. “

The phrase “Poke the box”, represents hacking or action. In author’s words,

“How do computer programmers learn their art? Is there a step-by-step process that guarantees you’ll get good? All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box. They code something and see what the computer does. They change it and see what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works. The box might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only one way—by poking.”

The book’s central message is “Start Often and Ship Often”. This applies to ideas/books/ventures/products and it means that creativity has to crisscross with the marketplace often. There is no use writing a novel and perfecting it endlessly instead of shipping the rough draft. There is no use in building the perfect product instead of shipping the product in versions and making it better as time goes. This does not mean that you ship something half-baked. It only means that you have to ship often , to fail often , and to finally succeed. Shipping entails the risk of failure and unless a company/an individual/team is not prepared to fail, it will be in an endless loop of perfecting the product and living in an utopian world, thus missing the critical component required for any success- “Failing too often”.

To be an initiator/shipper you don’t need to have some grandiose context. Seth puts in beautifully

Outsized entrepreneurs are lionized daily. We’ve heard their names again and again—people (too often men) who started a business, started an organization, started a revolution. Good for them. But you don’t have to be Howard Schultz to be an initiator. People have come to the erroneous conclusion that if they’re not willing to start something separate, world-changing, and risky, they have no business starting anything. Somehow, we’ve fooled ourselves into believing that the project has to have a name, a building, and a stock ticker symbol to matter. In fact, people within organizations are perfectly situated to start something. The third person in the four-person inbound customer service team can do it. The receptionist can do it. The assistant foreman can do it. The spark I’m talking about is simple to describe, but easy to avoid.

There is another aspect to starting/poking the box, which is “finishing”. If you don’t ship the idea/product/art/whatever that you are doing to find the reaction from the market place, then you have failed.

image Takeaway:

Starting as a way of life” is probably the only way to ensure that you fail often, you ship often , and in the process succeed.