Poke The Box is a manifesto to push you to start something new. By starting, it means taking action, committing, and making something happen. The resistance is strong, so it’s easier to stay doing the same way over and over again—being a dreamer instead of making the dream a reality. If you are enjoying the status quo and content waiting for success to find you, this book is not for you.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
The first imperative is to be aware—aware of the market, of opportunities, of who you are. The second imperative is to be educated, so you can understand what’s around you. The third imperative is to be connected, so you can be trusted as you engage. The fourth imperative is to be consistent, so the system knows what to expect. The fifth imperative is to build an asset, so you have something to sell. The six imperative is to be productive, so you can be well priced.
The seventh imperative is frightening and thus easy to overlook or ignore. The seventh imperative is to have the guts and the heart and the passion to ship.
Here’s what’s needed to make something happen: an idea, people to work on it, a place to build or organize it, raw materials, distribution, money, and marketing.
Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow.
Risk, to some, is a bad thing, because risk brings with it the possibility of failure. It might be only a temporary failure, but that doesn’t matter so much if the very thought of it shuts you down. So, for some, risk comes to equal failure (take enough risk and sooner or later, you will fail.) Risk is avoided because we’ve been trained to avoid failure.
The resistance is talking to you as you read this, urging you to compromise, to not be a troublemaker, to avoid rash moves. For many of us, the resistance is always chattering away, frequently sabotaging our best opportunities and ruining our best chance to do great work. Naming it helps you befriend it, and befriending it helps you ignore it.
Go to work on a regular basis.
Art is hard. Selling is hard. Writing is hard. Making a difference is hard.
It’s extremely difficult to find smart people willing to start useful projects. Because sometimes what you start doesn’t work. The fact that it doesn’t work every time should give you confidence, because it means you’re doing something that frightens others.
They don’t understand that Excellence isn’t about working extra hard to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing.
Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.
What differentiates us from every other creature is that we go places, places we’ve not gone before. We do it willingly, and often. What makes our work and our life interesting is discovery, surprise, and the risk of exploration.
If you don’t ship, you actually haven’t started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked.
If you never fail, either you’re really lucky or you haven’t shipped anything. But if you succeed often enough to be given the privilege of failing next time, then you’re on the road to a series of failures. Fail, succeed, fail, fail, fail, succeed—you get the idea.
Action is easy once you have a plan. Formulating a plan, however, is a rare and valuable skill.
Once you’ve engaged with an organization or a relationship or a community, you owe it to your team to start. To initiate. To be the one who makes something happen. To do less is to steal from them.
Part of initiating is being willing to discover that what you end up with is different from what you set out to accomplish. If you’re not willing to discover that surprise, it’s no wonder you’re afraid to start.
We can cry about failures, but that will lead us to hold back on the next idea. Or we can celebrate them, realizing that it’s proof that we’re being promiscuous in our shipping, putting the best work we can into the world, regardless of whether this particular idea actually works.
Actually, it does hurt to ask. It does hurt to ask the wrong way, to ask without preparation, to ask without permission. It hurts because you never get another chance to ask right.
There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way, and not starting. —Siddhārtha Gautama