Shelf Life

Excerpt: Poke the Box

Daryl Paranada Mar 24, 2011

The following excerpt is from Poke the Box. Learn more about the book and read an interview with author Seth Godin.

Poke The Box Excerpts

1.) 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 happens.
They repeat the process until they figure out what works. That’s what happens when you poke ‐
whether it’s the market or your customer or what you think about yourself ‐ you solve the
puzzle by poking. Life is a buzzer box. If we want to make things happen, we need to remember
to poke, to make a ruckus, to take what feels like a risk.

2.) The seven imperatives that all successful organizations are built on:

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 sixth imperative is to be productive, so you can be well priced.

But it’s still possible to do all of these things and still fail. A job is not enough; a factory is not
enough; a trade is not enough. It used to be, but no longer.

The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply
react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting
to be shoved.


Poking doesn’t mean right. It means action.

“This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek

If you don’t finish, it doesn’t really count as starting, and if you don’t start, you’re not poking.

If you never fail, either you’re really lucky or you haven’t shipped anything.

Risk is avoided because we’ve been trained to avoid failure.

Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.

Why not sell your boss or your colleagues on being the initiator? It’s your job. You start things. Ask once, do many.

Initiative is a little like creativity in that both require curiosity. The difference is that the creative
person is satisfied once he sees how it’s done. The initiator won’t rest until he does it.

The people arguing on behalf of accepting the status quo are the ones who, years ago, set out
to change it. As disillusionment sets in, people stop poking. The irony is that the act of creating
and shipping remarkable ideas is the very thing that can change the status quo.

Aimless is where we end up when we don’t care so much about where we’re going, or we try to
hide and limit our contributions. I’m pushing for the opposite of that–for “aimful,” if you want
to coin a phrase.

One word reviews for POKE THE BOX

… Annie Duke, world poker champion, author and talk show host

…Sarah Jones, playwright

…Jill Greenberg, photographer,

Praise for Seth Godin

“Seth Godin may be the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age”
‐‐Business Week

“It’s easy to see why people pay to hear what he has to say.”
‐‐Time Magazine

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