Customer Reviews: Poke the Box
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on March 15, 2011
Poke the Box should have been titled Tribes: The Remix as Godin brings nothing new to the table other than a relationship with Amazon and some promotional pricing gimmicks. It's his usual mix of paper-thin insights and exhortations to be bold! to lead! to ship! -- but with notably less energy or conviction than usual, as if he wrote it in between blog posts over a rare quiet weekend.

I pre-ordered the Kindle version and read it in a total of about 2 hours, and would still rather pay full price for the hardcover version of Tribes, a far superior book that I not only devoured and raved about 2.5 years ago, but bought copies for my entire staff at the time, and still recommend to people on a regular basis.

Perhaps the most interesting idea in the book gets buried in his Stuart Smalley-esque shtick:

"One reason organizations get stuck is that they stick with their 'A' players so long that they lose their bench. In a world that's changing, a team with no bench strength and a rigid outlook on the game will always end up losing."

It's a concept worth exploring further, and one that fits perfectly under Tribes' philosophical umbrella, but in Poke it's an odd aside that gets glossed over.

One of Godin's running themes throughout Poke is to be an initiator, and that risking failure is the best road to achieving success, and by making Poke the Box the first offering from The Domino Project, he's practicing what he preaches. He initiated, he shipped, and he pretty much failed to deliver a good book.

Now the question will be whether or not "Powered by Amazon" and his marketing gimmicks have introduced him to a wider audience than Portfolio, his previous publisher, could have, and whether or not The Domino Project's bench is deep enough to give this publishing experiment real legs.
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on March 1, 2011
Not too long ago, I read and reviewed Seth Godin's "Tribes." While it was very thought-provoking and filled with an incredible array of ideas, it was also wrong- headed in many ways, I felt.

So I ordered "Poke the Box" with some trepidation. What I've learned is to re-calibrate my expectations from Seth Godin. While I might want a well-thought-out and researched treatise proving the latest idea to me, Seth Godin overwhelms me with his passion and force. Rather than resisting and arguing with Seth (I do this especially as I read what he writes!) I decided this time to listen carefully and take away from the book what I could. Besides, for one dollar as a Kindle book, how could I go wrong! This, by the way, is part of Seth's exciting new strategy for getting books out to people through non-traditional means. "Poke the Box" is the first book being marketed by Seth using the Domino Project and its strategies. It is, in fact, the first is a series of manifestoes.

If "Poke the Box" communicates nothing else, it presents this one message with a megaphone voice: "Go!" "Start now." "The worst thing you can do is nothing." Already, I find myself arguing, since I know that just doing things without careful planning first has led to many disasters. But I keep reading because Seth is so insistent, and he has such a large tribe following him, telling me that maybe he's worth listening to.

But I think I know what Seth means: he means that you've got to be out there trying and risking failure, or you'll be irrelevant. There are too many people out there and too many tribes so that if you do nothing or are too cautious, thinking that you can control the whole process, the chances are you'll end up marginalizing yourself. The important thing is to be out there, thinking, inventing, trying, and experiencing, for that is how we learn and create.

Poking the box, therefore, means being willing to poke, to get things started, and to stir things up. And that's something that I personally need to hear, for my tendency is to caution and fearfulness. "Poking the Box" is the culmination of many other books I've read that have also convinced me to begin now and take the initiative. One of the most important times I did that was when I dared to write a daily Bible devotional for every passage of the New Testament. I had a lot of reasons why I couldn't or shouldn't do this or why I'd never complete it. But God told me to start one day, and so I did. Two years later I finished "Give Us This Day."

Poking the Box is about recapturing all of the moments in your life when you started something new and were jazzed about it and the world seemed wonderful and mysterious again. Poking the Box is about recapturing that feeling by taking real action in something you've already been thinking about but haven't had the guts or inspiration to carry out. Read "Poking the Box" for yourself, and see if it doesn't re-energize you to find old dreams or execute new ones!

When should you poke the box? When the cost of poking the box is less than the cost of doing nothing. It also means working hard and committing to finishing.

"The market is waiting for people to step forward," Seth says. And so are the tribes that we lead and that each of us are a part of. If you're a religious leader as I am, then so are the people of God, who all too often have become fearful and weak.

By the way, like Seth, I'm also a big fan of Amazon. I think they've been brilliant in the way they've gone about their business. I agree with Seth when he says that they have become world leaders in marketing, building an audience (tribe) and in reaching people. In fact, he's using Amazon to promote his Domino Project: "I want to change the people who read (not enough do) and I want to change the way books are published (they're too hard to find and spread). I honestly believe that a book can change a mind like nothing else, and that's our focus." These are things that I, too, believe in, for I have a tribe of my own and ideas I would like to share with the world.

Thank you, Seth, for giving me a little more courage to "Poke the Box" in my chosen field! Who knows what you, yes YOU, may come up with if you too "Poke the Box"!

I'll close with some quotes from "Poke the Box." Like me, you may not completely buy into them, but they are certain to "poke" you:

"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way and not starting." (Siddhartha Gautama)

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

"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 out.

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

"Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself."

"Where did curiosity go? 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."
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on March 2, 2011
As background, I absolutely love Seth's work. I read his blog daily and within the past year finished The Dip, Tribes, and Linchpin.

Having said that, I'm hard pressed to give this manifesto more than 3 or 3.5 stars. While the content is certainly motivational and inspiring, the overall message and theme felt the same as his other aforementioned books. In other words, the material didn't seem fresh. There were several sections that I felt were extremely similar to his earlier work (sometimes even the examples were the same) but just not in the same depth/detail.

For seasoned Godin readers, I think you can safely skip this one.
For new readers to Seth's work, I'd steer you towards Tribes and Linchpin first instead of this manifesto. You'll get more information, understanding, and background story to many of his key points.

In the end, it's still a nice kick in the pants to get started. Do something. Now.
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on March 27, 2011
I bought this book as a last minute add on to another purchase. An impulse purchase like buying a candy bar while checking out at the grocery store. My advice to you is "put the candy bar down." I don't mind wasting $5 dollars ( which is the most insightful thing I learned from this book), but I am upset at the other reviewers for letting me down. I kept reading this book wondering why it had 4+ stars.

The punchline of the book is, Just start doing something. I just did. I hope this helped you.
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on May 23, 2011
I picked up Seth Godin's "Poke the Box" in the new arrivals shelf at my local library. It's a neatly packaged book - 5"x7"; 84 pages long with 95 headings written in what I guess is 12pt font. Why is this important? It hopefully gives you an idea of the depth to which the author bothers to explore any of his points.

The "book" comes across as a stream-of-conciousness rant that randomly but frequently repeats "start something" as a mantra or a nag: "Blah blah blah, start something. Blah blah blah initiate." Irritating. It is ill organized with little to no connectivity between ideas which often contradict each other. It's as if the author collected loosely related blog posts and threw them together in a book. Lazy. The coup de grace is his suggestion on how to share the ideas in his manifesto: "Give away copies [of the book]. Lots of them." The audacity!

The tragedy for me with respect to this book is the opportunity wasted by the author to truly inspire and motivate his readers. The again, maybe this was an experiment by the author & publisher to see if it's possible to feed attractively packaged crap to blind followers to check if they will not only eat it, but call it delicious. Insulting.
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VINE VOICEon March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As jsandifer writes, "Poke the Box was actually nothing new." Its message? Do something, don't just think about doing something. But do it smartly. And do it often.

The rest, as Charles Erlandson, writes, is Godin's "passion and force" -- if you want to call it that. I don't doubt Godin's passion, but force -- that's in the eye of the reader.

Interestingly, the passage that sticks most with me is when he writes about the original Starbucks in Seattle, founded in 1971. "Left to Jerry [Baldwin's] vision of the future, Starbucks would certainly have failed." The original store sold "coffee beans and tea leaves and even herbs... [but Jerry Baldwin] made a mistake. He thought the beans were the point, not the coffee."

You know what? Baldwin et al. did exactly what Godin is exhorting everyone to do. They started something. To most of us, a small coffee, tea, and herb shop that manages to make a profit -- that's success. I know there are a few businesses still doing that today in Seattle -- some very near to the original Starbucks.

Perhaps the people to whom Poke the Box is aimed have bigger dreams. Perhaps that's part of the problem. There's absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming big. Someone's got to do it. But will Godin's message reach the majority of people? If you've bought this, he's probably preaching to the choir (you).

Godin's obviously got something going. But this could be so much more.
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on March 6, 2011
The basis of this self-help, inspirational business book is simple: don't fear failure, take the initiative. In short: poke the box.

I purchased the Kindle version of this book at the $1 special offer. The book edition weighs in at a slim 96 pages. Those 96 pages are mostly a compilation of aphorisms: "Life is a buzzer box, poke it." "The more you do, the more you fail." "Go to work on a regular basis." "Art is hard. Selling is hard. Writing is hard. Making a difference is hard." "Initiative is scarce." An occasional metaphor fills out the text: "Whether you're polishing a piece of furniture or an idea, the benefits diminish quickly. The polishing turns into stalling."

Between the aphorism and metaphor, Mr. Godin inserts stories of successful people who initially failed. "Talk to any successful person. He'll be happy to fill you in on his long string of failures." The assumption being that failure leads to success. No one wants to hear from the multitudes who never attain the summit of success. To Godin's credit, however, the only failure in his mind is doing nothing.

Unfortunately, as the author himself writes: "The world is a lot more complicated than it appears." Aside from the inspirational quips, this book is not only short in length but also short on substance. The world is more complicated than simple aphorism, and success is more complicated than poking the box.

If you need a poke of inspiration to get your initiative flowing, there's something here for you. If you're interested in substance, look elsewhere.

I understand there's an upcoming "Poke the Box: The Workbook." Perhaps the missing substance here will appear in the workbook, or perhaps Mr. Godin wants the sell me another book. Now that's poking the box!
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on March 4, 2011
I really wanted to like this book. I hoped to be inspired, provoked, called to action. Instead, I found a mish-mash of half-baked pap thrown together repetitively, without much concern for argument or structure. I might have enjoyed some of these sections as blog posts, but it doesn't work at book length - especially, I might add, as a flagship title for his publishing venture.

So what about Godin's message? It boils down to, "Just do it," with a few useful embellishments like "Finish what you start." There are a few good stories, but you'll be doing 95% of the work of applying Godin's advice yourself. Spend the money you'd have put toward this book on taking an inspiring friend out for coffee, and getting them to listen to your ideas for ways you can take initiative in your own life.

Finally, I found it vaguely insulting to be advised by someone who did such a slipshod job of taking his own advice, at least in this case.

In short: not recommended.
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on April 16, 2011
I bought this book based on all the reviews but now I feel like a lemming just following the crowd over the cliff. He could have said what he needed to say in one paragraph or less: get off your duff...that's it. Thank goodness it only cost $4.99 -- which I felt was wasted. Sorry, Seth, I don't need another "Mom" to nag me -- the one I have is fantastic at this same lesson.
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VINE VOICEon March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is a recipe of how to morph into a pain in the behind employee. Mr. Godin relentlessly pushes the reader to be an innovator. "This is a revolutionary overthrow of time and motion studies, of foremen, of bureaucracies and bosses." (p. 34) The kind of behavior he advocates is ill suited for most work environments except an entrepreneurial one. "The person who fails the most usually wins.... Fail, succeed, fail, fail, fail, succeed." (p. 52) Then, 4 pages later, "Here's the nightmare, and it's a vivid one: The boss finds someone who did something wrong and she hassles/disciplines/humiliates/fires her. If you're not wrong, that's not going to happen." But you WILL be wrong, as Mr. Godin correctly stated earlier. If you constantly start innovative projects, you are bound to fail, and fail often, and unless you're the entrepreneur who is running the show, your boss(es) will not tolerate these failures, and your credibility will be shot in little time.

Mr. Godin cites how innovative Google is, but in a March 26th, 2011 WSJ article titled "At Google, Page Aims to Clear Red Tape", following the reinstatement of Larry Page as Google CEO, Amir Efrati states "Mr. Page has asked product and engineering managers to email him about their projects to potentially winnow them down." Winnow them down because Google has too many innovative projects in queue, and the new Google CEO wants the engineers to focus on the more important projects.

But even if we were to ignore all of this hoopla about constantly starting innovative projects regardless of work environment, industry etc., Mr. Godin completely leaves out the skills, knowledge, experience, connections, and political considerations that are conducive to starting innovative projects with a fair chance of success, and a whole different set of skills to see them through, e.g. consensus building, motivational skills etc. There's nothing of the sort mentioned in the book. Just go go go, create, start, poke, and eventually, everything will magically fall into place.

Just imagine as a manager you have an army of loose cannons to deal with on a daily basis who are Energizer bunnies of innovation.

Sorry Mr. Godin. At the end of the day, "Poke The Box" will do little more than arm you with a BB gun to fight the Afghan war.
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