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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts on Poke the Box

I find myself wanting to ask several people to read this book, Poke the Box by Seth Godin, some who are very close to me personally. However, I don’t know that I’m going to be able to get them to do that, so I want to summarize what I believe are the some of the key points that I would want another person to grasp from this book.

I've been following Godin's blog for about a year and have been impressed by his insightful brevity. Plus the titles of his books are excellent. The other of his I've read is called, The Dip.As far as I know, I don’t believe that Godin is writing from a specifically Christian perspective. That’s not a problem, all truth is God’s truth, and Godin’s worldview would not be possible outside of a culture not richly marked by the teaching of the bible. That’s the point of the book I’m reading now.

Part of the reason this book appeals to me is that I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that I gradually have become the status quo. I’m tempted to think its because I’m getting older, but now I think it’s a sort of human tendency to “settle in.” There are many positive benefits to staying in one place for a long time, (I’ve served my current church for 19 years) but growing overly comfortable seems to be a danger, as well as becoming defensive when someone challenges an idea or a process in place that I’ve developed. This is why his statement that we might develop “an obsession with changing the status quo merely to see what happens,” got my attention.

Here’s another quote that resonates with me strongly:
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 risks and sooner or later, you will fail). Risk is avoided because we’ve been trained to avoid failure. I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance…and if you have anxiety about initiating a project, then of course you will associate risk with failure.
His argument here reminds me of the parable of the talents (Mat. 25:14-30) which seems to me mostly about takings risks with whatever God has given us. The point of the parable is not that God demands success, but that God insists that his good gifts to us be invested and put into play. Holding back what God has given you whether in abilities, opportunities, finances or relationships out of fear attracts a strong rebuke by Jesus in this text. Part of what I like about what Godin says in this book is that we should expect failure, that we need to be trying lots of things, knowing that some of them won’t work. His definition of anxiety is very good, “experiencing failure in advance.”

Godin goes on a few sentences later to say that, “I’m not surprised to discover that many of these people are stuck. Stuck with the status quo, stuck defending their position in the market.”

I may have more to say about this book in days to come. 


  1. I really like Seth too, and his ideas for challenging one's self. I like your take on the things Gene. I think Steve is reading this book, but I can't keep up with his ever changing stack of books.

  2. Sounds like Steve is a man after my own heart. I will likely read a few more of Godin's books, probably Tribes, I get the impression that may be his signature book.