What are you waiting for

I just recently read a simple book by Seth Godin called “Poke the Box”. There wasn’t anything that was revolutionary or mind-blowing about it, but its message stuck with me. Godin starts with the assertion, “The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.” The title comes from the image of a curious person who is presented with a mysterious box. Some people will sit there and just look at the box until given permission to do something with it. Yet others will poke the box, tinker with it, and see what it can do. Each time they poke the box, they will learn something about the box, and over time they will figure out what to do with it.

Think about that for a moment. Do you have a project that you’ve been meaning to get around to? A book you’ve been meaning to read? A conversation you’ve been wanting to have? Is there an idea you’ve had to make a difference in your neighborhood? How long have you had that on your to-do list? Godin challenges the excuses that we buy  into that prevent us from getting around to doing that thing. A couple of the obstacles:

  1. Fear of failure – we are so afraid of failing at something that we don’t do anything. In fact, he says that the person who fails the most usually wins. This is different from having the biggest failure. It has more to do with attempting many times and having some success mingled in with many failures.
  2. The “Big” Factor – we fool ourselves into thinking that the project needs to be big, world-changing, have a name, logo, etc.
  3. Waiting for Permission – we think we need permission from someone out there to allow us to pursue our ideas.
  4. Loss of Curiosity – we’ve been desensitized with average products for average people and taught to not rock the boat.
  5. Avoidance of risk -Godin labels the natural defense mechanism, “lizard brain”. It’s the self-preservation instinct that keeps us from risking. By analogy, we want someone to draw us a map and then follow it, but real art and creation happens as you draw the map.
Godin encourages the reader to take initiative and start something simply with the curiosity and passion to say, “let’s see and try.” We can’t be afraid of the possibility that something might not work. Overall, I felt challenged and moved by Godin’s simple poking to attempt something remarkable. I was challenged specifically by his claim that there is a moral obligation to start something – that if you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then you must act and make a difference, or else you squander the opportunity. “Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us.” I would add from a theological perspective that not starting something that God has put you in position to do is just plain disobedience. Fear and laziness in such a circumstance is sin!
In church ministry, we can put up so much red tape and “strategery” that we end up not doing anything! We can get ourselves so entrenched into the hierarchy of “groupthink” that we become petrified about responding to the needs and opportunities that God presents to every member of the church. Even when an idea does surface, we can sometimes be so suspicious about the idea that it never gets off the ground. Why are we so afraid of failure in Jesus’ name? I immediately connected Godin’s principles to an “Even If” mentality. What would we attempt if we knew that there was a dire emergency that demanded every resource and every member? Wouldn’t we just try to do something and if it failed, figure out a way to retool on the fly and try again?
He closes the book by talking about some of the considerations that must be taken into account as we start, share, and continue to make something of this world. Personally, I know that there are a number of ideas that God has put on my heart to go after, and Godin’s short piece liberated me to stop making excuses and do something about them.
What is the idea, cause, or opportunity/need that you need to start doing something about?

One thought on “What are you waiting for

  1. Pingback: Make Something of the World – A Recap of Steve Jobs « Echoes of the Myth

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