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:
- 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.
- The “Big” Factor – we fool ourselves into thinking that the project needs to be big, world-changing, have a name, logo, etc.
- Waiting for Permission – we think we need permission from someone out there to allow us to pursue our ideas.
- Loss of Curiosity – we’ve been desensitized with average products for average people and taught to not rock the boat.
- 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.