Context Book Review: Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Before I start the actual assignment of connecting this book to the material and to the lives and work of information professionals, I want to take the time to talk about how this book has impacted me. So bare with me, the official assignment will come eventually.

I originally chose this book for three reasons (none of which that great). First, the title sounded interesting (isn’t that how everyone picks books?). Second, out of the 6 books I wanted to look more into after reading through the original list, it was the shortest (lets be real, I wanted something I could read in one sitting and not get too distracted from). Third, It was available on kindle unlimited, a service I had thoroughly used for the last couple of years (might as well pick the free book). I really wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book and I didn’t really care, I just wanted to get the assignment done and move on to the next one. Boy was that the opposite of what happened.

This book flipped a switch in my mind. I think, I needed to hear the message that it was trying to give. It is such a simple message too. Take initiative every day, don’t wait until someone tells you to do something, don’t let your great ideas sit in your head because you’re scared you may fail. Start things often, Ship them (ship really just refers to putting your product or project out there into the world, release it, publish it, let it float away into the sea of available information for others to enjoy), and whether you fail or succeed, REPEAT THE PROCESS.

In my working environment I have always been a starter, creating projects, searching out things that needed to be done before being asked to do them but in my personal life I have been stuck. I have always had so many ideas in my head and been too scared to start them. Finally last year I started a project. However, I froze. When I got close to the shipping faze, to being able to release it I got scared of failure and what people might think about my brain child. So I stopped. I left it sitting 90% done and made excuses to not ship it. This book set my mind ablaze, It has made me reconsider my project and why I hadn’t completed it. I started it a year ago, I should have been able to release it within two months? maybe three? However, one year later I am still sitting on it, stewing about how it isn’t good enough, how I think I might fail, how worried I am that people will think its childish or stupid. The way Seth Godin talks about taking initiative makes it sound so easy. He takes the time to rant about how the worst case scenario isn’t failure, its being stagnant. Not starting is worse than failure because there is no chance for success. If you start, you may succeed or you may fail, if you don’t start, then you can never enjoy your success.

I rarely read a book that changed the way I think about my life, I like fiction novels based in fantasy because there is no way their lives can be mine. This book really changed my mind about how I do things, about how I want my life to be and what I want to contribute to the world. More than that, it has encouraged me to take action and keep going until I finish, the results don’t matter. Failure is a part of life, and accepting it and embracing it is the best way for you to open up to the possibility of success.

Alright, Rant over I promise.

The overall ideals in the book are extremely useful for those of us who work as information professionals. As a library team, initiating new programs and projects is what drives innovation in the libraries. If we work too much like a factory, then things never change and library die. Information professionals become obsolete as technology makes it easier and easier to share information. However, if we initiate projects that change the way we interact with our communities, that innovates the way to help and support our communities, we can thrive.

The ideals of the hyperlinked library is founded on the ideals of this book. The hyperlinked library model wouldn’t exist without someone deciding to start, ship, and ignore the fear of failure. The changes being made to better support and include the community have been implemented by information professionals that aren’t afraid to fail. They see a problem, create a solution and don’t wait for someone to pick them. They pick themselves. They start. They ship, and they create environments that change the way libraries serve their communities.


Godin, S. (2014) Poke the Box: When was the last time you tried something for the first time? New York, New York: Penguin Random House.

One thought on “Context Book Review: Poke the Box by Seth Godin

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your personal insights on this book and how it directly relates to your work habits, study habits, and life in general. The connection you made between taking initiative in your own life and in the hyperlinked library was well done. Change doesn’t happen until someone decides it needs to and then follows through by acting on it and ignoring the fear of failure. Failure can also lead to great innovation and new ways of understanding.

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