At South by Southwest Interactive (the conference where I’ve been for the past week), there’s a lot of “free shit” to be garnered.
Mostly, “free” takes the form of tacos and empanadas from the scores of food trucks in Austin. And it sometimes shows up as beer (usually Miller Lite but often Shiner Bock, which tastes alright back home but somehow much better in Texas).
So when I saw a stack of copies of marketing genius Seth Godin‘s newest book at the Man Vs. Debt meetup (more free — coffee and espresso, food, and RV tours), I got excited because (a) I love Seth Godin’s stuff and (b) I figured it was free.
It was. Sort of.
On certain conditions
After I had the book in my taco-greased hands, I discovered that I actually had to earn it. How?
By agreeing to read it within five days, write a one-sentence review in the back, and then pass it on to someone else who could use it.
Having read the whole thing on the plane ride home (not such a feat — it’s only 83 pages), I’m doing that last part now: Maybe you’re the one who can use it.
Go, go, go
Seth’s new book is called Poke the Box. I don’t like the title, but I think Seth gets enough crap for his titles, so I’m not going to harp on that.
Poke the Box is about starting. Initiating, instigating, shaking things up.
Why? Because following the rules isn’t safe anymore. Taking risks, strange as it may seem, is much safer than sitting back and waiting to be told what to do. Whether it’s your job, your school, or whatever you call your mission, so few people find it in themselves to question the rules that the rewards to those who do (and the causes they stand for) are greater than they’ve ever been.
What stops us, though, is fear — when you have the nerve to draw your own map rather than following the one that somebody else made (and probably a long time ago), there’s a fantastic chance you’re going to screw up.
Seth wrote this manifesto to get you over that fear. Embrace it. Realize that when you fail (and make no mistake — you will fail plenty), take it as a sign that you’re doing something worthwhile. Be proud of your failures.
I sense that I’m making this sound sort of ra-ra fluffy. Don’t let that stop you from reading Poke the Box; it doesn’t feel that way when Seth writes it.
Let me try to make this stuff just a little more concrete.
Why I like Poke the Box
Poke the Box resonated with me because when No Meat Athlete first happened, it’s only virtue was that it had been started.
Before No Meat Athlete, I was a graduate student who had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Two years later, I’m still a graduate student, and with only a slightly better idea of what I want to do with my life.
But there’s a bigger difference between me then and me now — in doing this, I’ve learned, firsthand, the power of starting. When I poked around on the interwebs looking for good info for athletes who happen to be vegetarian, I found that there wasn’t much of it. So, desperate for something to do with my life other than grading Calculus homework, I opened a free WordPress account and started writing No Meat Athlete (technically, it was No-Meat Athlete, with a hyphen).
I didn’t know the information I’d be writing about. But I started, and that made me learn it.
And now 4,000 people subscribe. And 1,143 of them, in countries all over the planet, have No Meat Athlete shirts.
I’m not naive enough to put this up there with Bieber fever. And in case you couldn’t tell, my bank account looks nothing like Mark Zuckerberg’s.
But I know that simply because I started (seriously, that was the hardest part), people have a new way of spreading the message that you can do some pretty badass stuff without eating meat. Looking back, it’s funny to realize how selfish it was to be concerned with my own fears, which went something like, “Who would actually want to buy a shirt from my blog?”
Start. If you have something in you that’s going to help people stop being fat, run a marathon or a half or a 5K, go vegetarian, or something completely unrelated to any of those things, you owe it not just to yourself but to the world to get it out there.
You can do research forever, you can keep getting more graduate degrees, and you can keep brainstorming ideas that one day you say you’ll act on. But that doesn’t do anything. Far worse, it turns out to be a pretty believable excuse for doing nothing, when the real reason is fear.
Who needs Poke the Box?
If you’ve read Linchpin, you probably don’t need Poke the Box. The message is similar; Poke the Box is more a “manifesto” and much, much quicker to read.
If you’re already failing all the time and you’re alright with that, because you know you’re doing something that matters, you don’t need Poke the Box (though it might help you keep on going).
If you’re looking for specific tools to help you do what you need to do, you won’t find them in Poke the Box. (But if those tools exist already, is what you’re doing really anything new?)
If you liked Linchpin but got stuck in the middle (I’ve talked to at least a few in this category), you need Poke the Box.
If you have big ideas but haven’t executed any of them, you need Poke the Box.
If you don’t have big ideas yet, but have big passion for something and need a nudge, you need Poke the Box.
And I need to give my copy to someone. If you think you could use a dose of motivation to throw out the rulebook, let me know in the comments. I’ll pick someone to send my copy to, based entirely on my gut feeling about who it could help the most. (But you have to read it in five days, and then pass it on!)
Oh yeah, and you can go here to learn more about the Domino Project, the organization behind this “pass-it-on” game, and whose goal is to change the way books are made, sold, and spread.
Heart rate monitor winner!
Last thing — I believe I owe you guys a winner from last week’s Polar heart monitor contest, sponsored by HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com. Out of 223 entrants, the random winner is…Chris Van Dyke, who writes the blog “…when I talk about running.” Looks like Chris’ virtual finger-cross paid off! Congrats Chris, and thanks to everyone who entered and to Heart Rate Monitors USA.