I have been reading Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box in which he discusses (or to use his word, rants) about our apparent reluctance to start, finish and innovate projects. The book is both a celebration of action and a huge call for us to take action.
Godin asks us to start our work and to finish and ship it. When we do this, he is not demanding perfection or success but to be prepared to fail and learn. If we are successful, great. If not, great. The power is in the ability to take action and finish something.
We often fail to start something because we fear that we will not be brilliant or successful.
“People have come to the erroneous conclusion that if they’re not willing to start something separate, world-changing, and risky, they have no business starting anything.”
When it comes to writing a book, we are likely to hold back because we do not believe our book is ground-breaking or noteworthy. This is a notion I have definitely struggled with myself. I’ve written off books because I think they are ‘boring’ or not innovative in some way.
It is hard to accept but when it comes to getting where we want to go, innovation is less important than initiation. It is easy to use the excuse that our book lacks brilliance in order to justify not finishing it and publishing it. But as Godin points out, we will learn far more by completing and ‘shipping’ than by going round in circles trying to create something new and amazing.
Starting a project is relatively easy; it is finishing it that is a challenge but it isn’t until it is finished that it has an impact.
“If you don’t finish, it doesn’t really count as starting, and if you don’t start, you’re not poking.”
The point here is simple: if you don’t finish, your voice is never heard. You don’t have any impact aPnd therefore you do not poke the box. It is when we reach the point when we are getting ready to finish and ship our book that we draw back. That old friend called fear creeps up and starts whispering about failure, judgement and smallness. We make excuses, we amend, we change, we stop.
Defeat fear by focusing on the work
If we want to have an impact – or if we simply want to learn, grow and develop, we need to poke the box; we need to make a noise and be prepared to be rejected, talked about and put in our place.
“If I focus on that – focus on the fact that yes, it will be seen and criticized and worked with and misunderstood and embraced and spread – then I’m bound to hold back. The challenge is to focus on the work, not on the fear that comes from doing the work.”
What actually counts is the work itself. When we keep our attention on that, the lizard brain’s fear factor has to diminish. Fear and enthusiasm cannot co-exist for us emotionally so if you switch over emotionally to feel love, passion and joy in your work, the fears and doubts will have to fade away because there is no space for them.
If you are setting out on a journey to write a book, you will have to deal with doubt, fear and uncertainty but if you start the journey with a commitment to finish it, you will have initiated something. You and your life will be different because of it and that can only mean that you are more likely to start something else, and to learn something new as a result.
So, get out there. Poke the box. See what happens. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
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