The first week of 2012 is over, and I’m already glancing behind me to make sure I hit my resolutions (almost all of mine are incremental, do-this-x-times-per week things, which is good because baby steps, but it means I have to hold myself accountable all the time). Did I meet my gym goals? Cook enough new recipes? Spend enough time writing? Make time to see my friends? The answer’s yes, fortunately–the first week of a new year does wonders for discipline and optimism–but what if I didn’t look at my resolutions as a list of categories and boxes to check off? From what I can see, most resolutions boil down to a promise to start things.
Enter Seth Godin and his manifesto, Poke the Box. Godin’s main point in this book is that, while we may be talented in a variety of ways, one skill that never seems to be actively taught or even encouraged is that of initiating. It’s a pretty glaring omission, when you think about it. Without having the chutzpah to try something new, nothing would ever get invented, even in a room full of the brightest and most creative people around. Unfortunately, in many schools and workplaces, people fall back on safe and familiar. Godin urges the reader to commit to making initiative a way of life.
It’s a cool read. The book is slim and broken into neat mini-sections, so it would be easy to polish off in an hour, tops, but I’d suggest you don’t do that. Spacing it out will give you some time to percolate over things like the lizard brain (the fight-or-flight instinct that fears change), how to embrace things like risk and failure, and why you might be morally obligated to be as creative as possible. The book contains few, if any, how-to instructions. Godin’s whole point is that we need to be the mapmakers, not another handful of tourists looking for a route to follow. But even without concrete tips, the book has punch, and left me with a new sense of energy toward my job and writing.
It’s a new year, and you’re probably already charged to make it as great as possible. But maybe it’s a mistake to limit that resolve to things like, “eat healthier food,” or “reduce smoking by 50%.” Maybe it’s time for bigger adventures, and for making inspiration and innovation something we do every day. Read Poke the Box. At worst, it’ll fortify you to stick to your resolutions past January twenty-something this year. At best, it’ll make you rethink how you approach goals and prod you toward something even bigger and braver.