I finished two books recently – one I listened to while driving home from work (it was an audio version) and the other sitting on the couch with my dog’s head resting heavily on my lap, occasionally twitching his paw.
The first book is “Poke the Box” by Seth Godin, marketing philosopher. The second is “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein whose narrator/protagonist is a canine philosopher named Enzo.
Two disparate reads about two different topics. However, I found them to be interestingly similar. Here’s why.
Godin’s “Poke the Box” is really an extended riff about two things: 1) starting something and 2) shipping what you started. He calls it a manifesto about starting; going beyond the point of no return and making something happen.
Innovation, creativity, ideas, imagination, art, music, games, gadgets. Whatever it is you think of doing, says Godin, go do it. Take the initiative and start something. It doesn’t have to be successful. If you fail, so what? What’s the worst that can happen?
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way and not starting.” – Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha
Stein’s book is told through the voice of a lab-terrier mix named Enzo (as in Enzo Ferrari), who believes in the Mongolian legend that a dog who’s mind and soul is prepared will be reincarnated in his next life as a human. It is really Enzo’s manifesto on the human condition and why he is ready to become a man. Enzo gleans much of his wisdom about life from watching educational television shows, films and car racing videos with his owner Denny Swift, a semiprofessional race-car driver.
Enzo keenly observes man’s conflict with himself, while simultaneously sharing his desire to become human. His eye-witness account of Denny’s love, loss, failings, sacrifices and a surprising child-custody battle with his in-laws is layered with racing analogies and creative interpretation that make for a delightful cinematic experience. (Stein is a former documentary filmmaker and reading his book is like experiencing a 3D movie playing on a mini IMAX in your head.)
“That which you manifest is before you.” – Enzo’s mantra on the human condition (take charge of your life)
Listening to Godin read reminds me of the Zig Ziglar sales and motivational speaking tapes I used to play while driving a long time ago. In sales, the more no’s you rack up, the closer you are to a yes. Rejection is part of the game. Remaining confident and motivated is challenging, but ultimately you have to have faith in yourself, your product and your company because if you don’t, no one will buy from you.
Godin is direct, motivational, and inspiring; weaving in stories of people who started something and made a difference – eventually. Some of them failed many times. Want to know who? Walt Disney, Gloria Steinem, Steve Carrell, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Mehmet Oz, George Orwell, and it goes on and on. Godin uses his manifesto to train us, the readers.
“Make a list of people and organizations we admire,” says Godin. “What do they have in common?” Guts, heart and passion. It doesn’t matter if they failed. The challenge put forth by Godin is to get into the habit of starting in the first place.
What if Garth Stein never wrote his book? What if he kept his brilliant idea to himself and listened to naysayers and others who told him that the world of books was too saturated with animal narrators and buddhist-like mantras?
I think Godin would agree that if Stein waited for permission, he wouldn’t have become an award-winning, best-selling novelist; nor would he have received praise from the likes of Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb and Sara Gruen. More importantly, he wouldn’t have brought Enzo to readers who love him. Heck, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading his art, recommended by a friend (which is how ideas and best-sellers spread): nor would I be happily sharing this with you.
I leave you with two things: 1) Start something and 2) Go make it happen. Now.
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Great quotes from Enzo:
“People and their rituals. They cling to things so hard sometimes.”
“In order to reach any kind of success in automobile racing, a driver must never remember.”
“The zebra is us…”
“Do not mistake confidence and self-awareness for egotism.”
“Racing in the rain is about the mind… believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you.”
“Memory is time folding back on itself.”
“To remember is to disengage from the present. In order to reach any kind of success in automobile racing, a driver must never remember.”
“The true hero is flawed.”
“The visible becomes inevitable. Your car goes where your eyes go.”
“The one who drives smart will always win in the end.”
“Give me my thumbs, you f@#$%ing monkeys!” (Enzo’s favorite line from the movie “Scarface” with Al Pacino. This leads into Enzo’s great theory about why man’s closest relative is not the chimpanzee, but the dog.)