Among the treasure trove of ideas in Seth Godin’s book, POKE THE BOX, is this one:  No one has influence, control, or confidence in their work (or any other area of their life) until they understand how to initiate change and predict how a thing will respond.

The “box” Godin is talking about in his title is any complex bit of your life that you want to understand better with the goal of making your interaction with it more effective.

The “box” might be that brand-new computer program, just sitting there waiting for you to poke at the buttons on your machine and make the new do-dad do things, make it dance.

The “box” might be a market you want to tackle and make sit up and take notice of you.  Maybe that “market” is just one special somebody whose attention you crave.  It might be a customer or it might be your boss or maybe a somebody you’d like to be significant in your life.

Whatever the “box” is, the thing is a puzzle that can be solved in only one way – by poking.


My brother Michael was an intrepid bug explorer in his youth.  He was forever hunkered down, watching lines of ants or other critters, chasing down caterpillars and watching them turn into butterflies, studying spiders in their webs, and grabbing up crickets and grasshoppers.

“Caterpillar On Finger” by Tom Phillips via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
He spent hours watching what the little guys did, poking at them with fingers and sticks, seeing how they moved and what made them do things differently.

When you do THIS, what happens?  When you do THAT, what happens?  Hey, it ALWAYS does this when I do that!  Wow!  Now, why did it do that? 

Michael sure did learn a lot about bugs.  They were his “box.”  After a while he got really good at knowing what assorted bugs did and how and why.  He turned an initial wonderment into a passion and that passion became a sort of practice for him.


In a similar way, if you poke at your own puzzles, your “box” reveals itself.  As you get better at questioning and poking, you not only get smarter but you also gain what Godin calls “ownership.”

You step into the box and make it your own.

“Boy In a Box” by David Dodge via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Godin’s kind of ownership does not have to be equity or even control.  Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen.   “Ownership” is another name for mastery and influence.


It all begins with that sense of wonder, and it begins by asking questions and looking for some answers:

  •  How does this work?
  • Why does it do that?
  • How can I make it do something else?
  • Can I do this with it?  What about that?
  • What are its limits?
  • Can I expand those limits?
  • What happens when I do?

As you unravel your puzzles and wander around in your mysteries you’ll find your own answers.  As you test your conclusions in the real world, seeing whether the things you’ve thunk actually work outside the confines of your own head, you will develop own your way of walking.

“Peace of mind…” by Lalit Shahane via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]


Consistently asking your questions and faithfully following where the answers lead you eventually gets you to a place where nobody else can answer the questions you still have.  By then you’ll have built yourself a practice and a method and means for exploring this world you’ve discovered.

The answers you start finding and following are going to be different than the run-of-the-mill, regular ones.  You’ve already gone past those everybody-knows-that answers.

“Breakthrough Green Road Sign” by Wonder woman0731″ via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
If you do it right and don’t fall down some pothole or other and the creek don’t rise, maybe you’ll spark up more questions that other people can use to construct their own paths.


It all starts with being aware.  It all starts with noticing.  It all starts with a determination to go where the answers to your questions lead you.

Godin says, “Winners turn initiative into a passion and a practice.”  With his book, he shows you a way of doing just that.

The following YouTube video, “Make Your Life Spectacular,” was published by Goalcast and is a tribute to one of my favorite funny guys, the late Robin Williams.  What a heartful man!

Here’s a poem, constructed for one who followed his questions:


Of all the wonders World displays

Not one can match your face.

What is the meaning of this line,

Or that one that I trace?


This deep one here, from eye to chin,

What sorrow etched it there?

The others feathering everywhere

Show pains and joys quite clear.


I would not want some lover with

A face smooth as an egg,

That shows a quiet life unlived,

No cup drunk to the dregs.


You are a wonderment to me,

A glory and a joy,

Behind the marks of a life lived large,

I see a luminous boy.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “mystery box” by spinster cardigan via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.


22 thoughts on “OWN IT

  1. Rod Noran says:

    Netta, boy this is pretty deep. Are you doing a follow up on this line of though? I may need some clarity. Are you & Seth trying to say the more engaged you in this very moment of life paying attention to the nuances of life while focusing the keys that life passes your way via your keen sense of now the less load you’ll carry or the better you are able to create great results. In doing so, you will wield the sword life has given you more proficiently; thereby, becoming the master and teacher of your new found life-hack? I’m probably reading way too much into this. You’re probably just saying when you discover the light switch turn it on 😉 We you have learned a lot about how I think now. Your turn… LOL Rodney Noran

    1. Hey Rod:

      Thanks for your visit.  Your thoughts and meanderings make me smile.  You go!

      For me, the last option you present is the one:  turn on that durned light switch, dudes and dudettes!  It’s a heck of a funner trip when you do….

      Please do come again.  (You might want to explore the “Un-Seeing” section under the “Life Notes” section of this thing.  Those thoughts sound like something you might like to chew on.) 

  2. Dearest Netta,
    Your post Own It really touched me and moved the inner parts of me that have been dormant for quite a while! Ownership is one of those attributes that we mostly take for granted and become familiar with!
    Its good to have a re-awakening on this matter!

    The poem “Hymn for a Lined Face” tells so much more than the words on the surface!
    I could literally feel the emotion wash over me!
    I really enjoyed your post and “surfing” around your site.
    I feel I have met a sister-soul!
    Thank you for awakening something very special inside me!

    1. Hey Orion:

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  Cool!

      Please do come again….

  3. You’ve left me with some things to think about. It’s definitely a good idea to evaluate how well we are ‘owning’ our lives. Especially the “boxes” or those things that we do not yet completely understand but want to. Often times I am afraid to experiment with something. When I don’t know how it will react my first instinct is to just let it alone, don’t mess with it, that way it can’t hurt your.

    But honestly you’ve helped me see that maybe I am hurting myself by not ‘poking’ things. I am being passive instead of active, and I am not progressing with my understanding of these things. I will try to be more inclined to ‘poke!’

    1. I’m glad the post got you thinking, Mariah.  Thank you for the visit.

      Please do come again….

  4. Hi Netta,

    Nice article. A perfect way to tell people about how a simple curiosity can lead you from owning it. You see, most of the people have many plans in life. Let’s say those plans are the “boxes”. Their boxes are mostly untouched. That’s the problem with us. We tend to procrastinate. And lead to not achieving our own goal. Do you agree with me Netta?

    I read your poem. Honestly, its quite deep for me to understand. Can you briefly explain it to me more? Thanks..

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      My own self, I am not so sure that procrastination is as big a deal as some folks make it out to be.  Sometimes chronic procrastination about doing a thing that you’ve been told you should do or that you really feel is some sort of “must-do” might be your Inner Smarty Pants telling you that this thing you are supposed to do is really sucky and not right for you.  

      The only way to tell whether that’s a real truth for you is to consider what it is you truly want and where you want to be in your life.  And the only way to do that is for you to sit yourself down and work it on out for yourself.

      As for the poem, it is a love poem…for an old guy who lives large and is an important person in my life.  Guess I like wrinkles better than Botox!  (Hee!)

      Please do come again….

  5. Ngonidzashe Manzwangani says:

    Really love the idea of the POKE THE BOX. i have come to know that in real life you can become an expert in any field, but it requires commitment and dedication.

    I begin computer Science 4 years ago and at that time I had never touch or used any computer. I never thought I could become an expert. But with dedication, today I am regarded as one of the best expert in that field. Its my own box now

    1. Good on ya, Ngonidzashe!  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.

      Please do come again!

  6. I’m glad I found your poem and, the words that live with it, I’d swear are scented with Plato’s sage.

    I’ve found my morning filled with tears of joy and, pain and, only a tiny bit of rage.

    I’ve spent too long with my predictions…

    I’ve often forgotten to change.

    To see what erupts from the things that I poke

    I will to remember…. to turn my page.

    1. Lovely, fyre!  Thank you.

      Please do come again!

  7. Henderson says:

    Very thought provoking message you have here Netta. 

    I have to confess that your post has touched me deep down. I think that ownership is a concept that most people do not take seriously. Now I understand this better and I will be making a change in my lifestyle. 

    I think more people need to see this so I’ll be sharing the post as well. Thanks!

    1. Henderson, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  8. The last stanza of your poem is really catching I must admit. 

    There are so many people who are living with fear of going for what they want and that have been a really serious issue in our world today. 

    Some other people who have some passion for something have also not made a decision to go ahead and explore that part of their lives. This is one reason why most people are not getting things tight because they don’t really have passion for it. 

    I’ll urge everyone to explore their field of interest rather than going for something very different from what they have passion for. My opinion, best regards.

    1. Dane, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m glad you enjoyed the post 

      Please do come again.

  9. I love Seth Godin. I am currently reading “THIS IS MARKETING:  You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.” 

    I have to say that I leaned a lot from him. I will put POKE THE BOX on my next reading list. I love his analogy of poking is the way to practice. 

    We all forget that in order for us to be good at something we have to practice (or fail) several to be the expert. Look at Con Ed, everyone thought he was crazy and look at us now, we all have electricity, thanks to him. 

    The definition of ownership is very powerful.  Wow, I have never thought of it that way. 

    He is right, it is all about understanding and make things happen. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful insight as always. 

    1. Welcome back, Nuttanee.  I am going to go get THIS IS MARKETING my own self.  It sounds interesting!

      Please do come again.

  10. Lucas Moore says:

    Awesome work on the website and truly unique content I must say.

    I have been a fan and lover of poetry and each time I see a great job on poetry I become excited and intrigued. 

    The influence that poetry has had is not to  be taken lightly and as a fan of poetry, I am very grateful to you for providing us with such unique content.

    1. Welcome back, Lucas and thank you.  I am pleased the site is interesting for you.

      Please do come again.

  11. This is a life changing concept. I admit that most of the time when we don’t know about something we tend to shy away from if for fear of feeling incompetent. That is a terrible feeling. 

    But, it’s even worse to have dreams and not achieve them because we were not confident enough to poke the box.

    1. I agree, Abel.  Poking at things helps you find the parameters and dimensions of the box you’d like to inhabit, I think.  Keep on poking at stuff and watching the reactions you get  and maybe you’ll get to be an expert  at something or other.  Then other people might want to join you in that box of yours (which can be fun too.)

      Of course you’re going to be “incompetent” at first, but, hey…incompetence is just the beginning of eventual expertise, I say.  Walking took a while too, ya know….and I bet we were really funny-looking then too!

      Please do come again.

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