And other lessons from Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception
In The Icarus Deception, author Seth Godin challenged the two conventional wisdom — don’t aim too high and don’t aim too low either.
The account of the ancient Greek mythology story has it that Daedalus, a master craftsman, and his son, attempted to escape from the Labyrinth using wings that the father created from feathers and wax. Daedalus warned his son, Icarus against flying, neither too close to the sea or two close to the sun. Empowered and giddy from his new flying ability, Icarus ascended too close to the sun, his fabled waxen wings melted, and he plunged into the watery grave of the sea.
For as far back as we can remember, many of us were groomed with the two-sided maxim — don’t aim too high (hubris), neither should you play it too safe (complacency). Some of us only heard only one side of this play-it-safe agenda while been blissfully ignorant of the other. And this is exactly what Seth debunked in his book. According to the author, striking a balance between these two poles equips us to best answer the question, How high will you fly?
Conformity, complacency, and playing-it-safe make us unsafe in the new world. In a world ever threatening to beat us into the mundane, boring, and predictable submission, creativity is your only launchpad if your goal is to survive and thrive in the future. “Go make art.”
Here are the other lessons from the book.
1. Stop Blaming the System. Many people resort to blaming the system for their failures. What is the system? For the sake of this writ, “the system” is the prevailing political or social order, especially when regarded as oppressive and intransigent. You’ve got it. Though difficult, the challenge is to follow the example of those who thrived against all the odds. According to Seth Godin, “Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook.”
2. Defy the naysayers and press on
There are always those who will want to dampen the fire of your dreams, Seth will have you know that “If not enough people doubt you, you’re are not making a difference.”
3. Stop trying to please everybody
Figure out who your art is for, get better at connecting with that audience, and ignore the rest.
4.The More You Practise the Better you get
We get better at what we practice. So what are you practicing? Me, writing.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believmg that it is stupid.
5. The cost of being wrong is dwarfed by the cost of not trying.
There isn’t a pain-free way to achieve your goals. Ideas are not enough without commitment.
6. Courage doesn’t always involve physical heroism in the face of death. It doesn’t always require giant leaps worthy of celebration; Sometimes, courage is the willingness to speak the truth about what you see and to own what you say — and doing that in the face of risks or dangers.
7. On pursuing your dreams.
There are so many connection channels, so many opened avenues and so many opportunities. No one is boxed out who doesn’t want to be boxed out. It is not about whether we have what it takes; it’s about whether we choose to pursue it. When we take responsibility and eagerly give credit, doors open.
Courage doesn’t always involve physical heroism in the face of death. It doesn’t always require giant leaps worthy of celebration; Sometimes, courage is the willingness to speak the truth about what you see and to own what you say — and doing that in the face of risks or dangers.
8. Learn to sell what you’ve made, fail often, teach and connect to others.
9. Don’t be afraid of changes. Don’t be afraid to try.
Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner.“This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out.
In the connection economy, it’s the person who doesn’t enter the arena who is punished. In the connection economy, the fearful are disconnected. They are the ones who are punished, not by sinking but by being isolated.In the connection economy, it’s the person who doesn’t enter the arena who is punished. In the connection economy, the fearful are disconnected. They are the ones who are punished, not by sinking but by being isolated. Click To Tweet
10. Grit – the ability to withstand opposition is our best future.
Perhaps the only hope we’ve got left. Grit is the unexpected bump, the decision that cannot be changed, the insistence on a vision, or the ethics of a creator. Grit stands in the way of the short-term compromises. Someone with grit will grind down the opposition, stand up in the face of criticism, and consistently do what’s right for their art.
11. Be your own self-motivator.
Be your own self-starter. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself. If you rely on external motivation to be your best self, then you will have ceded responsibility and authority to someone else. You will be judged by how well your boss does at motivating you; not based on who you are.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
12. Your courageous acts may be unappreciated. Act courageously all the same. The easiest way to avoid shame (which is something that every single breathing human wants to do) is to lie low. If you don’t speak up and don’t act out, it’s unlikely that you’ll be singled out to be shamed. But lying low is now a recipe for ending up far outside your safety zone.
The industrial economy sold you on the bargain that avoiding attention meant avoiding shame, and that obedience led to stability. While you can still avoid shame by hiding, you won’t find happiness or even stability that way.
13. Your worldview determines what you see in the world around you. A lifetime spent noticing begins to turn into the ability to see what others can’t. Our eyes don’t lie, but our brain does. All the time, our worldview changes what we see and how we interpret what we learn, making us blind. And we are blind to our blindness.
Your worldview determines what you see in the world around you. A lifetime spent noticing begins to turn into the ability to see what others can’t. Our eyes don’t lie, but our brain does. All the time, our worldview changes what we see and how we interpret what we learn, making us blind. And we are blind to our blindness.
14. Believing is seeing
We see what we believe. Not the other way round.
15. On Writing
Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure. Just write. Write poorly. Continue to write poorly in public until you can write better. Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not ﬁction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something. Write like you talk. Often.
15. Agility beats tactics
The industrial economy won’t disappear, but the agenda will increasingly be set by those who make connections, not widgets.
The biggest black mark on your working résumé is the road not taken, the project not initiated, and the art not made. It is not that great thing you did with good intent that ended in disaster. No, your biggest failure is the thing you… Click To Tweet
“The biggest black mark on your working résumé is the road not taken, the project not initiated, and the art not made. It is not that great thing you did with good intent that ended in disaster. No, your biggest failure is the thing you dreamed of contributing but didn’t ﬁnd the guts to do.”
16. On self-talk: When you talk to yourself, who is listening? Be careful what you say to yourself. Do you buy into the idea that you are not talented and as such give up instead of growing your creativity?
18. Being perfect is not a viable destination
You don’t make art after you become an artist. You become an artist by ceaselessly making art. When you decide you’re not talented enough or not ready to speak up, when you buy the line about not being well trained or well-born enough to make a difference, you cede your power to those in authority.
19. Start your journey before you see the endThe cost of being wrong is dwarfed by the cost of not trying. Click To Tweet
20. Finally, stop aiming too low, get out of your comfort zone
For those who never imagine themselves to be artists or ever capable of creating anything, Seth admonition is, be bold, shun complacency, get out of your comfort zone and be obsessive with your creativity. That is the only way to thrive forward.
Copyright by © Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception, Portfolio / Penguin, 2012