The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

It’s an ancient Greek yarn that most of us know well:

Icarus’ father makes him wings and—because the feathers are held in place with wax—tells Icarus not to fly too close to the sun.

Icarus ignores Dad’s warning and rises too high in the sky, which causes the wax to melt. And Icarus plunges into the sea and drowns.

The moral of the story?

Play it safe. Listen to the experts.

Such a credo was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?

But in Seth Godin’s newest book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, the bestselling author challenges readers to find the courage to treat their work as a form of art.

Because habitually lost in myth of Icarus is the other warning his father offers: Not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings.

That’s right. It’s in there. In fact, it’s the first warning. Flying too low, Godin adds, is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.

Here’s the video trailer for The Icarus Deception:

Godin declares in these pages that the safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever.

So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Making art.

The author goes deeper in the following excerpt, juxtaposing the rapidly changing assumptions about work and results (namely, “Quality Is Assumed”) with the rare stuff an artist can offer:

We assume that you will make something to spec.

We assume that the lights will go on when we flip the switch.

We assume that the answer is in Wikipedia.

All we’re willing to pay you extra for is what we don’t assume, what we can’t get easily and regularly and for free. We need you to provide the things that are unexpected, scarce, and valuable.

Scarcity and abundance have been flipped. High-quality work is no longer scarce. Competence is no longer scarce, either. We have too many good choices—there’s an abundance of things to buy and people to hire.

What’s scarce is trust, connection, and surprise. These are three elements in the work of a successful artist.

Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent, Godin writes. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.

Here’s Godin explaining the core of The Icarus Deception: