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Are You Flying Too Low? Review of The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

the.icarus.deceptionEarlier this week I described how Seth Godin used Kickstarter and his army of fans to fund The Icarus Deception.

Now, finally, it’s time to hear about what’s inside the book itself.

And when Godin asks “are you flying too low” he’s not talking about whether you’ve zipped up your jeans or not.

Taking the Myth

The Icarus Deception centres around the myth of Icarus, who ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, resulting in over-heating problems with his home-made wings and a fatal dip in the sea.

The Icarus myth is often used as an example of when hubris or over-confidence can go badly wrong.

However Godin points out that there is another part of the story – Icarus’s father Daedalus also told his son not to fly too low as the water could also damage his wings.

According to Godin;

“Society has altered the myth, encouraging us to forget the part about the sea, and created a culture where we constantly remind one another about the dangers of standing up, standing out, and making a ruckus.”

However, as Seth says, settling for too little is “a far more common failing”.

Fly Closer to the Sun

The crux of the book is this; We all have the potential to be artists and to do great work. However to do so, we need to leave our comfort zones – to fly closer to the sun. What this requires of us is to have the hubris to take bigger risks and create new things. this requires facing up to the pain involved in the creative process, and being open to possible failure and criticism.

The  beautifully produced video below is a great summary of what the book is all about (and inspiring in its own right):

God is a DJ (but not exclusively)

Godin challenges us to consider ourselves on a par with the gods of ancient myth in terms of our creative potential.

He believes we can each take on a godlike quality (please note the small ‘g’) by becoming shamelessly confident. To do this, we must refuse to accept the shame that others bestow onto us for having the audacity to believe in ourselves and our art, and the willingness to be vulnerable enough to share it with the world:

“While someone can attempt to shame you, shame must also be accepted to be effective”.

This is clearly inspired by the message Brene Brown shares in her book Daring Greatly.

Crystallising Existing Concepts About Creativity

Indeed, the book could be seen as the distillation of all of Godin’s previous work as well as a raft of recent literature such as Brown’s book, into a powerful manifesto on the urgent need to be more creative.

Godin also echoes Dan Pink’s 2005 book A Whole New Mind, which argued that creative people were going to be the cornerstones of the new economy as their skills would be most in demand.

Godin believes that, as Pink predicted, we are currently in the midst of the ‘Connection Economy’, which demands we become artists and share more of ourselves with the world in order to succeed.

He also refers to Steven Pressfield’s War of Art and his concept of resistance as something we must battle each day in order to create. For Godin, the resistance is something to be embraced, because if you feel that sense of fear, uncertainty and pain when you come to make art, then you’re probably on the right track.

Getting to the Crux

A few people have commented that The Icarus Deception doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Godin even concedes in the acknowledgements that he has already tried out some of the ideas in the book on his blog – Indeed, it’s written in the same style – short, snappy segments which deal with one small element of the overall argument at a time.

It seems to me that Godin uses his blog and books as a way of digging down to the crux of how the digital revolution has changed both the economy and our lives. Each post, each short section of a book, each Sethism, is Godin’s method of chipping away at an underlying truth, in the same way that a sculptor brings to life a figure from a block of marble.

The Icarus Deception is a compelling and persuasive read that has really motivated me to create more and embrace the pain involved in creating new things as a necessary and integral part of the process.

And because it contains the most up-to-date distillation of Godin’s philosophy about creativity and the digital/connected world we live in, it’s a great book for both those unfamiliar with his previous work and those who have enjoyed following along as his outlook has evolved.

Buy on Amazon.co.uk| Amazon.com (affiliate links). Read We Are All Artists Now (a free summary of the book)

Win by Creating!

I’ve got four copies of The Icarus Deception to give away and one signed copy of the accompanying picture book, V is for Vulnerable, illustrated by Hugh MacLeod. To win you simply need to help me spread Sethisms.

The more you spread, and the closer you follow the competition guidelines, the more likely you are to win! More details here.

Please note that the closing date has been extended until midnight on Monday 21st January.

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7 Responses to Are You Flying Too Low? Review of The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

  1. Paul Forrester January 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    The book certainly sounds interesting, though the bit of the review that most made me think is the part about whether it contributes anything new to Godin’s existing work. Despite my frequent struggles with brevity, one thing I don’t like is the idea of repeating anything I’ve already said in my own work. I essentially pressure myself not to rehash ideas or discuss the same things for fear of lacking originality. Maybe that risks not fully exploring a topic to its full extent, whereas someone like Godin is able to communicate a particular set of ideas many different ways and thus reach a larger audience. Is that a fair comment to make do you think, Milo?

    • Milo January 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Hi Paul, I suppose it’s a matter of taste to some extent, it also depends how much depth there is to an idea or topic and whether the topic continues to change and develop over time.

      With Godin’s subject matter, things are constantly evolving so I guess there are always new things for him to comment on..

      With this blog for example I feel like the more I write the closer I get to what I’m trying to say.. though there still feels like a way to go.. :)

  2. Kim January 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I’ve appreciated your focus on Sethisms this month, Milo, as I never get tired of them myself.

    I believe that The Icarus Deception brings together elements of Godin’s previous work plus other’s work that you cited into one clear picture of what it means to be an artist. And, of course he believes that we all have the potential to be artists and that artists are badly needed in the new economy.

    This book came at just the right time for me as I was working on a new course and was experiencing all of the inner criticism that comes with it. It really helped to boost my confidence.

    • Milo January 21, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Glad you also got a lot out of the book, Kim. I know you’ve been a long-time Seth supporter!

  3. Vishnu January 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Still no idea about this contest but here’s a Vishnu’ism. haha

    Break the rules. Lose contests. Even if they give away free books. Because your art is more important than their game.

    hahaha happy Monday Milo.

    • Milo January 21, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      Not sure if I can count this as an entry to be honest Vishnu, I’ll have the adjudicators consult all 10 volumes of the rule book, and their decision on the matter will be final.

      • Vishnu January 22, 2013 at 3:37 am #

        I am not PLAYING this game. I don’t want to win at this point. that’s a vishnuism. I’d feel like I lost if I won this contest. hahahaha I’m trying to lose this contest Milo! I the more I try to lose, the closer I seem closer to having a ‘qualified’ entry :)

Keep up the good work!