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The Icarus Deception

How High Will You Fly?

By Seth Godin
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The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

The Icarus Deception (2012) takes aim at a myth as old as the ancient Greeks – that aiming high is bound to end in tears. Icarus might have flown too close to the sun, but we usually forget that he was also warned not to fly too low. Why does that matter? Well, we’re living in a new economy in which maintaining altitude on cruise control just won’t cut it. The new, global and connected economy is here to stay, and once “safe” jobs are being automated. Those who want to thrive better set their sights high. And that means one thing above all: living and working creatively.

Key idea 1 of 9

The Icarus Deception makes us overly cautious, but we need to move out of our comfort zone.

The future will be increasingly automated. Machines will take over more and more manual and administrative tasks. So, what’s left for us humans? Well, we’ll need to become a lot more creative. But we’ve been far too slow in recognizing this.

Blame it on the Icarus Deception. We live in a society in which we settle for too little. We’ve taken the Greek myth of Icarus to heart, but we’ve also misunderstood it.

Icarus was the son of Daedalus, a craftsman thrown into prison together with his son for disobeying Minos, the king of Crete. Daedalus had a plan, however, and started building wings for himself and Icarus to help them escape. He told his son not to fly too high so that the sun would not melt the wax holding his wings together. Icarus didn’t listen and soared towards the sun. Sure enough, his wings melted, and he plunged to his death.

Our culture has fixated on this part of the myth. “Don’t fly too high!” is the lesson we’ve learned. But that’s not all there is to it. Daedalus also warned Icarus not to fly too low, as the spray from the sea would saturate his wings and drag him down. Aiming for the stars can be risky, but so is being overly cautious.

It’s worth remembering this second piece of advice. If we want to thrive, we need to get out of our comfort zone, meaning we mustn’t fly too low.

After all, the world has changed. In the past, it was possible to land a safe and well-paid office job with rewards. That model came to an end in the 1990s. Today, steady employment is guaranteed only to creatives who aren’t afraid to take risks and initiate new ventures. Just think of internet startups like Facebook, launched at a time when the success of this kind of business model was far from certain.

We need to learn from that. The new comfort zone is all about creativity and connecting with others.

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