The Icarus Deception

April 12, 2013 by Nancy Noonan

Seth Godin and I have a lot in common. Since Seth Godin is known by many as a front-runner thought leader, a revolutionary business guru and a many-times best-selling author, my premise might seem to be a bit presumptuous. But hear me out.

Although his latest book, The Icarus Deception, has sat on my pile of “must reads” since December, I finally made the plunge (pun intended) into its pages. The title refers to the popular myth that we learned in school: Icarus was the son of Daedalus, who, in order to help the two of them escape from the Labyrinth, fashioned wings from feathers and wax. As we learned the story, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high or the sun would melt the wings. Icarus, caught up in the ecstasy of flying, however, did just that, falling to his death in the sea. The part of the myth that we were not told (or at least that wasn’t stressed) was that Daedelus also warned Icarus not to fly too low, which would cause his wings to get wet and likewise be ruined. The interpretation of the myth has, for centuries, thus, focused mainly on the idea to not fly too high, to put a lid on your potential, to play it safe.


Godin says that flying too low, however, is of greater danger than flying too high, as it feels deceivingly safe. As our culture has moved away from an industrial society and its premises, the safety zone has also moved. So what is the new safety zone? According to Godin, ART is the new safety zone. Art is about taking risks, moving out of one’s comfort zone into the unknown, challenging the status quo, trying something new, being creative. Conformity is no longer the ticket to comfort.

Godin maintains that in order to flourish in this brave new world, we need to make art. And, he tells us, the good news is, we are all artists! Mind you, he’s not just talking about the kind of artist where you have a paintbrush or chisel in your hand. Being an artist is more about attitude than anything else: to think of yourself as an artist, to break out of the mold, to take risks. Being an artist is about creating things that matter, that you can share and that can make others’ lives better. Your art could be about creating a much improved system at work or a new entrepreneurial venture. Or about using your passion to make things different or more exciting in a variety of arenas. As Seth states, making art is what it is to be human; art is what we do when we’re truly alive. Here are a few suggestions in The Icarus Deception that can help you fly past your perceived limitations and continually create Art and success in your work and life:


1. Learn to see all over again. Banish the labels you’ve assigned to things and ideas, so you can see and experience things with a new freshness. Seeing the world truly “as it is” is a tool of the successful artist.

2. See the danger in doing nothing. If you do nothing to your blank canvases, they will remain blank and instead of creating life and work masterpieces, you will stagnate.

3. Fail repeatedly. The best kind of experience: the experience of repeated failure. Master artists know that if they don’t like their paintings, they can paint them over and over and over again. So can you.

4. Art, says Godin, lives on the edge of boundaries. Dance in the boundary zones. Pick which rules to break and embrace the rest.

Yep. Seth Godin and I have a lot in common. If you’ve sat in on my signature keynote, kept up with my writing or had a conversation with me, you know that I believe to my core that we are ALL artists. That we all have unlimited potential to create, connect and make the world a better place.

. . . Now get out there and soar!

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