The Icarus Deception

"We're living in a moment of time, the first moment of time, when a billion people are connected, when your work is judged (more than ever before) based on what you do rather than who you are, and when credentials, access to capital, and raw power have been dwarfed by the simple question 'Do I care about what you do?'"

- The Icarus Deception, page 219

Most of us grew up in a world where everyone had a job. A world where publishing a book meant being picked by a publisher, where recording a music album meant being picked by a record company. School was a place you went Monday through Friday from 9 to 3 where you were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. You were also taught to sit still, follow instructions, color inside the lines, and fit in.

Above all, you were taught to fit in.

That world is over. Though it lingers, the future, the very near future, belongs to those who are willing to stand up, stand out, and turn anything they do into a remarkable work of art. This idea is the basis of Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Danger Is Not Flying Too High, But Flying Too Low

""If you become someone who is uncomfortable unless she is creating change, restless if things are standing still, and disappointed if you haven't failed recently, you've figured out how to become comfortable with the behaviors most likely to make you safe going forward.""
- The Icarus Deception, page 5

Whether you’re painting a picture or serving lunch in a diner, writing a book or writing marketing copy, Seth Godin believes anything can be art and anyone can be an artist. Art is not what’s created, but how it’s created.

As we move toward a world where more and more items are commodities rather than luxuries, we move toward a world where connection, humanness, and caring are worth more than quality ingredients or quick delivery.

In the back of your mind or the depths of your heart, you have a secret dream of the thing you’d do, if only it were more practical, less risky.

In an unusual move for Seth, he offers two practical tools for peering into our own artistic soul to see how we can disabuse ourselves of any pointless fears about that secret dream.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

What if the Solution is Sitting Right Next to You?

"[A]n unsolvable problem is almost as good as a solved one."
- The Icarus Deception, page 181

Tactic #1: Write down your single biggest challenge, the Great Big Problem that’s keeping you from moving forward. State it clearly and succinctly but with enough detail that someone else can understand what you’re facing.

And then, hand that description to someone you trust, someone who might have a clue, and give them five minutes to read it, and write down a solution.

Here are the benefits:

1. Stating the problem clearly is often enough to show you the solution.
2. What if they really do have the answer? Are you ready to act?
3. What if they don’t have an answer? In only five minutes, it’s entirely possible. Are you ready to call the problem unsolvable? A problem that can’t be solved is just about as good as one that’s already solved. If there’s no solution, you’re free to move on, to find the next thing, to try another route, or an entirely different destination.

What if the solution is sitting right next to you?

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Connecting with 3 Artists Will Raise Your Game

"When you know that you need to meet every two weeks and look a respected artist in the eye and tell her what you did (or didn't) make, it will raise your game."
- The Icarus Deception, page 181

I’ve seen the power of appropriate accountability in my work, over and over again. When we know we’re going to have to look someone we respect in the eye and tell them “No, I didn’t do what I said I was going to do” it’s a powerful motivator.

Find three other artists, who work in different fields, come from different backgrounds, and have different goals, and connect on a regular basis to talk about the process of your art. (Keep in mind that “art” is simply the thing you’ve chosen to do to stand up and stand out, to make a difference.)

Knowing that you have three people expecting to hear your progress is powerful. Having three other artists to learn from is priceless.


I think these paragraphs from the back cover are a better conclusion than any I could write:

“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally.

“Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.”

What will you do to raise the stakes with your art?

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Joel D Canfield

ABOUT Joel D Canfield

I'm a creative who works mostly with words, sometimes accompanied by music. I write because I have to, and I have very little patience with money and its attendant issues...
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