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The Icarus Deception

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Phil
Phil Goodwin
Executive Chairman, Fusion Group

Here is a piece which inspired Luke and I, on our recent strategic awayday in Mombasa. Seth Godin is a very famous business blogger - here, he talks about what he calls Art. Art for him is nothing to do with paintings in galleries, as you will see . . .

Just south of the Greek island of Samos lies the Icarian Sea. Legend has it that this is where Icarus died – a victim of his hubris.

His father, Daedalus, was a master craftsman. Banished to prison for sabotaging the work of King Minos (captor of the Minotaur), Daedalus created a brilliant escape plot, described in the myth that we were told as children.

He fashioned a set of wings for himself and his son. After affixing the wings with wax, they set out to escape. Daedelus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun. Entranced by his magical ability to fly, Icarus disobeyed and flew too high. We all know what happened next: the wax melted, and Icarus, the beloved son, lost his wings, tumbled into the sea and died.

The lesson of this myth: Don’t disobey the king. Don’t disobey your dad. Don’t imagine that you’re better than you are, and most of all, don’t ever believe that you have the ability to do what a god might do.

The part of the myth you weren’t told: In addition to telling Icarus not to fly too high, Daedalus instructed his son not to fly too low, too close to the sea, because the water would ruin the lift in his wings.

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. We have made hubris a cardinal sin but conveniently ignored a far more common failing: settling for far too little.

It’s far more dangerous to fly too low that to fly too high, because it feels safe to fly low. We settle for low expectations and small dreams and guarantee ourselves less than we are capable of. By flying too low, we shortchange not only ourselves but also those who depend on us or might benefit from our work. . .

The path that’s available to each of us is neither reckless stupidity nor mindless compliance. No, the path that’s available to us is to be human, to do art, and to fly far higher than we’ve been taught is possible.

If you like this, look on the web for Seth Godin’s blog, or for his book of this title.

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1 comment

  • Gaicu Charles 7 years ago

    Its true from our childhood we are conditioned to think small, fly low to accept whatever life throws our way without questioning and in the process we don’t realize our full potential.

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