The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

Icarus Deception

RATING: 7/10…READ: November 25, 2012

Another Classic by Seth Godin. This book as a linchpin vibe in describing the current situation of the working world, and why you desperately need to forge your own path and do what’s not been done before by creating “art.” This reminds you to forget the books that promise an easy path full of strategies and tactics, but rather start creating and connecting by doing something original.

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The industrialist needs you to dream about security and the benefits of compliance. The industrialist works to sell you on a cycle of consumption (which requires more compliance). And the industrialist benefits from our dreams of moving up the corporate ladder, *his* ladder.

Art has no right answer. The best we can hope for is an interesting answer.

Art isn’t about the rush of victory that comes from being picked. Nor does it involve compliance. Art in the post-industrial age is a lifelong habit, a stepwise process that incrementally allows us to create even more art.

Connection is not what you got, it’s how brave you’re prepared to be.

The laborer in the world of connection and art embraces the opportunity to do a little bit more, not less.

You don’t need more activity, you need to dig deeper instead.

Connection belongs to those who ‘get to’ instead of ‘have to.’

Whenever you feel the pull toward compliance and obedience, feel it for what it is—a reminder of the way you’ve been trained, not a sensible or rational approach to the opportunity in front of you.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest achievement.

We can teach people to make commitments, to overcome fear, to deal transparently, to initiate, and to plan a course.

The artist is almost certainly a linchpin (the person we can’t live without, the cornerstone of a project, the responsibility take, the one we would miss if she were gone), but I’m adding another dimension here—it turns out that expending emotional labor, working without a map, and driving in the dark involve confronting fear and living with the pain of vulnerability. The artist comes to a détente with these emotions and instead of fighting with them, dances with them.

Correct is fine, but it is better to be interesting.

Everyone is lonely. Connect.

One definition of propaganda: it benefits the teller, not the recipient.

You have no idea what you’re doing. If you did, you’d be an expert, not an artist.

The industrialist offers us a trade. We can trade in our loneliness for the embrace of the mob, and trade our innate fears for a steady paycheck. We can trade our yearning for something great in exchange for the safety of knowing that we will be taken care of. In return, all he asks is that we give up our humanity.

POPULARITY: In order to be liked, you might have to trade in your true, vulnerable self for a short-term focused obsession with pleasing the masses.

The opportunity is not being momentarily popular to the anonymous masses. It’s in being missed when you’re gone, in doing work that matters to the tribe you choose.


Sit alone, sit quietly.

Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.

Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.

Spend time encouraging other artists.

Teach, with the intent of making change.

Ship something that you created.

There are industrialists, who see the world as broken or fixed, and artists, who see the world as a series of projects to be built and connections to be made.

Do I have enough money vs. have I made enough art?

You commit to a path and an impact. Broadway is a venue. Joy through movement is art.

Starting in the 1950s, though, when writing became godlike, when creating the great American novel had a lot of kamiwaza associated with it, the drinking started and so did the blocking. It was easier to talk about making art than it was to actually do it.

This might now work. This is the mantra of the artist.

To make art you must remove external control, external motivation, and approval.

Grit exists whether or not it leads to measurable success. Grit is its own reward.

What’s the point of connecting in a margarine-filled world without grit, without surprise, without disruption? If we smooth out the rough edges and the dark spots, and there is no one different, no one who cares, no one who speaks up, we might as well go back to bed.

You must leap into the void. But you can always start with a little void and work your way up.

If not enough people doubt you, you’re not making a difference

Again and again we’ve been deceived, brainwashed into believing that perfection is more important than effort, and sold on the idea that we have to settle for what’s been offered.

Shame can’t be forced upon you, it must be accepted. The artist, then, combines courage with a fierce willingness to refuse to accept shame. Blame, sure. Shame, never.

Art doesn’t become art until it meets an audience. Your goal as an artist is to make art that moves the audience of your choice.

GETTING OVER SHAME: Make a list of the things you can’t talk about at work, or with your spouse, or with others you care about. When you talk about these things, when you own them, shame starts to lose its power, and vulnerability becomes available to you again.

True friends over dinner don’t talk about which place did a good job detailing the SUV or even how we’re going to get ahead at work. We talk about our hopes and dreams and our fears. We let down our guard, set aside our armor and open ourselves up. We’re vulnerable and trusting and willing to speak (and to hear) the truth.

If your audience seeks to shame you for the art you make, then they are no longer your audience, and they don’t deserve your vulnerability.

It’s not good enough. I’m not good enough. It’s the best I can do. It’s real and it’s generous. Let’s try. This might work.


-Busy is the same as brave

-A mentor is going to change your life

-Waiting to get picked is the next step

-There is a secret, and you will soon learn it.

The resistance is not something to be avoided, it’s something to seek out.

Rejection says something about the critic, but not about you. Perhaps it means you chose the wrong audience. And yes, perhaps, if you’ve exhausted all possible audiences, it means that you need to make better art.

“I have to let people not respect me.” –John Mayer

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY: Their reaction isn’t yours, it belongs to them. The art is yours.

If it’s not working, then make better art. If you don’t know how to make better art, learn. If the people around you are sabotaging your art, ignore them.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” –Ray Bradbury

If a piece of art in the marketplace is working to change things and you don’t know why, ask a colleague to explain it to you. If people are listening or watching or buying something and you don’t get it, inquire as to why. If a blog post or a novel or a strategy makes no sense to you, ask someone who knows. Learn to see through their eyes.

-To be naïve is to abandon your hard-earned worldview. It means seeing the world without prejudice and accepting it as it is, as opposed to the way you’re expecting it to be.


-Where do you get your ideas?

-What sort of software do you use to do your writing?

-What should I do next?

The answers don’t matter. At all. The choice of tools doesn’t matter, the method doesn’t matter. You don’t need a guru, you need experience, the best kind of experience, the experience of repeated failure.

The blank slate is a requirement for original art. If you merely rehash what came before, if you offer me the same hot dog you served me yesterday, the same direct-mail letter you sold me last week, the same search engine I used last month, then nothing remarkable has happened, no connection has been made.

IF YOUR ART ISN’T GENERATING THE CONNECTION YOU SEEK…Make better art. See more accurately. Make with more precision. Use more guts to find your blank slate. And if none of those work, change your venue, find a new stage to play on.

-But don’t question your commitment. Don’t get attached to the outcome. Don’t listen to the critic who universalizes his opinion. Make better art.

In the connection economy, the true measure of your work is whether you touched someone. “What did you do and why did you do it?” These questions matter more than “did the critics like it?”

THE WORLDS WORST BOSS: Odds are, you’re doing it poorly. If you had a manager who talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss who wasted as much of your time as you do, she’d be fired. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

You don’t get to do your big work at the big table right away, though. You get to do it at the little table first, without resources and without authority. And then, if you persist, over time, you’ll find you can spend more of your time at your job doing your work, which is your art.

BOUNDARIES: Yes, I know you can make a good movie for twenty million dollars, but all we have is five. Yes, I know that your retail store would do better if you were on Main Street, but there’s no room there, there’s no room here. And yes, I know it would be better if you had more time, but no, we don’t. Pick which rules to break, and embrace the rest.

TACTIC: PROBLEM / SOLUTION: write down your problem on an index card and hand it off to three people to write down a possible solution.

TACTIC: The Focus Group: connect with exactly three other artists—who work in different fields, who come from different backgrounds, who pursue different goals—and connect with each other about the process of your art.

Everyone is lonely and everyone feels like a fraud. This is part of the human condition. Accepted. Now what?

BURNING THE BOATS: Yes, change your tactics, and often. Agility pays. But no, don’t give up your strategy of making art.


-They will tell you that it’s easy (it’s not)

-They will tell you that it’s fun (it is, but only sometimes)

-They will tell you that you must be born with it (not true)

-And they will tell you that it’s not your turn (and they are wrong)

The magic of Steve Jobs wasn’t in being right. It was in being sure.

Freedom isn’t the ability to do whatever you want. It’s the willingness to do whatever you want.

The man who invented the ship invented the shipwreck. The creation of art also means the fading of art, and the realization that the act of making it last forever is also the act of destroying what made it work in the first place.

We were trained to finish our homework, our peas, and our chores. Today, we’re never finished, and that’s ok. It’s a dance, not a grind.

HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL ARTISTS: Learn to sell what you’ve made. Say thank you in writing. Speak in public. Fail often. See the world as it is. Make predictions. Teach others. Write daily. Connect others. Lead a tribe.

“What am I hiding from? What is holding me back from offering my best work?”

Once the feat has been done, anyone knows how to do it.

We’ve built a post-deception society, one where our future is created by those who replace the status quo, not those who defend it.

Artists play. We don’t analyze our return on investment or seek shortcuts. We are playing, not working, and the long way is often the best way to get to where we’re going, because sometimes we’re not going anywhere—doing something for the love of doing something.

Art almost never works as fast you want it to, and the more you need it to work, the slower it happens.

The successes are about the privilege of doing more work, not about winning.

You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by couraging. –Brene Brown

Effort isn’t the point, impact is. If you solve the problem in three seconds but have the guts to share it with me, it’s still art. And if you move 10,000 pounds of granite but the result doesn’t connect with me, I’m sorry for your calluses, but you haven’t made art, at least not art for me. Art requires connection.