I’m convinced I have read this book more than ten times, and I’m sure I will read it again in the near future.
For me this has to be my favorite Seth Godin book, more than The Purple Cow, We are all Weird, Poke the book, Tribes, Linchpin. I haven’t yet read Permission Marketing and What To Do When It’s Your Turn.
In this book, Seth challenges readers to find the courage to treat their work as a form of art.
The book is named after the Greek myth of the disobedient Icarus, the son of the great craftsman Daedalus.
As the story goes, Daedalus and Icarus were sent to prison for sabotaging the work of the king, but Daedalus came up with an escape plan: he furnished himself and Icarus with wings.
The wings were made of wax, so Daedalus warned Icarus to avoid flying too close to the sun. Daedalus disobeyed and flew too high; his wings melted and he died, tumbling into the sea. Thou shalt not disobey his father’s instructions.
All these stories that we were told when we were young have the same lesson: Play it safe. Obey your parents. Listen to the experts. What boss would not want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?
But there is another part of the myth that those in power hope you will forget.
As Godin points out, the full version of the Icarus myth tells a different story:
‘In addition to telling Icarus not to fly too high, Daedalus instructed his son not to fly too close to the sea, because the water would ruin 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, and making a ruckus.’
This conspiracy is the metaphorical starting point for a book that highlights the perils of conformity and the advantages of nonconformity or, in fact, counter-conformity.
Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because sea water would ruin the lift in his wings.
Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.
Whether you are a teacher, engineer, doctor, middle manager, or customer service rep, you can fly higher by bringing your best self to work.
You can care about what you are doing today and how you can improve tomorrow. Godin shows us how it’s possible, and convinces us why it is essential.
I loved this book.
It is meant to inspire people to create meaningful work that touches others.
This book is a wonderful manifesto of ‘No’s, in Seth’s characteristic style, pathological honesty, ruthless scepticism and generous intellect, as well as a contemporary manifesto on aesthetics:
‘When you were rewarded for obedience, you were obedient. When you were rewarded for compliance, you were compliant. When you were rewarded for competence, you were competent. Now that society finally values art, it’s time to make art.’ And by ‘art’, Godin means making something that is new and useful.
In this book, Seth redefines art. Art is no longer limited painting and drawing, art is doing work that touches a soul, makes a person feel better, art is doing work that matters.
This book is a work of art.
Quotes that stood out for me:
- “Creating ideas that spread and connecting the disconnected are the two pillars of our new society, and both of them require the posture of the artist.”
- “When those in power use shame to bully the weak into compliance, they are stealing from us. They tell us that they will expose our secrets (not good enough, not hardworking enough, not from the right family, made a huge mistake once) and will use the truth to exile us from our tribe. This shame, the shame that lives deep within each of us, is used as a threat. And when those in power use it, they take away part of our humanity.”
- “Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.”
- “The value we create is directly related to how much valuable information we can produce, how much trust we can earn, and how often we innovate.”
- “Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out.”
- “Do What You Want; these are the 4 most frightening words brought to us by the new revolution. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to lead, lead. If you want touch, connect, describe, disrupt, give, support, build, question—Do It. You will not be picked. But, if you want to pick yourself—go for it. The cost is that you own the results.”