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The Icarus Deception: Don’t believe the story you’ve been told

Think you know the story of Icarus? Yeah, I thought I did too, until I read Seth Godin’s fantastic and most recent book, “The Icarus Deception.” I’ve only recently discovered Seth’s wisdom and I love that he can’t really be categorized. In a recent interview he even said that Barnes & Noble doesn’t know what to do with his books, because they don’t fit into a nice, neat box.

He’s part businessman, part motivational speaker, part artist, part self-help guru. He’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog. In “Lynchpin” he talked a lot about “shipping” (no, not that kind of shipping) — getting your art out into the world to your audience, and once you’re done, working on the next thing to ship.

Most of the viewers and fans of Legend of Korra will probably agree that the show doesn’t ship to them fast enough. Producing an animated show requires 10-12 months per episode, so it’s difficult to get our show out as quickly as people would like. In animation, we play the long game. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance. But in the end, an animated show or movie can become magical in a way no other media can.

So I wanted an outlet where I was shipping my art more quickly and regularly. Seth’s other piece of advice: write something everyday. Get it out to your audience. And do it all over again the next day. In doing so, your writing and your clarity of ideas will improve. Which is what I’m aiming for with this blog.

Which brings us to the true story of Icarus and his wings.

In order to escape the labyrinth, Daedalus created some sweet-looking wax wings for his son. But he warned his son not to fly too close to the sun because they would melt. Icarus got cocky and ignored his dad’s warning. He zoomed straight up to the sun and his wings melted. Icarus plunged into the ocean, he died, and we all learned a valuable lesson: don’t fly too close to the sun, kids.

That’s the story I always knew. Don’t shoot too high or you’ll get burned.

But that’s only half the story.

The sun isn’t even mentioned first.  Daedalus tells his kid not to fly too low OR too high. This blew my mind. As Seth says in his book, (and I’m paraphrasing here) this myth, which society has  ingrained in us as a cautionary tale about not standing out, is also a story about not settling for low expectations and small dreams.

This is what is fascinating about story. Leave out one important detail, and the story takes on a completely different meaning. I like this new interpretation of the Icarus myth a lot more than the one I thought I knew. I never want to fly too low and play it safe. I don’t want to be afraid of the sun. Besides, it’s really, really high up. I don’t really think I’m in danger of hitting it.

Seth writes, “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 higher than we’ve been taught is possible.”

How high will you fly?

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