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The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

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If you’re familiar with Seth Godin’s writing and overall mentality, you know that — through his powerful and clever words — he makes you feel like you can conquer any and every adversity that’s ever weaseled its way into your head or heart. And if you don’t, well, you’re just not living life to the fullest. Word to your mother, Mr. Godin. Thank you for being so severe that we can’t wiggle away from ourselves. Somewhere in the middle of The Icarus Deception, Godin says, “What I’m hoping I might do is get under your skin enough that you’ll ask yourself some hard questions about why you’re not achieving as much as you would like (and why you’re not as happy as you’d like to be).” Mission accomplished.

First order of business: Who’s Icarus? In Greek Mythology, Icarus’s father, Daedalus, created a set of wings (made of feathers and wax) for himself and Icarus, so they could escape Crete. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high or too low. We mostly remember the part about Icarus letting his hubris (self-confidence) get the best of him. Entranced by his ability to fly, he flies too high, too close to the sun and ends up melting his wings, falls to the sea and dies.

Godin says we’re consistently warned not to fly too high. But what about flying too low? Is that really a better option? Complacency. Settling. “Sit quietly, do what you’re told, and perhaps, one day, you’ll get out of the debt and be a winner.” No thanks.

And maybe you’re currently killing it at work. Maybe you are your boss’s righthand (wo)man. You’re smashing it for their success and happiness. But what about your success? What about your happiness? “Just because you’re winning a game doesn’t mean it’s a good game.” Yes, it’s frightening to break free from the cookie-cutter mold. I mean, cookies are one of the best comfort foods. Am I right? And maybe you’re currently killing it at work. Maybe you are your boss’s righthand (wo)man. You’re smashing it for their success and happiness. But what about your success? What about your happiness? “Just because you’re winning a game doesn’t mean it’s a good game.”

Okay, so it’s time to break free. It’s scary business. But guess what, it was (and still is!) scary for anyone that’s done it. “All of those people who you say are your artistic heroes…All of those people who have made such a difference in the world…None of those people were ordained. None of those people were pre-approved,” Godin reminds us.

Godin wants to know: How high will you fly?

Well, that’s up to you. That’s up to the ruckus you want to ensue. “We can be as safe as possible and it’s not going to generate growth, it’s not going to take advantage of the myriad connections we can now make, and it’s certainly not going to benefit you.” It’s up to you to share your passion and talent. It’s up to you to leverage your network to increase your impact, says Godin. We have a big, fat open door. Just waiting for us to connect, to grow, to influence. It’s called the Internet.

Whether we intend to or not, what we say and how we interact with anyone and everyone we meet, will somehow affect them. Godin says the only questions are: “How will they be different” and “How different will they be?” Every interaction gives us an opportunity to disappoint someone OR exceed their expectations. Of course, we all want to exceed the expectations of our clients/customers. “It’s easy to market and manipulate your way into the quick smile or the Broadway-theater obligatory standing ovation. What’s more difficult is to do the less-congratulated work of getting under someone’s skin, of changing the conversation, and of being missed when you’re gone.”

Godin says we need to dig deeper and invest in long-term connection, through our art. We must be genuine. We must get real with ourselves before we can expect anyone to really take us seriously. We must withdraw ourselves from the popularity contest and stand up for what we believe in. Create art and conversation that is meaningful. There will be naysayers and critics. Fear will pound at our doors. But Godin says, in this connection economy, in which we live, “it’s the person who doesn’t enter the arena who is punished…We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking, without celebrating the value of swimming.”

So, we must connect. There are endless opportunities for us to connect and influence online.

Here’s a good place to start:

  • Who do you want to connect with?
  • How can you make art and/or conversation that will connect with those people/groups?
  • What problems can you solve publicly?
  • What is your mission?
  • Who can you add to your tribe along the way, as you make progress on your mission?
  • How can you encourage others in their missions?
  • What forums or groups can you get involved in?
  • Who would benefit from you reassuring them?

“We built this world for you. Not so you would watch more online videos, keep up on your feeds, and LOL with your high school friends. We built it so you could do what you’re capable of. Without apology and without excuse. Go.”

Read the book! As with any of our book reviews and summaries, they are not replacements for reading the book yourself. You can get it here.

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Business

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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The War of Art is one GIANT quote we should all burn deep into our brains and hearts. Whoa, that’s intense. But I’m totally serious. I underlined and starred something on every freaking page. Pressfield is one talented guy. And he’s real, just as vulnerable as the rest of us. “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident, the real one is scared to death,” says Pressfield. It’s nice to know even the top dogs don’t feel like they have it figured out.

Read my notes below but don’t think twice about not spending the $7 to get your own copy off of Amazon. This book is for artists, dreamers, creatives, entrepreneurs, those hoping for great inspiration, those wondering how to overcome self-doubt and how to beat procrastination, those going through the world with a fine-tooth comb, eager for the next idea, the next step of success. It’s out there, yes, but Pressfield would argue so much more of what you’re looking for is inside yourself.

A few of my favorite pieces of advice and inspiration for entrepreneurs:

1. Resistance is a bitch, a way worse character than the Big, Bad Wolf. It lies to you, sneaks up on you and will devour you, if you let it. Resistance takes on many forms of procrastination: Facebook, flat tires, crying babies, happy hour, etc. It can be overcome, but it ain’t easy. “The enemy is a very good teacher.” – the Dalai Lama

2. Fear is good for us. It means we care. It means we’re invested and headed in the right direction. “The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul,” Pressfield says. Oh, and no matter how great you become, how much experience you have or how many followers you have on social media, fear doesn’t go away. And that’s not only okay but actually a good thing.

3. Resistance and fear might knock you on your butt, but you’ll know it’s worth the grit and failure and risk of ditching your amateur status and becoming pro when you’re creating and executing the ideas and life you see in your mind. “It is a commonplace among artists and children at play that they’re not aware of time or solitude while they’re chasing their vision. The hours fly. The sculptress and the tree-climbing tyke both look up blinking when Mom calls, ‘Suppertime!'” Pursue your calling. What’s the point of your life if you don’t?

4. If you make the jump as a full-time creative entrepreneur, you might be miserable at times. Push through anyway. “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell…He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” I laughed so hard when I read this. It sounds so ridiculous but it’s so true, at times. Stick with it. It’s worth it.

5. “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause,” Pressfield says. Naturally, we want praise and recognition for our efforts, talent and brilliant creativity. And sometimes if no one notices how great we are, or notices but doesn’t acknowledge it, we feel unworthy. It is lame of us to feel this way, but super common. Next time that happens, remember this.

The Art of War is a super quick read. But take your time. Keep it handy for when you think being a creative entrepreneur is too hard, too lonely or makes you too poor. Let your favorite Pressfield quotes give you a good old-fashioned kick in the pants and then get back to it. Do more of what you love.

“It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe…The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find a master to govern over them.”