Imperfectionist Books Reflections Seth Godin Wisdom

Seth Godin on the Risk of Shining Brightly

You have questions for the speaker, but you don’t ask because you’re afraid of what others may think.

You’ve written dozens of stories, but don’t share them with anyone.

You have a great idea for a work project, but you don’t bring up the idea because you fear rejection.

You want to try painting, but you don’t because you’re worried that you won’t be good.

You want to try out for the play, but you don’t because you don’t think you’ll get the part.

You want to start a blog, but you don’t because you don’t think anyone will read it.

In his book, The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin writes about the myth of Icarus:

“Banished to prison…Daedalus (Icarus’ father) created a brilliant escape plot…He fashioned a set of wings for himself and his son. After affixing the wings with wax, they set out to escape. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun. Entranced by his magical ability to fly, Icarus disobeyed and flew too high…The wax melted, and Icarus, the beloved son, lost his wings, tumbled into the sea, and died.”

But Icarus’ father also warned him to not fly too low as the sea’s dampness would damage his wings. Seth argues that in today’s society, we put too much emphasis on flying too high but not enough on flying too low:

“It’s far more dangerous to fly too low than 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. We’re so obsessed about the risk of shining brightly that we’ve traded in everything that matters to avoid it.”

We live in fear of aiming too high and not meeting our goals. We strive for the goals we know we can meet, and avoid the ones with risks of failing. We don’t fly high enough. Instead, we hover inches over the ocean, seemingly safe, but in truth, we are not safe. We’re avoiding the beautiful things that can achieve and create if only we had the guts to fly a bit higher.

We avoid shining brightly as that spotlight comes with the risk of criticism, rejection, and failure, but by avoiding that light and putting ourselves in the dark corner, we create a bubble that limits creation.

Are you actually meeting your expectations if you set your expectations too low? By flying too low, what are you withholding from the world?


Featured Image: “The Fall of Icarus” by Jacob Peeter Gowy (1636-1638. Oil on canvas, 195 x 180cm) at Museo del Prado.

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