Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception – when our comfort zone no longer aligns with our safety zone

I feel like a total Seth Godin groupie these days but after months of reading his blogs and watching his TED talks, I’ve finally got me one of his books (I’m loving my new found relationship with the library).  I’ve just started the Icarus Deception and have found his introduction so powerful in terms of thinking about the future of work and what it might mean for our kids that I wanted to share it with you.  I’ve paraphrased it below:

We are all artists.

[I like the boldness of this statement, especially as I’ve never been good at drawing or painting or any of the things that we tend to think of as “art” .  But I love the idea of creativity and finding new ways of approaching things.]

By art he means “the unique work of a human being, work that touches another… Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map – these are works of art.”  Not only can we all produce art, but Godin argues that we must, in order to thrive in our new post-financial crisis world where problems are increasingly complex and messy and need creative, innovative solutions.

The myth of Icarus conveys the dangers of reaching for the sun.  However, Godin states that there are also dangers in setting our sights too low – you’ll hit the waves.  Translating this into what it means for creating an extraordinary reality, by aiming too low you might end up settling for too little.  The other danger is that it feels deceptively safe.

Your safety zone, in this context, is measured by the limits beyond which you jeopardise your life or livelihood e.g. if I do/don’t do X, I’ll be sacked…  We spend most of life coordinating our comfort zone with our safety zone.  As we don’t have the time to consistently check whether a decision will take us out of our safety zone, we rely on how the decision feels which means we check in with our comfort zone – we assume that what makes us comfortable also make us safe.

But the changes in the economy mean that our safety zone i.e. a good way of making a living, has moved but our comfort zone hasn’t registered and realigned.  This means that many of us are out of the safety zone and don’t even realise it.  [I realised this with a start when I played a mental game of “What would/could I do if I was made redundant tomorrow or next month?”]

Godin suggests that the two pillars of our new society are creating ideas that spread and connecting the disconnected, and that both of them require artistry.  But change requires commitment and bravery.  It’s easier to avoid committing to this change as it’s scary and uncomfortable and so instead we “numb” ourselves, perhaps by taking a job that gives us a feeling of “safety” and an easy life but can end up leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction that our talents aren’t being fully used, and where we’re living our life on someone else’s terms.

However, think of the opportunities if we were to embrace this change and look for ways of creating our own art by making a connection and impact on the world.

This is my favourite quote so far – “I don’t think the shortage of artists has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate.  I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it.  We’ve had these doors open wide for only a decade or so, and most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.”


Powerful stuff eh?  I want to bring up my kids with the sense that they can, and dagnamit should, design the world, rather than copyedit it.  This might also ring true for you or you might not believe it at all but I’d ask you to consider this and I apologise for the profound nature of it but hey, it’s Friday.

Why are we here?  Is it to fill in the hours before we can switch on the TV with a glass of wine?  Or is there a deep-seated human need to make a mark on the world?  And by that I’m not just talking about being the next Gandhi or Mandela.  I mean to be able to make someone laugh, or bake amazing cakes, or help someone through a difficult time.  All of that is about creating something, making a connection, making art.

What do you think?  Do you make art?


2 thoughts on “Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception – when our comfort zone no longer aligns with our safety zone

  1. Pingback: Event review – the place of art in times like ours – 6 March 2014 | Times Like Ours

  2. Pingback: 50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms by Benjamin Hardy | Happy True Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s