Ryan Stephens Marketing

Seth Godin’s “The Icarus Deception” Book Review

Play it safe was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy, but obedience and conformity no longer lead to comfort.

You probably already know that or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, but just in case you need a kick in the butt I highly recommend The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? to anyone who wants to understand how to thrive in an economy that rewards art, not compliance.

Check out the book’s trailer embedded below and then keep scrolling for some of my favorite insights and takeaways:

On the Icarus Deception:
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.

On Your Comfort Zone:
We made a mistake. We settled for a safety zone that wasn’t bold enough, that embraced authority and compliance. We built our comfort zone around being obedient and invisible, and as a result, we’re far too close to the waves.

On the Connection Economy:
If your team is filled with people who work for the company, you’ll soon be defeated by tribes of people who work for a cause.

On Shipping:
Most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.

On Opportunities:
The art of moving forward lies in understanding what to leave behind.

On Industrialization:
The overwhelming impact of more than a century of cultural indoctrination can’t be overstated.

The industrialist benefits from our dream of moving up the corporate ladder, his ladder.

Make sure you climb the right ladder.

The industrialist offers us a trade. We can trade in our loneliness for the embrace of the mob and trade our innate fears for a steady paycheck. We can trade our yearning for something great in exchange for the safety of knowing that we will be care of. In return, all he asks is that we give up our humanity.

It’s probably enjoyable to trade in your initiative and heart to take a job where you are told precisely what to do. It feels like a safe bet, but it actually means you’ve accepted a low-grade, throbbing ennui in exchange for the thrill of daring the gods. Many of us were deceived enough by industrial propaganda to buy into the promise of this kind of sleepwalking.

We celebrate the Forbes 400 and the masters of the universe and the lucky few who have won the corporate lottery, because secretly we are celebrating our chances of winning the lottery as well.

On What Matters Now:

  • Trust
  • Permission
  • Remarkability
  • Leadership
  • Stories that spread
  • Humanity: connection, compassion, and humility


Read more about the move toward zero unemployment.

On Why Those A’s You Made in College May Actually Hurt You in the Real World:
We transformed school from a place of inquiry into a facility optimized for meeting standards.

On Teaching Bravery:
Brave artists take leaps, brave artists fail – the willingness to fail and then do it again is the cost of doing art.

On What You Want Your Customers To Become:
Zappos turned its customers turned its customers into people who demand a higher level of service to be satisfied. Amazon turned its customers into people who are restless with online stores that don’t work quite as well or quite as quickly. Henry Ford turned his customers from walkers into drivers.

On Being Popular:
She buys into the cycle of short-term pleasing. Instead of standing up for things he believes in, he calculates what the audience wants to hear right now.

On Daily Habits for Artists:

  • Sit alone; sit quietly.
  • Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.
  • Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.
  • Spend time encouraging other artists.
  • Teach, with the intent of making change.
  • Ship something you created.


On Worldview:
The artist wonders, “How can I break this? Or “Where is there an opportunity for me to change everything and make an impact? Most of all, the question is “Is it interesting?”

On Commitment:
When your art fails, make better art.

On Having Grit:
Someone with grit will grind down the opposition, stand up in the face of criticism, and consistently do what’s right for their art. Mostly, they mess up the machine.

On Blaming The System:
Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But when the system is broken, we wonder why you were relying on the system in the first place.

On Shame:
Shame can’t be forced on you; it must be accepted.

On Meetings:
The meeting is a temporary collection of people waiting for someone to take responsibility to so everyone else can go back to work.

Here are five keys to more effective meetings.

On Failure:
Failure is an event, not a person.

On What’s Holding You Back:
We don’t want to put ourselves at risk of being seen as arrogant or acting with hubris, because the shame of being seen as a fraud lurks right around the corner.

On Work Versus Games:
When we see the “work” we do as part of a game, with moves instead of failures, with outcomes instead of tragedies we’re more likely to bring the right spirit to our work.

On Odds:
The problem with one in a million is that with those odds, there are seven thousand other people on the planet who are as good as (or better than) you are.

On Your Biggest Failure:
Your biggest failure is the thing you dreamed of contributing but didn’t find the guts to do.

Other Miscellaneous Takeaways:
Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership.

Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs.

If we’re in love with the feedback and trying to manipulate the applause we get, we’ll cease to make the art we’re capable of.

The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.

People hesitate to lead or to invent or to make art because they’re afraid of what will happen if they do.

How much will people miss you if you’re not back here tomorrow?

Now that you’re all pumped up and ready to conquer the world, I also recommend you check out Mark Schaefer’s brilliant rant: In Praise of The Unremarkable. A little balance and perspective never hurt anyone.

You can check out other business book reviews here.


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Category: books, Inspiration