A= Aiming High and the Icarus Myth

I’ve been reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin and really found that the premise of the book has really resonated with me. I think we’ve all been told the myth of Icarus as the son who is given wings made of wax and told not to fly to close to the sun or the wings will melt.  Of course, Icarus gets carried away with the glory of flight and does the exact opposite of what his father told him, melting his wings and plunging to his death in the ocean.  Not exactly the happiest of stories, but it does a thorough job of serving as a cautionary tale: don’t try to “fly” too high or you’ll crash and burn.

This is an unfortunate myth to propagate. We are basically being told to fear our own success! That we shouldn’t aim too high because it is likely that we will fail.

But as Godin points out in the book, there is another part to the myth that has been dropped from the cautionary tale: Icarus was also told not to fly too low or risk losing the lift in his wax wings that kept him aloft.

So, though we’ve been warned against flying too high, against striving for great success, the part where we get told to also avoid flying to low – to avoid never trying at all – has been dropped from the cautionary tale.

Basically, we’re being told that it’s okay to just not try at all, because it’s better than trying to be too successful and ending in failure.

I disagree.

I think it’s better to work hard at something you enjoy doing, to strive for success and want it with all your being, to put every ounce of energy into that success even if your attempts come to nothing.

I would much rather fail at something, knowing that I gave my all, than to never try at all.

What about you?

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9 thoughts on “A= Aiming High and the Icarus Myth

  1. It’s not the goal you aim for, but the path you take. I agree with you that trying to reach a height by working hard is a good thing, even if you fail, however if the road you take to get there, hurts yourself and/or others then I don’t think working hard in that instance is a good thing. Failure can be a great learning tool and one should grow from it. Icarus’s problem was that he didn’t get a chance to grow from his failure, because his failure was final.

    1. Howdy Harvey! I appreciate your input! I definitely agree that striving toward a goal that ultimately (physically) harms you is not exactly the healthiest route. It was unfortunate that Icarus failed so spectacularly that he was unable to learn from his failure; however, if we compare Icarus’ flight to less physical endeavors and more toward something like business ventures or, lets say, publishing a book, then many times we get “hurt” in our failure but are still able to learn from it. I think it’s important to find that happy medium of knowing what the risks are in an endeavor and making an informed decision of whether or not to pursue your goals. For some, even physical harm isn’t enough of a deterrent to keep them from their dreams (think football and any other sports which could lead to injury.)

  2. Hello from A to Z. I like myths, including the Icarus myth, even though the ending for Icarus is quite sad. What I got from the story is that you can find success by taking some risks but you also need to know when to stop while you’re still ahead.

    1. Hi Cynthia! Thanks for sharing! I agree with your assessment: It’s important to strive for success and take risks. I’m not sure that I would say to stop while still ahead, but it’s definitely important to assess where one is at and ensure that he/she is not getting too close to the sun (i.e. heading for failure.)

  3. Poor Icarus! Don’t fly too high! Don’t fly too low! Just stay in the middle – mediocre – forever. His dad was a bit of a sadist – eh?

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