In Seth Godin’s most inspiring book, he challenges readers to find the courage to treat their work as a form of art
Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts. It was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?
But we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.
The safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever. So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Make art. Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.
Godin shows us how it’s possible and convinces us why it’s essential.
The latest of Godin's cheerleaderly books is written in bumper sticker fashion, urging readers to overcome "brainwashing" and release the artist within. Unfortunately, this means Godin (Poke the Box) doesn't offer anything that hasn't been espoused by every generation since Socrates: "Art is what we do when we are truly alive." "Fly closer to the sun." "Art has no right answer." "We don't need more stuff; we need more humanity." Art is about breaking out of the box, not being a cog in the system; it's standing up to authority. But only once does Godin mention that this might result in a lack of ability to pay the rent. In that case, art should be arrived at in little steps. He gives tips to becoming an artist: notice, don't be afraid of humiliation, and "when art fails, make better art." Perhaps smarting from comments on previous books, he warns against critics: "Shun the nonbelievers." He pushes readers to connect with the world, to be human; at the same time he suggests that they are above the masses and need to follow their own paths. The truth is that artists don't need a book to tell them what to do; they are already doing it.
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I Dare You
Read it, and do something. Make, write, question, dare to feel, taste, cook up, shake up, ..something. One thing. We need you to be you and do you for you, and us. High-5 to Seth for Icarus, and high-5 to you if you read it too. It'll make you think. It'll make you scribble, underline, wonder, and feel what you felt as a kid when you still dreamed, dared, did, and beat to your own unique drum.
The test of a good business book, in my opinion, is: did you get one good idea out of it?
This book has nothing. His basic message is that the world has changed and that you will only be successful if you adapt your behavior to this new reality. He repeats and restates this roughly 500 times over the course of the book.
There is no data. His conclusions derive wholly from supposition and cursory observation.
To be fair, the content of this book would probably make great tv interview content or even a medium length HBR article. It is not enough for a 256 page book.