Seth Godin’s Disruptive Icarus Deception Takes Flight

It’s fitting that the ancient mythical figure Icarus is the poster boy for marketing maven Seth Godin’s latest manifesto,The Icarus Deception.

A prodigious author of more than a dozen bestselling books translated into more than 30 languages, this aims to be more than just a book. It's Godin’s most provocative thesis to date, using the entire publishing process itself as a marketing experimentto illustrate how the connection economy works by creating and activating a community to participate by making and sharing their own "art" (he takes a broad view on art, as you'll see).

Godin’s aim is to reinvent the process of writing, making, funding, marketing and launching a "book" by sparking a public art-sharing project. On Monday he launched the first ever "Icarus Session," get-togethers organized via Meet-up and his website Squidoo, in a bid to create a worldwide event in 1,262 cities with 11,168 "Linchpins" and "Artists." 

The sessions invite strangers to share (in 2 minutes and 20 seconds) something they've made or something that inspires them. That passion could be a company or brand, a piece of art or literature, or another creative expression. Godin will pick the best to publish on YouTube.

As much about the process as the end result, Godin sold his publisher, booksellers and readers/participants on the concept by launching it as a crowdfunded project on the Kickstarter website. The creative trailblazer launched the project on June 18, 2012 and ended it July 17, 2012, having raised $287,342 (well above his goal of $40,000, which he passed within three hours of launch) from 4,242 backers.

video that Godin co-produced with Squarespace and highlighted in a blog post, features Sasha Dichter (Acumen Fund), Sarma Melngailis (One Lucky Duck), Josh Rubin (Coolhunting), and Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swiss Miss/Tattly).

“If this Kickstarter campaign reaches the minimum, then the publisher has agreed to launch a major retail campaign to introduce the book to readers in bookstores…If it doesn't reach the minimum, none of the backers will be charged and the book doesn't get published,” stated Godin.

“This project on Kickstarter is my way to organize the tribe, to send a signal to risk-averse publishers and booksellers (who have limited shelf space and limited paper)," he added. "We can let them know loud and clear that this is a book that's going to get talked about. Kickstarter coordinates and it amplifies.”

The "tribe" responded in droves, and with the book now on sale in stores and online, Godin is further pushing the edges:

“Here's a bookmark you can download and print out. Then, go ahead and write on it. Share a link to your contribution, tell a stranger about what you do and why you do it. Not a sales pitch, please, but instead a signpost. It could be a URL, sure, but it might just be a sentence or two about what matters to you and what you're doing about it.

And now, the cool part — go to a local bookstore, find a copy of my book and (carefully) put the bookmark into the book, then put it back on the shelf for a stranger to find... If you find a great bookmark, take a photo of it and email it to me at I might post it on this blog (I'll be adding a post everyday)."


That's right — he's encouraging people to add to the book by filling out a bookmark; put it back on the shelf and share that journey. Of course, they can even buy a copy while they're in the store. (The bookmarks can be viewed on the project's website, Fly Closer to the Sun.) He wants people to realize that conformity no longer leads to success (if it ever did), creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever and requires choosing the less predictable and braver choice – like art, which is an attitude rather than an aptitude – staking new territory and making new connections.

The Icarus Deception book and project urges people to avoid becoming ‘cogs in the machine’ by being as disruptive as they can in their creative, personal and professional lives. He makes the case for forging your own path, pushing beyond what is expected, and connecting with other humans by making your art ­whatever it may be.

In the ancient myth, Icarus's father, Daedalus, fashioned wings out of wax and feathers for him along with a warning not to fly too close to the sun or to the sea, but overcome with the gleeful powers of flying, Icarus ignored the warning and flew too close to the sun which melted the wax plunging him into the sea.

The lesson passed down for centuries – play it safe, listen to your elders and the experts – all of which cemented an industrial economy where obedience and conformity greased the skids and made the system work. Icarus was also warned not to fly too low because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings – but low-flying, says Godin, is even worse as it feels deceptively safe.

Asked last June when he launched the project on Kickstarter, “What type of promotion does someone need to do to raise enough money?” Godin replied, “It’s the LAST step, not the first one. I started working on this Kickstarter 9 or 10 years ago. That’s the way you maximize your results. Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

As we’ve come to count on from Godin, he is redefining the entire ecosystem of well-digging and how to quench the thirst that inhabits and drives the artist in us all.