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Seth Godin’s Key to Success: “Do Something Ridiculous”

Aaron Task
Daily Ticker

In his latest book, The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin argues that most of us have been “brainwashed” and need to “do something ridiculous” in order to succeed in the new economy.

"For 100 years the way the whole world got rich was industrialization -- we figured out how to take a nickel and make it into a dime and then a dollar,” Godin explains. “In order to do that we had to build schools and systems and expectations to get you to go to work and do what you were told.”

For several generations, doing what your told was a ticket to an improved quality of life, a better job and the opportunity for upward mobility. But globalization and ever-efficient mass production have brought that cycle to its endgame; as many Americans have learned, there are no “safe” jobs anymore, especially in manufacturing, and no guarantees of employment, even at the biggest companies.

“The challenge today is we can’t make it any faster or cheaper…and most of those jobs have gone overseas,” says Godin, a best-selling author, entrepreneur and marketing expert.

What’s replacing the industrial model is what he calls the “connection economy” -- where the value comes from “people who lead, who connect and who do things that are ridiculous and amazing and remarkable.”

Unfortunately, our culture and systems – most definitely including schooling – are still organized for the old, industrial economy where we’ve learned conformity will be rewarded. “We’ve been so thoroughly brainwashed and intimidated and socialized that we stay huddled together, waiting for instructions,” Godin writes.

Instead, Godin encourages readers to pursue their “art,” which sounds a bit far-fetched and farcical. But the art he speaks of “has nothing with a paint brush” – nor is his advice to quit your ‘day job’ and start writing poetry.

“Art is the work of a human being, not a system, doing something personal and real that connects to someone else,” Godin explains in the accompanying video. “There’s still going to be people who work for the man, and probably should. But that doesn’t tell me what you should be doing when you’ve got those windows of time, even at work” to use your creativity and make a difference.

By this definition, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (among other business leaders) is an artist “to the extent he did something and everyone else said he was nuts,” Godin says. “All the other people at Harvard were getting ‘As’ for fitting in, he was failing out because he was doing art.”

As for the book’s title: Most of us know the morale of the story of Icarus is to “not fly too close to the sun.”

But in the original mythology, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high…or too low, Godin notes. “My anger and frustration is we’re flying too low” and should aim higher.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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