Today is January 3 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How close to the sun will you fly?” In Greek Mythology Icarus was the Son of Daedalus who dared to fly too near the sun on wings of feathers and wax. Daedalus had been imprisoned by King Minos of Crete within the walls of his own invention, the Labyrinth. But the great craftsman's genius would not suffer captivity. He made two pairs of wings by adhering feathers to a wooden frame with wax. Giving one pair to his son, he cautioned him that flying too near the sun would cause the wax to melt.
But Icarus became ecstatic with the ability to fly and forgot his father's warning. The feathers came loose, and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea. The cautionary tale is for people not to fly too high or risk failure. But is this the right approach? Best-selling author Seth Godin’s 2012 publication The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? challenged the myth and when he wrote, “It’s not about whether we have what it takes; it’s about whether we choose to pursue it. The astonishing news is that for the first time in recorded history it matters not so much where you are born or what your DNA says about you—the connection economy is waiting for you to step forward, with only the resistance to hold you back.”
What is the connection economy? It's the ability for any individual to connect with resources previously only available to a select few. Here are just a few examples: 1)publish a book on lulu.com; 2)sell creative items you make on etsy.com; and raise money for your business idea on gofundme.com. There are hundreds of opportunities online thanks to the latest generation of websites that allow individuals to learn something new and translate their vision into reality. Today’s reflection challenges you to fly; not sit and think about flying. As Jason Fried wrote in his 2010 book Rework “It does not matter how much you plan, you’ll still get some stuff wrong anyway. Don’t make things worse by over analyzing and delaying before you even get going.” So, what is holding you back from flying close to the sun to discover a deeper meaning in life?
Regardless of your age, how many times you failed, or your level of self-doubt, be sure to recall what Ryan Holiday, author of the 2020 book Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius wrote: “The call to find a deeper meaning in life, to figure out how to live, can come to anyone at any time. What matters most is whether we respond to the call in the first place.” It matters little how close to the sun you fly; what matters most is that you spread your wings, walk to the cliff, and take a leap of faith in yourself.
As Roman philosopher Seneca, one of the Stoics highlighted in Holiday’s book noted: “It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult.” The Stoics, according to Holiday “were most concerned with how one lived. The choices you made, the causes you served, the principles you adhered t in the face of adversity. They care about what you did, not what you said. Its four virtues are simple and straightforward: courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom.”
One person who ventured to fly close to the sun was poet James Dickey who was appointed the eighteenth United States Poet Laureate in 1966. Dickey was also known for his novel Deliverance (1970) which was adapted into an acclaimed film of the same name. After teaching at the University of Florida during the 1955–1956 academic year, he worked for several years in advertising, most notably writing copy, and helping direct creative work on the Coca-Cola campaign. He once said he embarked on his advertising career to "make some bucks."
In his 2013 book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Curry recalled Dickey’s approach to writing poetry during his time working in advertising. The work was demanding, Curry wrote and Dickey “made it more so by simultaneously trying to find time for his literary endeavors during the workday. ‘Every time I had a minute to spare, which was not often, I would stick a poem in the typewriter where I had been typing Coca-Cola ads,’ Dickey said.” Reflecting upon his five years in advertising Dickey noted: "I was selling my soul to the devil all day... and trying to buy it back at night." He was ultimately fired for shirking his work responsibilities. At that point, he had flown close enough to the sun that his literary career had gained some stability.
So how close will you fly to the sun? Are you not venturing because the tasks before you are difficult? Are you working a day job that is helping to pay the bills while you are talking about some other endeavor? Remember the Stoics, how you lived was far more important than what you said. You have the option to keep on talking about doing something. Continue to talk, however, at your own risk for you will never know just how close to the sun you can fly.