top of page

In search of purpose: Failure as a purpose

<photo: sun rise, on the final ascent to the summit of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe>

The story of Icarus is the foundation of the book "The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?" by Seth Godin. We all have heard of this tale before from Greek mythology. Icarus and his dad are attempting to escape from the island of Crete using wings made from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warned him not to fly too low (the sea's dampness will clog up the wings) or fly too high (the sun will melt the wax).

Icarus got a little too excited by his new found power and flew higher, closer to the sun, which predictably melted the wax that held his wings together. Icarus plunged to his death and with that, we are left with the moral of the story - play it safe.

"We’ve been trained to prefer being right to learning something, to prefer passing the test to making a difference, and most of all, to prefer fitting in with the right people..." wrote Seth Godin. "We see what we believe, not the other way around." We believe that a mentor is going to change our lives, we believe that there is a secret, and we will soon learn it. Just play it safe and your time will come.

Even when we fail, we play it safe by failing normally. “It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everybody else.”

Purpose can't be found when you only look in the usual places. You need to change how you fly. Fly a little higher and fly a little lower. "Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out."

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” - Winston Churchill

recent posts
bottom of page