Earlier this year I was privileged to hear Seth Godin speak in London. The talk was part of his new book promotional tour The Icarus Deception. In the book and during the talk Seth asked the question “how high are you prepared to fly to deliver your art?” He argues that we’ve fallen into the trap of sameness and mediocrity and that business, leaders and those they employ are driven by fear of failure, fear of flying to close to the sun and having their wings melt. As a result businesses (and people in general) fly too low, don’t push the boundaries, copy what has already been done (even if you improve a widget, it’s still a widget at a lower cost). He goes on further to inspire saying that because of the internet it’s never been easier to share your ART, everyone now has unlimited shelf space and unlimited access to capture the imagination of people around the world.
I like Seth’s message in The Icarus Deception as it challenges us to ask important questions around who we are and what we are prepared to “risk” to deliver something outstanding.
Thinking about life or business as an exhibition of your ART though can be a slightly obscure concept. However, I recently came across this quote from Helena Bonham Carter which nails it perfectly:
“I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”
Life is art and there is art in business too. Increasingly leaders are loosing the art of business preferring the science (or the certainty) of business. But as for Icarus the certainty of business science is as much a fallacy as thinking your wings will melt if you try to fly too high. Most businesses fail not because they fly too high but because they fly too low.
What’s your art? Where are you striving to be exceptional and what do you want to do differently?