curiosity ~ presence ~ creativity

dispelling the mist – notes from a conversation between Mary Jaksch and Seth Godin

Icarus In The Mist - by Dave Rowley

Icarus In The Mist – by Dave Rowley

I was reading this great discussion the other day, between Mary Jaksch and Seth Godin, author of ‘The Icarus Deception’.

At one point, Seth revealed this detail from the story of Icarus: “In the original myth, Icarus was told two things. One, ‘Don’t fly too close to the sun because the wax will melt and you will perish.’ Two, and more importantly, ‘Don’t fly too low. Don’t fly too close to the sea because if you do, the mist in the waves will weigh down your wings and you will surely die.”

That mist metaphor is a striking one, and it got me thinking about the many forms of ‘mist’ that we let weigh down our own wings.

I wondered it aloud, actually, in the comment section. And Mary suggested it might be useful to write a post about that.

So here we are, diving into the misty world of ancient metaphors.

Here’s some things we know about mist, and some ideas for working with them:

mist can soak you imperceptibly

I used to live in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia, where some days a heavy mist would roll through, you could go for a walk and get soaked before you realized what was happening.

Similarly, I’ve experienced working away on something and taking a wrong turn, maybe working on a problem nobody wanted a solution to, or misinterpreting what I was asked to do. When this kind of situation goes along unnoticed we can continue flying along, close to the ground, not realizing our wings are soaked in failure.

Dispelling the mist: In this situation some outside feedback can be a great help. We all have blind spots and if we have people close by we can trust to give us feedback, that can be just what we need to keep on track.

mist blocks vision, and distorts sound

Years ago, a week after moving into a new house, I found myself driving home from work in the dark, and through a thick mist. Being a little unfamiliar with the area I missed the turnoff from the highway and had to double back and crawl along searching for the right exit.

I’ve been in similar situations when working in new fields or with different groups of people. Sometimes it can be hard to get your bearings

Dispelling the mist: Gathering information before you dive in, and setting a clear intention for what you want to get done can help give you a clear sense of direction as you enter an unfamiliar environment.

mist likes to hang low

Which makes sense, because there’s weight to it and weight doesn’t like to rise.

There’s the weight we take on through many of our thoughts, too. Thoughts we have that focus on comparing our progress to others, on telling ourselves we’re not capable of success, or that if we succeed this time others will expect it all the time.

Dispelling the mist: As with mist the only way to break through this kind of thinking is to rise up through it. Rather than suppress those kind of thoughts and pretend they don’t exist, success is more likely through acknowledging them, maybe writing them down. Noticing is a great technique to use here.

I find when after writing down all my self doubts I can get a different perspective on the thinking that has been weighing me down. For the first time I’m looking down at the paper with the thoughts laid out in front of me and I have a bird’s eye view, as If I’ve been able to rise above them. Once these doubts have been stopped from swirling in my head they become less compelling.

mist is burned off by heat

When the morning sun rises over a valley blanketed in mist, it’s only a matter of time before the air clears.

In the same way, we can apply our own heat, from the energy created by action, when we are slowed down in external mists like; other people’s expectations, or comparisons, or even manipulations. Or internal ‘mists’ like; a need to fit in, lack of curiosity, or anxiety.

Dispelling the mist: When we take action to work through these obstacles the energy generated can burn them off, sometimes with alarming speed.

have your wings been weighed down in the mist?

I’m realizing as I write this, that I spend more time fighting through the mist than I’d like to admit. That’s the value of Seth’s point in the interview. We’ve all received the message to not be reckless and fly too close to the sun. But the more insidious failure might be to stay low, cloaked in the mist, stuck in that place that won’t allow the thought of flight.

I’m sure this is an incomplete list, and I’d really like to read of your thoughts on this, if you have experience of dealing with the ‘mist’. Please let me know in the comments below.

You should also know that the second installment of Mary Jaksch and Seth Godin’s conversation is now up, and it’s a great read!

21 Responses to dispelling the mist – notes from a conversation between Mary Jaksch and Seth Godin

  1. Dan Garner says:

    I saw the same conversation. Very interesting. I obviously did not pay as close attention as you, I didn’t get quite as much out of it. I really like your analogies. A lot to think about.

    Dan @

    • Dave says:

      Hi Dan,

      I got all excited once they mentioned the Icarus myth. Daedalus, Icasus’ father, features in the Greek mythology of the labyrinth, which is a key interest of mine. I’m glad you enjoyed the mist analogy!


  2. Amit Amin says:

    Wow, I never knew that other side to the story.

    I agree – one example that comes to mind from my life is technology startups. The popular perception is that you get cranking in secret, hidden from view under a cloak of mist. Only once you’ve finished creating a perfect product do you leave.

    My first startup, that’s what I did. What a mistake. I missed out on crucial feedback – from others in the industry, and from customers. I later learned that most startup veterans freely share their ideas, because they believe there is much more to be gained by flying high than is lost by flying low.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Amit,

      That’s a really good point.

      I’m not glad that happened to you, but I am glad to hear about your experience.

      I’ve always been one to work quietly getting everything ‘perfect’ before sending my work out. I’ve been rethinking that lately. You’re point about missing out on feedback is a valuable one, thanks for letting us know about that.


  3. Patti says:

    Oh! What a good perspective. I’ve always thought of Icarus flying too close to the sun, but did not think deeply about flying too low and getting weighed down in the mist. I like the thought, too, about letting the heat of the sun (energy) burn off the weight that comes from flying too low. Yes, action can dispel that heavy mist of lethargy and indecision. Thanks!

  4. Dave says:

    Hi Patti,

    I don’t think the flying too low part ever sunk in for me before, that’s what got me all excited about the interview. I’m glad you enjoyed that too!

  5. Great metaphors Dave – you have a great way of explaining things through the use of metaphor – thank you!

  6. Priska says:

    What this says to me is that I am more afraid of success than failure.
    I am aware of the outcomes of soaring too quickly, until systems are in place, not so much of how being weighed down by the mist holds me back.

  7. Sunny says:

    I like how you broke down the analogy found in the Icarus myth because it helped me understand about how the mist can weigh down our wings when we fly to low due to indecision, insecurities or lack of confidence in our abilities. I have learned so much from your blog post inspired by the discussion between Seth and Mary, that is what makes writing so enjoyable because of all the different perspectives presented on the same subjects. Thanks for sharing.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Sunny,

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. Indecision/insecurities/lack of confidence–these were all things that were brought up for me, too, in the process of writing. I’m glad the post was useful for you!

  8. Bobbi Emel says:

    Good thoughts, Dave. I think my error is certainly in the direction of flying too low rather than flying dangerously high. Being in a mist can be disorienting and sometimes I feel that way when I get too lost in my own head and unsure of what I bring to the world. At the same time, I sometimes love the experience of literal mists because they feel very cocoon-like. Occasionally, I think it can be helpful to cocoon for awhile to let ideas generate, but then we need to get out, dry them off, and let them fly!

    • Dave says:

      Hi Bobbi,

      I err on the same side, too–definitely more of a mist tendency for me. That’s why that element of the story resonated so much. I love your point about cocooning and also eventually needing to ‘get out, dry them off, and let them fly!’

  9. Gary Korisko says:

    Great idea to write this post based on Mary’s interview, David.

    This is a great example of how several people can look at something (the interview) and get all sorts of different valuable insights from it.

    An excellent perspective!

    • Dave says:

      Hi Gary,

      Yes! I’m really enjoying all the different insights being offered up in the comments.

      Metaphors are great tools for examining ideas from all angles.
      Thanks for giving your perspective.


  10. Dave,

    I especially loved the section on how thoughts can weigh us down. I know that one! And, I agree fully that the best way through the mist of thoughts is to acknowledge them and float above.

    I enjoyed this conversation between Seth Godin and Mary Jaksch too!

  11. Dave says:

    Hi Sandra,

    It was a great conversation, I was thrilled to see Mary and Seth together. And yes, those thoughts can take on an almost physical weight, sometimes. Have a great new year!

  12. A very thoughtful and thought provoking post. Great job. Sometimes the midst takes the form of friends, acquaintances or family who weigh you down with their fears, insecurities or nay-saying discouragement. I have had to fly away from some of them, others I don’t share my flight plans.

  13. Dave says:

    ” I have had to fly away from some of them, others I don’t share my flight plans.”

    Oh, wow. So well put, Jane.

  14. Lee J Tyler says:

    Dave, I love the way you break down the ideas, further extrapolating from Mary and Seth’s conversation. To me this speaks to Bodhisattva’s The Middle Path. Thank you for such a thoughtful article.

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