Don’t fly low, change the status quo

This article was first published in Taiwan’s Do Post.

Seth Godin has an unconventional interpretation of the ancient Greek myth of Icarus, shared in a YouTube video I recently viewed.

Traditionally, the myth is a  cautionary tale against hubris. Icarus’ father Daedalus constructed a pair of wings out of feathers and wax as a means to escape Crete. What most of us instantly recall of this story is Icarus ignoring his father’s warning against flying too high, resulting in the wax melting and Icarus falling to his demise.

Godin reminds us of the other warning given by Daedalus not to fly too low, allowing sea mist to defeat the wings. This nearly forgotten half of the myth is an equally important warning against complacency.

Godin posits, this warning against flying too low was removed from the popular myth because people in power want us to fly lower, making it is easier to ignore us and keep us in line. He also notes that too many of us have adjusted our behavior, driven by fear, to avoid what is necessary to fly high enough to create new opportunities and reach our potential.

His brief lesson ends with a powerful challenge. Risk, even peril, inevitably awaits us in life. Accept that fact and ask yourself, “What will you do in the meantime? People who have the hubris to dream of something bigger change the status quo.”

Anyone familiar with how the leaders of the so-called international community treat Taiwan will see several important similarities in Godin’s brief lesson. Establishment experts frequently warn Taiwan’s leaders not to try to fly too high. Instead, those in power prefer Taiwan to fly low, stay in line, and become easier to ignore. And, sadly, many in Taiwan have adjusted their behavior, driven by fear, keeping Taiwan from reaching its potential.

For far too long, the people of Taiwan have lived with the fear of flying too high, without taking into consideration the risks and costs of flying too low. The harsh truth is the status quo allows Taiwan’s international isolation to harden into concrete.

Just as it is true for us as individuals, that some degree of risk and peril will inevitably come in life, so too it is true for Taiwan as a nation.

I hope the people of Taiwan are prepared to take Godin’s challenge, accept that reality, dream of something bigger, and change the status quo.