To escape the imprisonment of King Minos of Crete, Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son – Icarus. Before their flight to freedom, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. If Icarus got too close to the sun, the heat would melt the wax and cause him to lose his feathers. If he got too close to the sea, the splashing water would dampen and clog the wings and make them heavy.
Once they set off, Icarus was overcome with the exhilaration of flight. He saw the birds in the sky flying happily and freely, and he rejected his father’s warnings to be careful. Icarus wanted to touch the sun. His ambition led him to fly higher and higher, and at a point he got close enough that the wax holding his wings did start to melt. Realizing his mistake, Icarus attempted to fly low and flap his wings as hard as he could. Ultimately, it was too late and he lost all of his feathers. Icarus fell and drowned in what’s now known as the Icarian Sea.
The consequence of personal over-ambition is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. The hubris of Icarus led him to fly too close to the sun, and it was a mistake. On the flip side, Daedalus also warned Icarus of being too complacent and flying too low – another concept I’ve thought a lot about. In a roundabout kind of way, I feel like I’ve been experiencing both sides for a few months now. When I started this page [@brownindetroit], I had a lot of ambition for where it could go and what it could become. I’ve never been the type to aim low or not go big on things. I didn’t want to be complacent. I wanted to touch the sun.
I think in that endeavor, I got caught up in the excitement of growing our page and doing all these things, that I overestimated the bandwidth I had to even accomplish those things. It’s not that I didn’t want to or that there weren’t efforts to do so, it was more like when it came down to it – I couldn’t get myself to push forward. Procrastination is nothing new to me, but this was different in that whenever I sat down and attempted to work I would just freeze and lose all motivation to do anything at all. I physically couldn’t get myself to do it.
The thing is that I’ve never felt like that. I’ve always known how much I was capable of and I knew what I was good at. In an odd way, I think it was when I realized sometime around January that the page had become something that people liked that I started to feel like that. I know how crazy it sounds to say that the more people told me that the page was doing great, the more I started to think I wasn’t good enough to keep it going like that. I don’t know if it was the pressure to meet a sort of expectation, or social media pressures in general.
I do know that I slowly started slacking and procrastinating more on the things I cared about because deep down I didn’t feel good enough to do them. That thought carried beyond the page and started to act as an anchor in other areas whether it was my career work or in personal relations. And the worst of it was that I started feeling like even if I was on top of everything and doing really great at everything, it could be good but it would still never be good enough. I still feel like that at this moment even. And it all went from hubris to complacency. I started slacking hard.
A while ago I had a conversation with a friend about how people genuinely feel that we’re really great at what we do, even though behind the scenes we’re always questioning ourselves and downplaying our achievements. Truthfully, we are really good at looking like we’re great at what we do. But I’ve always felt like I actually am great at what I do, and I hate doubting it. It’s not that I don’t actually know what I’m good at. I know I’m talented and I know my skills. But I can’t kick that ‘not good enough’ feeling.
I know a lot of us might feel the same and I know we’re all trying to find that middle path between hubris and complacency. Things are improving. I’m pushing myself to be better because I don’t think that I am Icarus. I’d like to think that I’m more Daedalus – the one who makes the wings. A creator. But I want to make a difference with the things I create. Ultimately, that was the goal of this page, and anything I write or create. I don’t just want to be a great man, but a good one too. – Tahmid Chowdhury, founder of @BrownInDetroit
Interesting in writing a Feature Friday post? I’m always looking for submissions! Don’t hesitate to message me on any social media or just shoot me an email: Zuni@thephdream.com