Messy adventures and tidy lives

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The best adventures are messy – ragged around the edges, unpredictable, loose, fluid. They seem to stand far removed from the hum-drum of normal life, as they cry of freedom and craziness, of excitement and surprises.

But those adventures are out of reach for those of us who stand rooted in the hum-drum of normal life. Which is most of us. We will never get to taste the freedom, the craziness or excitement they offer, or experience the surprises they hold.

No, far from enjoying the wonder of adventure first-hand, those of us grounded in normality must satisfy our longings for adventure vicariously – through novels, or movies, or news reports and editorials of the achievements of others. Because, if movies, novels and newsreels are to be believed, adventures – especially the messy kind – are the sole domain of the real risk-takers – the action heroes and crazy fools who hold no regard for rules and order – the brave and reckless who live in the moment, with a sense of abandon for the future.

But movies and novels do not align with reality, and newsreels only give glimpses, at best, of how real life works.

You see, whatever movies or novels may suggest, a life filled with adventure – a life that colours outside the lines and walks the undiscovered paths – is not borne out of hedonism, or a sense of carpe-diem, or from chaos, recklessness, or a willingness to throw yourself on the mercy of chance with no regard for your own safety. No, a life of adventure is borne out of intention and purpose, making room for the unexpected, and embracing the unknown. A life filled with adventure flows out of order.

And that applies to every adventure, no matter how small, or how epic – whether it’s tackling Everest, the Inca Trail or the Vendee Globe, discovering new lands or populations, building an enterprise out of nothing, or taking a new direction in work, or in study, the outcome, and the shape, of that adventure rests on the foundation from which the journey began.

And so you have the paradox.


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We are all just syllables

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We are all connected.  Nothing exists in isolation.  Yet so many revolutionaries end up on a lonely path, jaded from the knock-backs, let-downs and battle-scars, convinced that this thing that is ready to burst out of their soul must stand alone.  But the problem with that lonely path is that it skews your reality.

I’ve walked that lonely path and experienced that skewed reality.  I’d reached a point where I was so focused, so single-minded and blinkered in my approach, that it no longer bothered me that we couldn’t get the backing for our revolution, or build the team we needed, because I was going to change the world, by myself, if it killed me.  I truly believed that my life was a self-contained book – a story written in its own right.

But that belief – that my life was a self-contained book – was arrogant.

The day I realised just how arrogant that belief was, I found myself deeply, deeply humbled.  That day, I realised that, while taken in isolation my life is a self contained story, life cannot, and does not, exist in isolation.  I realised that, taken in a cosmic context, not only is my life not a book in its own right, it isn’t even a chapter in a book.  In fact, it isn’t even a page in a chapter – not even a paragraph on a page, or a sentence in a paragraph, or even a word in a sentence.

My life is merely a syllable.

Now, here’s the thing with syllables – taken in isolation, they are meaningless and, in the context of the whole – a word, or a sentence – they are often imperceptible.  Yet, as seemingly insignificant or imperceptible as a syllable may appear, they are vital to the meaning of the word, the sentence, and the story.


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Don’t forget the memories

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I had in mind that we would talk about something else today.  But, as I sit here contemplating the last few days, I can’t help but feel that this conversation – the one we are about to have, not the one I had previously had in mind – is too important to put off.

Last year, Kate and I celebrated 20 years being married.  And, for the first time in those 20 years, we decided we would mark it by doing something special.  Sure, we’d celebrated previous anniversaries with nice meals in nice restaurants, but we’d never done anything really special.  You know – pushed the boat out.  And we figured that, after 20 years, it was about time we did.

So we booked to go away to a super-nice hotel for two nights.  And, as you might expect in a super-nice hotel, we had a super-nice time.  And that made me think.

It made me think that we haven’t had enough super-nice times in our 20 years together.  It made me think that we haven’t even had enough just ‘plain old nice’ times in those 20 years.  Some.  But not enough.  And that’s no-one’s fault but our own.  Or, probably more accurately, mostly my fault.

You see, like I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m driven.  That can be a good thing – it means I get things done, and make stuff happen.  But it can, as we’ve spoken about before, also be a bad thing – a very bad thing – because it can result in me (or you, if you are driven, too) being focused on what needs to be done at the expense of everything else.  Consumed by the ‘do’, instead of creating space to simply ‘be’.


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