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The Adjacent Possible


You'll be surprised if you let surprises happen.

There’s no blueprint, in general, on how to be curious about the world and go about exploring and adventuring. One finds the answers alongside their road of simply doing so.

Exploring is one part thinking, two parts doing.

After the gamut has been carefully prepared, as carefully as it can be against rugged and unsympathetic natural or even human world:

Adventure is experiential.

“A path is made by walking on it.”

― Chuang Tzu

You find all the tools you’ll need by walking down the path. If your eyes are open, you’ll find them. All the right questions, the correct answers – they’re just to your side. All the intellectualizing you’ll need to do included.

One such tool that I stumbled over on my path is a gorgeous concept called “the adjacent possible”.


Steven Johnson articulates the adjacent possible, best:

“You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven't visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn't have reached from your original starting point.”

He goes on, continuing the analogy:

"The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. Keep opening new doors and eventually you'll have built a palace."

I call this combinatorial curiosity. It’s long been the cornerstone for my explorations.

And again I want to make one thing clear: adventure and exploration does not just have to do with the outside, natural world. This is not just about outfitting a whole expedition to go explore unknown, foreign lands.

I’m much more interested in daily, life-bound, time-bound explorations of your everyday world.

Sometimes it’s just about: let’s turn down this street and see where it takes us. We’ve actually found new parks, new stream access, even museums – by just driving down a road in our car, in the city, and taking a different road.

This is easier to see out and in the woods. Everything is hidden, around a corner, in the bush, buried in a forest. You can’t quite see everything in the woods and so roads and trails are much more mysterious. The analogy is much clearer where the path ahead is more murky.



Even our consumerism has us immersed in the adjacent possible. At a store once, I saw a piece of turquoise and a whole new idea, or door, opened up for me: let’s build a family necklace, using turquoise. Whilst searching for the leather and stones and gear to make it, I opened up another door in that room. What did I find? The idea of a family crest. I opened up a door in that room and started playing with virtues and the ideas of what we believe in.

But the greatest journey, the greatest exploration that is being shown to us: is the journey inside. With new disciplines like neuroscience, quantum mechanics, and the growing paradigms in human psychology, for the first time in human history, the inner world is vastly larger than the outer world.

Whichever way, the call is to: walk down your path.

Go explore.

Don’t worry about what you find. What you’ll stumble upon will be greater than what you think you’ll find.

As the Bhagvad Gita tells us so pointedly:

“Your commitment is to action alone, not to the fruits of action.

That must never be: you must not be motivated by the fruits of your actions.”

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