Explorers are bold by nature. They believe that something new always lies beyond the horizon. This belief pushes them past any fear of the unknown, making them the authors of their destinies. Henry Hudson, who set out to find the Northeast Passage to China declared, “you cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren.”(link) I’m guessing he wished for real wings when his crew mutinied and left him floating in James Bay with his teenage son and seven crew members.
Ferdinand Magellan looked so far past the horizon he took a stance in direct opposition to the Catholic church, a hard to ignore entity in his time. “The Church says that the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church.”(link)
Any time you take the unknown path, an “x” factor hangs around waiting to make itself known. This factor can either be something wonderful like a new continent filled with riches or an angry indigenous tribe happy to cash in your return ticket. Magellan’s faith in the moon’s shadow proved valid although his explorations led to the “x” factor of death during battle with Philippine natives.(link)
America Wanders, Right?
In America, we’re often assigned the role of restless wanderer. But how many of us are true explorers? For instance, according to the Census Bureau, only 14% of the U.S. population changed addresses in 2005.(link) In 1948, the number was 20%. But beyond physical relocation, how often do you explore new mental avenues?
Like the Hudsons and Magellans of history, modern day explorers are challenging the idea that this is it. These explorers use code, media, and imagination to discover the unknown. What’s fascinating to me is when these explorers stop exploring. They stop anticipating that “x” factor.
Josh Porter’s recent comic and Richard MacManus’s post related to Jakob Nielsen are one example of what happens when an explorer stops looking beyond the horizon. Individuals start questioning the explorer’s validity. And once you become a settler rather than an explorer, people pay less attention.
Like the old cliché, if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, settled explorers judge everything on what they’ve already seen versus what they haven’t yet found. As much as I may like any one technology, the day the company decides that it can go no further is the day I join a new expedition. For me, this blog is one expedition I’ve undertaken. Any time you risk the “x” factor—in my case, no readers, possible trolls, future opportunities, etc.—you’re an explorer.
How to Not Settle
Granted, many historical explorers died on their voyages. I’m not counseling that anyone court death in support of exploration. But I do think we need to remain open to possibility. Politics are so distasteful and ugly because possibility ceases to exist when narrow definitions are employed. That’s part of the reason this “new” world of technology stays so exciting.
Boundaries remain fluid when we remain open to possibility, open to what’s over the horizon. Notice how threatened politicians are over the openness of the tech world, the potential possibilities? Even attempting to break copyright is worthy of a law. True leaders do more than maintain status quo or move backwards. They slap on their explorer hats and brave the unknown.
First grade was an adventure, senior year, not so much. But we started all over again when we ventured off to college or started that new job, the point being that new adventures will continue to pop up in life. You just have to be brave enough to leap. Explorers believe that finding something new is worth the risk. I still don’t understand all the reasons why “new” raises fear. I do understand that if we stop exploring, we stop growing, we stop believing in our potential. And potential is our capital for future success.