The thing about being lost is most of us assume it’s something negative: we associate it with the college grad who can’t find a job, returns home, and ends up playing video games all day, watching How I Met Your Mother, and ordering Domino’s every night.
However, here’s the catch and something I want you to remember: that floating in space, kinda lost feeling is an incredible gift.
It is the gift of opportunity — Don’t mistake it for anything else.
“What do you want to do with your life?” does not mean, “what corporate job do you want to do for your entire life?”
“What do you want to do with your life?” means, “What do you want to do with your life?”
The Illusion of Being Unlost
One of your most valuable assets as a temporarily lost person is lying.
Lie to others, and lie to yourself.
Because it’s not that we respect people who aren’t lost – we respect people who don’t appear lost.
There is one principle that underlies all efforts at becoming un-lost. Change.
There are a million and one reasons why a person finds themselves lost, or feels lost, and a million and one solutions. But let me propose one theory:
You’re lost because you’ve been doing something the same way, which used to work, but it no longer makes you feel the way it used to.
The reason why you feel lost even though you have a job and a place to live is the same reason why married couples were once in love, and a few years in, wonder if marriage is all it’s chalked up to be.
Lack of change (specifically, progress) is the underlying, superficial reason behind why we get lost.
The deeper reason is because we feel like things become pointless, meaningless, and we have no story.
Thus there are two required components of becoming un-lost.
Curing the superficial: introducing change.
Curing the profound: finding your story.
Curing the Superficial
Become an Irresponsible Adventurer
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
I was walking my dog on a cold winter night in December a couple years back. It was about 15 degrees F, the night was perfect, the stars were shining bright. Winter always has the best stars, and the best and brightest stars always put me in a pensive mood.
I thought about what made some stories and lives boring, while others were interesting. I thought about the best years of my life and the worst years of my life, and I realized a trend.
Boring years were predictable and easily repeatable.
Awesome years were unpredictable and were not easily replicated.
Not rocket science right?
Back in college we used to go on little adventures for the weekend — exploring here or there, finding cool camping spots and then making ghetto treasure maps so our friends could find the same places.
A few years later I made more random “irresponsible” decisions that turned out to be the best decisions in my life – quitting numerous jobs, moving across the world , and other ridiculous micro adventures.
And I realized something.
We all need to be a little be more “irresponsible” in the eyes of society, and more adventurous.
Become an irresponsible adventurer by going on Microadventures:
An adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.
You do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to do an expedition.
You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure.
Adventure is only a state of mind.
Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.
And if that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times, I believe, when getting out into the wild are more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.
Alastair Humphreys talks a lot about Microadventures — an idea he had for breaking up routine and really sucking the marrow from life.
“We always talk about the nine-to-five life, the office life. What about your five-to-nine? That’s 16 hours a day. I decided to do something in those hours.”
Adventures are all about change — and fortunately, not the destination. That means you don’t need to climb Mt. Everest or go bouncing on the moon to have an adventure — you just need to do something out of your ordinary.
Cure the superficial, encourage change, and become an irresponsible adventurer.
Curing the Profound
Find Your Story
The second reason why we get lost is a biggie, and is a longer process to solve than simply being an irresponsible adventurer.
You’re lost because you don’t have a story.
There’s a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years about an author who is being interviewed to make a movie about his life.
And he realizes his life is boring. There is almost nothing worth talking about — the exact opposite of living a conversation-worthy life.
So Miller decides to figure out what makes a good story. He compares writing a good story, or watching a good movie, to living a life that is worth living.
You can’t go on without a story any longer than you can read a book about nothing…
If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.
The problem with not having a story is that even if you experience a lot – travel, learn, try new things – you aren’t providing a context for all the experiences to occur in.
The experiences just become noise, they are random, chaotic, and although enjoyable, they don’t come together and provide any coherent feeling of “purpose.”
Creating an Epic Story – A Character Who Wants Something
“A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. A character who wants something…”
The first part of an epic story? A character has to want something. This “want” is the context for all further experiences – instead of traveling, it’s visiting every country in the world to raise awareness for international peace keeping efforts.
Instead of going to the gym, it’s to lose those 50 pounds and not end up like both your parents that died young from heart disease.
Rather than making a million dollars a year in revenue, it’s about creating your own legacy – building something that is beautiful, will exist long after you are gone, and will be remembered far longer than your name will be — and then making a million dollars.
A story provides a context for all experiences.
Almost all great characters and great stories are illuminated by one clear thing: clear ambition.
The boy in the Alchemist is looking to fulfill and live his personal legend. Beowulf is looking to kill Grendel. All great stories have a character with a clear purpose.
———- What is the point of your story? ———-
The Possibility of Failure
“I knew if we were going to tell a good story, it would have to involve risk… the same elements that make a movie meaningful are the ones that make a life meaningful. I knew a character had to face his greatest fears.”
The whole idea of the story is that it cannot be easily accomplished. If it is easily accomplished, it is by default not worth striving for, not special, not worth reading about.
If it’s easy, it’s predictably attainable. That is not how an epic story goes. Nor is it how your story is going to go.
No, it’s going to be goddamn difficult. You’re going to have to talk yourself off that ledge every week, sometimes every day, but you’re going to keep going.
Because what makes the story great is the struggle – the question as to whether or not the person will succeed.
“It wasn’t necessary to win for the story to be great; it was only necessary to sacrifice everything”
The story is about the character transformation. Your story is about how your character is forged through difficulty.
Picking easy, predictable tasks you can succeed at easily, or can predict the outcome, is not the making of a story others will want to read.
Just imagine if the story went like this: “He got a job, then stayed at his job, and stayed at his job some more, got a promotion after 5 years, and then stayed at his job, and continued working…”
There is no risk. It is completely predictable. That’s not how you write your story.
In the Alchemist, the boy is constantly getting sidetracked — he gets stuck in north Africa, he runs out of money, and is forced to work at a Crystal merchant’s store for years.
He thinks he has failed, and temporarily, he has. His journey has numerous such setbacks, but how come he doesn’t give up? Because his failures are all in the context of a larger story.
He still has a story to write.
———- Whatever you are shooting for — whatever story you are writing — cannot, by default, be easy. It must require difficulty, it must require pain, and it must require struggle. Ask yourself if what you’re doing now has a guaranteed outcome, or if it makes you nervous with the possibility of failure. ———-
You want the latter.
An Epic Story Sucks While It is Being Acted Out
“It would be easier not to try, not to get out of bed. I wish I could tell you I woke every morning and jumped into the thrill a character might feel inside a page-turner, but I don’t; I wake every day and plod through the next page of my story, both in words and in actions.
The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work.”
The truth about living an epic story is clear: it always looks more fun from the outside in.
It’s thrilling to watch snowboarders jump hundreds of feet into the air doing backflips, or watch fight scenes in the Bourne movies, or watch UFC and get pumped up.
But anyone who has done anything epic realizes that when you’re in the moment — it’s terrifying. It makes you queazy, weak at the knees, it takes focus, and there is the possibility of failure, injury or death.
And it’s goddamn difficult.
But great gain takes great risk —
———- Remember the truth — living an epic story is infinitely harder than writing an epic story. It will be harder, take longer, and the fruits you reap won’t be as great as you had anticipated. But it will be worth it. Make your story epic ———-
Living Life Intentionally
“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”
A story can happen on its own, or a person can choose to live life deliberately.
If your family is kidnapped and you are the only survivor, and you spend your life looking to recover your family — you have a story. And you didn’t choose it.
If, however, your story is currently on the same page, year after year after year, it’s time to start living life intentionally.
That means deliberately choosing to create and live your story.
“The great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear… But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life”
The easiest way to live life intentionally? Set huge goals. I mean really unrealistically large goals- raise a million dollars for a charity, climb the 10 largest mountains on earth even though you’re blind, have your kids write a bunch of world leaders asking if they want to come over for dinner — and then do them.
Shoot way bigger than you think is possible.
Pick a goal — say, run a 5k even though you’re 100 lbs overweight — and then multiply it in difficulty x 10. Choose to run an ultra marathon in the future.
That is creating an epic life story.
And creating your story is as much about what you do as well as who you do it with:
“If your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too.”
It’s time to wake up and tell yourself you’re going to write your own story. What’s it going to be like?
“Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic: It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy consuming.
It’s easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s. If you are insecure, guess what — the rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
Becoming un-lost means curing the superficial: introducing adventure into life, and curing the profound: finding your story.
Your life is a story — is it worth reading?