Without the whole trip laid out, we shrink. When we cannot see every step ahead, the tendency is to pack it in and with masochistic perseverance, find ways to justify why taking the trip is just too dangerous, or simply not worth it.
But we don’t need every turn calculated to start. Can you imagine sitting in your driveway all morning to waiting for every light to turn green before you ventured off?
Somehow we’ve managed to painstakingly behave this way when a set of opportunities lie before us. Look around, and you will find someone who is wrapped up like a burrito in their fears, worries, and resistance towards uncertainty.
For me, I don’t have to look far; the person is in the mirror. They say that writers write about what they struggle with. It’s true. I have this sickening trait to want to know everything before I launch. It amazes me how I can cultivate such a fantastic level of unneeded suffering at times.
Maybe you can relate?
Recently I came across a tool that can help me better manage this fear of launching before I take action. It’s called The Corridor Principle.
In the 1980’s, Robert Ronstadt of Babson College conducted a 12-year study on the ensuing careers of graduates of the school’s MBA program in entrepreneurship.
Here’s what he found:
The most successful graduates were the ones who engaged themselves in multiple endeavors without any guarantees and by doing so lengthened the duration of their risk-taking careers by leveraging what Ronstadt calls the “Corridor Principle.”
This is how Ronstadt states it:
The Corridor Principle states that the mere act of starting a venture enables entrepreneurs to see other venture opportunities they could neither see nor take advantage of until they had started their initial venture.
Imagine you and a friend looking down a dark corridor with a only a speck light at the end. Your friend decides to walk down the passageway despite their fear and not knowing what to expect. After a while, they return to tell you what they experienced.
Your friend mentioned that as they moved down the corridor, doors that weren’t visible from the entry way presented themselves. On the other side of these doors were opportunities. Chances to build new skills. Possibilities for new relationships. Options for a new career. Possibilities to design the life you’ve wanted to live.
Since they were willing to risk moving forward in the face of uncertainty, the possibilities were presented. You, on the other hand, stayed back. Like a fearful quarterback, you were hesitant. You wanted an assurance that if you risked walking down the dark hallway, you were going to come out successful – something that will never happen.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of this scenario is that this story we create is one that we believe; even though it’s not true, it’s something we can lean on. And like an enchanter we create the world that carries a power that turns against us.
What follows are three ways to cultivate the courage to walk down the corridor without any guarantee of what will happen.
The root of the corridor principle suggests that we overcome fear- to launch that thing we’ve been wanting to do. While the principle by itself may provide material for a gym poster, it lacks depth on how to actually exercise the corridor principle in everyday life.
Here are three practical strategies on how to make the corridor principle work for you.
#1 — Face the facts
The Japanese have a word that we don’t have a direct translation for: arugamama. It’s a posture towards a mature acceptance of the way things are. Too many times are expectations of a false reality leads us down the path of unhappiness.
When we are staring down the corridor, we must understand that if and when an opportunity presents itself, it’s the beginning, not the end.
Since the economy is built on our lack of self-control, internalizing this truth is difficult. At every turn, it feels like we are being choked to buy, indulge or compromise on something. The result is that we want everything in this instant. We’ve adopted an allergy to any type of delay.
This posture backfires when it comes to turning opportunities into triumph. Most times, the possibility that we encounter walking down the dark hallway will require unrelenting persistence coupled with unshakable patience – two virtues that are hardly being taught today.
In the Middle Ages, an apprentice typically worked for a minimum of seven years before venturing out on their own. Then, a few years as a journeyman would be the bridge before he could be considered a master of his craft. This process was about ten years.
We don’t abide by this system anymore, however, the point is that we must face the fact: It requires a long period of time to develop an opportunity.
By acknowledging this, it can relieve the pressure of trying to ripen too soon – like a caterpillar leaving its cocoon far too early.
#2 — Abandon perfect (wabi sabi)
Stumbling on an opportunity can also create anxiety based around perfection. We pull back or hesitate to seize the moment because of the crippling fear of not doing it perfectly. This fear of being perfect often strengthens itself into a barrier that over time blocks anything from coming in. We close off to any new adventure. We seclude ourselves in the cold fort of our own solitude. Perfection – viewed as the heroic protagonist – then becomes the villain in our story.
In the 15th century as a rebel against the aesthetic of lavishness and rich materials, Wabi-sabi was birthed in Japan. Wabi-sabi is a way of being and the art of finding beauty in imperfection, and holding a high reverence for authenticity.
Wabi-sabi is a messy home filled with love, not the spotless house with no soul. Wabi-sabi is sharing a bowl of soup with a lifelong friend, not the three-course meal on your own. Wabi-sabi is the first draft of a painful letter, not the regurgitated words of a boring article. Wabi-sabi is the asymmetrical heirloom tomato, not the edited Instagram food photo. Wabi-sabi is an old pair of scuffed Chuck Talyor’s, not a fresh duplet out of the box.
Leonard Korean, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets, & Philosophers defines wabi-sabi like so:
“Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.”
Wabi-sabi is about finding deep contentment in the way things are, and not about wishing that things were perfect.
Bringing wabi-sabi into your life is a form of wealth that will buy you nothing but give you everything. When an opportunity arises, being able to appreciate the flawed journey – rather than trying to perfect it – gives us breathing room to be human. To give things a shot without the suffocating grip of perfection around our necks.
#3 — Be average
What shall we adopt when we give up being perfect? Accepting that average is an option.
In sports, the adage is common: Trying too hard to do your best can often throw your game off. Consider Trey Junkin. He was the center for the New York Giants in the 2003 NFC playoff game. He was to snap the down on the field goal that would decide the game. He was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying this:
“I tried to make a perfect snap when I all I needed to do was make a good.”
He fumbled it. Perfection got in the way when being average would have done the job. I believe the same concept applies when it comes to opportunities in life.
Underneath all the pressure of perfection, the world wants people who simply just do a good job. That’s it. Despite our manufactured realities, the most crucial challenge we face is to show up and be average. Being average consistently, will outweigh trying to be perfect once in a while.
Photo: Getty Images