The title of my podcast is the Art of Adventure, and at the end of the show I ask all my guests. “what does adventure mean to you?” Answers usually relate to getting out of your comfort zone, new experiences, excitement, and exploration. When I tell people the name of the show, they often say, “Oh cool, I love adventure!”
In this article, I’d like to explore a little of what adventure is, why we like it so much, and why you need it as a man. We will start with the dictionary.com definition:
Noun 1. An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity
The key ideas here being excitement, risk, and experience. By nature, adventure is impossible to continue indefinitely, so let’s examine the benefits you get from this finite experience we call adventure.
Self-reliance. Adventure will teach you to be confident, decisive, and self-aware.
Whether you are climbing a volcano or exploring a ruined factory, when you are on an adventure there is an overwhelming feeling that you have taken your life into your hands. You are in control and making decisions about the outcome, and thus adventure gives you a feeling of freedom and ownership over your life.
Adventure often takes some bravery and courage to get started, while completing them lowers the barriers forever after. Like Frank Sinatra said, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.” Pushing the limits during an adventure means learning that you can take care of yourself and those around you. Adventurers make their family and friends feel safe.
Memories are a big part of an adventure–experiences that are so vivid and remarkable, and they shape our memory and lives. We are just a collection of our memories, so having more adventures equals being more human. Adventure can put us in a state of flow that increases learning up to five-fold, but the challenge or risk must progressively increase. You may find clarity for making important life decisions during an adventure.
Creating something new. I would argue that adventure is the root of science, invention, and progress.
Adventure seems to start with exploring a curiosity. “How will I act when things get hard?” “What happens when I fly a kite in a lightning storm?” “What will it feel like to come back alive from the South Pole? As a man, you are judged by the actions you take and the legacy you leave–so take action on your curiosity
In the book Zero to One, Peter Theil talks about the difference between iterative improvements (1 to 1.1) and creating something total new (0 to 1). Likewise, doing something that has never been done before in the course of an adventure opens up unlimited possibility. When I discovered a new species in Yellowstone, we had no idea of the future potential impacts (it could be none). But, continuing to work on E. coli doesn’t have the same infinite upside as discovery.
The great adventure that was putting a man on the moon left us with a slew of usable technology including electronic systems, telecommunications, and computer technology. Planning and executing a big enough adventure will shift the frame of your thinking and lead to progressive solutions.
Inspiring others. One measure of a man is his impact on the people around him. Adventures provide stories, examples, and proof for others to learn from.
Adventure is (thankfully) hardwired into human nature. If you think about ancient peoples expanding across the globe, it would be to our interest as a species to want to go see if there were something better in the next valley. Because of this, adventure is also intricately tied to stories. Like any good story arc, an adventure involves getting through some conflict or tension and coming out the other side better off.
Of course, there is a balance between the time you are experiencing an adventure, and the in-between time when you should be using your experience to positive effect. You should have a method for internalizing, deconstructing, and disseminating your adventures once you have them. Storytelling, social media, writing, YouTube, and family dinners make great outlets.
In his book the Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler tells the story of a challenging rock climbing route in Yosemite that no one had ever completed. A new climber arrives and climbs it on the first try, and instantly, many other people do the route on the same day. The same pattern was true for breaking the four-minute mile. Achieving something through risk and challenge raises the bar for everyone. Part of your duty is to inspire and lead others through your experiences and adventures.
You can even use the filter “is this adventurous?” as a decision-making tool. My friends often remind me that I am the ‘adventure guy’ when they are trying to get me to try something new or challenging. By forcing me to say yes to adventure, they are increasing the possibility that something good will happen. It’s OK to go on an adventure purely for your enjoyment. The process will make you a better man and improve the world.
What is your definition of adventure?
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Photo: Flickr/ Thompson Rivers University
This article originally appeared on DerekLoudermilk.com.