The Horizon Problem

I've always been fascinated by the ocean. This was especially the case when I was at Stanford.

At the end of every school year, I would drive to my parents' home in San Diego.

One year I decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway, a small two-lane road that hugs the California coastline -- with mountains on the left and the Pacific Ocean on my right.

I remember looking out at the horizon thinking of an entire world that was just beyond the visible horizon.

The problem with looking at the horizon is that you can only see so far.

The average adult standing at sea level looking at the ocean horizon can only see 3 miles (5 km) before the curvature of the earth interferes with seeing further.

I think this is true in many matters of life.

In an ideal world, we want to be able to predict and see our entire future before we take the first step.

Life doesn't work that way.

Sometimes you only get to see the next 3 miles at a time.

This is The Horizon Problem.

It doesn't mean good (or bad) things aren't over the horizon.

It just means you can't see them.

The "safest" (and by "safest," I mean "most predictable") decision is to go nowhere.

If you stand still in life, take no risks, never go on a journey, you will rarely get surprised.

The second "safest" decision is to take a path discovered, charted and "paved" by someone else.

This is climbing a career ladder designed by someone else, rather than forging your own path.

This is taking a tour bus when visiting another country, rather than exploring on your own.

The least predictable path is to forge your own path. It is heading towards the horizon that interests you most, knowing full well you can't see beyond it just yet.

Will it be better or worse than what you are doing now?

In nearly all cases, the answer is "yes."

The path less traveled is usually both better and worse.

However, the one thing that is always true of the path less traveled is that it is never boring.


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