Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain, from here
Moving forward into the unknown is terrifying. Taking a step into unfamiliar territory, leaving what you know to explore what you don’t seems like a foolish thing to do–the kind of thing that might get a soft-skinned prey animal with no teeth or claws killed, or an eager young entrepreneur ruined.
It’s the start of pretty much every horror movie: the first victim goes into the dark room, usually against the hero’s advice, and gets killed. What an idiot, we say to our friends as we chat about the movie later.
It’s the reason kids are afraid of the dark and adults are afraid to sleep in unfamiliar places.
It’s also the only way to create progress.
If you always stick with what you know, you’ll become very good at it. But you’ll never move past it, never become greater, never know what else you could do. And eventually, you’ll become obsolete.
We only grow when we move forward into the unknown. Without that, we never would have gone into space. Never would have flown. Never would have sailed the ocean. Never would have spread across the face of the earth. Never would have invented clothes and tools to make our skin harder and our claws sharper. Never would have created the Internet to bring everybody closer than ever before.
Every great accomplishment humans have achieved was because somebody–usually a very few somebodies, or only one–had the courage to move forward into the unknown, to open the trail so others could follow. And I’d be willing to bet that most of them were terrified before they took that first step.
But they took it, and everybody who followed is better for it.
There’s a flip side, of course. For every small group that moves forward into the unknown and succeeds, there’s another group, or more than one, who failed miserably. They may have gone broke, or had to turn back, or even died.
Those failures are what hold most of us back. After all, if failure is real, it could happen to us. Much safer to stay where we are, stick to what we know.
But success is real, too. And you can’t get there without the courage to move forward into the unknown.