|The art of progress is to preserve order
amid change and to preserve change amid order.
- Alfred North Whitehead
This is a book about change
and about how to meet the challenges of the coming millennium by continually striving to
go one step beyond your previous experience. It is also a book about achievement in the
face of uncertainty, and of learning the lessons from the struggles we face on a daily
basis. More than anything else, it is a book about discovering the potential that lies
within and making the most of the opportunities that are offered to us throughout our
We are living through one of the
great transitional periods of human history, where economic, political and social change
is occurring with lightening speed. Events taking place on the opposite side of the earth
inexorably influence our daily lives. We cannot stop this change, nor can we ignore it.
But we can increase our ability to adapt, to manage change effectively, and to benefit
from the adversity that change creates.
In these rapidly-changing
times, the metaphor of adventure offers the perfect vehicle for articulating a
strategy that will help us address this challenge. By definition, an adventure is a
journey with an uncertain outcome and adventurers are people who pro-actively seek out
difficulty in order to stretch their potential against the unknown.
Today, the pace of change dictates
that we must all become adventurers, leaving behind the known world of our previous
experience and moving with confidence into the unpredictable world of the next millennium.
To succeed in the 21st Century, we
must learn to embrace change, to become comfortable with uncertainty, and to become
visionary and adventurous in dealing with the new social, political and economic
environments in which we will, like it or not, be forced to live.
In meeting the challenge of change,
one of the greatest difficulties will be in shaking off the suffocating demands for
security that dominate the lives of so many people. Over the years, in seeking to support
those in our society who are unable to look after themselves, we have created a
wide-ranging security net that is resulting in an alarming trend towards large numbers of
individuals who no longer seem willing to take personal responsibility for the
consequences of their own actions.
Increasingly, we see a growing
component of society that looks toward government, the law courts, or the insurance
industry to bail them out when something goes wrong or when the going gets tough. And all
of this is occurring at a staggering financial cost that we can no longer afford.
But this was not originally the
case! The world that we take so much for granted today is a society that has evolved
through the centuries of risk-taking by our predecessors, for whom every day was an
adventure. The explorers, fur traders, settlers and pioneers who developed this land had
no security system to fall back on. These were people who saw the opportunities offered by
this vast continent and had the courage to let go of security in accepting the risks that
the new world would demand. And they were also willing to accept the consequences of their
actions, whether the results were positive or negative. It would never have occurred to
them that life could be led in any other way.
The problem of security, of
course, is that once attained it becomes increasingly difficult to let go. To progress as
a society, we have to leave behind our established comfort zones and leap one step beyond
into the future. Such a step demands courage and commitment, but once taken will lead
to increasing excitement and opportunity. All kinds of things will start to occur that
would never have resulted if that initial step had not been taken.
In fact, the adventure of life is
only to be found by continually striving to go one step beyond in search of
discovery and new challenge. Children do this as a matter of course, but, as adults, we
must force ourselves never to be satisfied with the secure world that we have created
through our past efforts. Instead, we should continually be placing ourselves out on that
limb, where we have to perform to our maximum potential. In adopting this philosophy, we
will have to take risks, but risks that have been carefully controlled through adequate
preparation and analysis - and risks for which the resulting consequences have been
carefully considered, acknowledged and personally accepted.
In the process, we will discover
our real selves and gain a better understanding of our real potential. We owe it to
ourselves to continue to search for a more complete awareness of the strengths that we can
apply to our goals in life, but also a more pragmatic and realistic acceptance of the
limitations that we carry within us. After all, it is our strengths and our
limitations that make us who we are and without a full knowledge of both, we can
never be fully aware of what we are capable of achieving with our lives.
The trick is to set increasingly
difficult goals as we progress through life. Having attained each goal in turn and
increased our knowledge of our potential in the process we can gaze off into the
metaphorical distance and project what the future might bring. But, as we come down off
each peak of achievement, we must continually apply this new-found knowledge of self
towards even higher peaks, as we struggle forward towards the next horizon of endeavour.
There are places to go beyond