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Letter to a beginning explorer

I recently received an email from someone asking for advice. It’s someone who is beginning to discover the explorer in themselves. Earlier I had been chatting with this individual about the vocabulary and activities of exploration, and this person was beginning to identify with these characteristics within the story of their own life.

Here is my response.

Dear [Explorer],

I am so excited that you're finding the vocabulary of your life in exploration. Being an explorer brings great joy and satisfaction as you discover new horizons and help others see possibilities they never saw before.

As you continue embarking on this new journey, let me give you some insight. Some of this was learned over time from walking the trail of exploration, other bits from pain along the way. Here goes:

1. Others As you talk about what you do, some will be excited and say that they are explorers, too. They will want to go with you. Listen carefully because there is a difference between being an explorer and a person who wants a change. Some people want to be explorers for season or for a day. Maybe they want to read about it, wear the clothing and bask in the exploration. In reality they only want an alternative to what's going on today. They want an escape, not a life. For them it is an experience, not a lifestyle. They do not want to make the commitment, nor do they have the drive for what it really means to be an explorer. So as you consider who to bring along, consider this next thought.

2. Find your First Mates 
 By this I'm saying you’ll benefit greatly from having the right people along with you— those whom you trust and listen to, even if they may be very different from you. Within The Exploration Group there are four people that I listen to very carefully. They're the ones that I run ideas by. They're the ones that hear about the expeditions before they begin. They're the ones that I listen to, even though I may not agree with them. I know they have my best interest in mind. Look at great explorers like Lewis, who brought along Clark, Paul who traveled with Barnabas. And for Frank Shackleton to Antarctica, it was Frank Wild. Great explorers have great people with them. Often people very different than themselves.

3. Know your Moorings A mooring is a solid structure to which ships are tied. It keeps them from drifting. A mooring could be a wharf, a pier or an anchor. In your life you're going to face lots of winds and waves that blow you in different directions. It is critical to explore to know what's important to you and what you believe. I've found that having your moorings in place doesn't hold exploration back, it gives you a firm place from with to embark and return.

4. Change is Constant Change will always be a part of your life as an explorer. It can be your friend or it can be your enemy. Whether the changes are big or small, the reality of exploration is constant movement. Some people can handle that, others cannot. It is so important to have your moorings and have your first mates around you. They are your ballast in the midst of the change. As you are curious about so much that is around you, change can overwhelm you. You may take on too many expeditions at once. You become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of change that is occurring. Embrace your curiosity, but manage it wisely because the old phrase is true, “curiosity can kill the cat.” As in so many areas of life there is a tension. In exploration the tension is between stability and change.

5. Experiment and Learn 
 I keep a journal tracking the various expeditions in The Exploration Group. I'm always pondering what we've done before, and I seek to learn from it. I find there are things that I discovered in one context that did not make sense there, but it does make sense in a totally different setting. The idea ends up being the building block for something months or even years later. I especially listen to those nagging problems or opportunities in my head that don't go away. I find that they are the stepping-stones that create breakthroughs toward new insights.

6. Set limits 
 This sounds like a very non-explorer thing to do but it is essential for your long-term survival as an explorer.

When I look at all the great explorers they had all of these things in place. It allowed them not only to be brave and to be daring but to also be successful, not once, but repeatedly.

Yours for Exploration,


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