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What separates those who are driven from those who feel lost?  Very few people haven’t felt lost at some point in their lives, and so this end of the spectrum is perhaps an easier one to start at, not to mention the fact no one is looking for this end as a destination.  Driven individuals are generally not looking to feel lost in life. 


Someone who feels lost, however, might latch on to some of the quaint aphorisms that float around in culture, such as:


All those who wander are not lost.


It’s the journey not the destination that counts.



A person who generally feels lost might feel momentary comfort in such phrases, feeling comfort in redefining the situation as a wandering journey.


Of course, in order to wander and be on a journey, one generally has to move.  And going to and from work everyday does not necessarily cut the cake here, nor does merely existing through time.


The feeling of being lost is not really being clueless about what destination to shoot for, it’s the feeling of stagnation.  It’s the feeling of standing still and not moving in any direction at all.  This might be at the core of the concept of FOMO, the acronym for ‘fear of missing out’.  Those who are too involved in what they are doing or exploring, don’t really have the mental space to concentrate on what they might be missing out on.   Standing still and doing nothing, however, or lacking concentration and attention on what is going on in the moment gives rise to the space and mental stagnation necessary for thoughts of FOMO to intervene.


Driven people have a hypothesis about the near future, and they are hunting around in order to find out if reality will prove their hypothesis right or wrong.  An important distinction, however, is that if reality pokes back in a way that seems to indicate that a hypothesis is wrong, a driven individual will not necessarily give up, but probe reality further, taking feedback from reality as an indication to pivot and try a different strategy in order to test the hypothesis.  If you erase the concept of ‘hypothesis’ from this situation and merely look at the behavior of such a person without their goal in mind...  It simply looks like they are wandering.  You might even say they look lost.


We can switch tracks and imagine being on a trail through the woods.  Many people who actually get lost in the woods are rarely very far from the trail they are seeking, and unfortunately many perish this way.


We can imagine ourselves in such a situation.  Feeling overwhelmed, afraid to move because we might become more lost and more separated from the path we wish we were on.  Where lies the first step in this situation?


Organization is the key.


Even with no equipment, we could begin by walking in a straight line and breaking branches on trees as we walk.  We might even be thoughtful enough to make this line extend from the direction where the sun rises to where the sun sets, thereby establishing a rough east/west axis.  Even without the sun this exercise creates orientation out of nowhere.  It might not be orientation relative to where we’d like to be, but it orients ourselves relative to where we have been.  We might even use such branches to create letters and numbers on the ground next to a tree and slowly build a grid system.  By doing so, we can slowly expand the part of the environment that we have organized and mapped.  We can do this continuously until our organized system grows to touch some other familiar organization, like a trail, and then boom, we’ve found where we were hoping to go.


A driven individual is simply attempting to wander in an organized way.  Ensuring that the same mistake isn’t made, i.e. blindly taking the same path to nowhere productive


Our ability to plan what will happen tomorrow is relegated to a very small pixel of the universe.  But relative to ourselves and the portion of reality that we get to wander around in, it’s everything, and our ability to wander productively ultimately is the biggest factor in determining just how much success we are likely to encounter.



This episode references Episode 72: Persevere vs. Pivot, Episode 165: Set Sail, and Episode 57: Compass.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 219: Never Lost

Tinkered Thinking

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