Gutenberg didn’t invent the printing press out of thin air. According to Where Good Ideas Come From, he recycled some of the technology involved in a wine press to invent the printing press. In its most simplified version, that’s the Adjacent Possible. Most new great ideas or inventions are only possible because there are adjacent to something that already exists. It’s like getting to a room on the 2nd floor by walking up the stairs and through a hallway. You can’t teleport there, but with the right combination of steps, you’ll get to that 2nd floor room.

The Adjacent Possible is a fascinating idea that’s great at explaining how we got from pressing grapes to printing books, but terrible when applied to one’s life path.

I like doing things. I was an Overly Involved High School Student who became an Overly Involved College Student. Like I’ve written in other posts, being overly vague in one’s skills or overly specialized can be paralyzing. So can walking aimlessly through open doors just because they’re open. Being an Overly Involved Person meant that I had a lot of different opportunities.

And being a believer in the Adjacent Possible meant I took 99% of them.

I thought I liked doing things, so it didn’t matter what work I did, as long as I was working. Turns out, it does matter what kind of work I’m doing. Evidently, just walking through the next open door might land you in a room that isn’t where you should be.

I’m just now learning that it’s okay to walk out. Climb through a window if you need to. Re-orient yourself, buy a map, chart a course, change those plans, make 3 year goals, 5 year goals, and adjust them all tomorrow. But if you know you’re in the wrong room, staying there longer won’t get you where you need to go. Keep moving and keep dreaming.

In other words, I quit my job last week.

Adios Adjacent Possible. I’d rather be known for who I was than having the longest resume around.

Until next time,

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