In every great story of every great quest, there are fellow travelers, hosts, and wise people who help the heroes out. The Fellowship of the Ring wouldn’t have gotten far without the help of the elves in Lothlorien. Neither would Pilgrim in A Pilgrim’s Progress have gotten far without fellow travelers like Faithful and help from Mr. Interpreter. Fill in your own story example here – there’s something universal about the story element of the fellow traveler or hospitable host.
If you’ve broken the mold in the way you’re leading your early life and career, you’re also on a quest or journey of sorts. You’re typically leaving a path walked by many people who share your age, your experiences, and your outlook to make a lonely (but much more satisfying) way through life. This can be lonely, and while it’s not usually associated with the dangers of a quest, it has a lot in common.
In living a self-directed life as with questing across a fictional world, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your fellow travelers, and anyone else who would help you along the way.
It’s certainly easy. Self-responsibility is what has gotten you so far, and it’s probably what launched your ambition to lead a self-directed life in the first place. But it’s not true that self-responsibility is mutually exclusive with helping hands, companionship, friendship. And it’s definitely not true that you’re the only or the first person to discover that living life just to appease the tastes of other people isn’t such a great idea.
That means the road to where you going is dotted both with people who are on the way and people who have already been to where you want to go in your life. More often than not, the latter group will want to help you and the first group will want to challenge you. If there’s anything I’ve learned from experience, it’s that you need them both.
The great thing is that they’re not hard to find. Sure, self-directed people aren’t exactly common (yet), but if you put yourself on the right path you’re bound to find them. If your idea of a self-directed life involves starting your own company, for example, you’re going to find plenty of other aspiring young founders just by getting to work in a startup (or completing a program like this one – the people I’ve met have been some of the best parts of Praxis for me).
You should also take the time to find out what role you’ll play in someone else’s journey. Be as ready to create value as you are to accept it. If your someone’s fellow traveler, buy them a book, let them tell their story, challenge them to accountability to their goals. If you’re a veteran, share your experiences and wisdom. If you’re a “host” on the road, share encouragement, your network, and your resources.
Don’t do any of this out of duty. Wouldn’t you just like to see a world where more people have the courage to create their own paths? This is what it takes.
Many philosophers and thinkers have spoken about creating a fair society or creating a good society. What we want to create is the adventurous society. It turns out that creating an adventurous society requires the same hospitality and comradeship any self-respecting fictional adventurer could expect to find on the road.