A Journey Into The Unknown

A Journey Into The Unknown

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On the 3rd of August 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail with 3 ships to discover a Western trade route to the East.

Interestingly, his journey was the result of a miscalculation that the world was smaller than it actually was. If not for the existence of the New World, they would certainly have all perished.

It has also emerged that Columbus had no real experience as skipper of a ship before this journey. The Pinzón brothers, who captained the two sister ships, were the experienced mariners on the voyage.

Although he is widely discredited as discoverer of the Americas (most likely preceded by Leif Ericson’s Norse expedition in the 11th century), Columbus’ pioneering journey did lead to the the subsequent mass exploration and colonisation of the Americas – for which he will forever have a place in human history.

Columbus was a passionate believer in solving problems, willing to learn and do what it took to take on the problem. That passion took him on a fruitful journey into the unknown that led to the opening up of the New World.

Two weeks ago, I was in Rio de Janeiro at the incredible TEDGlobal conference. Passion, belief, discovery, exploration and dissemination of new ideas are very much at the heart of the TED movement. This is one of the main reasons why the organisation is having such an incredible impact on the world.

One of the talks in Rio that stood out was by Jorge Soto, who is working with others on an incredible new approach to the early detection of cancer. Miroculus, the company he co-founded, started with a group of students coming together at the outlier education institution Singularity University, just over a year ago.

Their company is the result of a group project on the 10-week course they attended. The project brief was to tackle one of humanity’s greatest challenges using an innovative approach and a blend of emerging technologies. Over dinner with them, I discovered that their prior knowledge isn’t what drives them to take on this problem. What really fuels them are stories of the suffering of loved ones.

This reminded me of another TED talk from Jack Andraka, who, at 15 years old, discovered a new radically improved approach to testing for Pancreatic cancer using Google and Wikipedia. In his case, it was the passing away of a family friend that provided him with the motivation to take on this problem.

You see, in these stories, the motivation came not from experience and knowledge of how to solve the problem, but from a deep, underlying, emotive passion to solve the problem. Knowledge is a far less important factor than we realise.

The good news is that an increasing number of passionate voyagers and explorers around the world are setting sail into the unknown, taking on the challenges we all face, because the barriers to solving problems are falling every day. Thanks to their work, in our lifetime something as big and insurmountable as cancer can and will become a disease of the past.

We live in an extraordinary time in human history. Any problem we face is now becoming solvable. Unlike Columbus’ time, discovery and exploration are generally no longer a matter of life and death.

The ability to explore and discover new lands depends on a willingness to fail in public for something you believe in. This is very much a survivable endeavour and therefore worth the risk.

The way I see it, that world problem you are passionate about is yours to solve. Nobody who tackles anything new in the world knows how they are actually going to get there when they begin. All we really need to do is let go of the shore and set sail.

I do not take on the issues I do because I will succeed, or because I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed. Like others, I take on challenges because I am so passionate about them that I am willing to fail in the pursuit of trying.

So I ask you the questions that I ask myself:

Are you letting knowledge be a barrier to tackling the problems you are passionate about?

Is there a problem in the world that you are passionate about?

If so, why don’t you make a start, to solve it?

To the opportunity of the unknown.

Marc

P.S. Next month I am taking a small group of people on a journey into the unknown to learn how to think and act in limitless ways. If there is an enormous problem that you are passionate about solving, then join us to learn how to let go of the shore. Find out more here.

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Comments

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  1. Love the blog, has given me new eyes to see

  2. Love it Marc.

    “The way I see it, that world problem you are passionate about is yours to solve. Nobody who tackles anything new in the world knows how they are actually going to get there when they begin. All we really need to do is let go of the shore and set sail.”

  3. Susan Curran says

    Since we met at Leaders Quest in Jaipur last year I’ve subscribed to your blog and just love it – if I don’t read it right away I always flag it so I can find it later. The new information and ideas plus clear-sighted unsentimental descriptions of the projects you’re in, add up to something I can enjoy and track with interest ….thank you for your blog Marc.

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