The Paradox of The Path

The Paradox of The Path

Written by Miller Hollstein


I can still feel the gut-wrenching fear as my turn approached. 

Marcus stood up and proudly announced that he was going to be a firefighter. 

Jackson unwaveringly stated that he wanted to be a doctor.  

Elizabeth was certain that she would be an actress. 

Panic set in. I had no answer. I liked to play outside, but surely that couldn't be it.

Astronaut, president, singer, teacher…

The classroom whirled as I slouched deeper into my chair, unable to come up with anything.

Over and over the question circulated, as if I was lecturing an empty auditorium.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

What a ridiculous question for a 3rd-grader. 

How was I supposed to know what I wanted to do? I hadn't even done anything yet!

This question haunted me for years. 

But, something shifted when I contemplated quitting my first job as a civil engineer. 

Under the guidance of a self-help book, I made a list of the pros and cons of remaining in this field and I pictured my life 5 years down the road:

  • Stuck inside all day in a cubicle
  • Surrounded by co-workers I had nothing in common with
  • Doing busy work for projects I cared nothing about

I took note of the pros, but the unignorable emotions that welled within me as I read through the cons screamed much louder. 

And they showed me something far greater.

It took years (and many careers) to understand and internalize what I felt that day.

I had been going about it all wrong! 

How did you learn how to walk? How did you learn how to speak? 

Hit a ball, throw a punch, win an argument, drive a car… 

You learn by finding out what not to do. Through trial and error.

You stumble and fall and adjust. 

I had naturally done this my entire life, I just didn't realize that finding my path in life followed the same procedure.

It was so simple! My mind was just over-complicating it.

While trying to find our paths in life, we often unknowingly go about it the wrong way. 

Anticipating the glorified “lightbulb moment” of revelation, we sit and think as hard as we can, pondering, wondering, and imagining what the perfect outcome would be. 

But, the truth is, there is no way to know without knowing.

And the only way to know is to experience. 

And experience only happens when you start. 

When you act.

There are many factors that hinder this insight; most seated in fear. 

Fear of ridicule, of embarrassment… of failure.

These fears paralyze us. We are stuck and still, trapped in the rumination of doubt.

My friend Jake Kay said it perfectly:

“Without action, you are standing still on the map of your life. You don’t know where you are because you haven't bumped into anything. The secret is to start moving. Even when you move in the wrong direction, you gain information you can use to make better decisions. The more you act, the more clear your map becomes.”

This changed everything for me. The wrong answers no longer became a reason to not try. 

They were welcomed because they indicated progress and growth. 

They showed me how to better move forward.

That is the beautiful paradox of the path.

My problem sitting in that elementary school room was that I had not tried anything, so I did not know anything. And I was afraid to be wrong.

But, as my life continued and I learned more and more about what I didn’t want, I began to see more clearly what I did.

While there are books written on this, it all boils down to one simple concept.

Just start.

Right or wrong, at least you will know.

Next week, I dive deeper into documenting the insights that you gain along the way. 

What has recently been deemed: The Antivision. 

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