Adventure, Spotlight

Is Adventure Possible Without Risk?

Today’s mind puzzle comes courtesy of Beth Varro, who happens to be a talented photographer. This talented photographer is embroiled in a struggle to win a photo contest, and you can help her do so.

All it takes is clicking over to this picture of dandelions and hitting “dig it” in the top left. There is a free registration process you have to complete to have your vote counted. I think it’s worth it to help out an indie photographer.

Dandelions are kind of my thing, but she also has this picture of ducks. You can vote for both if you like. I’ll wait while you vote.

Have you done your civic duty? Okay, then you can keep reading :]

Guitar Adventure

Beth quizzed me after yesterday’s post. Like many commenters and myself, she believes that anything challenging can be an adventure—not only big dangerous quests.

Here’s the hypothetical she gave me.

Let’s say someone has never played guitar before, and they decide they’re going to learn. They start taking lessons and practicing and they’re not going to stop until they’re good enough to perform at a coffee shop. Is that an adventure? [emphasis added]

This got right to the heart of my uncertainty. Here’s why.

As Beth spoke I was right there with her, nodding along. Yes! I kept thinking. Yes this can be an adventure!

Until “perform at a coffee shop.”

I thought she would finish her sentence differently: “become a rock star,” or “get a record deal.” When I realized the hypothetical rocker’s goal is to perform at a coffee shop, I wondered: is that really an adventure?


At first it seems like a difference of scale. Performing for thousands is bigger—and more daunting—than performing for eight. Many bands get their start playing small venues, often without pay, but their aspirations run bigger: to start a project with dwarf aspirations doesn’t feel adventurous.

I’m going to pull Excalibur out of the stone… so I can polish it!

But I don’t think it’s a matter of scale, per se. Small things can be adventures, but only if an element of uncertainty is involved. An adventure is something so challenging it may actually be impossible.

An average adult can learn guitar well enough to play at a coffee shop. Maybe six months of lessons. You don’t have to be very good and coffee shops will give almost anyone a chance.

Even with stage fright you can probably strum through a cover or a folk song at open mic night.

Adventure is something you’re not sure you can do, full stop. It’s something you feel a passion about, but not the confidence of certainty. Does that sound right?

I think this also comes with an “out of the ordinary” side. Ordinary things are generally doable, maybe with some training. Adventures are things many people wouldn’t think to do, or believe can’t be done.

Adventure-as-a-practice seems to be a willful attempt to do the seemingly impossible, which is itself an extraordinary trait (but one you can cultivate).

What do you think?