8 Adventure Lessons I Learned From the Tao Te Ching

Let me just start by admitting I’m not especially skilled in the interpretation of esoteric texts. I do, however, find beauty, peacefulness and wisdom throughout such classic texts as the Tao Te Ching.

If you’ve never read or even heard of the Tao Te Ching, start with the basics here. In the meantime, let’s dive right into 8 adventure lessons I learned from this important piece of work.

1. What you want to overcome, you must first of all submit to.

With adventure comes fear. Fear of whitewater. Fear of flying. Fear of heights. Fear of water buffalo.

To me, fear is something you must submit to if you want to move forward. And damn, can it be difficult to overcome at times! Keep pushing on, though.

Fear is important. Harness it properly and your adventures become that much better.

2. If you pour all your energy into one thing, you’re sure to harm the rest of your being.

It’s probably safe to say we work too much. Or spend too much time running errands. Or studying. Or paying bills. Or break dancing. Such is life.

Do yourself a small favor. Save a little bit of that energy for adventure. This passage encourages you to cut loose from time to time. Put your adventure pants on.

3. If you’re not always wanting, you can be at peace.

A true adventurer is not always wanting. Rather, he/she is experiencing what is readily available and offered. Adventure is a thousand times more awesome if you can just live in the moment.

4. If you’re not always trying to be someone, you can be who you really are.

It’s important to just be yourself in life. The same is true when you choose your adventures. Hey, it’s your journey. Don’t let some knucklehead (like me) tell you what you should and should not be pursuing.

Let your adventure heroes inspire you. Don’t let their adventures become an exact blueprint.

5. A great thing done is never perfect—but that doesn’t mean it fails: it does what it is.

So you went for a long trip, had your share of fun, but experienced quite a few setbacks and disappointments? Your trip wasn’t perfect. Bummer, right?

Not really. No trip is perfect. No adventure goes exactly as planned. Oftentimes setbacks are the most memorable part of any adventure.

6. It’s always the person who thinks things are easy that finds them the hardest in the end.

I recently read a blog post about the Inca Trail. In the comments, a first-time hiker shared his experience taking on the longest possible route. He thought it’d be “easy.” Props to him for going for it!

What struck me as odd was the amount of complaining in his comment. In short, he got his ass kicked, and was none too pleased about it. Somebody should’ve told him how difficult it would be, he claimed.

Sheesh. Somebody should’ve told him good adventures are rarely easy! I’d avoid going in with this guy’s attitude.

7. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

Chances are likely you’ve seen this one used for inspirational purposes on Facebook. I still love it for its simplistic message.

Whatever adventure you’re holding off on for whatever reason, take the first step. Start now.

8. The kind of person who always insists on his way of seeing things can never learn anything from anyone.

This one is especially true if you’ve ever traveled with anyone who won’t stop talking for just one minute to listen to another opinion. It’s frustrating, to say the least. Adventures have been ruined because of it.

OK, I’ll stop acting like some Taoist sage and let you guys share your thoughts.

Why fear of the unknown is holding you back

“What if…”

The death of many adventures usually starts out that way. An idea springs to mind, you dream of the possibilities, planning commences, and then you’re confronted with one of life’s biggest roadblocks: You ask yourself “what if?”

We humans are exceptionally skilled at creating future scenarios in our heads. We’re able to connect nonexistent dots to other nonexistent dots. For if “A” happens then surely “B” will happen, which spells disaster at “C”!

It’s as if a thousand years of conditioning has taught us to trust the instinctual moment of initial restraint.

“What if there is a predator around the corner?” “What if our hunt is not successful?” “What if our enemy raids our village tonight?”

Our ancestor’s crippling fear of the unknown settled into our own DNA. And while modern man is faced with a new set of unique unknown fears (credit card debt, loss of employment, etc.), the question of “what if” remains a constant inhibitor in life.

But how many times does an event play out exactly how we anticipated? Fear of the unknown is just that—unknown. We have no idea what will happen in any given situation, yet we allow fear to guide our thoughts and emotions.

You will no doubt feel a hint of restraint while planning your next adventure. A million things can—and maybe even will—happen. Adventure is so attractive precisely because of the unknown possibilities. Embrace this concept.

And always remember that the people in your life aren’t exactly qualified fortune tellers. They’re basing their assumptions on their own set of unknown fears when telling you your current adventurous plans are stupid, or dangerous, or way too risky.

They can’t even tell you what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even two hours from now. Yet they’ll make sure you contemplate “what if” to the point of full-blown anxiety.

Maybe your plans are stupid, and dangerous and way too risky. So what? If you allow fear of the unknown to hold you back from pursuing adventure, you’ll never know what could have been. Instead of experiencing the thrill of a lifetime, you’ll be stuck asking yourself a different sort of “what if.”

“What if I had just went with my gut and pursued my own adventures?”