The Adjacent Plausible

Recently I read a quote in a book I was reading that said,
“The first hurdle we face is the basic notion of accepting plausibility”
Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges that I face in my life, when facing big challenges, is developing a vision that what I’m hoping for is plausible. Usually, possibility isn’t the challenge for me, and I’d be willing to bet, that if you gave it some thought, you’d see that it isn’t the challenge for you either.
Spud Webb was 5’7” and he did this…
Image result for spud webb dunking
This guy did this..(click for story)
It’s not much of a challenge to see that anything is possible.
There is an abundance of stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I don’t think we need encouragement to believe things are possible. Regardless of our challenge, our dreams, or our aspirations, even for thinkers who need rationality and explanation, accepting the possibility of things is not too far of a reach.
 But within ourselves there often lies a great shortage of a belief in our own plausibility for the opportunities around us.
The real challenge, is accepting and believing in the plausibility. How many times have we heard or said something along these lines…
“I know it can be done, but…”
“Yeah, he did it, but I don’t think that’s realistic (plausible) for me”
“I can’t believe he did that, I could never do something like that”
One day, my friend Josh and I were talking about the challenges associated with becoming a Navy Seal. Without really giving it much thought, I made some type of comment like,
“Man, I couldn’t do that”
And Josh, who I love, partially because of the abundance of self confidence he has, said this,
“Here’s the thing. I know I could do it, because it’s been done.”
Josh not only looked at the possibility of the situation (it’s been done), but also the plausibility (I know I could do it). And far too often, for one reason or another, we refuse to acknowledge, refuse to accept, or simply can’t see the plausibility of the the dreams we are chasing or things we would like to work towards.
There is an idea that I read about recently known as the “Adjacent Possible”. It originated with a biologist, and was expanded on by an author by the name of Steven Johnson. He’s an interesting guy, and you can read his take on it here and here. 
If you don’t want to read the insight of a very intelligent man (other than the blog you are currently reading, of course), then I’ll attempt to paraphrase some thoughts on the “Adjacent Possible”.
The idea, according to Steven Johnson, is that “at any given time, only certain kinds of next steps are possible” (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/oct/19/steven-johnson-good-ideas)
From where you are currently standing, personally and professionally, there are certain jobs, dreams, and goals that are directly within your reach. These are things that might be noted as obvious, or clearly within your current field of vision. And this is the place where most of us abide, most of the time.
Do you remember the song, “The Bear Went Over The Mountain”? Every time he went over something (the mountain, the river, the meadow), all he could see was more of the same (the other side of the mountain). There is nothing new that he is finding, he can only see what he can see. I think that’s usually true for us.
But I like the idea of the “Adjacent Plausible“. To me, the idea is for us to take a look around, and see what we can see, and then understand that there are things that are plausible, things that we can do, that are just outside our current field of vision. Johnson likens it to a shadowy figure, constantly lurking around, just outside of our reach.
In other words, we may not be able to do “Z”, but from where we stand, we can realistically do “W”, and if we can get to “W”, we can do “X”, and from “X” we can reach “Y”, and then…
Incrementalism at it’s finest.
But as long as we are standing still, our Adjacent Plausible will always remain fairly static. Our plausibilities can’t expand unless we are willing to expand ourselves.
I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but I read it recently and really liked it:
“The greatest nemesis to change is the conflict between who you want to become and how you want to feel”
So the difficulty for many of us, in seeing new plausibilities, is expanding our comfort zone, bit by bit. The simple act of reading a new book, trying a new activity, having a conversation, taking on a new project, or learning something new, will expand our Adjacent Plausible.
As we shine a little light into that shadowy adjacent, we can see new things. AND, we get a new Adjacent Plausible. We are a step closer to being a step closer.
As usual, I feel like Simon Sinek, or Seth Godin, or Steven Johnson himself should be sharing this with the world, because I don’t know that I’ve done the idea the justice it deserves, but I think it’s a great concept.
About six years ago, my wife started discussing the idea of working part time so that she could spend more time with our children. At the time, I was making very little money, with very little on my horizon in terms of increasing my income (and in turn, increasing our opportunity for her to work less).
I was coaching in college at the time, and from there, I took a job as a substitute teacher in the public school system. I was closer to a better paying job, but not there. While working as a sub, I received the opportunity to work as a long term sub. While working as a long term sub, I received an offer to take a job as a full time teacher within that system. From there, we moved back to our hometown, and took new jobs. The pay was higher, but so was the cost of living. We bought and renovated a house, sold it, made some money. I didn’t get a coaching job that I thought was right in line with what I should be doing, what I thought was most plausible for me, no longer was.  Now I’m studying some new stuff, coaching some new kids. My wife has taken some steps professionally and had some things happen that we never saw as being plausible 12 months ago. Building a house never seemed plausible, and the things we’ve laid out, the new relationships we’ve made, the new things we’ve seen and learned, the money we’ve saved based on different steps we’ve made, have led to new plausibilities. They are no longer adjacent, they are right in front of us. And we’d never have been able to see them 6 years ago. And now, we have new Adjacent Plausibles to explore. New things we can dream, and imagine, and shine a light on.
What are those things that might be right around the corner for you? Maybe you don’t know right now, and that is a little bit of the point. Believe in the plausibilities. There is more there for you than you know.
You don’t have to see the path to the end to get there, you just need to start believing in the plausibility of it all, and then start looking over the mountain, and peeking into the shadows, to see your adjacent plausible.
I find it very encouraging.
Much Love,
Bryan

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