It is tempting, at times, to tiptoe safely to death.
Lions in captivity live nearly twice as long as their wild counterparts. In theory, they are wealthier, with a full-time staff that cleans their housing, prepares meals, and completes regular medical check-ups. They also have fantastic job security.
Would you take that deal if you were living paw-to-mouth on the Savanah?
When I was growing up, I hunted disruption. This lasted well into my 20s. Every few years, I would begin to feel comfortable - in my social setting, career, and relationships- and so I would blow something up.
It was a volatile formula, but I loved it. It always caused a transformation.
It took me to new countries and put me in strange scenarios, from breaking horses in central BC to commercial fishing in Northern Australia. One year I owned my own white water rafting company. Another I was bartending in a strip club.
Today I blow things up less than I used to. I am not as comfortable with disruption as I once was.
But when I think back on my life, those memories of spontaneity and novelty are the fondest.
I know this is a familiar story.
Our sense of wonder, adventure, and experimentation - our trust in the serendipitous nature of the world decreases with age. We become comfortable - set in our ways.
Maybe, this is intelligence. We become wise from life experience, making us less reckless. Maybe we accumulate money and things, and the fear of losing them makes us risk-averse.
But I will challenge this.
Mice, when housed in a cage, demonstrate similar behaviour.
Young mice will constantly explore the cage. They will walk the perimeter, toy with the exercise equipment and dig through the bedding.
Old mice tend to favour a particular corner - eventually taking up permanent residence in one spot, rarely venturing out aside from basic needs like food and water.
Is this because the old mice have accumulated wealth they now fear losing? Have they been burned by the exploits of their younger days and now walk a conservative path?
Neither. They have lived in a “safe” environment, never building fear of exploration through personal failure. They have not accumulated any advantages that they now fear losing.
The young mouse has nothing to lose. The old mouse has nothing to lose. Yet their behaviour changes dramatically.
A study by the Young Blood Institute, based out of Stanford, CA, experimented with blood transfusions between old and young mice. The intention was to determine if the organs of the old mice would regenerate after receiving a young blood transfusion. The result bordered on a panacea - the muscle tissue, brains, immune systems and liver of the old mice aged backwards - quickly. But in addition, the behaviour of the old mice changed - specifically, their risk tolerance.
The old mice began exploring the cage again. They left their burrows and regained a curiosity about their surroundings.
Now I may be sounding obvious - as we age, we slow down… Groundbreaking stuff here, Jay…
But risk tolerance and adventure are like creativity - they are renewable resources. The more we use them, the more we have.
But if we don’t use it, we lose it, quickly.
Spontaneous adventure is just a romantic description of trial and error. The more adventures I built into my life, the more I learned about myself, and the quality of my life improved.
Trial and error is an efficient method of finding progress - so long as the errors are recorded and not repeated (too many times… I’ll try anything twice). With each new experiment, we eliminate a possibility (the error) and increase the probability that the next experiment will lead to trial and success.
Life is a marathon of trial and error. Unfortunately, the trials are typically in their highest volume early in life, when the errors we know about are at their smallest.
As we age, even though the probability of success increases, the frequency of trials decreases, leading to an unfortunate zero-sum game. But we can change this.
As the herd goes left, we go right, and fight against the dying of the light.
Lean into the pointy edges of life. Every day we take action. Some actions maintain the status quo. Some rock the boat. The actions we are most scared of hold the most potential for change. If you want your life to change, you have to change. Blow something up.
Stay young at heart, mind and body. Act how you want to feel. Never stop training like a professional athlete. Never stop reading like a full-time student. Never stop pursuing the best sex of your life. Keep working on that cookbook. Stay curious. Stay playful.
Fight like your back is against the wall. We respond to scarcity - and none more powerful than the scarcity of time. I recently locked eyes with a man who was raging against the dying of the light. There was fire and intensity and fear. This time is coming for us all.
Channel it. And get moving.