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The Explorer's Dilemma

No explorer enters wilderness expecting to find adoring throngs there. More likely, he’ll find nobody home, or find people for whom his wilderness seems like home, but nobody to appreciate his intrepid excursion. Returning to what passes for civilization, he might well find nobody who appreciates his discoveries, either, since only he and his small company have seen what they found there. Most can’t help but misunderstand his stories since they have no basis upon which to properly interpret them. Such seems the explorer’s life.

Such seems The Explorer’s Dilemma. While most careers offer some reasonable hope of reward and recognition, not so the explorer’s. The most likely outcome of a lifetime roaming the bush probably distills into something like anonymity. The work must become its own reward if any reward’s to be found.

Most any career could follow one of two paths, practice or discovery. The practical practitioner seeks not to expand the envelope of practice. He operates within commonly prescribed boundaries without pushing the edge of propriety. The discovering practitioner seems to consider the boundaries of practical practice mere departure points for deeper and wider exploration. His boundaries seem fuzzy in comparison, and many, more practical professionals will easily discount his practice as irrelevant; as it might well be irrelevant for now.

Later, perhaps much later, that persistent poking at the edge might gain popular acceptance. In that moment, the former heretic might well be elected cardinal of an emerging orthodoxy. Whether he’ll accept the commission is open to question.

Organizations say they want innovation but seem incapable of integrating it. It’s no wonder, since innovation seems antithetical to the most sacred foundations of organizational design. What compensation system could simultaneously satisfy the practical practitioner who works to live and their more quizzical counterpart who lives to work? Nobody really appreciates anyone who constantly questions the validity of their sacred cow.

Woe to any explorer expecting appreciation commensurate to his contribution, unless he figures out how to appreciate himself. The wallflowers might hope no one will ask them to dance and still leave the party wondering why no one invited them onto the dance floor. Such seems The Explorer’s Dilemma.

Fairy tales often show the hero returning from his epic journey to be greeted by adoring throngs. After any explorer gets a few epic journeys under his Sam Brown belt, he can be excused for no longer anticipating a warm welcome upon his return. More often, his return initiates an isolation even greater than the most remote wilderness could inflict, and these cold shoulders, repeated over time, might well encourage our formerly intrepid explorer to stop searching in the hope that he might settle into some semblance of a normal life.

The explorers among us don’t seem capable of stopping their search. What might well have started on a whim, continues only as a genuine expression of who they know themselves to be. We could talk ourselves out of ourselves should we misinterpret our role.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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