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Outlier’s Path

Forge Your Path

One of my favorite quotes is from Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who once said, “Life can only be understood by looking backward, but it must be lived looking forward.” This concise quote conjures up many ideas about our understanding of our history, our relationship between our past and our future, and the importance of moving forward.

The first part of the quote is a more elegant way of saying hindsight is 20/20, and by reflecting on our history, we can glean insights and clarity. We are all a function of our histories, which is another way of saying life is path-dependent. Small or inconsequential decisions at the time can shape the direction of how we arrive at the present. Historians find comfort in the first part of the quote because we will better understand ourselves through reflecting on our past.

The second part of the quote provides a more significant provocation about our future. Since our world is non-stationary and constantly changing, no amount of understanding of the past will help us face tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities because they will be different enough. Living is about the courage to meet tomorrow’s challenges, having hopes and dreams to overcome those challenges, and taking forward action.

While life is path-dependent, we should not permit our past to define our future. However, the past will prevail over our future through inertia, defaults, and the status quo. If we want to shape our future deliberately, we must reflect on our past choices, decide our future path, and take action to move forward. If I could offer an improvement to Kierkegaard’s wise counsel, it would be to add an element of intentionality and deliberateness to our future path.

Don’t let life happen and unfold. Deliberately shape your future. You can apply deliberateness and intentionality to yourself, either personally or professionally. What is your future path as a friend, a parent, or a global citizen? What is your future path as a founder, operator, or investor? You can apply this to your company as well. Whatever the case, be deliberate, live an intentional life, and forge your path!