The Problem With Choose Your Own Adventure

Remember the choose your own adventure books? They were my favorite.

You’d start reading a book and it’d start out just like any other story you’ve read and then all of a sudden something different happens. You have a choice. Does the character do option A or option B? You, the reader, get to intervene in the lives of the characters in the book. You get to decide the direction of the story. You get to choose what they do next. Their future. Their destiny. It’s all in your hands. All you have to do is choose option B and flip to the page 28 and you completely change their future.

Do they go into the abandoned house and find out where the spooky noises and random lights are coming from or do they go down the street and pretend they saw nothing? Does the rescue team risk the storm in order to attempt a rescue mission or do they wait until the storm blows over? Does little Timmy give the bully his milk money or does he stand up to him and risk getting punched in the face?

Only you get to decide. The fate of the characters lies in your hands. Flip to the wrong page, and something terrible could happen to your favorite character. The story could end abruptly or be fairly boring. Make the right decision, however, and you find yourself in the midst of an awesome story. There was only one problem…

***

In life there are essentially two kinds of freedom.

The first type of freedom allows you the ability to choose between two options. A or B. Pick one. You’re free to choose.

The other type of freedom means you’re allowed to do whatever you want. WHATEVER YOU WANT! You’re free to choose. Fabian calls this ‘”the freedom to be the sovereign of our sphere.” I love that term.

A sovereign country isn’t subject to anyone else. They have the supreme and independent authority to do with their country whatever they want. For better. Or for worse. They’re responsible. They get to choose their own adventure. Their own destiny…

The Problem With Choose Your Own Adventure

The problem with choose your own adventure is it’s too small of a story. Sure, you could pick what the characters would do next, but the endings would never be as good as I hoped for. I would be imagining a super secret spy mission storyline in my mind and I would find that the super spy went through the wrong door and got shot in the head. Dead. End of story. Unsatisfied, I’d flip back through the book and find out the alternate mission and flip to that part of the book only to find out sure enough, he completed the mission perfectly according to plan. That was it.

Open and shut. Perfect mission or dead. Those were the options. Sure, there were more turning points throughout the book, but they’re were always the same. Here’s two options: pick one. Go.

That didn’t do much for me. Two options seemed small. I wanted something more. Something a little less expected. I know it’s just a book, but it just didn’t ring true to me. Life isn’t that clean cut. Life isn’t perfect – and I’m glad.

Perfection is boring. Sure it seems desirable, but when faced with the choice between perfection and adventure, I’ll take adventure.

Life is messy. Life has screw ups. Life has a lot of adventure…if you want it.

What happened to the mission where the spy gets shot multiple times, almost screws up the mission, pushes through, takes down the bad guys, rescues the pretty girl, runs into some more bad guys that nobody briefed him on, takes them out anyways while getting shot again, frees some prisoners and kisses a baby before going down in a firefight. Everybody cries and mourns at his funeral only to have him show up at the funeral alive, having only barely survived the shootout by jumping into the canal, falling unconscious and waking up on the shore 3 days later. What happened to that story?

I would read that story.

Every single second of that story, the character is making his own decisions. It’s not the choice between options A & B, but the choice between options A, B, C, D, and E. It’s not one or the other either. It’s a combination of plan C & D and with a little bit of plan Z on the top. Sure our super spy sort of has a plan, but he’s mostly making it up as he goes. He knows what he wants to do (save the pretty girl, free some prisoners, kiss a baby, and maybe kill some bad guys in the process) but he never has someone come up to him and tell him, “You can either do this or do this. Pick one.” The options are never that simple.

The choices facing our super spy are never as simply as the ones you get in the “choose your own adventure” stories. So, instead of worrying about which adventure to choose, he creates his own.

Why does life have to be any different?

A lot of times we act like we have to choose one option. If we’re lucky we get to choose between two options. What luck! But why do they only have to be two options?

Why not make your own option?

If your life is a story, then you’re in an incredibly unique position. You’re writing something everyday that you’re starring in as well. With every single action you take, you’re writing your own life story daily.

So why not make your own option? Be your own boss? Do what you really want? Why not make it awesome?

Instead of choosing between Option A & Option B, why not go make Option W (Option: W = Whatever I feel like) happen? Just because no one tells you that option W is an option, doesn’t mean it’s not one. Create one and call it whatever you want. See who stops you.

Life isn’t black and white and very seldom are answers as simple as “yes” or “no.” Life is full of different shades of gray and “maybes” that are just waiting to be turned into “yes’s.”

Stop waiting for your adventure to come to you. Stop accepting the choices you’re presented with as the only ones available. Stop playing choose your own adventure and start creating your own adventures.

Make it awesome. Make it impossible. Then make it happen.

Comments

  1. Ian says

    Joel, My name is Ian and I’m a friend of Tim D. You two spoke yesterday and he sent me your blog. I love it.

    Quick food for thought: If you can constantly choose your own adventure, you are controlling your destiny, but the conflict comes in that lack of control is key to living an adventure. Of course, I get the free will argument and agree that we have much control in our stories. But in the example of the complicated hero that walks into his own funeral, he couldn’t have chosen that story. You don’t chose for a bullet to miss you by a centimeter. That is the type of story that you have no control over – you just survive, and are thankful that you are walking into your own funeral in the end. The only choice he may have had master control of is the decision to be a secret agent. In that decision, he chose a life of risk.

    No one would pick to be shot in the head, and everyone would probably pick to win the girl and accomplish the mission, if they could do whatever they wanted.

    I agree the 3rd story line is the best, but it is also not the one that is controlled by the hero. Lack of control is key to adventure. Maybe this will encourage others to be thankful for their story today – for all the frustration, battle, challenge, disappointment, unexpected surprises, waiting, and delayed hope. It’s real. I love this quote from Lauren Hill (singer): “Fantasy is what we want. Reality is what we need.” It’s gritty.

    Keep it up. I really love that you are discussing these things, and I hope I’m not a wet blanket. In many ways, I think we are saying the same thing. Best to you. I hope we connect.

    • says

      Hey Ian-
      Tim says great things about you.

      I think you make a good point. Uncertainty is needed for a great adventure. And lack of control is key. BUT, you still can choose to enter into places where you don’t have control, where there’s risk and where there is adventure. I should have made that clearer in the post. The biggest choice you make is choosing adventure. Whatever that is…even if it’s not the most apparent options. You have the choice to pick the one that you want and chase after adventure, risk and uncertainty.

      Love the thoughtful comment Ian. Really appreciate it :).
      JR

  2. says

    Wow, great Joel. I love the line “Life is full of…”maybes” waiting to be turned into “yes’s””. This resonates with me from my conversations with others about enriching the stories of their lives…they always have reason’s “why not”…it frustrates me that the only difference between them and myself is that, while they are making excuses why they can’t live the life they want, I am making excuses why I can… turn those “maybes” into “yes’s”

  3. says

    Joel,

    Great article, I certainly remember those books! It was fun to have a choice and play an active role in the direction of the story, and it’s ironic that when it comes to real life, it can be much more difficult to make the risky decision. I used to opt for the conventional path that was safe and practical. I am much more willing to follow my passions now, and in retrospect, learning this earlier could’ve put me in the drivers seat of life with a much nicer and more satisfying car. Point being there are so many options for us to choose, and we have the freedom to write our own story, we just have to work through any fear of the outcome.

  4. says

    Hi Joel,

    It’s about creativity and I try to teach my children to use it. Make them to choose between more than two possibilities, show them more sides of one something. Try to learn them to take a chance and take a risk, and in the same time to take responsibilities.
    This is something what I will try to translate to them, even they are between 8 and 12 years, because they need to find them self and follow that, and I will support it.
    Thanks for nice article,

    Jelena

  5. says

    Well I guess I’ll keep this in mind when working on my super awesome chews your own hysterical and wacky[ : c:: barface] zombie adventure.

    From here on I will honestly try to write that adventure.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Problem with Choose Your Own Adventure “Every single second of that story, the character is making his own decisions. It’s not the choice between options A & B, but the choice between options A, B, C, D, and E. It’s not one or the other either. It’s a combination of plan C & D and with a little bit of plan Z on the top…. […]

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