I’m a big fan of Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism. McKeown makes the point that when you say “yes” to one thing, you will automatically say “no” to a number of other things. That’s true as far as it goes.

It’s also true that when you say “yes” to that one thing, you open the door to new possibilities. That’s because of something called “the adjacent possible.”

The Adjacent Possible

Evolutionary biologist Stewart Kaufman developed the concept of the adjacent possible to explain some things about evolution. The concept has been picked up by innovation theorists to explain why some innovations can’t happen unless other innovations happen first. Other writers use the concept to describe how action develops more possibilities. Science writer Steven Johnson describes it this way.

“Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Those four rooms are the adjacent possible. But once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point.”

I’ve experienced the phenomenon first-hand.

The Grand Canyon Hike

In my post “Coaching: A better way to get better,” I told you about how Sandy and I wanted to hike down to the floor of the Grand Canyon and back to the top. We met people who helped us with advice, we learned a lot from them and from our experience. Opening the door to that experience exposed several wonderful possibilities we hadn’t considered before.

We each became active in triathlons. We spent vacations in Baja eco-resorts, kissed whales, kayaked in the Galapagos, took white water rafting trips, and more. I even summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

In business, I started working with coaches. Because of coaching and the adjacent possible I wrote a book, which led to 20 guest appearances on national investment real estate podcasts, national investment real estate brokerage presentations, plus serving more and higher
volume clients. Each door you go through opens up more possibilities.

Great apartment investors

Everyone starts as a non-investor. Then you walk through the door of your first transaction. New possibilities open up. As I describe in my book, Building Legacy Wealth, first, you’re a Novice investor and then an Apprentice. Every deal you do broadens your horizons, adds to your skills, and exposes more adjacent possibilities. This keeps happening as you become a Journeyman and a Master. Great investors exhibit a bias for action that creates even more possibilities for action.

Nothing that happens until you go through a door

You can sit on the couch and wait for good things to happen. Who knows? You might just get lucky. Or, you can get up and act. Go through a door and discover new possibilities. That’s where you’ll find more doors with more possibilities behind them. Pick one.


What about you? Have you experienced the magic of the adjacent possible?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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