Robin Hanson asks:
I’ve been sick, so watched tv more than usual. Watching Journey to the Center of the Earth, I noticed yet again how folks seem to like adventure stories and games to come with guides. People prefer main characters to follow a trail of clues via a map or book written by someone who has passed before, or at least to follow the advice of a wise old person.
Dante of course provides another example, as does Sibyl and Aeneas. And Robin's conclusion?:
This has a big lesson for those who like to think of their real life as a grand adventure: relative to fiction, real grand adventures tend to have fewer guides, and more randomness in success. Real adventurers must accept huge throws of the dice; even if you do most everything right, most likely some other lucky punk will get most of the praise.
If you want life paths that quickly and reliably reveal your skills, like leveling up in video games, you want artificial worlds like schools, sporting leagues, and corporate fast tracks. You might call such lives adventures, but really they pretty much the opposite. If you insist instead on adventuring for real, achieving things of real and large consequence against great real obstacles, well then learn to see the glorious nobility of those who try well yet fail.