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  • Darren Gold

Guided Drift

Updated: Jul 25

As you trace back the steps in the lives of the people you admire, you will likely see an unmistakable pattern shared by all – the discipline to follow their calling and the faith to take chances along the way.

Fred Rogers, the creator and host of the acclaimed children’s television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and personal hero, had many teachers in his life. But there was perhaps no one more influential than Dr. William Orr, Rogers’ professor at Western Theological Seminary and later lifelong friend and mentor. It was Orr’s saint-like living example of forgiveness and kindness that compelled Rogers to spend as much time with his professor as possible. And it was these virtues that influenced how Rogers lived his own life and the way he touched (and continues to touch) the lives of countless others.


Beyond human kindness, Rogers found inspiration in one of Orr’s main teachings – the notion of “guided drift.” Orr believed it was important to be guided by certain values, principles, and goals in life. At the same time, he stressed that it was critical to be open to possibility and serendipity – to allow yourself to be carried along by the drift of the stream of life. Wisdom is almost always enveloped in paradox. So too with Orr’s philosophy. In following it, Rogers was constantly guided by his unwavering commitment to children, all while allowing himself to take inspired chances in his career.


In his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, the late Steve Jobs spoke about connecting dots in a manner that is reminiscent of Orr’s advice: “[Y]ou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

As you trace back the steps in the lives of the people you admire, you will likely see an unmistakable pattern shared by all – the discipline to follow their calling and the faith to take chances along the way. As I look back upon my own life, I can see the outlines of this pattern. And as I look ahead, I find inspiration in the paradox of guided drift. I hope you do too.


Tuesday Tips

  1. Paul Graham’s 2020 post, “The Four Quadrants of Conformism,” is worth reading or re-reading.

  2. This essay in The New Atlantis, “Reality Is Just a Game Now,” is equal parts informative and frightening.

  3. A new song I’m listening to and loving. Disclaimer: the artist is a dear family friend.

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