This evening, a cold December dusk overlaid with a chill of crystalline clarity, I am taking a walk near my home, wrapped tightly in my winter coat and the petty concerns of the day. Half-way around the block, I am stopped in my tracks by the oddest feeling: am I being watched? I gaze around at the postcard-perfect horizon views--gorgeous purple frieze of Blue Ridge Mountains, dying pastel explosions of the slow Virginia sunset. Then I look up.

It's the sky...just the sky. That gray-black December sky.

We peer at each other, the sky and I. A handful of seconds tick past. That sky--it's so big!

All at once, the sky feels not like a transparent nothingness, but an opaque somethingness. No, more: an everythingness. I am aware of myself perched on the rim of my little terrestrial orb, my head brushing up against the bottom edge of the sky's ponderous enormity.

I experience a sudden shift in perspective--an MC Escher moment, two facing profiles resolving into a water goblet--and I wonder how I could possibly have missed it: the sky is not something I'm looking "up into." I'm not walking underneath it but swimming through it, breathing it, submerged, immersed in something infinite.

When I observe your life, you may appear to me as something happening "out there," one more far-off constellation in the endless scenery of the humanly possible, your accomplishments and experiences distantly visible, but not really tangible. Perhaps, when you look at me, you see the same thing. But the vast expanse of human possibility is not "out there" at all. We're not standing earthbound, gazing up at it--we're immersed in it, flying through it. All we need do is lift our chin a bit and we breathe it in directly.

In the pursuit of our ambitions, we often look first into the horizontal plane to see what exists today, then ask, "Given that, where can I reasonably expect to be in a year?" By that strategy, an infant could learn to crawl a bit more gracefully, yes--but to walk, to run? To fly?

Incremental gain (making your life "the same as today, only a little bit more so") is not what many of us want; we want breakthrough accomplishment. That bolder strategy starts in lifting your line of sight out of the horizontal plane, looking square into the sky of possibilities, and asking, "Where to?"

Do you want your 2004 to be more than just a slight enhanced upgrade of 2003? There's no good reason it can't. That sky--it's so big!

JOHN DAVID MANN is Editor in Chief of Networking Times.