Even if the route is set out before us on a map, we still have to wayfind when we encounter the terrain. Research and advance scouting helps but it does not get is to the summit, it just informs our journey. Be prepared to do the work that matters.
I enjoy stories about wayfinding. Individuals oriented towards a vision that will forever change their worldview, regardless of success or failure. I read an excerpt from The Sun is a Compass in the New York Times and immediately downloaded the book. I found myself engrossed in a remarkable journey. As an adventurous couple prepare for a 4,000 mile journey across Alaska and Canada, they navigate the perils of planning and encountering the unknown. Caroline and Pat, embody something of a modern Lewis and Clark mixed with the spirit of Klondike Gold Rush, and channeling the naturalist John Muir. The story follows their epic adventure, one which I cannot easily fathom.
They capture the essence of wayfinding throughout the quest.
Pat has never regarded a to-do list as a worthy endeavor. Perhaps it’s how he maintains his optimism, working as hard and as fast as he can, dreaming only of the outcome, not the possibility of failure.
Imagine dreaming so big that the scale cannot be represented without being distorted.
I create a giant timetable of what needs to go where and on which date. Pat tapes dozens of topographic maps to the wall and trace our intended routes on each of them. When the maps begin to tilt crookedly, I snap at Pat to be more careful before he calmly informs me that it’s not his sloppy taping job, but the curvature of the earth that’s responsible. The scale is that big.
They embrace disruption constantly.
In order to stay on schedule, we have to follow the ocean’s clock, not our own…at the edge of a volatile and unforgiving ocean, waiting is our safety margin.
And, they recognize the importance of adapting to the real world, despite what the map suggests.
Now I realize a line on a map is only that. We’ve planned our route around elevation contours and river bends, but we have no idea what we will find really. Everything can change in a day. In an instant.
What are you working on that is so big that it cannot be fully visualized? What feels monumental? What is holding us back from striking out into wild territories, knowing that the journey will transform us and those we seek to inspire?
Sometimes we must step back before going forward. Sometimes we should descend before ascending. Sometimes our immediate direction of travel is not our final heading.
Real-time assessment of our performance needs context. There are moments when we are traveling below parameters, but for a good reason. If we manage by the numbers, we miss the opportunity to understand our surroundings and seize the opportunity. Wayfinding is our greatest asset, why not embrace it?
Behind the storm is a sunset. An opportunity to orient to the horizon that guides us towards what is important.
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” – Rene Daumal
Are we oriented so those who encounter us benefit from our super powers? Being of serve to those who are wayfinidng is memorable and builds trust. If our prupose is not clear, the opportunity is lost. How can we more generous with those who we are attempting to serve?
If the plan were certain then there is no need for the journey. Every round of golf starts with a scripted course of action. The prefered route is laid out on a map. Yet most rounds of golf do not go as planned. We must adapt and find our own route. Afterward, what gives the stories we tell character and color is the way we overcame those obstacles. If a round of golf cannot follow the script, why do we think our three and five-year plans are going to stay on course? Planning is powerful. Wayfinding, once we begin, is essential otherwise the plan does not match reality.
If the goal is clear, the route remains flexible. The goal, gain 1,000 meters of elevation. The first day it took 50 kilometers of cross-country skate skiing. The next morning the milestone arrived in 4 kilometers using backcountry skis to ascend to the top of a ski resort. If we see one option to achieve our goals, then we miss the adventure. Wayfinding is how we solve big questions and reach big goals.
Too often we witness overwhelmed by the number of options or frustration by the lack of choice. The boldest step is to pick one route and let the adventure unfold. It is too easy to sit in front of a departure board and look at all the possible destinations. What if we commit to a preferred location and then sort out the details? Trusting our navigational abilities is inherent in our remarkable wayfinding skills. Orient ourselves towards what matters and then embark on the journey.