To Overcome Unexpected Obstacles, Use a Compass, Not a Map

Insight #340

We had no access to real-time maps. Detailed directions were supposed to get us there. (Created with Microsoft Copilot)

. . .

Soon after we arrived in the USA, we drove to a different city in another state. We wanted to see a show that would never make it to our new home state. Instead, we almost didn’t make it.

My wife had printed out detailed directions and assumed those would be good enough. (A word to the young. We had no access to Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing Maps, Waze, Tom Tom, Garmin, or any other real-time route mapping. No one had yet invented them.)

In those days, detailed directions were normally good enough. The problem lies with that word normally. Unexpected road work detours? Not normally, but it happens. (It happened to us.) Missed a turn? Not normally, but it happens. (It happened to us.) What then? For one thing, no long-suffering “recalculating route.”

Let me tell you what then for the next time. Forget detailed directions. Set a general direction.

Sometimes, in life and in business, setting a compass bearing can be more effective than relying on specific directions. Because when you seek security in detailed directions, then every obstacle will frustrate you and every detour will intimidate you into losing your way. Much better to develop a general strategy rather than a precise plan.

A compass bearing might not bring you to your exact planned destination. But as you get closer to spot X, you can always “recalculate compass” to zero in. That is, if your original target is still important as a final destination. Because, as you’ve learned, things change.

There’s a bonus in setting a compass bearing, in using a general direction instead of a rigid map, in developing a general strategy rather than a precise plan. Slight deviations from your initial intentions will trigger new learning and uncover unexpected opportunities.

Why? Because, unlike with detailed instructions, everyone involved in mastering a general direction will be primed to stay alert and be flexible.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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