I am reading an incredible book called, “The Art of Being Unmistakable”. It’s a collection of essays about the decisions that we make in our lives and how those decisions get us to certain places. Some good, some not so good. There is a chapter about the compass versus the map that I’d like to expound on. This one really hit me in the gut, and I think it will you as well. My take away from this chapter has had me thinking and re-thinking so many things that I’ve done in my life. I don’t usually question the decisions that I make too often; feeling that they are the “turns” in the road that have gotten me to where I am. But putting it into the perspective of a map versus a compass shed a new light on why I may have chosen those paths.
When we come into this world, the sky is the limit. The path of our life is open to everything. Now of course, that requires that we are nurtured by people who want the best for us. But excluding all of the parental and environmental influences, lets just talk about our selves. When we are in daycare or kindergarten, our world is a pretty free-flowing place. We are encouraged to explore; to learn what we can about sights and sounds, tastes and smells. Other people (children) are doing the same thing. Sometimes accidents happen. A scrape or bruise, or even a bite, if you happen to be a particularly tasty child. But its all chalked up to the exploration of our world around us. And everyone is ok with that. No one knows; including ourselves, what we’re going to be when we grow up. Something could spark an interest or calling any day in those early years. Destiny could be just around the corner of the jungle-gym. But then something happens. Up until then, you have been basically using a “compass”. No particular destination in mind, just exploring as we go. Gentle guidance to keep us safe, but that’s it.
Then, someone decides that it’s time for you to stop making mindless decisions about what you are doing. They want you to conform to society. To behave in a certain manner. To fit in with everyone else. You mustn’t stray too far from the main road, or cause too many waves. So they hand you “the map”. And the map tells you how you should act. Where you should go. What you should think about being when you grow up, if you want to be successful. And if you follow this map, you will know which schools to go to, which type of people to hang out with and which career path to take. And the more that you rely on this map, the more fearful you become to go back to using the compass. Instead of a free-flowing life, you are now stuck with structure and confines. And our lives become predictable.
The compass lets us take the roads that have more hurdles. There are more bumps in this road, but we can use our creativity to overcome the obstacles. It’s a little riskier, but it’s much more scenic. A great quote in this book is: “Straight and narrow paths rarely lead to interesting places”. Wow, is that ever true.
I can honestly say that I’ve spent most of my life using the compass. And for a long long time, I was really happy doing that. I went places that I wouldn’t have ordinarily gone. Saw and did things that I am sure were not on any map that someone might have chosen for me. In fact, most of the direction that I’ve taken could have probably been written on a cocktail napkin.
I know that I could have used more structure in my life. I’m having problems in my college courses that I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d been more disciplined in my younger days. I am finding though, that the subjects that come the easiest are the ones that I can use my imagination and life experiences to get me through. The hard ones, are the math and science classes. The ones that need a good foundation in formulas and memorization. If left to be interpreted, I can come up with a solution to just about everything. As long as it makes common sense. I’m definitely NOT your Type A personality.
But anyway, I thought you might like to know what rolls around in the bowling alley I call my brain from time to time. I haven’t had much time for extracurricular writing lately, but I’m on holiday break and classes start up again in January, so maybe I can do some catching up.