Monday, July 4, 2011

“I’m Lost”

Allegedly you will never hear these words come out of the mouth of the average male driver.  Apparently, we of the male gender would rather get lost in the middle of nowhere and die of hunger or thirst rather than admit that we don’t know where we are.

I wonder sometimes if this is true of many government or business leaders as well.

Perhaps it is true of many of us in general.

As a strategy guy, measurable outcomes are everything for me.  My thought is that if you don’t know where you are going, you will never set out in the right direction, you will never know how close you are to your destination and you will never actually know when you arrive (if you do at all).

I often hear people say “we are tracking towards our objective”, “we are halfway there”, “we are almost there”, etc. and when I ask if they can actually define what the destination looks like, they haven’t the foggiest idea.

So my question then becomes …..

How do you know?

This question makes many people uncomfortable.  They would rather live in a fantasy world where knowing is less important than just having a gut instinct that they will know what it looks like when they get there or where excessive ego assures them that they have it all under control and don’t need anyone else’s help to get there.

If they get there.

Lewis Carroll, with his brilliance in many areas, captured this conundrum perfectly with this insightful quote from “Alice in Wonderland”:

“ One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter. ”

So whether you have a personal or professional destination in mind, make it a point to know where you are going and having determined this, know the path you intend to take.  You may not know what every inch of the path looks like in advance but choosing a path is still critical.

Because if you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.

The only problem with this is that the likelihood of you reaching your intended destination, having selected a path at random or allowing a path to be selected on your behalf, is relatively slim and for many people, almost non-existent.

Some people enjoy the journey, ignoring the destination.  For those people, the path is probably irrelevant.

However, if the destination is important for you or for others who are depending on you, know what the destination looks like and have some idea how you are getting there.

Otherwise, at some point, there is a good chance that you may find yourself uttering the dreaded words:

“I’m lost”

Or even worse ….

… someone else, through their words or actions, may be telling you:

“You’re lost”


“We are all lost, thanks to you”.

Each of us is far too amazing a miracle to allow our gifts and talents to be hidden, misdirected or untapped because we didn’t know where we were going ….

…. or where we were being called to be, in fulfillment of our purpose and unlimited potential.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “I’m Lost” is the same as this one and can be found here.


  1. This is great, Harry. I have a couple follow-up questions.

    1. How do we know how realistic our vision of our destination is?
    2. Once we understand out destination, how do we make sure that our path will get us there?

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, Nathan.

    I think only the owner of each vision has the information to ascertain how realistic the vision is; based on personal life experiences, whether the vision is a "should achieve" (which converts into a "want to achieve") versus a "must achieve" (which often converts into a chore), whether the vision is realistic (or is so far out there that it is just a dream), whether the vision offers opportunity for the owner to stretch / grow appropriately without breaking the owner, whether the vision is in line with the values of the owner, whether the vision feeds the sense of purpose of the owners, how realistic the owner is, how malleable the owner is when obstacles get in the way, etc. The list is long and complex - I can't profess to have the complete list for myself, let alone for others.

    That being said, the owner cannot self-assess the validity of the vision because the owner has a lot of baggage around life experiences and intentions that make their personal assessment too subjective. An independent facilitator who can explore the vision objectively without imparting their own views or opinions is critical, essentially guiding the owner to exploring the space themselves, challenging the owner to test the validity and intentions of the vision.

    Because each owner is unique and complex and each vision is also unique and complex, it is difficult to find a one-size-fits-all model to achieve this vision. Many people profess to have such a model - I haven't seen a single implementation yet that stands up to scrutiny consistently across any scenario or produces a long-lasting result for large numbers of people.

    I've seen some that produce powerful results that don't last long .... or results that are powerful in a smaller set of people.

    It is a journey that is unique, personal, challenging and yet requires outside collaboration to pull off.

    Regardless of the "best practice" used, it seems that most people who are successful tap into a personal source of strength / faith / sense-of-purpose / strong support network to accomplish their intention, things that are essential since we are almost guaranteed to run into obstacles that will shake the strongest people with the best intentions.

    Once you understand your destination, note that the destination provides a lens / filter for making large decisions in your life, recognizing that every decision made takes you closer to or further away from your life goals.

    This is not to be confused with getting mired down in analysis paralysis about every little decision that needs to be made. Common sense and instinct should play a role in every evaluaton process.

    Knowing the destination also allows you to "auto correct" your life course if you get knocked off course by life events. If life events knock you off kilter, you look at your destination, determine if it's still relevant and if so, you correct your current plan to re-engage towards that goal.

    Other times, you may look at your destination after these life events and determine that your destination needs to be modified based on new insights - or perhaps your destination needs to be changed altogether.

    Life is fluid and your life destination should be also.

    That being said, if you are changing your life goals frequently, something is wrong and your selection process should be reviewed ... or ... perhaps ... you in fact prefer the journey and not the destination.

    You will know what is right - you cannot be told what is right by others.

    Keep in mind also that life goals vary in scale based on the individual. What some people see as life goals are in fact just life milestones for others. For the latter group, once the milestones are achieved, the individual moves on to the next milestone, each step being one of many towards the ultimate life goal.

  3. In all transparency, Nathan, and in full disclosure, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of family and friends through this journey.

    There have been times in my life where I not only could not see the destination but I couldn't see the next step in my Life.

    Had it not been for family and friends who cared, I couldn't have made the next step. They may not have known what my destination looked like, but they were there to help me dismiss the fog so that I could get up and continue on the journey.

    A lot of one-man-bands will tell you how, in the most difficult times, that they solved it on their own.

    This is more rare than the claims would suggest. :-)

  4. Harry, I recently made a course correction in how I handle my life. When things get tough, and they currently are, I have done the exact opposite of what I should do. I withdrawal. It's heavily instinctual, and very hard to give up.

    Recently, I made a career decision were I did not consult my friends, and I didn't listen to my wife. It turned out that that was literally the exact opposite of what I should have done. My wife knew me well enough to know that I was acting for the wrong reasons, and my friends who are in my line of work could have told me that the decision was bad had I asked them. When my one friend asked me why I didn't come to him, I told him that I hadn't talked to him in a while and I didn't want to be that guy that only goes to his friends when he needs help. He then replied, with great wisdom, "Would you rather be that guy, or happy with your job? You can always make it up to me by taking me out to eat or something." :-)

    My vision, fortunately has not changed too much. Right now it's mostly fear and focus that I need to work on. And, that's something that I can lean on my friends and family for. I've also been leaning heavily on my faith. Any achievements I have had (and I'm not completely devoid of them) have felt like about 20% me (making isolating myself seem even less realistic). I'm going to take your advice to heart, Harry. I'm wasting days here, Man. Thank you. I hope that you can somehow incorporate your comments above into a blog post to ensure that they get read. Those ideas are important.