4 Tools to Navigating the Unknown
MAPS + DIRECTIONS
I’ve always had a fascination with maps. I love to see the big picture, to know where I’m going, to see where one road intersects another, to explore the many possibilities of getting from one place to the next. I love the challenge of figuring out the most direct route regardless of where Google Maps or Waze is telling me to go. That is, until we moved.
A couple of years ago, while we were still living on the East Coast, my family moved to a new area—one I knew little about. Right near our new home was an intersection of two different roads with the same name, and yet these roads went in complete opposite directions. Who does that—name two intersecting roads the same name?! It took me a long time to get my bearings straight and figure out which road I needed to take. Sometimes I used the GPS to help with navigation, and other times I convinced myself that I would find my own way this time.
Most often, I would wind up lost, again. And this would drive me crazy—not knowing my way around.
The truth is that we’ve all been here before —uncertain as we lead or as we navigate a new season of life and work
ALEXANDER THE GREAT:
This reminds me of Alexander the Great (stay with me!).
Alexander was known as one of the most reputable leaders of the ancient world during the Greek and Roman Empires. At 20 years of age, he inherited a successful kingdom and an experienced army. By the time he was 30, he was the commander of the largest known empire in the ancient world, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Himalayan Mountains.
When Alexander’s empire reached the Himalayas, he sent scouts into the mountains to report what was ahead. His men nervously reported back:
Sir, we’ve marched off the map.
They had marched to the edge of charted territory—there were no maps for what lay ahead.
HAVE YOU MARCHED OFF THE MAP?
Isn’t this true for most of us in our personal and professional lives?
We get promoted to a new position with more responsibility and leadership expectations and we’ve marched off the map.
Our organization is growing faster than ever, and as we respond to the growth, we realize we’ve marched off the map.
We transition a family business from one generation to another and we realize that we’ve just marched off the map.
We become a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a mentor, a leader in the community and we’ve marched off the map.
Have you marched off the map? Are you leading through uncertainty?
If so, you’ve truly entered leadership terrain. My encouragement to you: Keep moving forward.
4 TOOLS TO KEEP MOVING FORWARD:
If you find yourself in a “marching-off-the-map” kind of season and you’re not sure what to do, then try these things:
- Lean into the rhythms + routines that served you well in your previous season. If you wake up early to read and exercise before work, or you like to finish your day around the family dinner table, then keep doing those things (as much as possible).
- Find your footing, get your bearings. Explore your new territory, take notes, interview the appropriate people, be observant, discover new things.
- Create a new map. As projects or experiences or personalities become familiar, create a new map. Start by outlining your new role or responsibilities, and slowly start to fill in the outline with your own leadership skills, and with the help + collaboration of the team or family around you.
- Learn from another Mapmaker. This is also a great time to lean into a mentor or two—someone who has also “marched off the map” at some point in life.
If you have thoughts or experiences to share on navigating the unknown, I’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org