seeking – his description went into great detail. I brought his ‘elevatorspeech’ to an abrupt halt with a simple question.
“If you could do anything that you wished, what would give you thegreatest satisfaction?”
You see, he was falling into the classical trap of seeing his next step alonglife’s journey as a minor variation on the ones that went before. More to thepoint, he was focusing on the skills that he had developed and was lookingfor a way to put them to work. In the past he had been an architect of sorts –designing and building solutions to hard problems. But here he was extollinghis skill with a hammer.What was missing – what made his presentation almost soulless – was asense of joyous anticipation that would be a sign of pursuing somethinglarger than himself. He had a compass but not a north star – not a sense of his own ‘true north’. You see, a compass is worthless without such a thing. It is not that acompass has a purpose – it is what it proposes that is important. To quote Yogi Berra, “if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know whenyou get there?” the very meaning of a compass requires such a thing as truenorth.
Finding True North
As we talked, I kept leading the conversation back to those times he felt hehad found his true north. Soon he was describing two times in his life that hehad made important contributions through his understanding, insight,persistence and dedication. Neither of these was insignificant. As he talked,he began to get more and more enthusiastic – more and more excited as hedescribed the work and the feelings that came with solving problems –meeting challenges – that others found too daunting.As we circled back to his current situation and mindset, several things beganto come clear. The first was that he was too involved in the details of gettinghis next job to take the time to think about my question. To say it anotherway, he was too busy driving to have any time to stop for gas! As a result, hewas thinking tactically about a strategic decision. The second was that hehad allowed the pressure he was feeling to keep him from thinking about thealternatives which he clearly had. In fact, it is fair to say that he was toomuch about thinking and not enough about dreaming. The third was that hisrecent experience had tested his self-confidence to the point that he hadforgotten those past successes. Finally, he had been seeking direction fromhis friends and business network when the real answer to my question waswithin himself.