The whole without a map thing is not (just) a metaphor

A couple of weeks ago, I was running a familiar four mile loop and decided I was feeling good enough that I’d extend the run.  Rather than take the final right turn a half mile from the “end” of the run, I kept going.  A half mile later, on an unfamiliar street not knowing exactly where I was or where I was going, I lost all my mojo.  My stride shortened, I felt the spring go out of my step, everything started to tighten up.

Was I actually, all of a sudden, so much more tired?

No, I was just off my map:  the calculus of where I was relative to where I had to go had stopped processing; I literally didn’t know if I was heading north or east; and I couldn’t tell if each step was taking me closer to or further from my destination.

I wasn’t tired, I was just disoriented.  And once I realized that, realized that the simple act of feeling lost had gotten into my head, not my legs or lungs, I exhaled and things felt better (though not completely back to normal).

There’s a lot of great advice out there that we find so appealing but we stop short of actually taking the advice – because it would be silly, wouldn’t it, to actually go all the way.  So we read and believe that success today comes the moment you recognize that there is no map, no path someone has charted out for you to follow.  And we think that’s a nice idea but do we actually, literally, practice what it feels like to be somewhere without a map, do we observe how we react to this situation and learn how to apply that reflection to our lives?

We read about radical email strategies that could save us hours a day (whether Leo Babuta’s email ninja tricks which include limiting all responses to 5 sentences or less, or experiments like ‘no email Friday,’ recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal) and we nod but then we just tweak things around the edges.

Someone suggests that we could shorten our meetings and change our meeting culture by having all meetings standing up or only holding meetings to support a decision that’s already been made and we think it’s a nice idea that wouldn’t really work for us and our company culture.

Maybe, just maybe, these ideas aren’t metaphors.  Maybe they are actual, real ideas.  And maybe nothing would go wrong if we actually tried them, for real, for a little while before rejecting them out of hand.

Go ahead, go for a walk or run this weekend without a map and see how it feels.

5 thoughts on “The whole without a map thing is not (just) a metaphor

  1. Follow-up … As a blogger, I know how frustrating it is to not know if you’re message is being heard, and more importantly acted upon.

    Just wanted to let you know that I ran a completely new run route (with Santa hat) this morning only because I read this post. It’s a small thing, but I hope it helps you know that your message was heard.

    Have a very Merry Christmas, Sasha, from my family to yours.

  2. I stumbled on your blog and this post on accident but at a time when I am really wishing I had a map pointing me where to go. I was doing some job searching before my final semester of college, still holding onto my big dreams of changing the world but hearing the voice of reason (and my parents) reminding me that I just need to start somewhere, to get some work experience, and to make a living. Conversations with many of my friends has forced me to realize that most graduating seniors settle for using a road map they didn’t choose, taking one of the first jobs they find as opposed to finding something that really fulfills their dreams. It’s an act of necessity and I understand but I also recognize that it’s allowing the bigger problems of the world to keep growing, slowly being acknowledged but not addressed by my generation. I truly think for many people my age they want to be a part of something more, do something that matters but simply can’t figure out how. The signs are telling us now is the time for action, getting us all riled up that we need to act now but lack any information about where to sign up to do this.

    I’m posting this here because well, first you inspired these thoughts in my head. As an avid runner, I took your advice – had a fantastic, yet slightly too long run through an unfamiliar neighborhood and got some great thinking in (see above). But second because maybe your in a position to change this. You hold immense power in controlling the funding for projects across the world, maybe there is some way to provide qualified talent to those ventures as well. I know there are many of us looking to join globally minded initiatives that support the greater good but just don’t have a road map to lead us to those opportunities.

    anyways maybe these thoughts are more powerful in your head than mine. take care & happy holidays!

  3. Hi Eileen thanks for these thoughts. Just the fact that you’re thinking, exploring and sharing in this way means you’re already looking for another path. Congratulations.

    In terms of investing in leadership, I invite you to check out the Acumen Fund Chapters ( and Acumen Fund Fellows ( The Chapters are an easy way to get involved and meet like-minded souls.

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