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.