In The Trenches

What’s Guiding You?

Published on July 23, 2017 Back to blog
Dirt Road Surrounded by Stone Wall and Trees

My hands were clenched to the steering wheel of our rental car as I drove on the back roads of Puglia, Italy. The unpaved, winding roads up and down hills of olive trees allowed for two-way traffic; however, there was barely enough space for one car to drive between the stone walls on either side. I cautiously honked the horn as I approached blind turns, hoped that no cars were approaching, and anxiously awaited a more comfortable throughway ahead. 

While my kids couldn’t help but laugh at the GPS that was directing us (they affectionately nicknamed it,“Roundabout Ralph”), I couldn’t help but wonder why it wasn’t directing me to use the more recently paved roads better suited for 2-way traffic and higher speeds. I concluded that its software hadn’t been updated for quite some time. So, after a few days of the insanity, I began considering Roundabout Ralph more of a general guide and left most directional decisions to instinct, road signs, a growing knowledge of the area and, of course, my wife. It proved to be a much better approach. And one I strongly recommend others take as well – not only on the roads of Puglia, but on the roads of life and business.

Based on this recent experience, I’d like to share a few navigational tips to consider: 

1. Turn off auto pilot – When we depend solely on our past knowledge and experience, we end up doing things the same way over and over again – even though the world is changing all around us. Just as we experienced with Ralph, it may get you where you want to go, but the route (and the result) may not be as effective. Let your knowledge and experience guide you, but don’t rush to set your course to auto-pilot. Simply put, think.

 2. Explore new paths – Some of the best adventures of the trip were when we decided to go off course. We often found ourselves at beautiful beaches, orchards of fruit trees (olives, figs, apricots, pomegranates, etc.), great restaurants and, sometimes, just new sights that we would have otherwise never seen. And, when we did end up lost or at a dead end, we learned from the experience and knew not to take that turn again. You’ll never know where a new route will lead you until you take it.

3. Keep your software (brain) updated – With every journey, our knowledge of the region expanded. We relied less on Ralph (and his outdated software), and became more comfortable with our surroundings. As a result, we were able to see and enjoy more than we’d ever thought we’d experience. The same thing happens when you apply this approach to life and business. Never stop learning. 

4. Leverage all available resources – As it turned out, Ralph was just one source of guidance information. Road signs, locals, our expanding knowledge of the region and, of course, my wife, were all additional sources that helped us successfully navigate. Don’t rely solely on what you think you know. The world is full of helpful knowledge to guide you. Use it.

 5. Watch out for oncoming cars – Regardless of which direction you are heading, and which path your take, it is always best to watch for potential danger. Always be prepared to stop, pull-over, re-assess and ask for guidance.

Happy trails!

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners