Life Compass

A character trait I inherited from my father is one of being able to look at the Big Picture or take the long view. As I’ve grown older I’ve noticed that about him, ways that I thought were either weakness or too calm a nature I now see as brilliant parenting and husbandry. He’s always been a good listener, always there when you needed him, and seemingly always had a plan for things to work out.

My dad and I talk more often now than in the past, mostly because I’m aware of how much wisdom he has and the fact that (again) I know he always has a perspective that emphasizes the Big Picture. We talk about relationships sometimes, because I’m envious of how he and my mom make things work. Whereas growing up I felt at times he had a difficult time keeping up with the exuberance and energy she has, I know now that he was confident enough in himself and their relationship to know when to step in and when to compromise. He took the long view and many times decided the situation wasn’t worth stressing over. Even in most difficult of family challenges, he’s always been the man standing tall in the midst of the storm, exclaiming, “I’ve seen the weather report, and this will pass. We will be ok!”

There is a trust built in such a relationship, between a couple, parent and child. Because only one person can hold the compass. Everyone has to agree on the goal or objective, for sure. But as equal and respectful as a relationship should be, each has to trust the other and be willing to agree to at least 2 things:

1) what the goal is

2) the direction to that goal

If there is agreement there, everything else starts to fade in terms of critical importance. Take finances, for example. I’m a big believer in budgets, having kept 52-week logs in spreadsheets since the days of Lotus 1-2-3. It gives me alot of comfort to look out to the last week in December and know that, if I follow a certain course, here is where bank accounts, loans, bills, etc. should land me. If I were to decide to go on a bender, the effects of that are clearly obvious to me.

The same goes for relationships I think, but perhaps haven’t mastered the art of yet. You hope that this emotional pact has a shared goal (life-long friendships, marriage, long-term couple, booty call, whatever), and that each agrees on what it’s going to take to get there. But the world is littered with friendships, loves, partnerships that somehow derailed. How? Well, I’ve learned that you have to look into the distance, to where you’re going. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself slowly getting off target. To be sure, there are immediate, practical things that have to be addressed too. But without an agreement of the goal and direction, you don’t have vision. And without vision, there can be no passion. So what’s left?

I’ve made a career of rolling up my sleeves and addressing challenges in the area of technology. Where I’ve been successful, it’s been because of a shared goals and direction. My job was to evangelize/cajole/market that vision to others and use that collaborative passion to achieve results. The times that have been less stellar, it was usually due to a breakdown in the goal (“it’s too hard”), or direction, characterized by impatience. But I’ve also learned that communication can negatively impact even the most passionate of shared vision. Frankly, this is probably my Achilles heal – an introvert by nature, I sometimes have relied too much on the data or environment to speak for me. That’s like the captain of a ship welcoming everyone onboard and then locking themselves into the control room for the duration of the journey. Guess how the passengers will feel, out in the vast ocean without any sense of direction of assurances? That really hits home to me, even now.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 
― Aristotle