Just a Thought: Traveling off the map into a new world

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A part of every person’s life involves traveling off the map. We really have no choice. We make plans to live life on the map and then something happens and the map is no good anymore. We may as well throw it in the trash.

Sometimes I think that experiencing life is like Christopher Columbus traveling west across the Atlantic Ocean back in 1492. A map of the world behind him was of no use to him on his journey. Once he left the known and traveled into the unknown, there wasn’t a single map known to mankind that could help him.

When Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” he set out from a port in Italy and just kept traveling west. He kept a journal and each day he made the same entry, “today we traveled further west.” Every day’s entry was correct and, because of the repetitive entry, Columbus knew he would eventually accomplish his mission. He had prepared well, but was still not sure what lay ahead.

From 1803 to 1806 the Lewis and Clark exploration was the same way. As they traveled across what would later become America they anticipated they would eventually reach another body of water as their team traveled west, but they did not know how long it would take, nor what they would encounter on their trip.

In both instances leadership had to make decisions that involved life and death. The leaders’ decisions weren’t always what the followers wanted to hear. Although the leader took input from the others around him, ultimately the lightning rod for each decision was the leader.

Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti said “One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.” I find this to be an interesting twist of a view on the world. As humans we typically chose to remain in our comfort zone with the familiarness of the map.

But then one day we wake up and realize we have traveled off the map as we know it. We come to the realization that we can’t predict what is ahead. Add to this the fact that man fears what he doesn’t understand. You do your best to anticipate outcomes of your acts, but at the end of the day, you really don’t know what is ahead.

It is easy to get anxious about things we can’t control. On a short list of what we can’t control is the future. What if my spouse suddenly dies? What if one of my children is in a car accident? What if I get cancer? What if my retirement account is not enough to live off of? The questions we have about the future are endless.

Although today each of us is the wisest we have ever been, our knowledge is just a small fraction of the knowledge out there in the world.

We regularly hear the words “we live in unprecedented times.” Well, each generation alive today has lived in unprecedented times. There are people alive today who were born into or lived in the Great Depression, World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Assassinations of the 1960s, the Vietnam War, the resignation of President Nixon, the invention of the computer, Y2K, the creation of the cell phone, and 9/11. Each generation encounters events they weren’t trained in advance to handle. Events that are off the map.

This generation has never encountered a virus that can spread quickly and be fatal. Today we have encountered COVID-19. A common question today is “What if I or a loved one gets COVID-19?” This single question has had a major impact on your life and the life of every other reader. Whatever map of 2020 you had of the world on New Year’s Day this year, you traveled off it by the middle of March.

I’m not sure any of us were prepared for the unprecedented virus that spread across the globe. We both individually and collectively didn’t know how to enter into the crisis that impacted our world. Fast forward to today and now we don’t know how to get out of the crisis. To some degree, whatever we do is wrong.

We’ve traveled off the map. We’ve all been in a situation that we have to acknowledge that we’re lost. We have a hunch of what direction we should go, but the hunch may turn out to be brilliant or totally stupid. Time will reveal and judge us in the years ahead. History will be written someday telling us how we could have better handled the crisis. The world looks different in the rear view mirror than it does when it is ahead of us.

A worldwide virus will be on the map next time it occurs.

We elect leaders to lead us at many levels. Often a leader finds out after they’re in a leadership role that they’ve been dealt a hand that was not expected. The leaders in place on 9/11 didn’t plan for a 9/11 to occur. Nor did the leaders leading us today know they were going to have to navigate us though COVID-19 issues. 

At the end of the day we need to recognize that the unknown is inevitable. But it’s out there every day we live. We chart our course the best we can and then a storm hits and we come out of it in a place we didn’t plan to wake up.

We need to embrace the future however that looks. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. A stressed relationship cannot be restored after a death. Good health practices don’t prevent you from catching a disease, but it does better equip you when a health condition arises. An unplanned financial crisis can be survived if you have been able to create a nest egg before it happens.

You can’t control the future, but you can celebrate it as it unfolds. Life is 10 percent what occurs and 90 percent how we respond. Control what you can. Rely on those you trust. And as you weather the storm, be careful how much you let the media dictate your world.

My challenge to you today is to know your map. Do your best to understand your place on the map. Understand there are countless things in this world you can’t control. Sometimes all you can control is a three foot circle around you. Don’t worry about your map ending at its edge.

Traveling off the map could be an adventure. It could be sleepless nights. It could be paralyzing fear. It could be a lot of things. But our maps collectively and individually have edges we live within.

You might choose to leave your map and push yourself into the unknown. Author and writer John Maxwell said “The difference between where we are and where we want to be is created by the changes we are willing to make in our lives. When you want something you have never had, you must do something you’ve never done to get it. Otherwise, you keep getting the same results.”

Whether you choose to travel off the map as Christopher Columbus did or you are forced off the map by a mysterious virus, understand this is a part of life. It is a part of life that is unknown. Don’t let your fear or anxiousness of traveling off the map keep you from accomplishing today what you need to be accomplishing.

Today is a once in a lifetime experience. Experience it fully.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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