As small business owners, creatives, and entrepreneurs we are all on our own road to somewhere.
Each of us has some kind of a goal, whether it’s to get our product to market, get our services out to the people who need them, get a solo show at the gallery of our dreams, or get a piece of writing published in our perfect publication.
We may be on our road with a lot of other people, or we may be travelling solo, but we are all in the business of finding the right road for ourselves and then getting pointed in the right direction.
When we are on the road to where we are going there is not always a clear road map to get to our intended destination.
Sometimes our destination changes when we are in mid-trip, sometimes a detour is needed, and sometimes we realize “oh, crap, I took a wrong turn”.
For most of us there is no map, no mapquest directions to be downloaded, no Michelin guide to help us find our way. So, what do we do? We create most of it as we go. I like to think of it as creating for the journey, and since creating is fun and gets us to unexpected and sometimes miraculous destinations, and a road map that you have to fold up neatly to get it back in the glove box isn’t, I’m going with the fun map.
So let’s create a journey: Get out a piece of paper, grab a pen, mark a big X at one edge, and write: “I am here.” Then make another big X somewhere at the other side of the paper, and write “My Destination”. Now first things first: a list of all the things that I can think of that might help get us to that far away X, and I am going to write them all on the edges of my map. Snacks, good music, people who I want to be making the trip with, crossword puzzles, a good game of “I spy,” a comfy back seat to lie down and take a nap on, a route that includes good places for pee breaks and running around to wake our butts up, and I will pack my map, so I can record all the places we have been.
What are your trip needs, and what does the beginning of your map look like?
And now the story begins: Two friends and I are zipping along down the road, and oh look, on the other side of that mountain range there’s a hitchhiker in a meadow with blue flowers, do we like the looks of him? Yes. And oh, even better he has a guitar, and we’ve been wanting to sing, so in he gets, and off we go again.
Who can you see yourself collaborating with and how can you meet and connect with them?
We reach a town on the outskirts of a bigger city and someone in the back says, “OH, I have a friend who lives in that city and they have a bigger car with a moon roof, let’s see if they want to come, too.” And as it turns out they did want to start their own journey and now we are in a larger vehicle, with another friend and whoever is sitting in the back seat can see the stars at night while we drive along the way.
I add to my map that finding a friend with a wider scope of vision and a broader perspective is a true gift.
When we have crossed a huge river on the longest bridge I have ever seen in my life, we get to a rest stop. We get out, we move our bodies, we shake off the stiffness, have a snack and talk about what’s ahead. There’s an ocean up ahead, and we need to wait for a ferry boat that can take us across. We might have to leave our car behind, and so we need to discuss the wisdom of this. Do we leave the car, and get on a ferry bound for we’re not totally sure where, or do we take another route by land and hope that we can find a different access point?
Do you have trusted friends and acquaintances that will give it to you straight? That will tell you the truth even if it’s not something that you want to hear?
While we are discussing our plan an older woman approaches us. She knows where the ferry is going and has some information about where it stops and what might be the best stop to disembark. She also tells us that if we ask the ferry driver personally, and use her name, he will more than likely load our car onto the ferry so we can keep it with us.
Who are your mentors and have you contacted any of them about working with you to help get you further along your road? Do you take the time to listen to people who have more experience and stories to share about their own paths in life?
We trade some snacks with this woman for warm coats because the ocean crossing will be chilly and we wave good bye to her and drive our vehicle onto the ferry. The first stop is a small island that looks lush and green, filled with the songs of spring birds, but there is no shelter on the island, and the ferry captain say he won’t be back this way for a long while, so we continue on. The second island we come too is bigger and equally beautiful. There is a small village and a group of people waving from the docks, but again we’d have to stay awhile and we are still pretty far from the final destination.
Have you gotten sidetracked from your getting to your destination by things that look great, but aren’t quite what you’re looking for? If you realise that you have gotten sidetracked can you get back to your own journey again?
While we are on this leg of the sailing journey, a young woman approaches us and asks where we are going. I tell her we’re on a Journey, and that I’m looking for my Destination and my friends are here with me but also on their own individual Journeys. She asks where all of our Destinations are and we tell her, and she says to one of my friends, “Oh, I’m going there too, my oldest friend is there and she says it’s amazing.” Their stop is coming up, and so we wave goodbye to one of my friends and make plans to stay in touch so we can meet up further down the road.
Do you make lasting connections with friends and colleagues? Are there people that you’ve not been in touch with that you’d like to share your current journey with?
At last we arrive at the stop I’ve been waiting for. It’s a vast land, hills and streams coming down to meet the harbor, and mountains in the near distance, with snow on the peaks, and trees and flowers are everywhere. Many different boats are arriving and departing, leaving large groups of people, and picking up others. There’s a huge crush of people on the docks milling around, talking, and the scene looks overwhelming and scary. My traveling friends and I look at each other, and my one original traveling friend and the hitchhiker say, “Yeah, this isn’t for us, we’re thinking our destination is further ahead, we’re going to keep on with the Journey.” I look out again at the people and the commotion, so many voices speaking at once, and think to myself: I’m scared. But the feeling inside is butterflies and excitement, that classic mix of fear and excitement that I know for me is a sign that I am headed in the right direction.
Have you identified your own personal signals that clue you in that you are on the right track?
I get off the ferry on my own. I have warm clothes and some snacks, my iPod with all my favorite songs, and my map. It’s time to say goodbye for now to my traveling companions. I step off the ferry and into the cacophony of voices and colour that greet me. For a time I wander around, looking and listening, and I consider turning my iPod on and tuning all their noise out. But I don’t. I find a place a little out of the way and sit and watch. Let myself begin to feel a part of the scene, let myself imagine how I might fit into it. I let myself start to feel familiar, with a sense of belonging. And in that moment I see 4 people that I recognize. Two from school, one from another Journey I was on, and still another that I had met once a long time ago and always really liked. We stand together and get acquainted and reacquainted, and one in our group said that they had heard there was a place a short distance away that was kind of a place to gather and determine if we had really reached our current Destination. And so we went in search of that place.
So there is my parable about creating the journey of our life and of our work. I think that any road map I make needs to be fun and creative since that is the direction I am headed in, yours may look quite different, but it’s all about how you want to get there. There are some supplies that I have suggested that are optional–Snacks, road trip music and how often you get out of the car to move your butt are all up to you–but there are other things that I think are necessary.
Friends and Colleagues headed in the same direction as you are.
Wise Counsel from people who are ahead of you on the Journey or who have been there before.
Friends and Colleagues that you can trust to give it to you straight and honestly.
A Willingness to trade knowledge and experiences.
Stopping to asking for directions when you need them.
A willingness to know yourself, well.
I hope you are well on your way in your own journeys and would love to hear any of your own experiences (parabled or otherwise). Here’s to the journey we are all on, with our work, and our businesses and our lives, may they all be fruitful and beautiful in their own unique ways.