Why the Greatest Work of Your Life Will Require A Compass, Not a Map

We are given maps early and often in our lives.

  • A map to successfully get us from grade school to high school
  • A map to successfully get us from high school to college
  • A map to successful get us from college to the working world
  • A series of maps to help us climb the corporate ladder, find the love of our lives, and build that house in the suburbs.

If we use a map for long enough, we lose sight of the fact the entire journey was based on a plan someone else had for us. We stop questioning it at all. It’s safe, it’s secure, it’s easy, and guaranteed to get us where we’re going.


  • It can only lead to destinations that have already been discovered.
  • Like a blueprint it will only enable us to recreate something according to a predetermined set of specifications.

At best we will be able to do what’s been proven to work. At worst we’ll be nothing but a pale imitation of the travelers who’ve been on this journey before us.

Trusting the Compass

Trusting the compass is a habit, a practice, and a commitment. The first time you trust it and it leads you somewhere unexpected and amazing, you’ll find the courage to trust it again. You’ll let it carry you towards another edge worth exploring. The more you do it, the more it will become your new normal, and eventually you’ll trust the compass more than the map

I have a friend who moves to a different country every 3 months. He lets the readers of his blog vote on what country he should move to. But what’s more interesting than all of that is that he never has a plan beyond buying the plane ticket. He lands in his destination and goes where his compass takes him. The result is a set of stories and life experiences that would never have emerged if he had been rigid about his plans. He trusted the compass

Another friend I went to college with was rejected from every single graduate school he applied to. It’s something quite unexpected from a guy who graduated with honors from Berkeley’s EECS program. He turned down every job offer he had, packed his bags and spent 5 years meditating at an ashram in India. He trusted the compass.

In the movie Scent of a Woman Al Pacino says to Chris O’Donell “What are you some kind of chickenshit who sticks to job description only.” The result is a weekend of driving a Ferrari, dancing the tango, and the main character discovering a part of himself he didn’t know existed. He trusted the compass

My own story began with a resume of failures. Then somehow writing a thousand words a day changed my life, and it led to a book, an event, and what today is called The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Almost none of it has gone according to plan. I’m not where I thought I’d be or even who I thought I would be. But, somewhere along the way I found it in me to ditch my map for a compass.

This collection of essays called The Compass: A Creator’s Guide to Instigating Something that Matters is my gift to you. I hope it will give you the courage to ditch your map for a compass.

But even more than that I hope you do something that matters with it.

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here.