Dad, who at the time was a fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps, taught me how to navigate using a compass. The family was on a vacation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I was nine.
He got me up that morning before dawn. Mom made us a huge breakfast. I was so excited because I knew that day, I would climb my first mountain.
Once outside the cabin and on our way, Dad stopped for a moment. He looked down at me from above and handed me his engineering compass, which he had used during his Survival School Training. It was like being handed a bar of gold because before that day I was not allowed to touch it.
"Son, we are going to climb to the top of that mountain and you are going to get us there using this compass," spoke Dad with a seriousness not to be ignored.
"But Dad... I don't know how," whined I to a smiling father.
Other than the fact that we made the climb safely, including an encounter with a black bear, I remember few things about that day, and I wish Dad was still alive so that I could refresh my cloudy mind. What I do know is this: I never feel lost, even to this day.
Sure, from time to time in life I feel confused about where I am or where I am going, but I never feel like I will not get where I am supposed to go.
Photo by Patricia Roseman, 2012. Used by permission.
With a compass -- any compass -- one can always pause for a moment in time and figure out where you are so that you can continue. All of us must change course from time to time because what is surrounding us is constantly changing.
To not flow with change will only invite disaster. Sure, you may not notice a difference at first, but if you fight that which does not wish to be fought, you will suffer in the end.
Beyond the obvious, what Dad was teaching me at the time did not take on meaning for many years. On the surface, knowing how to navigate with a compass at sea or on land will only come in handy if you are in a situation where most people would declare, "I am lost and my GPS is out of battery power."
Beneath the obvious is an enormous lesson about independence and the ability to travel along one's own path of life -- a path which will never be a straight line, a path with many bends, hills, valleys, oceans of fog, storms, and dark forests.
The cool thing is this: You have a compass within your being. All of us do. Call it whatever you wish; this is your choice as a human. I have chosen and I call it my inner voice.
Become immune to other people's judgment. Their thoughts of you do not matter -- this is truth. In fact, some will say that everyone is afraid of you, which is why they will lash out with negativity first.
Your internal compass is truth. The physical compass my father handed me that day when I was nine was truth.
The directions of a compass cannot be denied, and when you have faith that what direction you take based on what you see on the compass face is the correct one, you will arrive at the destination you are working toward. Even if you have to change course from time to time in order to go around an obstruction.
Your internal compass is the same, but you must listen to that voice and you must have faith in what you already have -- an internal guidance system.
When I was in high school, my guidance counselor advised me to not apply to a certain university because I was a "C" student, and the only ones who were allowed to go there were much smarter than me.
He said with the smile of one who professes supreme knowledge, "Don't waste your time and your money applying there because you will not get accepted."
I heard his words, thought about them, and decided that I was not going to allow another person to dictate my future. My parents drove me to the campus of Carnegie Mellon University for a portfolio showing/interview with the Head of the Department of Architecture.
I took an exam and a few months later they accepted me, and not the straight "A" valedictorian of my high school class.
After graduating with honors in 1984 I went on to get my architecture license, working as an architect for over twenty years. The guidance counselor was flat out wrong.
How many people listen to the words of others who profess supreme knowledge? How many fellow humans allow their hopes and dreams to be squelched by people who do not know what is inside of them?
My internal compass was screaming at me from within -- and I listened.
Choice. Yours is speaking to you now as you read these words. Sure, there have been times when I caved and listened to others -- many times. And I can think of the disasters that followed from not listening to my voice.
Quiet your mind now for a moment and listen. What do you hear?
Remaining in the present moment, which flows with time, knowing the moment is not static, this is how one is able to hear clearly the voice within. What is your greatest challenge? Do something about it beginning now.
Of course, we all can take the advice and counsel of others. I will always listen to the words of ones whom I respect. But the final say, the composite of all the words spoken, will be finally judged by that which is inside of me and on the terms of my personal compass.
Only you know you completely. No other human will ever come close. So why would you ever let another human decide anything for you?