YOU ARE HERE (Ed)

by Dr. Scott Andersen in


I do a lot of activities outdoors. I love the outdoors! I live for the outdoors!

I use apps on my cell phone to help me when I ride and hike. The apps share with me milestones of distance, time and pacing. When I am hiking, it shows me where I am on the map, where I am on a trail and where I need to go to complete the hike. The apps are super handy and they work great.

I feel safe when I use these apps while hiking. The key word though, is “when.” Sometimes the apps do not work. This typically happens when I am in deep into the mountains. The technology may not work...but sometimes it is due to my choosing. Sometimes I choose to get off the trail and explore. If I do that for too long or for too far, I can get disoriented. 

With this disorientation comes the need for help to get back on track. If my app is working, I can usually use it to directionally find my way back on to the trail. But if the “deadly duo” happens, if my app is not working and I stray too far and, as a result, get disoriented, then I am in big trouble. Even if I had a paper trail map, it wouldn’t do any good because, if I don't know where I am, the map is not going to be much help.

Hiking without direction can be scary and dangerous. Photo by Richard Barron.

Hiking without direction can be scary and dangerous. Photo by Richard Barron.

So the most important thing is for me to know where I am at all times.

For instance, imagine I pick you up in a helicopter, blindfold you and fly you out to the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Before leaving you, I give you a map of the state. I fly away and leave you on your own. How useful is that map going to be? The answer is NOT AT ALL USEFUL.  Why? Because you have to know where you are on the map to plot the course to where you want to go. You can see Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau on the map, but you will not have any clue where to take your first step.

You have likely seen this symbol on maps in shopping malls or when you seek online directions. It is usually accompanied with the words “You Are Here.”

The concept of knowing where you are in crucial in just about every component of our everyday lives. It’s true at work, at home, at play and in our spiritual journeys.

In business, this is important because you want your business to grow, to achieve success for you and those associated with your business. You have to have a very good understanding, a fact-based understanding, of where your business is. I mentioned fact-based because when considering where we are, we do not need to include how we FEEL about where we are. It is also not about where we THINK we should be. It is about the observable facts that exist. These observable facts should be things that others would be able see and know without question.

People in successful businesses ask lots of questions about where they are: What conditions exist? What challenges you have and will have? Is the business truly successful and performing at optimal levels? What do you do well and what do you need to do better? Where do you stand in the marketplace? Do you have the right talent? Do you have the right employees? How does your business stack up against the competition and market conditions? 

In our personal lives the same types of questions hold true. Relationships are a good example. We can and should frequently assess where we are in our marriage and our other familial relationships. Improving on your relationships is challenging if you have no idea of the true FACTUAL conditions that exist in the relationship today.

Finally, the same is true in education. If you are teacher, leader or policy maker, you have to know the facts about your current state before you can adequately design a plan to help each student find their unique pathway to success. Speaking of that, you also have to know the same about the students with whom you work. This is an essential component to personalized learning.

So, here is a fact: YOU ARE HERE. 

Yep, as you are reading this, YOU ARE HERE.

Look around you. Look inside you. Take stock. Take notes. Be honest. If possible, seek feedback from trusted advisers. Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Lay out the facts. Respond accordingly.

When you have that clear and honest self-picture, then you can truly start mapping your next steps and begin to map your journey to your desired destination.

Regardless of where you are on your personal journey, every day you can wake up and say, “YOU ARE HERE: and repeat the process of honest assessment and well-informed planning of your next steps. It works in hiking and it works in all aspects of life.

See you on the “trail.”