Catoctin Mountain is a forested ridge in the Appalachian Mountains with a mix of gentle and strenuous hikes. On an overcast October day a friend and I oriented ourselves and chose a moderate-length trail. Color-coded trail map in hand, off we went!
It was a peaceful day. Under the forest canopy, parts of the trail were edged in velvety green moss. Small, picturesque streams cut a path downward inviting us to pause as we hiked beside or crossed them.
Somewhere along the hike, our decisions, which we’d based on the map, did not seem to make sense. For instance, we’d made a long descent following trail blazes only to find that the trail had simply ended–and so we retraced our steps back to… bafflement. It was then we began to suspect our map didn’t apply! What we did not know was that we had left the state park and passed through a municipal watershed into yet another park. With enough generally right choices due more to my friend’s compass and map skills than my own, we arrived at our starting point. All told, we hiked without stop for about six hours, never once encountering anyone.
Sometimes we have the right map for the territory. Sometimes we don’t.
“A map,” as Korzybski said, “is not the territory but a representation of the territory.” When traveling established trails, you can find good maps to help you navigate the terrain and still encounter the unique and unexpected en route to your destination or objective. In business, for example, these trails could include how to set an effective strategy in a challenging economic environment (circumstances may differ but historically, challenging economic environments are not new); how to transition from a technical leadership role into a strategy-oriented one; or how to manage gathering requirements for a major IT project.
And when the results you get based on the map do not make sense despite clear-headed decision-making, it is time to re-evaluate the map. I hope any unexpected turns you experience lead to an even better result or as it did with my friend and me, more time in a beautiful place in excellent company.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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