Getting To/Away From A/B

“A few turnings later and I was thoroughly lost. There is a school of thought which says that you should consult a map on these occasions, but to such people I merely say, ‘Ha! What if you have no map to consult? What if you have a map but it’s of the Dordogne?’ My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it is going and follow it. I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be.”

– Dirk Gently in The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul, by Douglas Adams

For any (metaphorical) journey, where point A is the starting point; and where point B is the intended destination:

Assuming there is less than 100% certainty that the journey will go as intended, there is some variability on the location of point B and the shape of the route between A and B.

Most people agree that there is rarely 100% certainty, especially for journeys of great significance, such as large projects, designs, careers, human relationships, life. There is, however, a good amount of dispute regarding everything else in this “Getting from Point A to Point B” model, such as:

– How much variability should be allowed for the location of point B?
– What are the priorities and criteria that may cause us to alter point B’s location?
– How much variability should be allowed for the shape and length of the route?
– What are the priorities and criteria that may cause us to change direction?
– Is it about having a point B, or is it really just about the journey?
– Is there even such a thing as point A, or are we perpetually en route?

Too many questions. Just get moving, because the landscape is shifting.

Two challenging scenarios:

The person who is stuck at point B: Perhaps they made a bee-line from A to B. Perhaps they moved quickly and with singular purpose. Now they don’t know where to go next. The longer they stay in point B, the harder it becomes for them to muster the courage to get up and start a new journey.

The person who is stuck at point A: Perhaps they lack the confidence to deal with the incredible uncertainty that the journey represents. Perhaps they have exacting criteria on the shape of the route and nature of the destination. As with the previous scenario, the longer they stay in place, the more difficult becomes to muster the courage to move forward.

If you’re in either of those scenarios, the key is to take that first, imperfect, step forward — or even backward. The direction is less important than the simple goal of moving away from the place where you’re stuck. You’ve been there too long. Take a step outside, please. Step away from the vehicle, sir. Call it the first step or call it a detour, it doesn’t matter. Because once you’re standing in a different place, you will have a new perspective. You may need that, to move on.


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on June 5, 2008, in Career, Cartography, Life, Metaphors, Project Management. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. when it comes to life (as opposed to a project), i often wonder if “A” and “B” are simply psychological constructs and have absolutely no bearing on the actual path except to make us happy or sad, satisfied / disappointed.

    i wonder, as u imply, if the trick is just to keep that path moving (as opposed to stuck)..

    i also wonder, (and this IS nitpicking), if the path actually ever crosses. are we ever at the exact same spot in life more than once? it might feel the same, but doesn’t time always bring something new with it?

    if that is true, then are we really ever stuck at any point? or are we simply growing _around_ that spot?

  2. ur nitpicking

    i visually portrayed it as orbitng, but ok sure, you can call it growing…

    we’re growing around that spot, growing like an ingrown toenail.

  3. nitpicking or not…

    my main point was questioning this whole growth thing.

    it’s so.. western.. 🙂

  4. yup, the ‘ol “Arrow of Time” / “Cycle of Time” dichotomy, as introduced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, much maligned by self-hating Occidentals… 🙂

    The thing is, even non-Western, cyclical time-based cultures are capable of all the same self-destructive excesses as our”progress”-oriented society. Cultural stagnation, neurosis and even catastrophic environmental collapse are all possible, even if you don’t hold up a notion “growth” and “progress.” I even disagree with the cliché that all organisms except humans live in equilibrium with their environments. That’s b.s… despite what Agent Smith may have us believe.

    Going back to the Arrow/Cycle of Time dichotomy, I’m guessing that “too much Arrow and not enough Cycle” is what’s bothering you the most. Am I on the right track here? Or do I need to redirect my route? 🙂

  5. WordPress auto-generated a link from this post to another blog (matching the phrase “Point A to Point B”), which I enjoyed. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I imagine point B as some sort of Truth, yet feel it as Certainty. Certainty is too much to ask of anyone. We would lose our humanity if we asked for certainty from everyone, or even ourselves. I live in a world of linear approximations. Truth is a limit point at which I never arrive. Point B sits on the horizon every morning as if I have traversed no distance the previous day. I can see it, yet will never touch it.”


  6. ive always assumed life is about going forward.

    about going from A to B, where B is constantly changing.

    this is something i take for granted because it turns out it’s also what everyone else around me does: set goals, work hard to achieve them, be happy/satisfied/pissed/sad/depressed depending on how it works out along the way.

    to me, this is the norm. the hypothesis on which we build.

    i’m wondering (and this is what it is at this point) if living is more reactionary rather than forward thrusting.

    there’s that adage that no matter how well u plan something, something always goes wrong. so what do we conclude? “we sucked at planning. next time, plan better!” we also conclude, this experience taught us to plan better for the next time we plan something.

    my postulate (tee hee big word) is, when we assume the existence of a point B (whether shifting, visible, or whatever) automatically we create an A-B path and put ourselves on it. we just committed ourselves to that path and will be resistant to shift/flexibility.

    therefore, could a better approach be to develop our ability to react to whatever life throws at us and bend with destiny instead of the good old heroism of “making our own destiny”. in this scenario, there is no A, there is no B. there’s everything at the same time and us dancing in it.

    is this the circle with no circumference and infinite origins. (since we’re quoting works of art – fiction?:) – )

  7. i had to start another post so that i can look above and see what i typed… (this 400px window is not too great to put down big posts!:)

    re: equilibrium
    i’m on the other side of the coin (which might mean the same thing), i believe everything IS in equilibrium.. including humans. “destroying” the environment is a very humanocentric concept. we are not destroying anything, we’re changing it. we’re changing into something that’s less hospitable for us. which is cool, because being less hospitable for us, a lot of us will perish, and we will stop changing it that way. this is what equilibrium is all about. this is how nature has worked for thousands of years. I have no issues with it.

    interestingly enough, this is a very reactionary concept. we break something, it bites us in the ass, we try to fix it.

    re: growth/progress
    i’m not anti growth or progress. i just question their meaning and importance on a personal level. “concentrate on the now, and let growth happen. then pay attention to it and react on the now…” as opposed to “keep ur eyes on the target and go forward”.

    re: western/eastern
    i believe there’s no more east and west.. more the old and the new. (which one’s which? not to mention the way of life of the new generation thats coming will be completely groundbreaking, west/east will be a thing of the past)

    (again.. a reaction?)


    since this blog has a business flair to it, we need to make the MBA connection. keep the business culture happy.

    i will make this point using chess.

    when playing chess,

    we first start by learning the moves. Once we have learned the moves, we play our first game. there’s no planning: the opponent makes a move, we make a move. we barely plan one or two moves in the future and we mostly react to the opponent’s game. soon the more skilled opponent puts us in a situation where we’re screwed. and checkmate.

    as we get better at it, we start learning tactics. we start to make long term goals. each move we make, we make it with the long term plan in mind. there’s a purpose in our moves. and this is where the average to good chess player lies. drives towards his goals, and if those goals were more cunning than the opponent’s goals, checkmate. if not, checkmate to us!

    anyone who’s played for a while will tell you ‘you cant have set goals in chess, you have to change them constantly’.

    so the even more experienced player, doesn’t even have long term goals. the pro player just react to what’s on the board, and games are won or lost based on strategic placement. the experienced player can see all of the ramification of every move that’s made and reacts to it by making the best move at the moment. The game is no longer a game of long term planning, but rather a game of reaction. (this is the beauty of the blitz games.. all instinct)

    (more to come) (patient on the chair!)

  8. it’s a similar situation with pingpong…

    u learn the moves – u play with no objective.

    u start simple tactics and u drive towards them without really taking much into account.

    finally, u start playing without tactics, u just do the best possible shot for every ball u receive based on the opponent’s placement, skill level, etc… “tactics on the go”

    just like those little shits that graduate with an MBA.

    before going to school, they were clueless. fresh out of the school, MBA in hand, they have those grandiose plans on how things _should_ be run… eventually, those who shine are those who are able to adapt thru changing times and keeping their long term objectives fluid.



    happy 35th birthday buddy! I hope this year will brings tons of opportunities for you to adapt to!

  9. (*ducks for cover*) (*”is he done yet?”*)

    well, i’m glad you got that off your chest.

    thanks for the wishes, B-to-the-ENZO. ease up on yer patients… bad idea to drill teeth and blog rant at the same time…

  10. lol this aint no rant sweetheart!

    this is as close to structured writing as i get! 🙂

    now if only i could get the entire point across in a haiku…

    live in the now cuz
    the future is uncertain.
    make destiny: bad.

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