Living as a Leader

Bending the Map

A few years ago on one of the Perry men’s annual Canadian fishing trips we deviated from tradition.

There’s a lake called Marianne we fish because we typically catch dozens of feisty Northern Pike. To get there requires crossing two lakes and taking two hikes through the Canadian wilderness while carrying our supplies.

This particular year we decided instead to drive over the old rutted logging trails to Marianne. I had done it once before so I was confident I would recognize which trails to take.

Three hours into a 30 minute drive we still had not found Marianne. I had a topographical map and instructions from our friend Craig Williams (ironically part of his instructions included discouraging us from driving).

I didn’t listen very well because I was confident we’d find Marianne with no problems.

Yet a number of times we’d arrive at a spot where I just knew Marianne had to be. I’d pull out my map and convinced myself that it had to be right there. When it wasn’t I’d tell the boys that it “might have dried up” or “been hidden by some trees” or some other foolish explanation.

This behavior is what experts call “bending the map.” It means to ignore reality and convince yourself that you are in the right place and that your map is wrong or the surroundings have changed (also called being lost).

“Bending the map” is trying to make reality fit what you want it to be instead of accepting it for what it is. It comes from stubbornness, pride, delusion or in my case simple optimism.

I’m often tempted to “bend the map”, to look at “the numbers” or a situation and believe it’s better than what it really is. It’s then that I have to remind myself of that three-hour tour of Canada so I can begin seeing things for what they are and then take the necessary action in face of true reality.

Are you bending any maps in your life? Don’t waste any more fishing time believing a false reality. Life is too short and there are too many fish to catch.

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