Following Directions

(Originally written, April, 1996)

Most of us as leaders, particularly we men, are not very good at following or even reading directions. Give us a child’s toy or a household item to put together, and we will stop to read the instruction booklet only when we have finished our work and it doesn’t fit right or there are parts left over. How many of us have driven a new car for six months before we have looked at the instruction manual? Although a few of us are good at computers, most of us have trouble programming our DVD recorder.

This was painfully brought to my attention during a recent trip. I have survived a lot of travel, but I’m constantly amazed at how many wrong decisions I make. This year I will rent many cars and take a lot of flights all over our great country and overseas, many times to new or unfamiliar places. I read and understand maps well, but I often get confused when making turns. I keep trying to take short cuts and often make quick decisions while driving on freeways. Although my logical and organized mind reads the map easily, my emotional, impetuous mind loses sense of direction and makes wrong choices. In recent years to new GPS systems really help.

The faster that I go, the quicker I have to make a decision. The darker that it is, the more difficult it is to read the road signs and key landmarks. The first night of the trip I had a hard time finding my hotel. I finally had to stop and ask directions. (Most wives say that we husbands don’t like to ask directions because of our own pride and stubbornness.) The next afternoon on the way back to the airport, I missed a small detail on the map, an error which caused me to miss the connection with the interstate highway. Fortunately, by continuing to read my map I realized that I had gone too far. So, I turned around and made my flight by only eleven minutes! After reaching my next city, I became frustrated because my flight was late and my luggage was delayed. When I get frustrated, I get in a hurry. (Most wives say this reaction is impatience.) I briefly glanced at my map. Since I had been in this city before, I departed from the airport quickly. I made a wrong turn, and soon noticed my error. I had one chance to redeem myself, but instead, I took two more wrong turns. Finally, my continued map reading indicated that I had mistakenly gone in the opposite direction of my intended destination. So, I took the next exit, got a fast sandwich and headed back in the right direction. I had wasted twenty-five minutes because I had not studied my map carefully enough. I had trusted my instincts, not the details. They say that a pilot must learn to trust his instruments and compass, not his sense of direction.

What conclusions can we draw from my comedy of errors? First, I should always spend a few extra minutes reading the map or setting my GPS, before I start out, and if possible, it is always better to travel through life with a spouse or a friend. Secondly, I should always trust the map, not my natural instincts. When I sense that something is wrong, I should pull over, assess my situation, and turn around before I go farther off course. And most importantly, I need to continue to read the map to avoid future errors.

In traveling, a few wrong turns can cost us time, a missed appointment, or even money. In life, a wrong turn can cost us much more. In fact, if we get off course and don’t realize our mistake, we can go as I did in the exact opposite direction, and not realize it. The road map of life is the Ten Commandments, the instruction book of life is the Bible, and the compass or GPS of life is God’s spirit that seeks to guide each one of us.

When we try to rush through life, take short cuts, get lost in the darkness, make quick decisions, and trust our own instincts, then we easily get off course. Unless we turn around, we can end up lost, moving down our own wrong pathway. Whether we live very structured lives and have to make few decisions, or are constantly making choices, we dare not trust our feelings. Following directions does not just mean reading the instruction book, but noticing every detail, and following it precisely. We will make mistakes, but must quickly reverse our course. In our society today, technology has multiplied our options, and caused us to have to make choices quickly. Have we become so busy in pursuing the positions, possessions, and pleasures of life that we have not taken time to read the Maker’s instruction booklet? I’m reminded that the Bible was given to us not to control us or prevent us from enjoying life, but was given to protect and advise us. My mistakes have caused me to view life a little differently, how about you?  On my next trip I will consult my map or GPS before I leave the parking lot, and I will get up each day and read God’s Word before I go to the office.

Getting my bearings,


 “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” Proverbs 3:6




About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

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