The Compass

It’s a simple tool, tested by countless expeditions over thousands of years.  It is an amazing device which can guide you out of a place of isolation or lead you to a new destination.  Each compass tells the travels of its owner, never forgetting the path that it has traveled.

When you are lost, it is important to have things to help you survive.  The Boy Scouts taught me to always be prepared.  When I would go on a camping trip I would always pack matches, water, food, an emergency blanket, whistle, and other necessities all neatly folded into a light weight survival pack. One of those items was my compass.

I remember being out in the woods and making orientation courses with my fellow Scouts.  We would camp out at Avondale Scout Ranch just north of Baton Rouge, LA., and the orientation courses were several miles long often with a simple trinket or piece of candy as the prize.  These childhood games sharpened my skills, and to this day, I can orient a map and find my way out of the woods.  I’m a survivor at heart.

If you have been in the web development business for any period of time, you have seen trends come and go.  New technologies have built a dense digital wilderness and it is easy to get lost.  Many times you feel that you are cutting a path through knowledge and when you look back at your trail, the new growth is already closing in and covering your tracks.  Things change so fast.  You have to stay sharp and on the cutting edge at all times.  The journey is relentless.

Recently at work, I was challenged to step up and really learn .NET as my new go-to programming language.  I must say this past month has left me scratching my head and wandering around like a drunk man from time to time.  It is hard to know how to grow when you don’t have a clear trail to walk through that wilderness.  When you are lost you have two choices – stay put and risk becoming obsolete, or, simply take that first step and start walking a straight path.  A straight path will eventually lead you out of the chaos.

Hearing that you are a mid-level developer after almost 25 years in the industry is a heavy load, often weighed down by selfish pride.  It can cause you to spiral down into a very dark hole lined with self pity and bitterness.  However, in that solitude and quietness you can do a lot of thinking and listening.  You soon begin to realize that you are not a mid-level developer in the totality of your skill set. You simply have opportunity to grow in new directions.  The experience you have gained over decades of honing your craft will help to make that process easier.  All you have to do is simply step out in faith with your compass.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must define your own compass.  What is it that will keep you on the right path?  What is it that will lead you to your destination?  How do you make sure that you are still on a righteous direction? My compass is built on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my faith, and my family.  These three relationships allow me to find my way out of absolutely any situation I have or will come across.

I have a long long journey of studying and growing in front of me.  As long as I keep things in perspective, it should be a smooth journey.  I know how to keep the end goal in sight and my compass will help me to take measurements along the path to insure i’m moving in the right direction.  Just as a compass has to be balanced to give accurate readings, it’s important to balance work life and home life so that the compass does what it should.  If anything gets out of balance, the compass will let me know.

This week, I brought my old compass to work.  It is displayed prominently on my desk near my right hand.  It serves to remind me of where I have been, where I am going, the blessings God has bestowed on me, and that it is important to find your balance.

It’s time to start walking.


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