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The Journey of 1000 Miles Started With A Word

April 15, 2015

Well, you head West until you hit the river. Turn South and go about three days and you should start to come into a series of box canyons. The third one leads to a trail. Not more than a deer path, but it will lead to a pass. Head through the pass and keep on West for another couple of weeks and we’ll meet you by the big bend in the river.

Two hundred years ago, when our ancestors stepped out into the wilderness these might be all the instructions someone had to take othem on a journey of hundreds if not thousands of miles.  

In one quarter mile use the second from the right lane to take exit 15B and 15C Western Expressway toward Boxer, then stay left at the fork. 

If the above sounds like a GPS navigation application, it’s because I recently gave up maps and finally embraced technology. The technology is amazing. Seriously. I have two main options for driving home from work. I can take the shortest route via I15, or I can take a longer route via the Mountain View Corridor. With no traffic, (LOL, sorry I didn’t mean to type that out loud) with low traffic the short route is 45 minutes and the long route is 65 minutes. However, there’s is typically lots of traffic. It’s not unusual for the I15 route to take more than an hour. 

My GPS app tells me when I will arrive home. It tells me how long it will take. If I ask the app which route to take it always tells me to go the shortest route. If there is traffic I almost always take the longer route. I use the GPS application to tell me how I’m doing vs the projected route. I figure if I finish within five minutes of the projected route it was worth it. 

I’m not a fan of the GPS. Oh, I think it’s brilliant technology. The idea that my phone can not only tell me how to get where I’m going, but that it can redirect me around accidents, traffic and even cops, is pretty cool technology. But, I’m sort of old school in many ways. I carry a pocketwatch. . .

 and I use it. I write letters. I like books. And I really like maps.

I think we lose something important when we lose connections with each other. 

I’ve spent the last couple weeks working closely with my neighbor. As we were working on my “Iron Man” car, (My Car The Super Hero) one of the things he figured out how to do was to switch the door locks. We were putting the doors from the Red Lexus onto the Gold Lexus. Obviously, I was going to need the locks changed. He’d simply fiddled with it until he figured out how to remove the lock. I was now doing the passenger door.  Unfortunately he wasn’t here.

I called him.

He talked me through the process of removing the lock. However, when it came time to do the work, all I had to go on was my own experience and his fairly general directions. I thought about those explorers 300 years ago. 

See, my friend didn’t give me instructions on replacing a lock. He didn’t say follow these steps and the lock will come out. He pointed me in the right direction and gave me some things to look for. I had to figure it out. 

I’ve used GPS to find my way to a location I haven’t been to. I was once trying to get to the airport in a strange city an dI was pressed for time. The GPS told me to get off on a particular exit. But, it didn’t update quick enough to realize I had exited. It recalculated and me to take the next exit. Because I relied on the GPS I had to travel way out of my way. Had I simply looked at the map, I would have known I was on the right exit and would have saved myself some stress. (I made my plane on time.) 

I used to write software for Microsoft. We wrote labs to help people learn Microsoft Exchange. The problem was that following a specific set of instructions doesn’t teach the student. It exposed them to the ideas, but they don’t actually know how to do what you just walked them through. 

Recently I took some online Network+ training. I noticed that one module had three nearly identifcal labs. The first lab had very specific step by step instructions. Follow the steps and you can’t go wrong. The second lab was slightly more abstract. The third lab simply stated what you were to accomplish. 

I wish I’d thought of that when I wrote my courses. 

Sometimes our tools give us too much information. Giving too explicit instructions deprives us of the opportunity to learn, to grow, to use our brains. 

The same thing is true in business an life. 

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church was asked how to governed such a large group of people.

I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.


That shoudl be your goal as a manager. If you have to tell your staff exactly how to do something, you don’t need a staff, you need a robot. Or you need multiple copies of yourself. Instead, you should should explain to your staff what you want accomplished and let them chart their path. They will surprise you with their ingenuity. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
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  1. John Burns permalink

    This is like Alton Brown’s way of teaching how to cook. He sees a recipe like giving a specific set of directions that will get you from A to B. He likes to teach what he calls “Applications”. Which is similar to giving you the road-map. Yes if you follow the recipe you will get what you are expecting, But if you change it this way you will get “This” and if you go that way you will get “This”. His Blog/webpage can be found at and rerun of his cooking show “Good Eats” can be found on the “Cooking Channel”

    • That’s kind of like my recipe for spaghetti sauce:

      1. Start with whatever you have in the kitchen. . .

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