Two steps forward and one step back; take advantage of the one step back.

I attended a firefighting conference this past weekend. During a portion of the keynote presentation, the speaker discussed values. He related values to a compass noting how our values direct the path in our lives and jobs just as a compass directs our physical path across terrain. As captivating as his lecture truly was, for a moment I found myself distracted by the image of the compass on the Powerpoint. I floated back into my Marine Corps days of land navigation. I sat there and thought about how most people in the room probably didn’t know the nomenclature and proper use of an actual compass. Specifically how the dial has a full length magnetic needle. The front half representing magnetic north, and a back half of that arrow providing the user with a backward indicator. A back azimuth.


In land navigation an azimuth, put very plainly, is a direction. On a compass the dial has 360 degrees of direction. Once you have decided your azimuth according to your map and destination, you would point your compass to the degree of your intended bearing and start walking. But why the backward indicator? Pop culture and motivational guru’s have encouraged us that looking back is an unmentionable deed as your going through life. The most common need for a back azimuth, is correcting a path.  If you have shot an azimuth on a landmark and approached that landmark only to find out that your path will not work, you may need to reverse that path all the way back to your last known point. How does this apply to our lives?

Self verified reference. Our direction in life has many factors; heritage, traditions, motivation, ambition, belief, and previous experiences. A healthy mixture of what we want in front of us, and a foundation of what we have established. Looking back to previous experience is a peek into a cause and effect with a true and established result. We know it’s confirmed, we endured it. The future of our path is unknown; but the footsteps we have already taken are documented in our mind forever. The key is to refer to our past as a tool in order to construct and navigate an accurate successful future. When people can reflect on their own history of problems and consequence with distance and compassion for themselves, they’re able to see the “bigger picture”. This in turn makes them better able to consider their own and others’ needs, and more likely to apply proper correction.

We weigh our decisions according to experience, most of the time without even thinking about it, that’s not the variable. The variable is how we look and understand our experiences and apply appropriate corrective action to re-navigate the situation at hand. Or how to best pass on life lessons and advice. Sometimes we take a step off path. Sometimes we get to a destination and realize, this isn’t the place we want to set up camp. Sometimes our loved ones and children are walking in an off-course direction. All of these instances are times to stop, self-evaluate, step backwards, understand the route that got us to this position in time, re-evaluate, shoot a new azimuth and step in the right direction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s