Certain you know where you’re going? Get lost.

Barcelona mapI admit now that I have a terrible sense of direction. For the better part of my life I considered myself a good navigator because in theory I understood how a little map is supposed to translate into the big world around me.

When visiting Barcelona earlier this year I was all over the urban path finding. After all it’s easy, right? When you have Google maps to tell you not only what the area looks like, but where you are, the direction you’re facing and also the route you should take to get to where you want to go. Which is fine until you realise that data usage abroad burns through pounds faster than putting a lighter to the Queen’s face. With GPS out of the question we had to go old school, armed only with only my map reading skills and a pokey tourist leaflet map (we’d left the guide book at home. Why not, we’ve got our phones, right?).

I doubled the time it should have taken to find the hotel. And for the rest of the trip I reliably got us lost. There were several conversations that went like this:

Me: It’s this way.

Shaun: Are you sure?

Me: Yes.

Shaun: You said that before and we got lost. How confident are you?

Me: Pretty confident.

Shaun: Have you got a good sense of direction?

Me: No.

Shaun: You just said you are pretty confident with where we’re going.

Me: I am; it’s my confidence that gets me lost.

Regardless we followed my certainty, sure at least that the process of eliminating every place we didn’t want to find would lead us eventually to the one place we did want to find. Besides, what was there to be lost in being… lost? We had time on our hands, no agenda and round every corner was something we hadn’t seen before. That’s the nice part of being lost, living with the lack of certainty and surrendering to the little voyage of discovery.

Living with uncertainty is a key ability to develop in developing anything creative. If you are creating something new that has never been done before (at least by you) then congratulations, you are operating outside your comfort zone. With that though come no guarantees that you are going to end up where you want to. Particularly if you are leading on some creative endeavour and have others looking towards you for answers. A director cannot pass on to the cast worries about things that aren’t working, the unknowns or potential disasters. If you’re the captain of the ship then you have to hold on to the uncertainty about those kinds of things and plough on. It would be easier if you knew that what you are doing will be proven right, but you cannot know that and you will eventually have to start if you want to get anywhere.

And just as there are parts of a city’s gothic quarter you hadn’t intended to see, taking the long way round is not always a bad thing and at least you will have been somewhere perhaps more interesting than you had planned.