Old Mapmakers and Dragons

January 21, 2021 –

Long ago, mapmakers sketched dragons on maps as signs to sailors that they would enter unknown territory at their own risk. Some sailors took this sign literally and were afraid to venture forward. Others saw the dragons as signs of opportunity. We all have a mental map of the world, complete with dragons. What dragons can you slay?

Change is taking us into a new world, a world our old map does not fit, a world in which sometimes there are no maps or guidelines or rules. Everything is changing, family relationships, jobs, child-rearing practices, technologies, political systems, economics, and competition. Today’s surprise is that change itself has changed. Transformation is no longer linear, and it is random, dynamic, and takes quantum leaps. Change itself is changing. We guarantee tomorrow to be nothing like today.

For most people, to leave the comfort and security of the past behind and enter unknown and untried territory is difficult. We have new guidelines, rules, and maps. The old maps, the old ways of doing business, will not work in today’s new territories. Simply improving what we are currently doing will not solve the problem.

Doing the same thing you have always done—no matter how much you improve it — will get you only what you had before. In all societies, the normal human instinct is to protect oneself and one’s way of life. When we stray out of our familiar boundaries, our self-protecting mechanism alerts us to danger and brings us back to “normalcy.”

Our self-protecting mechanism buffs us against the shock of change by encouraging us to act in familiar ways with expected behavior from the past, even when that behavior is inappropriate.