The You Are Here Arrow on the Map of Life

A pink arrow pointing where you are

The You Are Here Arrow on the Map of Life

Everyone has seen the You Are Here Arrow on maps. Whether reading the map in a shopping mall or displayed on a GPS device, that arrow shows you where you are. Lose sight of that arrow and you won’t know where you are or where you’re headed.

I think of the Arrow analogy as your place in the world. Losing track of where you are in the grand scheme of things has contributed to every personal and organizational disaster I have seen in my lifetime.

Independent of social or economic standing, everyone is subject to a moral universe. Things go badly when you give yourself permission to behave as if the rules of right and wrong don’t apply to you. The examples could fill a book.

Here are a few examples you’ll recognize.

• Celebrities and CEOs who bribed their kids into top universities

• Business and military leaders fired for inappropriate behavior and unethical practices

• Leaders whose unsustainable win-at-all-costs, slash-and-burn style pleases Wall Street for a while but ends in ruin

• CEOs who listened to the bean counters instead of their engineers and sacrificed safety, and the lives of many, for a buck

• CEOs and other senior executives who use the company as their personal piggy bank

• Business leaders who enrich top management while running the rest of the organization into the ground

• Political leaders who lie constantly to shore up fragile egos, weak intellects and cater to the worst instincts of their base supporters

I could go on, but you get the idea. There was a point in each of these stories when someone made decisions that disregarded the Arrow. In some cases, they led their organizations and nations into terrifying nose dives that left hundreds of thousands jobless and without pensions and benefits. In others it was catastrophic environmental damage. And more that ended in avoidable loss of life.

Also know that if you have any public profile or hold a prominent position in any organization, and you lose the Arrow, you can expect to be chewed up and spit out by the instant world of 24/7 breaking “news”.

The media loves controversy and scandal. The more salacious, the better. Bad news rules: good news is just not that interesting. And businesspeople in particular are portrayed as stereotypically dishonest and money hungry, lacking empathy and the human touch.

Before you know it, people are tweeting about you, there are four talking heads on split screens on cable news dissecting your life with video from someone’s cell phone, an unflattering view from an old boyfriend or girlfriend, and embarrassing pages from your high school yearbook.

There is nowhere to hide in the digital world. Nowhere.

Remember, the “e” in email means eternal. Once you commit anything into the electronic domain, it is recoverable from wherever you thought you deleted it. And discoverable in legal proceedings.

So, keep an eye on the Arrow: it could save your career.