“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.

The children’s classic Alice in Wonderland contains all the wisdom I needed to build a life. The Cheshire cat was right, I would learn, but not until later.

In the beginning, I was told to keep working hard – my efforts would be rewarded. I was told that I would arrive somewhere – but where was that somewhere, exactly? Working in large companies, my somewhere could be in another town or even with another company. That was not the road I wanted for myself or my family.

On the Road
Making choices with my wife Joyce on NC Hwy 12 going to the Outer Banks in 1985. Windows down and side vents wide open with fishing rods and cooler mounted on the front of our 4 x 4 vehicle.

The Cheshire cat asked where I wanted to go. Was he asking about a place, a destination? Yes, but maybe he was asking more. Maybe he was asking about a state of mind, of being. Maybe it was about an attitude that would help me make choices to steer my journey – things I needed to pack and have handy for the trip.

I am finding wisdom in children’s classics as I read them again with my grown-up glasses.

Like Alice finding a door in Carroll’s children’s classic, a life changing portal opened for me when I discovered Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues. Ben’s virtues inspired my Unifying Principles. All of the steps helped me answer the cat’s question. My principles would guide my journey. They would get my belief system on course. Now I had a map for the journey, and that is what we all need, I think.

As the years passed, each time I had a new idea or wanted to buy something, I would look at my map. Did this choice fit with my Unifying Principles?

The wrong jacket
I’m keeping this picture handy when I go back to shopping next year. Clothing choices do matter. The children are the best part of this photo.

Usually, my system worked, but I still made mistakes. I remember some cars were not the best choice – too flashy. A few suits were okay, but others were seldom worn.

There was money spent on golf lessons, but my friends suggested my training should have come with a money-back guarantee.

Oh well, I enjoyed some nice walks – mostly alone in the woods.

Fortunately, my bad choices were not terrible, I just tried to learn something from each one so I didn’t make the same mistake all over again.

But others were worse than picking out the wrong shirt and tie.

There was a time, in our office on Morehead Street, when I told a client just how bad his suggestions were and how they would never work in our market. Everyone around the table watched as the client shook his head in agreement before adjourning the meeting. I had won that battle; at least until a week later when a registered letter arrived at the post office.

We were fired.

Just like our banner years later, that story, about how Bruce told the client just “what would and would not work in the Carolinas,” became part of our company culture. Don’t be like Bruce! was the theme and everyone enjoyed telling the story. I was the leader of how NOT to do something.

How about you? Are you following Henry David Thoreau’s advice:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Have you created any principles to guide your journey? Can you tell me some of them?

Any bumps along your journey – mistakes you have made? Will you share them with me, along with the lesson you learned?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


George Harrison
25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001