Finding one’s ‘true north’ in life is important

Jasen Williams Teen Columnist, The Friday Flyer

Jasen Williams
Teen Columnist, The Friday Flyer

Everyone knows that a compass will point you north, right? I mean, unless one stands by a car or strong magnetic force, it is widely known that the compass is an invaluable tool for navigation and map work. Funny how often people just assume that this amazing piece of equipment is completely right.

The compass does not point to true north. Without getting too technical, the compass actually points to earth’s magnetic North Pole, which is around 1,000 miles south of the actual North Pole somewhere over Canada.

And even more astonishing, if one were to adjust for “declination” (the angular deviation from the North Pole) in San Diego, one would need to adjust for 12.5º on the compass!

Whoopee. Who cares? Well, let’s pretend that you are hiking (yes, actually stepping in dirt outside for fun) and traveling north. To save on time and attention span, here is a random result on a compass, whose position is much farther west than San Diego’s, of a large difference what your trail would be if you hadn’t adjusted for declination.

While that difference might be noticeable for 50 feet, imagine what the difference would be if one was traveling 50 miles. Yeah, it matters.

Now that I have stuffed navigation nonsense into your head, what are the implications of this? I see a giant one.

Teenage years are typically seen as a rollercoaster of emotions, beliefs and schoolwork. Once junior years hits, a person finally hits a well-practiced rhythm of coping. Then senior year shows up out of nowhere, and in nine short months, one is likely to be graduating, driving, working and generally making rather impactful, expensive decisions.

In that flurry of paperwork, hormones and planning, one’s goals and sanity can get turned around pretty quickly. And once college or work comes knocking, it does not get better, based on most accounts.

Where do I go from here? What will I do? How will I pay for college? How will things get done? Am I living my purpose? Why is it that I can’t find my passion? Where do I start with this?

On this compass, the red needle points to magnetic north (Nm) and show the difference between magnetic north and true north (Ng).

On this compass, the red needle points to magnetic north (Nm) and show the difference between magnetic north and true north (Ng).

Speaking of passions, it is sadly amusing how much pressure people have to “discover their passion.” It’s hard to find a matching pair of socks when under pressure of schoolwork, sports, work and normal social drama; adding the finding of one’s purpose in life and pondering major choices that demand an answer in a few short months should not be a big deal, right?

And to sweeten the deal, answers to those questions tend to change themselves every six months or so. Suddenly, values and promises that you vowed to never abandon have fallen by the wayside as you try and keep up with the journey that will lead to a place that isn’t even your destination.

It would be nice to know that someone had adjusted for declination or written a rulebook, would it not? It would make those answers seem much more trustworthy and direction credible.

The point I am trying to get to is this: we need to find true north, a center to rely on. Some find it in family, religion, work or an ideal. But this much is obvious: the moment one begins to search solely for whatever makes one happy or successful, their true north swerves from left to right to up and down and all around.

Because more often than not, success comes after failure after failure after failure. Thomas Edison, who is rumored to have tried 10,000 different methods to find the working lightbulb, once said that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison was not working that hard for merely personal success: he would have tried something he was certain of succeeding at if that was the case. There must have been something higher – something that caused him to view his unsuccessful lightbulbs as closed doors pointing to another, not destroyed dreams that were the door.

Success came with the goal – the ideal – that Edison was striving for, not the ideal accompanying the goal.

Same with happiness. If a guy is so intent on whatever makes him happy, he will fail. Because no matter how he searches, the initial infatuation will die down. Then things will be rough. He will bounce from fountain of ecstasy to another, each drying up and leaving him parched for the next.

But if he sticks through for something, be it a keeping of a promise, searching for truth, or dedication to a loved one, he discovers something else entirely: a deep, burning joy that has the lasting heat of coals, not the quick flames of infatuation.

Let us dare to find the true north. Our natural compass will point us towards something that our passions will pull eagerly towards. But now, we will pause, adjust for declination to line up with the true north, and continue hiking.


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Donna Ritchie