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The Downside of GPS

Do you have a GPS (Global Positioning System)?

You are here!

With annual sales of these navigation devices at 39 million units, and with the popularity of GPS enabled cell phones, more and more people are using this helpful technology tool to get from where they are to where they want to go.

These are incredible devices. They enable us to easily, comfortably find previously unknown places. Simply type in your desired destination and, in many cases, a friendly guide (computerized voice) will tell you exactly where you are, when to turn, and the  precise moment you have arrived at your destination.

I have selected an Australian woman as my GPS voice because I love the accent. A friend of mine actually downloaded the voice of Mr. T to his GPS. Imagine that driving experience for a moment – “I pity the fool who don’t turn left right now! You lost, sucka!”

There is a Downside

But as wonderful and as useful as these devices are, there is a negative side effect. If you have one, you know what it is, because you have had the experience of arriving at a destination without any real clue or understanding as to how you got there. Without the GPS, you would have little chance of getting home, much less finding this spot again in the future. Right? We’ve all been there!

GPS Affect on Learning

A GPS will get you there, but it doesn’t teach you how to get there again. That is because the learning happens in the “figuring it out” part. When you deprive yourself of the experience of “getting lost,” you also deprive yourself of learning. From that standpoint, the term GPS could take on a different meaning, “Growth Prevention System.”

Personal growth happens the same way. Unless we have struggled to attain a “right answer” or “find a destination,” we will not truly benefit from the discovery.

Apply that thought to your life right now. There is a benefit to the struggle you face right now – a gift to the grind. Sometimes we are fortunate or benefit from the guidance and generosity of others. Even then, if you seem to have simply “arrived” at your current state of success, without understanding exactly how you got there, you will naturally be uncertain about where to go next.

Into Action

In order to take command of your direction and route toward your desired destination, personally or professionally, incorporate these “directions” into your road map.

  1. Get Lost! It’s OK to be uncertain of where you are. In fact, sometimes it is the best way to learn a new territory. You may find that you are already “lost” in some way, uncertain about where you are going. Embrace it! These moments of transition and change are, in fact, incredible opportunities to learn, grow, and redefine yourself!
  2. Get your bearings. To do so, you might need to consult a “map.” Take a hard look at your life and the path that brought you to where you are. Then, look at yourself. Get your inner “bearings” about what you value, what is important to you, and what you truly want to achieve. This “purpose” check is the equivalent of recalibrating your inner compass.
  3. Ask for directions. Ask for guidance from someone (or several different people) you respect and admire. Take in this advice, but realize that no one can do it for you. This is your journey to navigate.
  4. Refuel. Refocus. Recommit. In order to sustain a difficult journey, you need to treat your vehicle right. Eat well, rest, and renew your personal energy. Take time to look around and confirm you are headed in the direction you wish to go. And, on a regular basis, remind yourself the reason why this trip is so important, and recommit to the next leg of the adventure.

Both the joy AND the learning are found in the journey. Take charge of your circumstances and embrace the challenge of finding your own way. There will be moments of confusion and decision, as well as new discoveries. Savor and experience these, and commit the lessons to memory. Indulge in a few detours, without rushing your arrival time. The greatest discovery of all may be the unexpected experiences, and previously unknown aspects of your self.

  • Lisa says:

    I always smile when I see your email has arrived. I know I am about to recieve my little nugget of advice and confidence that will help me make my journey a little easier. Thanks for wisdom and unique point of view, you are truly an inspiration.

  • Michelle Land Harris says:


    Thank you for this article. You are absolutely right about the value of finding your own way, getting lost, and finding your way again. It’s fundamental to learning and developing. As a person who likes to stay up on the latest technology, this really made me stop and think. I love my GPS, but I still like to plot my journey and see the whole picture before I set out. The GPS is great for determining how long it may take me to get somewhere or to find the nearest hotel as I am traveling down the road, but it is really important to not focus ONLY on the tiny segment of the trip that is encapsulated on the little GPS screen and forget about the journey unfolding before you. We have to remember to enjoy the twists and turns and experience life as we move a long. I think this is best said in a line from an Aerosmith song, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.”

    Loved the article and I’m sharing it with others. Keep up the good work!

  • DANO says:

    As usual, Dan is dead-on!

    A GPS unit is just a “tool,” not something to replace personal responsibility.

    I recently chatted with a hotel front desk employee who needed to deal with an angry guest whose GPS didn’t bring her exactly to the front door of this NEW hotel.

    A GPS is not fail-safe … it’s a convenience.

    New technology such as GPS, ATM and SmartPhones can add a certain laziness factor to our lives, and increase stress when you discover that they’re :only computers” and subject to the failure of the humans who program them!

    Don’t let technology replace human communication … person-to-person is still the best! (Although Dan Thurmon is easier to beat in computer golf than on a REAL golf course!)

  • Rosa Gracia-Barton says:

    I absolutely love your advice. It is practical, and easy to follow. Your vision of life is contagious.

  • Dan – Thanks for the “pick me up”. I find myself more lost than on the right path, and your insights teach an old man a new way to think and “get back on the right path”.

  • Barry Dunsmore says:

    Another real downside is that you can be FOUND using the GPS. That means the government or your employer will know where you are at all times. I don’t care for that aspect of the service.

  • Larry says:

    Using the GPS anaology is a great anology to our life’s struggles. It does us little good if we do not understand how we got to where are currently. Without having the knowledge of how we got to where we are we are incapable of knowing where and why we should move to our next destination. Thanks for your reminders and refreshers.

  • Marcia says:

    GPS means giving up the places I find when I’m lost. It is a great tool, but don’t give up the adventure.

  • Andrea Blake says:

    So true, so true… It really makes you look back and wonder “Why don’t we get lost more often; after all they’re is quite a lot that we have yet to find!” Thanks Dan for sharing!

  • Sheryl says:

    I have a friend who set his GPS to have a voice very similar to his wife’s. He enjoys ignoring it and going in the opposite direction. Sometimes he argues with it.

  • Rick Stumpf says:

    The search for quick and effortless gratification has, in many ways, stolen the joy of achieving success. We buy pre-made meals and become angry when our microwave oven fails, get anxoius when we don’t immediately reach our loved ones by cell phone and now demand a gps unit takes us flawlessly door-to-door. Do you think this gives us cause be unwillingly off balance?

  • Allison says:

    This was the perfect article for me today as in the past two weeks I have struggled with what direction to take. Sometimes the road is so clear as you have traveled it many times before. And sometimes, even with a GPS you can be misguided! My husband gets mad that I don’t want a GPS, but I never learn my way around town without getting lost first. He thinks it is silly that I will take an extra thirty minutes to find my way at times. So I think that I will have to accept that we need to take the unknown road sometimes and it may take a little longer to find our way, but it will teach us where we are going in the future!

  • Fred Pieplow says:

    The last time someone told me to ‘Get Lost’ was not meant for my well being! Great post Dan!!

  • Hey Dan, great stuff! I have been a fan for a while now, since Mike introduced us after “Amazed.” I’ve been reading all your posts and enjoying them very much.. figured it was time to tell you so! Keep in touch..

  • Paul Lockwood says:

    I always enjoy your advice. For my own life I have found that my ultimate GPS is my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes I have to stop, and tune in to my ultimate GPS (God’s Positioning Spirit) for him to direct my paths. In him I find the straitest path to where I should go. He has never lead me in the wroung direction. Keep up the good work.

  • Chris says:

    The analogy is excellent. Just this morning, an accident on the highway would have prevented my timely arrival in the office. I got off at the first exit I came to and “guessed” how to get to work because my wife had our GPS. I went through parts of town I had never visited, found my way, and did get to work on time. The little adventure taught me that if we know where we’re going, we can get the regardless of what roadblocks come up–and, perseverance always pays off. Thanks for your timely post.

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