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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

The Break Issue 31: How to Find Your Way - 4 Steps to Becoming a Better Wayfinder.

Updated: Mar 15

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Today's Issue

In today’s issue, you'll learn:

  • The 4 step process Ancient Polynesians used to navigate thousands of miles of open ocean

  • How to apply this Wayfinding technique to build alignment in your career and life

Let’s dive in.

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What ancient navigators teach us about finding our way

Between 3,000 and 1,000 B.C. generations of people traversed the Pacific Ocean in canoes.

They didn’t know where they were going or how to get there, but they managed to make contact with almost every single island in the Pacific - approximately 30,000 islands.

The were explorers driven by discovery.

And they spread their population, culture and customs across 63 million square miles!

In frickin’ canoes!

These explorers were ancient Polynesians, and they changed the way we navigate and find our way by giving us the art of “wayfinding”.

What does this have to do with your career or your life?

Most of us:

  1. don’t know where we are - we’re lost

  2. know where we are but don’t know where to go

  3. know where to go, but don’t know how to get there

I’ve been in all three stages - too many times for me to even count, but I’ve managed to find my way again.

I’ve navigated change, not through blind trial and error, but through a systematic process of feedback.

Your path is not set. Your destiny is not fixed. You don’t have to choose the default path laid out in front of you.

You can chart a new course to a destination you don’t even know exists yet.

And this ancient people have the map.

Here is the simple (but not easy) Polynesian Wayfinder process that helped them find tiny islands among millions of miles of open ocean.

Are you ready to be MOANA?

Are you ready to become a career wayfinder?

The 4 step wayfinding process

1. Orient

To know where we’re going we need to first know where we are.

The Polynesians used Te lapa to orient themselves near islands. Te lapa is a light phenomenon that occurs directly at or just below the water surface and emanates from an island.

What is our Te lapa? How do we know where we are if we are lost?

We get really clear about our Circle of Competence as it is today.

We use Advantage Mapping (course coming soon) to know ourselves better and

  • document our values and purpose

  • document our advantages

  • document our tools

  • document our assets

Once we have a little confidence in who we are, we’ve oriented. We can now explore routes in an experimental way.

2. Route decision

The route we pick is driven by:

  • our needs

  • our motivations (which are both intrinsic and extrinsic and susceptible to influence from others)

  • lore - stories we hear from people who went before us

The Polynesians were motivated to acquire food, resources and by the adventure of exploration itself (The Process, as my friend Teddy Mitrosilis calls it).

Most of us today are motivated too much by money, status and the stories others tell us.

That route tends to lead to regret later in life. Don’t get me wrong, making money is great, but a good route is more than that. A good route sets you on a course to be more than money. A good route puts you on a path to authenticity where you leverage your advantages to become your highest self.

Keys to picking a good route:

  • honor where you are today

  • align your current advantages with:

    • your values

    • your interests

    • your aptitudes

    • what gives you energy

    • how you learn

We hit all of these topics in my Advantage Mapping coaching protocol (book a free 30 minute Breakout session ). It’s the long term strategy to a work-life of happiness.

3. Route monitoring

When we’re on a route, we need to constantly understand if we’re still on that route, and if it’s the right route so we don’t get too off course.

The Polynesians did this just by:

  • the position of the sun

  • the alignment of the stars at night

  • Clouds and reflections of color in the sky

How do we understand our route?

  • we journal and reflect on what we perceive

  • we listen to our gut more than our brain

  • we design small experiments

  • we ask questions:

    • is this working?

    • what am I missing?

    • what does success look like?

    • where can I get more feedback?

4. Destination recognition

How did the Polynesians recognize they were close to land?

They learned waves and swells move differently in shallower waters and around atolls.

They recognized land based birds and tracked their movements.

They discovered Te lapa.

How do we recognize our destination?

I’m not sure, actually - I’m not there yet. I’m simply on another route that I think is better than the last.

I have a feeling it has more to do with how we feel than some number in a bank account.

I sometimes wonder if the Polynesians even cared if they found land.

Part of me thinks the thrill of exploration was enough.

I guess the best outcome is we realize there is no destination. We’ve simply fallen in love with the process of exploring, just as the Polynesian people did. By embracing this discovery process I hope you find your creativity, courage and talents which you can leave to the world, just as these ancients left us the Art of Wayfinding.


  • Ancient polynesians navigated the Pacific in canoes by following this 4 step process:

    • orient

    • route selection

    • route monitoring

    • destination recognition

  • We can apply the same process to 'wayfinding' our purpose and career

  • My approach to wayfinding is being codified in my coaching systems called Advantage Mapping.

See you again next week!

3 ways I can help you:

1. Book a free Intro To Advantage Mapping coaching call . In this 30 minute, no obligation call, we'll get you executing on a high odds career path by leveraging your natural advantages and Circle of Competence.

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What’s happening on the pod?

Eliana Goldstein is a Certified Professional Coach who works with ambitious individuals to create the necessary mindsets, learn the key strategies and set the goals needed to move to the next level in their careers whether that’s growing where they are or moving into an entirely different career path. We spend over 90,000 hours of our lives working so her goal is to teach people how to build careers where they don't completely dread Monday morning.

Eliana wasn’t always a social media career coach. She spent years disconnected in her corporate sales career, where she had a nagging feeling she wasn’t living up to her authentic self at work. In a desperate search to find more alignment, a term I talk about frequently, she went to a personal development seminar and had her BREAK moment, where she decided she needed a different path and now was the time to have the courage to do something about it.

You made it to the end! Hopefully you learned something about breaking your career today! If so, please share this with someone you care about.

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