As I travelled across London this week, I bumped into an old colleague of mine. He looked stressed. He looked tired. He looked as if the whole world was against him. But more than anything he looked lost.
‘Hi Steve. I’ve not seen you for ages. Everything ok?’ For a minute it was like he didn’t recognise me, but then he started to smile wearily.
‘Oh Hi Gary. Erm. Yeah. Not bad. How are you?’
‘Not bad.’ I said. ‘You look ever-so-slightly lost.’ In fact he looked very lost, and he looked like he’d been lost for some time.
‘Yeah. I am to be honest. I’m trying to get here…’ he pointed to a map on his phone and a small flag showing where he needed to be.
‘But I’ve no idea how to get there.’ He proceeded to tell me why he needed to be there and how the events of the day had panned out.
‘I’ve asked about a dozen people and they either don’t understand me, or they send me off in the wrong direction. I honestly don’t have time to mess about any more. I need to be there in the next 45 minutes but I’m not sure what to do. YOU don’t happen to know how to get there do you?!’
I wasn’t sure, but I took the phone from him, and stared at the screen for a moment.
‘Yes, actually I do know where you’re heading. You’ve just taken the long way round, but I can show you the rest of the way if you like?’
It’s no understatement to say that Steve looked relieved. Pointing him towards a small alley across the street we set off walking together.
‘Why can’t people just be straight with you?’ he pressed as we walked along the busy high street. ‘If people just said ‘I don’t know’ then it would have made my life so much easier!’
I thought for a moment before answering, as we narrowly avoided being hit by a rogue cyclist.
‘I like to think pople are acting out of good faith. They might think they know where you’re going, and because this place has so many roads and routes to take, they’ll have travelled part way there themselves. So they probably believe they know the best route. But it’s probably the best route for THEM, and not for YOU.’
As we took another turn down an even narrower lane Steve didn’t seem convinced, so I continued with my explanation.
‘Think of it this way: You know where you need to be but there are lots of different routes you can take to get there. Every person you ask will come at this from their own personal point-of-view and their advice will be based on their own experience.’ We crossed another road bypassing another group of business people pointing at their devices and looking as lost as Steve had been ten minutes ago.
‘But can I ask you something? Is this meeting important to you?’
‘Too right it is!’ Steve snorted. He was growing a little out of breath as we strode up the busy high street and turned down another narrow alley.
‘Then why did you put your trust – and now frustration – in the hands of people you don’t know, and can’t really trust? Why didn’t you ask an expert?’ Steve’s pace slowed for a second.
‘Experts?! Like who?!’ Steve’s pace quickened again and he seemed slightly annoyed by the question.
‘Taxi drivers are the known experts in London. Everyone knows that. Sure you might fall lucky and ask directions of someone like me who also knows these streets as well as they do, but chances are you’re going to bump into well-meaning experts and people who only know how to get part-way to your destination. But people like me, and taxi drivers know the quickest and most effective route. Why not ask them?’
‘They’re expensive!’ Steve replied as the narrow lane broke out on to a main street. His destination was right in front of us. A broad smile broke across his face, and his relief was almost palpable. ‘Thank you Gary! You’re a life saver! How did we get here so quickly?’
‘No problem.’ I replied with a smile and a shrug of my shoulders. ‘Let’s call it “Mates rates” on this one! I’ll just take a coffee with you.’ Steve glanced at his watch. We’d arrived with enough time to spare to grab a quick coffee together while he composed himself before his meeting.
As we waited for his triple venti half sweet non-fat caramel macchiato, and I waited for my Yorkshire tea, (which seemed to confuse the barrista more than his order) we continued to chat.
‘Next time you need to get somewhere really important, rather than waste your time and energy, just ask an expert. Thinking you know the route to your destination, actually knowing the route and knowing the most effective route to meet YOUR needs, are all completely different things.’
Taking a seat in the corner we sipped our drinks while Steve told me about his meeting and why it was so important. I couldn’t help thinking how many more people were wondering around aimlessly, wasting time, energy, and money… just because they were trying to save on cost.
Moral of the story:
We’ve all been lost at one-time-or-another, where we’ve needed to ask for help or directions. There’s no shame in not knowing what to do or how to get somewhere. But when you’re in that situation you need to ask for help from experts in that area. Ask people who have taken those steps before you, and more importantly ask those who understand how to get their efficiently.
So if you’re lost in the land of Cybersecurity and don’t know how to get to Cyber Essentials, ISO27001, PCI DSS, or GDPR then ask an expert. Like London Cabbie’s there’s lots of us around. Just make sure you find one you can trust.
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