How do you recognise when your north star has become a black hole?

This post is about being lost — without realising it.


I have my NorthStar, and I am heading for it, but somehow the gravitational pull of a black hole we did not know existed got me without realising it! I am writing about becoming lost on a journey as I emerge from working from home, travel restrictions, lockdowns and masks; to find nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

The hope of a shake or wake up call from something so dramatic as a global pandemic is immediately lost as we re-focus on how to pay for the next meal, drink, ticket, bill, rent, mortgage, school fee or luxury item. Have you become so wedded to an economic model that we cannot see that we will not get to our imagined NorthStar?

I feel right now that I have gone into a culdesac and cannot find the exit. The road I was following had a shortcut, but my journey planner had a shortcut that assumed I was walking and could hop over the gate onto the public path and not the reality that I was in my car.

I wrote about “The New Fatigue — what is this all about?” back in Feb 2021. I could not pinpoint how I was productive, maintained fitness, and ate well, but something was missing — human contact and social and chemistry-based interactions. I posted a view about the 7 B’s and how we were responding to a global pandemic; we lost #belonging. I wrote more on this under a post about Isolation — the 8th deadly sin.

Where am I going with this? Because we want a radical change masked as a “New Normal, something better”, but we are already finding nothing has actually changed on the journey we have been on, and I am now questioning that the bright north star I had lost its sparkle!

I have used heuristics and rules to help me for the longest time; anyone on the neuro-diverse spectrum has to have them because without them surviving becomes exhausting. However, these shortcuts (when created and learnt) also mean I stopped questioning why. Now that the very fabric that set up my heuristics has changed, those rules don’t necessarily work or apply. We love a shortcut because it gets us out of trouble, we love the quick route because it works, we love an easy known trusted route because we don’t have to think. We use them all the time in business to prioritise. “What is the ROI on this?” In truth, we either don’t have the resources or cannot be bothered to spend the time to look in detail, so we use the blunt tool (ROI) to make a decision.

My tools don’t work (as well or at all)

I found my NorthStar with my tools. I was navigating to the north star with my tools. My tools did not tell me I was heading past a black hole that could suck me in. I am not sensing I am lost as my tools are not telling me; all the things we did pre-pandemic don’t work as well on the other side — but nothing other than feeling lost is telling me this. We have not gone back to everything working and still have not created enough solid ground to build new rules, so we are now lost, looking for a new NorthStar with tools that do not work.

Our shortcuts sucked us in and took away the concept that we need to dwell, be together, work it out, and take time. Our tools and shortcuts reduced our time frames and tricked us into thinking they would work forever. The great quote from Anthony Zhou below assumes you know where you are going. That is not true.

How do I recognise that my north star has become a black hole because my shortcuts and rules no longer work, creating fatigue I cannot describe, and I feel lost? There is a concept of anchor points in philosophy, and it is a cognitive bias. When you lose your anchor in a harbour, you drift (ignoring sea anchors for those who sail). The same can be said when you lose your own personal anchor points that have provided the grounding for your decision making. Routines and experience are not anchor points. But the pandemic looks to have cut the ties we had to anchor points, so we feel all somewhat lost and drifting. The harder we try to re-apply the old rules, the more frustrated we become that nothing works. Perhaps it is time to make some new art such that we can discover the new rules and find some new anchor points. Then, maybe I will feel less lost?