True North

In Choices, Discipline, Responsibility by Will Luden12 Comments

Some people call it your moral compass. No matter; the questions are

  • Do you have one?
  • If you have one, what is it?
  • Why is that your True North/Moral Compass?
  • Do you follow it?

If you don’t have a solid True North that you follow, then nothing else matters. Nothing. You will simply be a cork on the oceans of life, following the changing paths of the tides, currents and waves. I know; I have been there. And I still have to fight to stay with and strengthen my adherence to my True North.

“I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” Frank Sinatra. So, what gets you through the night? And is that the same as a True North? Finding and following your True North will get you through the day and night in far better shape than pills and booze. And will set you up for continuing, healthy success.

What are some examples of an effective True North? And how do you know? Two things: 1. Your North has to be something born and fueled outside of you–with externally inspired values, goals and checkpoints. The danger is that our own internally generated principles may lull us into a false sense of commitment. There must be an outside entity to learn from, and to act as a touchstone–a place to check in to see how we are handling ourselves. This does not mean that you don’t need to internalize the external teachings and examples; all is certainly lost if you don’t. But it is equally certain that it cannot be just you. 2. That outside entity must be powerful enough to keep you on track even when it is hard. If your North’s power and influence in your life is weak, so will be your adherence to it.

What are some examples where both criteria are met? God comes immediately to mind. Whatever your definition, God meets both criteria–external and powerful. Depending upon your path to God, the external writings, religious leaders, ceremonies, legacies, etc., will be different, but each path has its external–and powerful–teachings, values and inspirations.

Teachers, whether more well-known masters like Confucius and Buddha, or somewhat lesser lights like Rumi and Lao Tsu, qualify as external and, if taken seriously, powerful. As do more modern leaders like Rick Warren or Tony Robbins. Philosophers such as Aristotle can also be a solid foundation for a True North. Look no further than his Nicomachean Ethics for support for this claim.

Are there some examples of wrong places to seek help to form and maintain your True North? Well, Snapple bottle caps are one example (no laughing here–I have seen worse). And Satan worship would be out. Better the Snapple cap.

Even harder than developing a True North is staying true to it. You will be besieged by teachings and cliches like, “You have to get along to go along.” and “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying.” Perhaps the most diabolically tempting is, “Just this once. You will have plenty of time to correct things later.” The “just this once” part is bad enough; there really are slippery slopes out there. And “later” is always now. Always.

How do I make sure that I will never fall off the path? A. You can’t. That would be like a child shedding their bicycle training wheels for the first time asking, “How do I make sure that I won’t fall while riding my bike?” The answer is to be careful, and get right back on when you fall. Have you ever seen a child learning to walk? Don’t they fall over and over, just to get up again and again? That’s how they learn. And that’s what we need to do. When we drift away from our True North, course adjust, recommit, and go back at it.

What is your North, and what does it mean to you? Please respond in the comments; I am interested. As are others.

Last week’s blog, for all of its importance, is yet another set of endeavors that demand a True North to be successful. Link to Revolution 2.0™

Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs

Will Luden
Follow Me

Will Luden

As an author, speaker, public company board chair, family man, a man with many friends (and friends-to-be), citizen and a child of God, I am driven to contribute. One way to for me to contribute is to start thought-provoking discussions.My overall objective is to stimulate “Passionate, Relentless, Reasoning.” My specific goals include getting people to act (only) after Reasoning.
Will Luden
Follow Me

Latest posts by Will Luden (see all)


  1. You are an articulate writer, Will. I’m happy to see you using your gift to inspire thought and dialogue.

  2. So many people in America, for so many years, have relied upon the “church” to be their true north, compass, map, and navigator. This misplaced confidence in an institution has, in this current generation, set many, many adrift, because they have lost faith in the system that once worked. There is a true North. There are also many tools that help us navigate, especially when the storms of life, that DO happen, blow us so completely off course that we don’t even know which map we’re on, much less how to recalculate our course. Sometimes we have to make long and difficult detours. I agree, there is a true North, but how we recognize that fact and orient to it, has dramatically changed. I don’t see it going back to the way it was in the US 30 years ago. I don’t know what it looks like, but as this next generation moves forward, they’ll definitely need more tools and training than simply map and compass.

  3. Good question. After much drifting around and putting my faith in various institutions, parties and people, I have fallen back on The Bible as my guide. I am impressed at times by the fact that many of these new guides for better living and managing are basically restatements of what Jesus said on humility, forgiveness, mercy, materialism, etc. In fact, I left my previous denomination because they kept drifting farther and farther from this foundational doctrine to “go along/get along” with contemporary society. I now describe my ideal denomination as one with evangelistic outreach to the needy with an ideal of living the simple devout life–>Salvation Amish.
    Speaking of contemporary society, what true north is it following? In an effort to provide everyone self-fulfillment, we drift around finding some silver tongued lawyer to provide a rationale to ignore the limits of the Constitution and even the general mores of the past, biblical or not. Is it any wonder that young men and women abandon loyalties to their countries and families and follow those extremists who, while totally wrong, at least have a vision and supposed principles that they are fighting for. If all they see from society is materialistic lack of principles, why wouldn’t they try something that at least seems to have a higher calling?
    As always, I have no solutions, just rants.

    1. Author

      Charlie, you make more sense with your self-described rants than most folks when they think they are sounding calm and well reasoned.

  4. Will, I love the name of your blog – TRUE North. In the world today it’s so easy to lose bearings as we try to satisfy the demands of reality as we see them. There is lots of pressure to follow “almost” true north, call it magnetic north as it has a huge pull. The wants, needs and desires we have for being successful in this world is a strong pull. It starts out as looking a lot like TRUE north, but it isn’t and as we get closer to it, the distance becomes greater between what we think is TRUE north and the path we’re on. Of course, the “almost true” strategy is one used by the most crafty of demanders on our time and direction and we’re warned many times in the Bible about the existence of this strategy. But, we continue to press on towards what we think is TRUE only to ultimately realize we are following something different from TRUE. Hopefully, this realization happens without damage to oneself or others and reflection on God’s purpose for us, the gifts He has given to us and possibly the honesty of a friend (maybe spouse?) and possibly a gentle rebuke will help us reset our compass back to TRUE north. Pilots are familiar with at least two kinds of compass resetting that are needed for a regular compass, magnetic declination and precession. The first is a result of where we are on the earth and the second is due to the change in torque (often on takeoff due to the engine). If you are following the false gods of the earth and going for magnetic north or generating your own “torque” in your life, look for guidance from friends and the Bible to see if you need a reset. Fortunately, for the pilot, GPS has a world view that is from many miles above the earth and is much better at guaranteeing we’re following TRUE north, not influenced by magnetics or torque. Would that we had such a tool for automatically resetting our personal compass to TRUE north whenever we are off course. Fortunately, He’s given us His Word and each other to help us muddle through and uses these corrections to grow us into His likeness. Embrace your resets as learning experiences from Him and pray for His reset daily in your life.

    1. Author

      Paul, I love your analogy; watch out–you might be in line for a guest blog…:). Two of the things I get from your comments are, 1. There are forces out there dedicated to tricking us to our peril and 2. Being off be a few degrees at the outset can cause a miss by thousands of miles at the end. Yes, He is indeed my True North.

    2. Great analogy! The two ways we can get off course: Following deceptive guides and relying on our own judgement.

  5. Thank you Will Luden for writing these thought provoking blogs.
    Following your True North can be introduced even at a young age. I tell my students and my own children that we all have an inner voice that talks to us. It knows when something feels right or wrong and to follow those messages. As an adult, I find it difficult to overcome the disappointments that I can’t control. We don’t walk this “True North” path alone; we rely on others for love, safety, friendship, guidance and judgement too, both personally and professionally. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it’s too late to recover from a “deceptive guide” and our path changes without notice. These are the most difficult yet critical times to reach into my pocket and pull out that GPS compass.
    Going North please.

    1. Author

      Brenda, very, very true. Every time I allow my intellect to overrule my gut I screw up. Every time. Loved hearing from you–and look forward to more. And, yes, True North!

Leave a Comment