Where are you Going? Three Principles for Identifying Your Path

Albert Einstein, perhaps the most intelligent human being who ever lived, once boarded a train in Princeton, New Jersey bound for Boston. Einstein immediately began fumbling for his ticket upon finding a seat on the train.


Albert Einstein, perhaps the most intelligent human being who ever lived, once boarded a train in Princeton, New Jersey bound for Boston. Einstein immediately began fumbling for his ticket upon finding a seat on the train. He had either misplaced the ticket, dropped it, or just did not have it with him. The train's conductor noticed Einstein's frantic search as he checked the other passenger's tickets in the car. Finally arriving at Einstein's seat the conductor asked the re-known scientist if he had his train ticket. Einstein replied that he seemed to have misplaced it and had been searching for it since he took his seat. The conductor said, "Mr. Einstein, I, and everyone else on this train know who you are and I am sure you have a ticket, rest assured that you have a seat on this train". Einstein looked very relieved but still puzzled as to his ticket's whereabouts. When the conductor finished checking the whole car he looked back and found Einstein now on his knees looking under his seat. The conductor walked down the aisle and tapped Einstein on the shoulder and said, "Dear Sir, I have total faith and confidence that you have a ticket. Please take your seat and be sure you can ride this train". To which Einstein replied, "Thank you again, kind sir, but I need to locate that train ticket to find out where I am going!"

As intelligent as he was (and absent-minded), Einstein didn't even know where he was headed. Metaphorically, this may also be true of many people, organizations, and even programs. Far too many organizations merely exist and have no sense of what they want to accomplish or their direction. If an organization has had the foresight to identify their mission they still may lack the vision on how best to achieve their goals or even how to get there.

In reality, determining the destination for an organization and working towards that end is a simple process and success can be realized if three broad and basic principles are followed. All organizations or programs need to formulate a clear vision, all personnel need to "join-up", and all personnel need to "keep their eyes on the prize". If these principles are followed, to the person, the organization, or any program within the organization, can realize success. This is especially true with hazardous materials response programs.

Finding Your Own Way

On the whole, an organization's path to success is unique and there are many routes to take. What works for one organization many not work for another. Still, successful organizations do share common paths. Concerning the path, Yogi Berra once said, "when you get to a fork in the road, take it". With Berra's unique humor aside, this is a difficult proposition. You can only go one way, but which way? The great poet, Robert Frost, also weighs in here with his poem, "The Road Not Taken". In this famous poem, Frost describes the ambivalence of the decision on which path to take but later in the poem relates his elation with taking, for him, the right road. Frost says, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Frost had the luxury of retrospection when he wrote his poem but how does one know which road to take before the journey is complete? Your own path (or the organization's path) will come down to how well you execute the following three principles.

The Clear Vision Principle

Before the journey can even begin an organization needs to have a good idea of where it would like to go; a clear vision if you will. This is the long view that will guide every effort that is made as an organization. To do this, a mission statement needs to be formulated that describes what the organization is all about and how they conduct themselves. This may seem very elemental yet many organizations have not formalized their own unique mission statement. You may also be hard pressed to find mission statements for programs such as for hazmat response. It cannot be over-stated that the focus a mission statement provides is vitally important for the success of an organization or a program.

This content continues onto the next page...