Whether you’re reading a map, a blueprint, a cook book, or the assembly manual for your newest technology, appliance or household fixture, you have to be able to follow directions. I can remember when my wife and I had our first baby and we had to put together the crib. After checking all of the parts and organizing them to make sure we had everything we needed to put it all together, the work of actually putting it together was a matter of comprehending the directions as given and then implementing each step by step action until there was a finished product. Following directions isn’t always easy, but your ability to do so can in some cases be the difference between life and death.
Moses was a leader of millions of people, yet he still had to follow the directions of God Himself in the process of doing it. Moses was responsible for the people, to make sure they arrived at the destination that God had put before them. Can you imagine the logistics of not only guiding millions of people across a desert, but to also make sure they eat, drink, rest and move when they are suppose to? Whether you believe that it was God’s plan for Moses to go into the Promised Land or not, you must be willing to admit that his failure to follow God’s direction to speak to the rock, but rather striking the rock sealed his fate.
- Following Directions Requires an Ear to Hear: The bible tells us that one thing we should be able to do is be quick to hear. Listening skills are critical when it comes to following directions. I cannot tell you how many times I have run into problems in executing a plan, simply because I failed to listen to all the instructions before tackling the task. In the military, you have to be able to listen to all your given orders by your commanding officer or it could get you or someone in your company killed. You have to develop an ear to hear clearly the things your leader says. One wrong turn can be the difference between an 11 day and a 40 year journey.
- Following Directions Requires a Closed Mouth: In as much as we are to be quick to hear, we are also to be slow to speak. That doesn’t mean we can’t speak, it just means that knowing when to speak is vitally important. Your ability to keep your mouth shut at the right moment reduces the risk of missing out on something being said. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone miss something important because they were too busy talking when they should have been listening. Even the navy says that loose lips sink ships. I know that is referring to a talkative person exposing confidential information, but a loquacious person misses things that could be the difference in landing in America or making your way to India.
- Following Directions Requires a Cool Head: You’re more apt to go off track if you’re a person who easily loses your cool. Just like your ability to listen and your ability to remain silent, your ability to maintain a level head and not give in to anger will enable you to take the directions you’ve been given and carry them out properly. Moses allowed his anger to cloud his judgment when he smashed the first tablets that God had inscribed the Ten Commandments on. He also allowed anger to creep in when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as he had been told. Anger is an enemy to your ability to get the job done right, so keep a cool head.
- Following Directions Requires a Sharp Eye: It definitely pays to have a keen eyesight. In any job, it the person who has the gift for attention to details that generally will get things done right quickly. In the game of chess, the ones who play best at the championship level are the ones who can quickly assess the landscape of the board and come up with a strategy that encompasses multiple options for what the opponent will do. I recently read an article about a woman who lost $40,000 over a two year period and could not get it back, simply because when she filled out the paperwork for her direct deposit she was off by one number on the account that it should have gone into. That resulted in the money going to someone else.
Whether you’re a leader or a follower, you’re always following someone, and your ability to follow directions during those times can make a world of difference. Make sure that when you’re in the position of following you maintain an ear to hear, a mouth than remains closed, a cool head and that you have a sharp eye. These traits will definitely pay major dividends.
QUESTION: What are your best practices for ensuring that you follow directions?
- Leading with Anger (tacanowblog.com)
- Angry, Angry Birds (faithpondering.com)
- Listen Twice As Much As You Speak! (simplyjuliana.com)
- Communication’s Biggest Secret: Knowing When To Keep Your Mouth Closed (forbes.com)