A Lost Skill That Can Save Your Life (and Set You Free)

Technology has its limits. Relying on it to save your life is no different from relying on somebody else to save your life.

If it fails, so do you.

We learned our lesson several years ago when we installed an expensive new GPS system on our boat in Baltimore’s famed harbor.

It was something we’d done several times before. It’s not complicated. We mounted the unit, ran all the wires and connected the antenna. Everything lit up as it was supposed to when we hit the power button.

But something peculiar happened.

The unit couldn’t find any satellites in the sky. It searched and searched… but nothing.

We weren’t happy. We were convinced the unit was defective.

But then something weird happened – the president’s helicopter lifted off from the stadium just down the street. Shortly after it passed… voila, we had our satellites.

Clearly, there was a connection. We’ll let you ponder exactly what it was.

It was a stern reminder that the systems we rely on could be gone in an instant – with the mere flick of a switch, we’d be lost.


That’s why having the Know-How to read and understand a map is a vital skill. And yet, thanks to modern conveniences and fresh technology, it’s quickly becoming a lost art.

Men have been making maps almost as long as we’ve been on the planet. We’ve used them to draw up battle plans, to tell our cave buddy where to find some easy food and to help us explore the globe.

For millennia, though, our maps were lousy. They were inaccurate. There were no standards. And they weren’t all that reliable. But over the last 100 years, mankind got really good at making maps.

Know how to unlock all the data within them and not only will you have a skill that could save your life, but you’ll be able to impress your pals.

Don’t know how to read a map, and you’re walking into a dangerous trap.

Eventually, it will hurt you.


It’s not hard to navigate with a map. On the simplest level, it takes nothing more than a compass. At its most complex level (as we were tested during our final Coast Guard exams), we need just a few basic plotting tools.

We’ll focus on the simple. It’s what could save your life when the system fails.

First, you must know how to use a map or chart to get from point A to point B. In other words, you need to know how to plot your course.

With a good orienteering compass (like the one below), it’s easy.

Let’s say we’re at a pond in the woods and get off the trail. We need to know which way to walk to get back to our car.


Lay our map on the ground, put the compass on it and simply slide the edge of it to our current position, lining up the same edge with our destination.

From there, we’ll turn the bezel (rotating dial) of the compass until the orienting lines (again, see the image above) point north on the map. That’s it… the bearing you need will be shown by the travel direction arrow – not the needle. Simply read the number where it intersects with the bezel and then use the compass to head in that direction.

But what if you don’t know where you are?

What if you dunked your GPS, the system went down or, wouldn’t it be fun, you simply went into the woods without the aid of technology?

With a good map and a compass, it’s not hard to find your location.

Simply look around. See a mountaintop, a pond or maybe a tower?

If so, use your compass to set a bearing. In other words, what direction is the object in relation to you? Now find the same feature on the chart and plot a line with the same bearing leading to it. You’re somewhere on that line.

That helps… but it could be a really long line.

To get your exact location, do the same thing again using a different landmark. Draw that line and, where the two connect… voila. That’s where you are.

Orienteering is quickly becoming a lost skill. But it’s a vital skill. No doubt it’s a skill our granddaddies knew well.

In many cases, it’s a skill that keeps men alive.

As we continue our journey toward true fulfillment, it’s an art that we too must nurture. This sort of Know-How has proven vital in leading a richer, fuller life.

It’s simple stuff. Too bad most folks don’t know anything about it.

It could save your life or maybe just set you free.

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