If you’ve seen ex-MP, Michael Portillo on TV, you may be familiar with Bradshaw’s Railway Companion published in1840. But it is not just ex-MPs who are obsessed with out of date timetables and maps. I recently bought a 1916 Ordnance Survey Map as a prop for a talk about how human beings get stuck in out-of-date maps of reality. Most of the people who talked to me after my presentation were more interested in the 97 year old map than in improving the quality of their own lives.
Of course, no-one in their right mind (in their right mind) would attempt to travel around the UK using an 1840s railway guide or a 1916 ordnance survey map and yet that is precisely what many people do in their personal lives and careers.
We all have an internal map of reality which we form at a young age. At first we update the map as we continue to learn and develop. Paradoxically the brakes go on when we start school. For some, by the time they leave formal education the train has ground to a shuddering halt somewhere in a rusty siding. All too often this is where it remains until the fateful day when the dreaded scrap merchant turns up.
So just how rusty are your rails? How long has the grass been growing under your wheels? Can you even find the engine, never mind remember who the engine driver was?
In the Thomas Tank Engine stories, by the Rev W Awdry, The Fat Controller appears at crucial moments in the narrative to admonish the bad engines and to congratulate the very useful engines. Sometimes, as in the case of Thomas himself, usefulness is rewarded with the gift of a new branch line and a set of your very own carriages. The message is clear; what matters is not whether this is the way the world is, but whether the beliefs you have about the world are useful or self-limiting.
When was the last time you forged a new route, laid down some new track or at the very least, changed your own points?
As the world changes, our well-worn timetables, metaphorical route maps, and habitual rail networks become obsolete more and more quickly. In real life, as on the Awdry’s fictional railway island of Sodor, you do not have to accept your lot as a long discarded troublesome truck or obsolete steam engine. You do not have to end your days bricked up in a tunnel like Henry the Green engine. You can recognise and accept your true role as The Fat Controller in your own story. And do be sure to choose the most useful interpretation of that ambiguity.The Fat Controller is the controller who controls the fat.
You can create new networks, update rail routes and discard old cargoes, trucks and engines that no longer serve a useful purpose. You can even branch out into other modes of transport. The exemplary Fat Controller of today knows no limits and runs a company like Virgin Galactic or Space X. Forget Sodor; some of us are heading for Mars.
Any system of transport and communication is only ever limited by its owners. The destinations are limitless and a journey of a thousand miles begins with (i) a chosen destination and (ii) the first step.