DDixon Bainbridgeixon discovers that having no sense of direction isn’t a handicap if there’s an upgrade when you arrive.

“You’re here,” the girl behind the desk said, smoothing out the paper with her hand and circling a nondescript brown shape not quite in the middle of the map. “You’re in Room 902. To get there you go …” 

I immediately zoned out. Directions for resorts and shopping malls are not like real maps. Given a UBD, Gregory’s or a Melway, I can navigate my way from Point A to Point B without trouble. I’m on first-name terms with my in-car satnav (I call her NavChick). 

And I’ve used those detailed topographical maps for hiking in the bush and never once been seriously lost.

But stand me in front of a mall directory and ask me to find Big W, or have the resort receptionist explain to me where my room is, and I’m all at sea. When she’d finished explaining the route to my room, I snapped back to reality, left the reception area and immediately, predictably, became lost.

I think a good map creates an image in your head of where you’re going to end up – you can visualise your destination before you set off, and for some reason that seems to make it easier to find your way there. But a store directory or a resort map is different; I find it difficult to orientate myself and can’t as easily visualise where I’m supposed to be going.

Eventually I found my room (through a prolonged process of trial and error but never – because I’m male – stopping to ask for directions). When I got there, the key didn’t work. Not relishing the task of finding reception again, I fortunately spotted a resort phone, so I rang from there.

“That’s funny, the computer says you’re in room 1410,” the voice said when I explained my predicament. “Try that room.”

After acquainting myself with more far-flung parts of the establishment, I found 1410, and the key worked. Room 1410 was patently not the class of room I’d paid for; it was cavernous. The TV was bigger than all the screens I have at home added together. The bathroom was as big as my lounge.

“This will do nicely,” I thought.
So I rang reception again, explained I had a working key for room 1410 and that I was sick of trekking hither and yon because someone had made a mistake and if it didn’t matter terribly to them I’d like to stay right where I was, thanks very much. (I didn’t actually say it exactly that way, but I intended my tone to convey the impression that I was not to be messed with.)

That was how I scored a room upgrade.

When I read the FPA’s consultation paper on financial planning remuneration, I suddenly imagined myself back at resort reception: “You’re here,” says the paper. “You need to be here. This is how we think you can get there.”

I’m struck by a couple of thoughts. First, if this is meant to be a map, I’m cactus. It seems to me to be more like a mall directory than a Melway. I can imagine myself wandering aimlessly for a little while before I properly visualise my destination. On this journey I’m going to have to occasionally ask for directions, rather than just muddle my way through, hoping that by some fluke I turn up where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there.

Second, I know from various offsite management courses I’ve done that 99 per cent of success lies in planning. Or turning up. Or something. Anyway, planning is important. I know that, and even if a plan is initially flawed, it’s apparently better to have something to guide you and then adjust it as you go, rather than set off with no plan at all.

The FPA’s map might not be highly detailed, and may not immediately create an impression in my head of how to get to your final destination. There may be some potholes, unexpected detours, locked doors and maybe even a few dead ends. But you never know: when you reach that final destination, you might even score a room upgrade.

Stranger things have happened. I know, because they often happen to me. But that’s a story for another time. 

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