Woman standing by the East River in Brooklyn, looking across the water at downtown Manhattan

What is a Wayfinder?

There is a type of person known in every human tradition on earth—except ours—as a source of wisdom, guidance, healing, and insight. We don’t have a name for these people. We don’t know how to train them. And as a society, we’re suffering because we don’t know how to access and benefit from their gifts.

These people are born, not made. And they are all around us. Just as in every other society, all over the globe and reaching back thousands of years, there are individuals in our culture with a particular collection of traits and skills that set them apart from others. Elsewhere, young people who exhibited these characteristics would be identified by elders and trained for a lifetime vocation. Their training involved learning to chart a purposeful course through life, and then helping other people do the same.

These individuals—even in wildly different cultures—always share an unusual set of skills. They are the tribe’s healers, psychologists, spiritual leaders, animal behaviorists, naturalists, doctors, mystics, storytellers, artists, and more. (In our society, you can be an artist, a naturalist, a doctor, a minister, etc.—but not all these things at once.)

In some cultures, the multifaceted individuals were called “medicine people.” In other parts of the world, their names were translated into English as “shamans.”

I call them Wayfinders.

This term is borrowed from the anthropologist Wade Davis, who coined the word “Wayfinder” to describe the ancient navigators of the Pacific Islands. These people rode simple wooden catamarans to tiny islands over thousands of miles of open ocean, “reading” the stars, waves, and patterns of marine life with incredible skill. They were like human supercomputers. To an outsider, their abilities appear almost magical.

Several years ago I wrote a book which applied Davis’s term more generally to this archetype, this type of person for whom we have no common English word. “Wayfinder” works for me, because these people serve to guide and help others find their way through life itself. Though not all Wayfinders travel across oceans, they are all master navigators.


Am I a Wayfinder?

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you fit the profile of a Wayfinder. While there isn’t a single way to be sure, we can make an educated guess.

Try this for starters. You may feel like a misfit: alienated, searching, unsure of what you’re meant to do but unwilling to confine yourself to the roles people want you to play. At the same time, friends and acquaintances may seek you out for advice or guidance—even if you feel a bit lost yourself. You may have unusual amounts of empathy and sensitivity. You are probably aware that you haven’t yet found your best path through life.

I believe that our culture is sprinkled with Wayfinders who don’t know what they are. They yearn to be of service, and also want to forge their own unusual path through life. But there are no elders recognizing and training them. They are trying to find their way, but there’s precious little to guide them.

Helping these people to understand their calling, and training them to fulfill it is my life’s work.


Training as a Wayfinder

The practice of Wayfinding helps you find your way through the chaos of the world by identifying what you feel deeply drawn to do. It also reveals your innate ability to move forward toward your goals. Each Wayfinder is unique—no two of us have exactly the same path—but we share a set of talents that help us find the way, with just a bit of training. 

If you suspect you’re a Wayfinder, you may long to develop the navigational skills you possess by nature. You may also wish you could make a living doing what you were born to do. You can. Our culture calls Wayfinder work “life coaching”—a term that doesn’t capture the essence of Wayfinding, but works in a pinch. If this sounds interesting, you may want to become a Wayfinder Life Coach.

The method we use to train Wayfinders combines guided introspection with practical scientific research. We teach people how to access their essential selves and find their right direction—their own North Star. Once you’ve learned this for yourself, it will be time to help others find their way. 


The world needs you

Right now, change is moving faster and more chaotically than at any previous point in history. The whole world feels like a turbulent sea, with no clear landmarks. But trained Wayfinders can access internal “compasses” that chart a course through even the wildest ocean. More than ever before, the world needs Wayfinders to step into and serve their destinies.

Of course, our individual destinies are as unique as our fingerprints. But we each have the ability to navigate any territory toward the destiny that’s ours alone. Wayfinding is about going to the edges of what you know and then going further, always going further, because the adventure and camaraderie of the journey is what lights us up and serves the world.

If you are a Wayfinder, I hope you can embrace your identity. I know you can push the boundaries of compassion, knowledge and ability to an almost infinite degree. You’ll find the way to be your truest self, always on the edge of transforming into something more and more beautiful, always finding your way forward to experience your own joy, and spread your light to others.