by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth”
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
In our lives we are often faced with forks in the road. There are multiple roads that lie just in front of us, but we become frozen, unable to choose which one to take. We often do as Frost did, trying to look down the road as far as we can see. We are hoping to see where the road goes, to see what dangers lie ahead, to see if the road even leads to somewhere. We sift through our pockets hoping to find the map that shows us where the roads lead to. But the map isn’t there. We look around for friends, family, and colleagues to help us make the decision. We hope their advice can provide more clarity on the road that we should take. But they are not standing there. We reach for our smart phone to Google whether anyone else has ever been at this same fork in the road. We hope that their travels can shed light on the decision that we have to make. But our phone is dead, dang it why didn’t we charge it before we left! We hope that we can push our decision out by waiting at the fork in the road. But then we remember we forgot to pack a snack for the road. Suddenly we realize that we are all alone standing at that fork in the road. We are frozen by the fear of failure. We begin to remember all the bad decisions that we have made in our lives. Our heads are drowning in a pool of memories of failures in life. What if I pick the wrong road? What if I screw everything up by picking the wrong road?
These forks in the road can come in many different forms. Sometimes they involve our relationships in life. Sometimes they involve career moves. Sometimes they involve the plans for our businesses. Every person meets these forks in the road in their life, but how we respond to them differs greatly. Without the ease of help at our side, we battle the choice within in our head, hoping to not make a mistake that will leave us way behind on our road of life. Many of us want to take the road that others have traveled before because it is safe. But there is a whole other group of us who want to follow Frost’s decision and take the one less traveled by. While there is a greater chance that the road less traveled will end in failure, there is also a greater chance that the less traveled road will lead to incredible success. This is the road where change happens. This is the road where innovation exists. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to be more than we currently are. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to make a difference. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to blow past the limits of our lives.
I recently found myself traveling a road that was going in a direction that I had no interest in. I had started on that road because it looked good as I stood at the fork in the road. I knew many others who had traveled that road before and I knew it would be very safe. But as I traveled the road I realized that it was such a limited road, filled with boring landscapes, and it didn’t entice my innovation or fit the type of traveler that I was. I had worked so hard to get to that fork in the road and suddenly I realized that I had made the wrong choice. Not only was the road very boring, but it didn’t play to my skills and strengths. The road was filled with potholes that others had placed in front of me. It was limiting who I could be and what I could do.
As my eyes opened to the dearth of this road, I suddenly remembered the other road I could have chosen at the previous fork. It had been so much more interesting, but also so much more unsafe. I suddenly became excited to get back onto that other road. There was no way I was going to backtrack all the way to the fork so I tore through the underbrush and climbed up over the rocky mountain that stood separating the two roads. I didn’t even turn to look back, but instead charged with full speed down to the road less traveled. I know that failure might lie just ahead on this new road, but it is worth taking the chance. So for this entrepreneur, I am pushing through the idea that it might fail and I am going for it all. Life isn’t worth struggling down a road that everyone else is already on. So my question to you is “Are you on the road less traveled?”