The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost wrote this poem in 1916. In those days a moment’s perusal of the ground let you know which road was most used. But how did you determine the choice of paths to follow? And for that matter, how do you choose which path to follow in our internet age?

Some reach for inherent reasons to pick their path while others choose extrinsic reasons.

Inherent reasons come to our minds more easily; they’re embedded within the experience. Most people choose the path more travelled by. Their reasoning is that surely it is the best path since more chose it. It’s an easy decision requiring little cognitive effort and little energy.

Extrinsic reasons are quite different. They’re based on the number of factors surrounding you. Unlike inherent reasoning, extrinsic reasoning requires significant cognitive effort. And a large expenditure of energy. As a result, far fewer are willing to take the road less traveled, to expend the energy necessary to go against the decision of others.

In Frost’s day, the choices were relatively simple. One hundred years later, not so much. Thanks to the internet, there are not two paths to choose between. There are an unlimited number of paths you can evaluate and consider with no simple way of deciding which is best other than the number under it showing how many have already chosen it.

As with Frost’s path, most people today default to the most travelled road. We follow the crowd without much thought. Simple, inherent reasoning kicks in. It’s so much easier.

But then there are the few who choose a path rarely or never used. They believe it is worth the extra effort. Sometimes they discover that the path leads nowhere. But sometimes they find it leads to a whole new world they never knew existed…that no one had ever discovered before.

New ideas burst forth. Entrepreneurs wind up developing a new product or service. Electric cars appear, iPhones appear, Amazon appears. New companies create new paths for the inherent reasoners to follow.

Those who become great leaders use extrinsic reasoning. They notice a place where the future can break free from the past and blaze a trail. Perhaps they realize how to revitalize a failing company. Perhaps they notice that with proper direction and leadership a better organization can be developed. Perhaps they blaze a trail toward a better society for all of us.

All it takes is noticing that the inherent reasons we do things box us in. And the realization that there are an infinite number of ways to travel through life. And you can choose from among all of them.

Take the road less traveled…and make a difference.




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