Most of us are familiar with Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken”… and as I sat with a friend sipping tea in a waterfront cafe, listening to his dilemma, the poem came back to me in waves.
Over the years, we have misinterpreted Mr. Frosts poem. We have condensed it down to a choice – and in our minds eye, Mr. Frost took the path less taken, and that made all the difference – but, if you go back and read the poem, you will find that interpretation is incorrect. The writer actually was faced with a decision, and both were equal – there was no one road that was better than the other – they were both the same.
Here is the poem to refresh your memory:
The Road Not Taken
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;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
You see, the writer came upon two roads – both had been worn equally the same. ~ And both that morning equally lay ~ In leaves no step had trodden black. ~ Having to choose one, he decided he would come back one day to travel the other one, but he knew himself, and knew it was unlikely he would come back to explore the other path. Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
He decided instead in the future he would recount the tale as he took the road less traveled – basically making the story more interesting to tell. A farce really… both paths were equal, perfectly good paths, both trodden and well traveled – but he wanted to sound like an adventurist so he fabricated the story – and it works, because the last stanza of this poem is frequently all that is quoted, and all that we remember. ~ Two roads diverged in a wood and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
So, what does this have to do with me having tea with a friend in a quaint cafe by the waterfront? My friend was telling me that he was 4 years into his business and while it was over the hump of “startup” and was starting to see real success and potential…the cash wasn’t coming in fast or steady enough to cover expenses. He needed to take care of his family, and he was contemplating getting a J.O.B.
He was at a crossroads…. and I was very familiar with the intersection he was at, because I have stared down those two paths myself. Both perfectly good paths. Both honorable, both well trodden. Both have been well traveled – there was no right or wrong. Both had bumps and pitfalls, but both also had rewards and payoffs. What he needed was to decide what was best for him, his family, and his immediate needs – and his immediate needs were to pay his food, lights and mortgage.
When you are a business owner, sometimes you need to choose a difficult path. Sometimes, you have to get off the road entirely. Whether you come back to that road is up to you.
The difference between my friend and Mr. Robert Frost is, he can decide to come back and take the other road later. In fact, he can make a very intentional goal to double back. But FIRST he needs to take the road that is going to cover his immediate needs. Once the earth stops shaking and he is back on solid ground, he can come back to the road of entrepreneurship and travel light. My advice to him…. “Cover your expenses, get debt free, build up an emergency fund… and if you desire, go back to the road you didn’t take before…. you will be able to travel further down the road of entrepreneurship when the stress of providing for your family is not weighing you down. Furthermore, it won’t be like starting over, you have already traveled so far, and know the way.”
Who knows, in the future, when my friend is telling his turning point story, perhaps he will recount the moment of being at a crossroads and tell someone he took the road less traveled…. but more likely he will say he chose the road that got him to where he needed to be, so he could travel more roads another day.
Have you ever had to choose one path over another? Please share your experiences!
Hit the Heights!
The Natural Leadership & Business Guide
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