— Marcus Aurelius
The teacher who introduced me to Robert Frost and “The Road Not Taken” taught that it was about being an individual and taking risks, and marching to a different drummer.
I drank the Koolaid and accepted it…hook, line and sinker.
Until recently, it never occurred to me to ask if “all the difference” made by the road taken was really a good thing.
Let’s have a look and determine which road is the better one for us to take.
If you go back to the poem, we can see that both paths are equally trodden.
The one taken wasn’t better or worse.
It was simply a different road.
Nothing that Frost writes in the poem indicates that the other road would have been a bad one to take.
Yet…there’s this notion that not taking it was the right decision.
With all that’s been going on in the world right now…
I’ve been thinking about the roads we travel, the technology we adopt, the trends we follow…and the values we demonstrate.
It seems to me that when I was growing up in the sixties and early seventies…the road was clear, less cluttered and easier to navigate vs now, with so many distractions, complexity and uncertainty.
Is one road better than the other?
Both are equally trodden, but with different versions of the same problems.
Think about two roads.
One road is post Gutenberg, but also pre-mass communication, before the phone, TV, 5G and computer and every advanced innovation we have today.
The other road reflects today, with smartphones and TV’s, social media and online gambling, 24/7 access to pornography, relentless advertising, filthy music lyrics, highly sexualized messages, privacy issues, freedoms being stripped away, deep fake technology, robots replacing workers…and all other sorts of technology and behavior.
Road one is rather clear.
As time ticks, maybe a billboard starts to pop up. Maybe a car passes and a rest stop appears on the horizon, and other people start to travel the road, and those people share one by one.
The other road is cluttered, noisy and filled with one distraction and temptation after another.
All people on that road do is share, consume, talk and bounce from trend to trend and shiny object to shiny object.
It’s like navigating through the fog, but on a clear day, with fog replaced by people, selfies, tweets and time wasting videos.
Road one dictates that there are fewer interactions, but when they occur, there’s meaning and they’re remembered.
Road two dictates millions of interactions, but when they occur, they’re insignificant and quickly forgotten.
Today, you have to work harder to give and receive meaning.
The road I keep going back to is road one.
Less communication. Less clutter.
More intimacy. More joy.
That road worked for a long time, yet there’s this push to go down a different road and at a faster pace.
Don’t do what’s been done in the past.
Keep looking to the future, to the road yet to be taken.
Maybe instead of traveling toward the next big thing, the better choice is u-turning toward the past and tapping into what has always worked.
• Hard work and dependability has always worked.
• Being honest has always worked.
• Doing the right thing has always worked.
• Keeping promises has always worked.
• Going the extra mile has always worked.
• Attention to detail has always worked.
• Being transparent has always worked.
• Thinking before you act has always worked.
• Taking responsibility for your actions has always worked.
• Apologizing for mistakes has always worked.
• Self reliance and self-sufficiency has always worked.
• Saving more than you spend has always worked.
• Creating something of value has always worked.
• Finishing strong has always worked.
• Writing a thank you letter has always worked.
• Civility and etiquette has always worked.
• Respecting others’ opinions has always worked.
• Communicating in more than 140 characters has always worked.
• Picking up the phone or meeting in person, instead of only texting or emailing has always worked.
Covid in many ways has been a blessing…for me at least.
It has provided time for reflection, deep thinking and the re-prioritizing of time around what truly matters most to me and my family.
Now and in the future…
I’m looking forward to doing less of what’s on the cluttered road and more of the clear road, the old road, the one that, like the Energizer bunny, keeps going, and going and going.
I want to travel both roads, worn really about the same.
Doing so, I believe will make all the difference.
How about you?
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