Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Growing up, I was never the biggest, the strongest, or the best looking. I wasn’t the best at school, nor was I exceptionally gifted at sports. My hand-eye connection was unimpressive, and quite frankly, I was a klutz. My mom was acutely aware of this, and more than once forbade me from touching anything of any value. For example, when I was 11, my cousin Teck bought a brand new hi-fi set (for those of you born after 1985, this is something us old-timers listened to music on before CDs came out). I wasn’t allowed to touch it, period.
I also lacked the skills to ingratiate myself to other people. Many of my teachers, in fact, found me onerous, so charisma wasn’t my strong suit either.
It’s a good thing we had tons of money!
Oh wait, no we didn’t.
The Dummy’s guide to taking the road less traveled
So, what’s an exceptionally average kid to do?
Become a holy terror and spend the next few years experimenting, of course! Trying to be a “bad boy,” I made the incredibly wise decision to join a gang (worst gangster ever), shoplifted (quickly got caught), and pirated porno tapes in a country where it was banned (I was actually pretty good at that), before I finally realized I had to take my own path if I was going to find myself.
Many wrongs can make a right
It took several turns for me to realize there is no such thing as a wrong turn. “Wrong” turns are really just great learning opportunities in disguise, no matter how much those around me said I was screwing up. In fact, thanks to the school of hard knocks, I walked away from my tumultuous youth a very learned man. My experimentation led to a successful career as an entrepreneur, and I finally found something I was good at – being a husband and father.
My experiences have left me with a handful of “rules,” in no particular order, that constantly remind me to take my own path.
- Travel: Go for as long as you’re able. Go far. You’ll broaden your worldview, learn something about yourself, and build lasting memories and relationships.
- Simplify: It took me a while to realize I didn’t need all the crap I thought I needed to be happy. I was also under the false impression that I needed things to have friends.
- Give: I try to make an impact when I can by giving my time, or supporting local organizations that make a real difference in my community.
- Learn: Ask questions, and challenge your own assumptions. The more you do it, the more you’ll find how little you really know.
- Love: Love was a selfish pursuit when I was younger. I “loved” love because it made me feel alive. With a good woman and kids (and dog), that changed into something less self-centered, and I am a better person for it.
The road less traveled may feel like reaching for the stars at times, but it’s worth it. Taking some risks and making a commitment to being your authentic self can lead you down roads you never thought possible.