(Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– The Road Not Taken, Roberst Frost
Whenever I’m going through a tiring or exhausting moment, feeling lazy or unmotivated, or feeling frustrated with myself or the things happening around me, I like to remind myself of my 3 options:
- You can either choose to be cool and fit-in, or you can choose stand out.
- You can either choose to be cute, or you can choose to be useful.
- You can either choose to be comfortable, or you can choose to be great.
But I can’t choose to be both.
It’s possible that by choosing one I’ll still get the other, but it’s more likely because I chose the more difficult option. But I can’t pursue opposing values and expect to arrive anywhere. Just as heading north, then heading south, then heading north, then heading south will keep me stuck, trying to be cool yet standout, cute yet useful, and comfortable yet great, is practically impossible. So I need to choose. And I need to choose with an understanding that when I choose one direction I forsake the other.
Which is why I find a lot of the popular advice today to be destructive to success because it makes us choose the path of least resistance. If you only really do the things you enjoy, then you will be incredibly one-dimensional and limited, for there is no great achievement without skill, and there is no skill that can be developed without doing difficult things we don’t enjoy. If we only listen to politically correct things, which are usually things that are not offensive, then we water down our ability to learn from ideas that start out as a difficult but bear good fruit. An example of this for me is when a mentor of mine, Butch Bautista, told me that if I didn’t learn to focus I would fail and waste my potential. I remember my discomfort at being told I would fail but I’m so grateful to him today. Today’s popular thinking is to avoid conflict, avoid confrontation, avoid painful truths, avoid offending feelings, and avoid rocking the boats. Don’t realize is that by avoiding painful lessons, painful disciplines, and making painful choices, and doing all this without losing compassion and hope, we build the type of character that can withstand life’s realities and take on the cares of others. The world is not made better by people avoiding evil and the pain it causes. The world is made better by people who confront evil and confront pain.
This isn’t some old fashioned advice. It’s simple logical reasoning.
I think logical reasoning is gravely missing in the thinking of people today. It’s sad that many people have lost the ability to reason with clarity due to an overemphasis on political correctness and the sensitivity of egos. Sometimes we need to be ruthless with ourselves, particularly with the bad habits, the excuses, and the mediocre relationships that hold us back. Ruthless self-reflection, is a humbling exercise, but if we’re willing to learn, it becomes the first step towards improvement. We shouldn’t muddy our thinking with how people will perceive us. We must focus on the purpose we desire to achieve, the task at hand, and the commitments we’ve made. Focusing on these things gives us clarity, and this clarity gives us confidence to “go boldly in the direction of our dreams”, as a popular Thoreau quote goes.
So here’s my advice for success: Choose the road that forces you to confront your yourself.
Do the workout that makes you sore but gets you results.
Read the books that give you a headache and study them. You’ll learn what you don’t know – and it’s usually what we don’t know that limits us.
Seek mentors who point out your weaknesses.
Learn to listen to your spouse – especially on the parts you don’t llike to hear. I have an incredibly hard time with this, but find that Yasmin is many times right. I’m learning that wives have a way of being illogical but right, so I’m learning to do the right thing beyond just the logical thing, a lesson I’m learning to appreciate. If you’re not married, learn to listen to your parents with humility and teachability! That’s the best practice for being married!
Persevere in the difficult jobs. They teach you critical skills and more importantly strengthen character.
Take on impossible roles. You’ll learn that impossible is nothing, and better, that nothing is impossible.
Wake up in ungodly hours – even on weekends – because your purpose never ends.
Don’t hunger for praise. Hunger for improvement.
Don’t judge your performance according to your fans. Judge your performance according to world standards.
While everyone else Pokemon Goes, go boldly in the direction of your dreams – and I hope it’s more than catching a digital creature. (Nothing against computer games. I actually really like them. Ask Yasmin. But they should be enjoyed in their right time and place.)
While everyone is cheering for the next big must-enjoy distraction, be focused, even if you’re the party-pooper, because you understand that you don’t build great things with distractions but with diligence.
Move out of your comfort zone – starting with moving out of your parents home. The sooner you pay your own dues, the sooner you can start getting better at it. The sooner you pay your dues, the sooner success will come to you.
Have discriminating taste – especially with who you call your friends. I’ve come to. Wet quite a few people, but call very few people my friends. We will become the average of the 5 friends we spend the most time with, so choose wisely.
I can go on with examples but the simple point is this: Choose the road that forces you to confront yourself, the path that requires you to face your weaknesses, your insecurities, your fears, your lack of skill, your lack of money, your lack of wisdom. Confront yourself bravely, with perseverance, and humility. Don’t just be a believer, be a philosopher. Don’t just seek experience, seek foundation. Don’t just be a spectator of other people’s stories, choose your own adventure.