One Choice: Making All The Difference
The Road Not Taken
Often misunderstood, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” isn’t really about the choice of the path less traveled making all of the difference. It is about one choice making the difference in which path your life takes.
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.
— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Most people read the last stanza and assume that the difference was in taking the road less traveled. However, taking the full text into account, you realize, neither road was more or less traveled than the other. The difference wasn’t in choosing the “less traveled” road, but rather in the choice itself between one road and the other.
The Impact of One Choice
What impact can one choice make? There have been so many times in my life that a single choice greatly impacted my life.
The choice that had the biggest impact was my decision to join MySpace way back in the early days of social media. At the time, I was in a long-distance relationship, and my girlfriend convinced me to join. I had no idea at the time that decision would later lead to me meeting my eventual wife.
Even looking through history, many times a single choice changed the entire course of history. How would US history have unfolded had Lincoln not decided to go to the theatre the night of April 14, 1865? If Germany had not attacked Russia in World War II, would Germany have conquered all of Europe? Would the civil rights movement have had the impact that it did without Rosa Parks making the decision to sit on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama?
Of Dominos and Butterflies
The shorthand is the Butterfly Effect. A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.
— Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
Seemingly insignificant decisions can lead to a series of events that would have never occurred without that catalyst. Going back to my decision to join MySpace, not only did that lead to me meeting my wife, it also affected my career path. When we started dating, she convinced me to take a job that would eventually lead to my first IT position. Later her mother opened a job opportunity for me that gave me the experience that helped lead me to where I am now. That one choice that I made led to a domino effect of other choices in my life that would not have been possible had I taken a different path.
The Other Path
There is one thing about that other path, the one not traveled. We can never know what would have been, and we can never turn back and take that other path. What we can do is make the best of the path we chose.
Teaser: Next time we’ll discuss preparing for the inevitable.