The Road Less Traveled

A wooded path among the original forests of Ye...

A wooded path among the original forests of Yercaud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by.  And that has made all the difference.”  — Robert Frost

Yeah, yeah, I know – one of the most overused quotations from poetry.  So overused in fact that it has become trite, overwhelming the original brilliance and beauty of the poem with so many bumper stickers, t-shirts and high-school yearbook quotations.

But the fact is that it is not only a beautiful poem, but it rings true in so many areas of life.  And the search for a job, or a better one, is no exception.

In this age of electronic applications, professional social media and algorithmic automatons parsing through resumes, it should come as no surprise that people need to push the envelope a little to stand out above the crowd, to get the notice and recognition necessary to succeed in today’s marketplace.

According to one posting on CNN, self-discipline is the key to success in business.  And not necessarily the discipline to work inordinate hours, or just to show up at the office each day, but to tackle the tasks that you simply don’t want to do.

  • Self-discipline to “do it scared” is one area.  Address your fears.  After all, it’s natural to be scared – scared to fail, scared to succeed, unsure of how just to get started and scared facing what you don’t know.  But, at the risk of leveraging a slightly less trite truism, “bravery is not the absence of fear; bravery is action in the face of fear”.  Per the article, “in order to stand out, you must develop the habit of acting in the face of fear.  It’s fine to be scared – do it scared.  It’s fine to be unsure – do it unsure.  It’s fine to be uncomfortable – do it uncomfortable.  Just do something.  By just doing something, you create movement and momentum that will lead to progress and results.”
  • Self-discipline to focus on “habits, not results”.  We all have the tendency, at one time or another, to let the inner perfectionist out.  But the article advises, “the best way to overcome this impulse is to put your self esteem into stellar work habits instead of results.”  Essentially, if you consistently do the right thing, instead of focusing on the bottomless Inbox you face each day, you will be staying on top of the wave, surfing to success.
  • Self-discipline to “remember the big picture”.  It’s amazing how many colleagues I have seen who get lost in the forest, staring at all the trees, unable to remember the big picture.  The articles advise, “when you feel frustrated, depressed or disappointed, don’t give up – just get some perspective,” is not bad advice at all.

Maintaining that self-discipline is even more important for the unemployed – especially the long-term unemployed.  With all of the talk that the job search itself is a full-time job, and how difficult it is for many just to get out of bed in the morning and continue to focus on that job search, it is even more crucial for those without an obvious goal for the day to face their fears, get into a routine and remember the big picture.

The fact is, more and more people are out there trying to find new, creative ways to make ends meet.  And these creative ways run the gamut from quite formal (“I have officially opened my own business”) to semi-formal (“I’m just putting out feelers”) to totally unstructured (“I’m just doing what I can to pay the bills”).

Child of the Novelty

Child of the Novelty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many ways, the time has never been so ripe to try something completely new.  No longer do you need thousands of dollars to invest in a storefront in a brick-and-mortar building.  Have an idea?  Open a Web page and see what kind of response you get.  That ability alone has enabled people to find their own way to survive – whether through “consulting”, “designing” or just selling whatever might be handy (little knick-knacks, their bodies, drugs … ).

The fact is, sometimes people are going to have to make the tough choices – especially when one has a family to support.  It is interesting that as time advances, and technology allows us to stay more inter-connected no matter where in the world we are, people in their 20’s are actually less likely to move to another state for a job.

You heard that right, according to the New York Times, today’s youth (those whippersnappers!) are 40% less likely than their counterparts in the 1980’s to move to another state.  Now while I personally would choose the move from Nevada’s 13% jobless rate to North Dakota’s 3.3% jobless rate, even were the job opportunities exactly the same, apparently it is not good enough for a lot of those young bucks coming out of school.  “Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother,” indeed.

“I spoke with a kid from Columbus, Ohio, who dreamed of being a high school teacher.  When he found out he’d have to move to Arizona or the Sunbelt, he took a job in a Columbus tire factory.”

Again, not quite the choice I would take, but to each his own.  In fact, disparaging manufacturing jobs has been a popular endeavor in the past decades – pretty much since the 1960’s when the whole idea of “everyone has to go to college” started to kick in.

But the fact is, manufacturing jobs in the US are not only a field with a good hiring rate and longevity, but they are paying pretty well too.  Even if workers don’t all find those six-figure salaries out there, a nine month program that usually costs less than $10K can net “a starting salary of $40K per year, with the potential to jump to $55K-$65K in less than two years.”

In the end, only you know what is right for you.  And those McJobs can be quite tempting – solid (if small) money and a familiar title might be the right solution for you after all.  But they’re not for everyone, far from it.  Feel free to try to “find yourself”, to find your “bliss”.  And the world will be your oyster.

How’s that for trite?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, 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

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