I am at the front of our little band, as we follow a path that makes a few traverses on its way up the mountain. Distracted, I miss the turn at one end of a traverse, and I follow a faint path that eventually fades to nothing. I stop and turn around to face the others.
"Oops," I say. "I must've missed the turn. Let's go back."
They razz me mercilessly.
We find the path again, and resume our climb, and I'm demoted. I'm now at the rear. I have time to reflect on paths — career paths and life paths.
When you find yourself on a path, you know some things right away:
- Other people have been here before
- The path might not lead anywhere — it could be a dead end. All you know for sure is that people have been here before. I wasn't the first to miss the traverse.
- You might be going the right way — or not
- Worn paths don't tell you which way people before you were going. Being on a well-worn path isn't evidence that you're going the right direction. And what's right for others might not be right for you.
- A guide can help
- Find someone who's been there before, or get a map. But even if you have a guide, stop often to ask locals about twists, turns, or troubles ahead. If the guide and the path disagree, believe the path, not the guide.
- Paths sometimes detour around obstacles
- Even after the obstacles disappear, the path's kinks remain. Following a path around an obstacle that no longer exists makes little sense.
- Watch for danger warnings
- Sometimes the
- Some paths branch off from the main path, and sometimes they're marked "Danger." Sometimes the warning signs are missing. Sometimes they're wrong. You're the ultimate judge of safety, and you're responsible for the consequences of your choices.
- There's no safety in numbers
- The entire crowd you're traveling with could be heading into trouble.
- If you see a crowd coming the other way, stop and chat
- Find out what's up ahead, and why they're all going away from where you're headed.
- To find something new, you have to leave the path
- On a path, discovery will be rare unless you do something different — like get off the path.
- Turning back is always an option
- If you decide that the path might not be for you, don't keep going just because you came all this way. Turn off or turn back.
- Watch for interesting but ignored diversions
- Sometimes the intriguing side roads hold the most adventure and the prettiest scenery, and maybe even the most fascinating people.
Think about the path you're on. Is there a turn-off up ahead that looks intriguing? Or is there a turn-off behind you, one that you passed by, and perhaps regret passing? Can you go back? Top Next Issue
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- Eight hours a day — usually more — of meetings, phone calls, reading and writing email and text messages, briefing others or being briefed, is enough to drive anyone around the bend. To re-energize, to clarify one's perspective, and to restore creative capacity, play is essential. Play at work, I mean. Available here and by RSS on August 28.
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