Monday, December 10, 2007
The path of least resistance.
The day was getting longer and the trek (originally scheduled for 2 hours) was well into hour 5. Descending a rolling hill, we came upon a fork in the road with two very distinct & separate paths. On the right was a trail marked “the high way”. The high way was a knurly trail, eclipsed by a dense undergrowth that wound its way through (what appeared to be) torturous terrain through rocky outcroppings. We could clearly make out the silhouettes of people moving very freely into the low levels of the horizon. As we stood there, a man emerged from the trail and walked towards us. Sweating profusely, he stopped to offer his take. “the trail gets much better after you make it through the bush”. “I made it all the way up and the vista is breathtaking”. He continued by explaining the reason he had backtracked was to get his brother off of the trail to the left. A trail marked “the path of least resistance”.
The path of least resistance stretched as far as the eye could see in a straight, flat line. It was 5 feet wide by a million feet long and it was jam-packed with people. To get on the trail, there was a one month wait (simply bcs it was not moving), yet people were taking numbers to stand in line. A small town had been created where people had set up make shift homes along the side of the route. Luckily, a few of the people who ventured up the high way doubled back to provide all the necessary services for those waiting to get on the path of least resistance. There was a small Home Depot (from which people could purchase all the necessary camping supplies), Starbucks, (so people could fill up on java and discuss) and mega complex under construction, just to put just about everything else under one roof.
As we headed up the high way, we spoke in awe of how and why so many people choose the path of least resistance. If the high – way offered so much more in terms of accomplishment, perspective and vista, why was it being so under utilized? We deduced that the first cost to venturing onto the high way came in the form of sacrificing convenience. The high road was overgrown, challenging and in some spots clearly dangerous, making it inconvenient to many travelers. People enjoy maximal returns on the heels of minimal investment and to compound that problem, societies brightest have spent countless hours of study and research to ensure we can profit from lazy people. The only problem with such over-convenience is that it comes with a lifetime warranty, when really there is no such thing. At any given day, the power can go out and when we are not equipped to be inconvenienced, we suffer immensely. We need to get more comfortable at being uncomfortable for growth to occur.
Another reason the path of least resistance was so popular revolved around the lack of education of critical points. What was the exact degree of difficulty? How long was the undergrowth before the path cleared? What could people expect ¾ of the way and at the end of the trail and how did that differ from what they could expect on the path of least resistance? As there was no one there to direct people at the fork in the trail, many of the decisions were based on the movement of the masses. In the case that someone did ask, they were given vague or un-assuring answers based on the personal bias of those experienced on the high way travel. People need to know ‘all the facts’ prior to making critical decisions. Again, because arriving at the answers was not convenient we need to make it a priority to supply them with this information before they choose to take the ticket and head into line. (Perhaps a bookstore in the mega complex)
Lack of confidence rounded out the ‘big three’ as far as reasons. As we spoke to many of those who were standing in line to get in line, we were amazed at how so many had drawn their own conclusion simply out of looking at the initial terrain for the high road. “Too much work”, “In a hurry”, “All these people can’t be wrong”, “I heard this was as shortcut” and “There is just no way I could do that” were the top five justifications for not even attempting the trek. We wondered as to what these people had been predisposed to have such a low level of confidence. Basically, it sounded as though they sought comfort with others in the same boat. People seem to migrate towards social conformity as a way of enhancing their own self - confidence without even realizing the sacrifice they are making to their own standards. We need to recognize and reward individuality in our ‘democratic society’ instead of paying so much mental rent to corporate presidents.
As we made our way to the top of the last rock face, we looked over the vast landscape and incredible view. It was truly spectacular. We pulled out our basket and found an expansive meadow to get set up for lunch. To the left, in the distance, we could see the enormity of the path of least resistance and it reminded us of a statement my grandfather once shared about being the lead dog. He said “the view only changes when you are the lead dog, otherwise you spend your entire trip staring right at the ass in front of you and after awhile, that gets depressing”. We chuckled about that and all we had learned while taking the high way and just how valuable the experience was to our overall development. It made us re-evaluate how we wanted to continue to live our lives as well as how we wanted to influence the lives of our children. We made some mental notes and finished the trek on our own time. We didn’t need to wonder how long it took everyone else