The Road Not Taken

Yield to temptation, it may not pass your way again.

Robert A. Heinlein. From The Notebook of Lazarus Long

I always read this quote from Heinlein not as advice to indulge in anything that you fancy, but rather, the author urging the reader to take the other road whenever the fork appears.

There is a Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, where the author regrets what he will miss by not taking that other road and I believe that this is what Heinlein means by “yield to temptation”.

Taking the other road is something I have done a lot in my life. I moved to Canada to marry a guy I’d only met on the Internet, I gave up a law career and decided to write novels instead. Those are the biggies. There are other, smaller decisions that involved taking the unexpected path and I have to say all of them have worked out.

None of the other paths led to disaster. If I extrapolate and guess what life would have been like if I’d taken the safe or “normal” path, I can say that if my guesses are close, then I am very glad I took the other path.

I was already aware of the regret some people have for the road not taken, way back in Australia, and it was one of the principal reasons I decided to make the move to Canada. People on their deathbeds rarely bewail the mistakes, and the things they have done that didn’t work out. They very nearly always regret the things they didn’t do. For that reason, I knew I had to go to Canada to see if things could work out with Mark.

Twenty-two years later, I’m still here.

Taking the other road, the uncommon road, usually requires a huge amount of courage and a degree of obstinacy in the face of other people’s usually well-intentioned warnings and advice not to proceed. It also needs careful weighing up of the risks and potential pay-offs.

Sometimes you don’t get the time or chance to assess the risk. In those moments, I suggest stepping off the smooth and regular road onto the little-used path you’re contemplating. I guarantee you will be surprised at the results.