A little over a week ago, a good friend of mine (we pretty much consider him adopted family at this point) had invited us out to Dave & Buster’s. His church was hosting their annual Christmas party, where they honor all of the members who volunteered at the church, in some capacity, throughout the year. Without a doubt, all 6 of us were going to support our adopted family member. And who in their right mind would pass up free food and free gaming? Nobody in my family, that’s for sure. We’re all greedy, and have a self-diagnosed addiction to arcade games
When we arrived at the event, we all had to sign in at the reception booth to get our meal tickets and game cards. The woman at the booth greeted us kindly and asked what kind of chicken we wanted for dinner? Barbecue or Balsamic? Apparently they had only ordered enough food to feed the people who had RSVP’d and didn’t want to risk running out (as they had the year before). So she warned us up front that we had to remember what we chose, because there was no going back once you did. The pressure was on.
Hmmm which do I choose? Balsamic is probably good, but barbecue will most likely be better. See I’ve only ever had balsamic vinaigrette on a salad, never on chicken. So my lack of familiarity with balsamic chicken shied me away from choosing it, and instead drove me toward choosing what I knew and was naturally more comfortable with. Everyone else in my party must’ve had the same thought process, because 1 after the other, they all chose barbecue chicken as well. All but one. I guess Shiela was feeling a little more adventurous than us other 6.
After a brief greeting from the M.C., we were instructed to enter one particular line if we chose barbecue chicken, and to enter another line if we ordered balsamic. Everyone got up in a surprisingly orderly fashion and proceeded to do as instructed. In a few minutes, we all had our plates and sat down to consume mass quantities, feeling pretty happy with our collective decision. Pretty happy that is, until Shiela (the adventurous one) sat down with her plate.
For some unknown reason, D&B had placed all the tasty treats in the balsamic chicken line. We (the majority) were stuck with chicken, rice, and veggies. While Shiela had pizza, teriyaki chicken kabobs, chips and dip… I mean, the works! The second she sat down I said aloud, “And that’s why you should always take the road less traveled.” Nobody got it but my younger brother, who had read the same Robert Kiyosaki book that I had. But we shared the meaning behind that statement with the rest of the table. And now I’m sharing it with you.
Some time ago, Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled, “The Road Not Taken.” If you haven’t read it before, no worries. I’ll write it out for you at the end. But to quickly paraphrase, in the poem a traveler comes to a sort of “fork in the road” and has to make a decision on which path to take. One path looks pretty well trodden. While the other could use a little more love. Why was one more frequented than the other? The poet never shares. But that’s neither here nor there.
So which route do you think the traveler chose? You got it, the one that was begging for somebody to traverse its path. The one begging for somebody to blaze its first trail. Our poetic protagonist wasn’t concerned about following the crowd. He was adventurous… just like Shiela. And in the long run, he was rewarded for it.
So what’s the lesson I learned from barbecue chicken? The lesson I learned from barbecue chicken is that you shouldn’t always choose the familiar. You shouldn’t allow past decisions to dictate what decisions you make in the present. You can use the past as a gauge, but it shouldn’t be your navigator. Familiarity may seem secure and comfortable, but life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I learned that you shouldn’t always take the path of least resistance. In fact, I’m starting to think you should never take the path of least resistance. I say that because any and everything in life that I ever truly had to work for, were the most rewarding things. Whether it was my health, or my grades, or my financial security… it all seemed tough at the outset. And it was. But there’s nothing like overcoming a hard-fought obstacle then looking back at it retrospectively and realizing all the lessons you’ve learned, success habits you developed, and rewards you’ve reaped as a result of the process.
The barbecue chicken also reminded me that if the majority is doing it, I should probably be doing something else. Tying this back to finances, I’ve noticed that the majority of people in this country follow the 40 x 40 plan. We’ve been trained and groomed to work 40 hours/week for 40 years, building somebody else’s company. But far less of us take the chance to strike out on our own and work for ourselves (or even team up with some friends/family to start your own business together). But why is that?
I think it’s because, one, deep down we have a fear of economic failure. And, two, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking you should just get good grades, to get a good job, to live the “American Dream,” then retire at 65. Why? Because it’s what everybody else does. It’s what your parents did, and it’s what your parents (and our education system) raised you to do.
Both have hints of perfectly rational thinking. I would like to think that this mode of thought would have to be based in some type of reason for so many to buy into this system. Which is why I am by no means knocking it. But the truth of the matter is, we’re settling for a life of mediocrity (living well beneath our full potential) in exchange for a false security (myself included). Instead of taking some risks, pushing ourselves to our limits, and living our lives the way they were truly meant to be lived. No holds barred.
I have yet to meet a person who could tell me with a straight face that living an ordinary, mediocre life is fulfilling. If it were, the majority of Americans wouldn’t complain about their jobs. The majority of Americans wouldn’t dread getting up every day for work, and live for the weekends. Ask yourself, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? What would I do if I wasn’t concerned with what everybody else thought and embraced being different?
What the barbecue chicken reminded me is that extraordinary people who live extraordinary lives are just ordinary people who do a little bit extra. So in life, if you really want to win big, if you really want to become the best version of yourself and live to your fullest potential… you have to take the road less traveled by and that will make all the difference.
That December night at Dave & Buster’s, probably 80% of the people in attendance chose the barbecue chicken. But it was the 20% who had the better food selection. It was the 20% who had all the options. Yeah we 80% ate “good.” But we could’ve been eating better if we decided to go against the grain and step outside of the norm.
It’s amazing what a little, lowly piece of barbecue chicken can teach you about life. And hopefully it’s a lesson that will not soon be forgotten. Given that lesson, I’ll be a little more leery about following the crowd. I’ll be a little more cognizant of making decisions based off what “I’ve always done” or what “they’ve always done.” The next time I come to a fork in the road, I’ll break out my machete and clear a path for myself, instead of following the path that’s already been cleared for me. Because it’s the unfamiliar, that thing you often times fear and excuse away with reason, that carries the greatest reward.
The funny thing about fear is it always stands directly in front of the promise. Bishop T.D. Jakes likes to say, there’s always a giant at the gate. As a Believer, I’m fully convinced that every day we all face an enemy who wants nothing more than to perpetuate our living a life beneath our privilege. And the way he maintains control is by using FEAR (that false evidence appearing real) as his border patrol.
As long as you stay within the boundaries and color inside the lines, he’s good and won’t bother you. The path will be smooth and clear. But the second you try to cross that border, all hell will break loose. You’ll be met with all types of opposition and obstacles whose only aim is to deter you and drive you to turn back. Because what the enemy knows, that we often times fail to realize, is that most people confuse resistance with impossibility. And that confusion is what drives us to quit.
It is for this very reason that I encourage you to always remember that just because it’s tough, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you should settle for mediocrity. Just because it’s unfamiliar, it doesn’t necessarily mean that familiarity is your friend. And if you fear it, you should always face it. Because your promise is just on the other side.
Think of it like this… people use guard dogs to protect what they value in an effort to keep people from taking it. They don’t use them to protect what they couldn’t care less about. In much the same way, the enemy uses fear to protect what he values (our full potential) and keep it away from us. My point is he wouldn’t need to guard it, if it wasn’t valuable.
That’s why I always say to myself, “Yeah I was afraid, but I did it anyhow.” Because I’ve learned that once you do something, you’ll always find that you see your way clear. I think it’s time that we started leaning a little more on faith, and start challenging how we see ourselves. It’s amazing what you can do when you believe. As Henry Ford used to say, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
I know this blog was a little different than what I typically write. But I hope that didn’t keep you from gaining something from it. Be blessed. And as promised, here’s Robert Frost’s poem (print it out if you’d like – I know I did):
The Road Not Taken
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.