Why You Don’t Have to Be Radical, Just a Little Different

Justin Zoradi

Invisible Trails – by James A. Pearson

    Follow the invisible paths
    Walk upon the high places
    The sides of mountains
    The edges of planters along the road
    And when the trail gets too narrow to walk
    Keep your knees bent
    And your feet light
    And your eyes on what calls you
    And dance along its dangers

I love this poem.

I love it because it speaks to a unique trend I’ve noticed for those of us looking for meaning in our lives and work. If you’ve ever read a self-help book or listened to a motivational speaker, there is a lot of talk about how you should “blaze a new path” or “rewrite the rules” in your quest for significance.

They cite famous men like Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin), or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) as people who burned down the old ways of thinking and built an entirely new highway amidst the rubble of the old.

I’m inspired by those stories, but the reality is, very few of us are the burn and build types. And that’s a good thing. People often assume that in order to be successful they have to begin by charting a brand new territory – Something a very small percentage of the population will ever really do.

I believe much of this thinking is what paralyzes everyday people, keeping them complacent, discontent, and stuck in lives and careers they don’t love. You aren’t the next Steve Jobs, so why try at all?

Instead, our focus shouldn’t always be to blaze a new path, but to run along the edges of the ones that already exist.

*Photo by Martin Liebermann, Creative Commons

It’s not enough to be complacent, cruising down the middle of a well-worn path. The grooves are deep, the rocks swept aside. Instead, aspire to tread on the fringes of your industry, racing along its edges, your arms stretched out awkwardly for balance.

Here’s the truth:
You don’t have to be radical, just a little different.

I’ll say that again. You don’t have to be radical, just a little different.

What will happen will surprise you.

By being a little different, over time, you’ll begin to carve out a space for yourself. You started by running on the edges of the trails, but soon the path will narrow. The weeds may brush your ankles as you tromp through. But you’ll be ready for it.

The practice of finding your balance on the edges prepares us for hacking through the brush of a brand new trail.

All the while, you’ll “keep your knees bent/ and your feet light/ and dance along its dangers.“

• • •

Will you do something for me?

In the comment section below, tell me how you are on the fringe of a trail? How are you dancing along the planter instead of the middle of the road?

If you aren’t there yet, what can you do to get there? What in your work can be done a tiny bit differently and how can you be the person to do it?

Justin Zoradi

Justin Zoradi

This is a post by Justin Zoradi, one of the Storyline Contributors. Pick up a copy of his latest book, Doing Work That Matters, on his website and make sure to follow along on Twitter (@justinzoradi) for regular updates. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.