If you read the title of this post, and you thought to yourself, “That quote sounds familiar”, you would be right. (Bonus points if you can name the recent book that I took it from.)
I’ll reveal the title at the end, but if you already know it, then you’ll probably know where I’m going with this.
First, we’ve all heard the saying, “Take the road less traveled”. And we all intuitively think we know what that means.
For most of us, it means something like: do that which is difficult, the thing not many people would do. Go against the norm, and carve your own path. Be different. Stand out.
While I wholeheartedly agree that people should do things that challenge their selves, the reason why the “norm” exists is that not everyone can “be different”, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to be different from.
So then, what do we do?
We take the road less traveled, but it’s not always empty.
What does that mean?
It means, take the road less traveled for you, but it does not mean anyone before has never gone down that path. It doesn’t even mean that you will be alone, or even close to alone.
And this is because we’re not trying to compare ourselves to those around us, but only to who we were the day before.
The most succinct way I could describe this lesson would be these two words:
You need to constantly be pushing yourself to the edge of your limits, and occasionally you will push beyond them.
The thing is, this advice, even then, is misunderstood.
Pushing yourself to your limits does not mean taking unnecessary, maybe even dangerous risks. It does not mean putting yourself, your friends, or your family in jeopardy and/or danger. It does not mean doing that things that would cause others to worry for your safety as well.
Maybe all it means is doing something you’ve never done before, like going to a restaurant alone or even starting a conversation with a complete stranger.
Maybe it means going to the library and signing up for a library card.
It means doing something that makes you uncomfortable. But with that discomfort comes growth; growth in both you as a person, but also in the fact that you did something you’ve never done before.
You took the road less traveled.
And I love this entire message because I’ve always felt that when people gave me that advice, it felt as if I was implicitly starting to compare myself to others because it forced me to look around and see what everyone else was doing.
But when worded like this it becomes much more internal; much more personal.
It no longer becomes a competition against others, but one against yourself.
And that to me is the most timeless and best advice anyone can ever give:
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. The book was Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. It’s a book that might surprise you in its depth as well as its humor.