The Road Not Taken

One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. It is something that I occasionally use at my workshop events to illustrate a principle I have come to believe in i.e. that the road to success is the quiet one that very few other people have taken and not the more obvious, busy road that is so packed full of other people looking for that apparently elusive reward.

Thinking back, I remember first hearing the name, Robert Frost, in my teens. His name was part of the lyric of a Paul Simon song, The Dangling Conversation from the album Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme. It was also released in the USA, I believe, as a single back in 1966:

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost.

Ah, Paul. That was when you still wrote proper lyrics.

Anyway, the poem was subsequently brought to my attention by Stephen Covey, in one of his audio programs, and it has remained a firm favourite with me ever since. I remember Covey quoting the last verse:

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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

His point was that the material he had been teaching, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was something that people generally did not do. In fact, some of the habits actually run counter to human nature and so, he suggested, they represent The Road Less Travelled. It is a principle I have come to believe in i.e. that success lies down that road; the one that other people are not generally taking. Let me illustrate with a little analysis using internet marketing as an example.

It is said that 95% of people that set out to make a living on the internet end up in failure. I don’t know how valid that figure is, but it is often bandied about at the internet marketing forum I frequent. Some people say the figure is probably higher, but whatever the actual statistic is, most people are agreed the figure is very high indeed. Well, of course, if we think in terms of cause and effect, with the subsequent failure being the effect that 95% of people are producing, then we can safely conclude that those 95% of people are going about things in the wrong way. They are, effectively, taking the road most traveled in our little analogy.

You only have to look at your email box, full of the junk that you didn’t ask for and don’t want in order to see their methods in action. I use gMail which, by the way, is a brilliant service in my opinion. It has a fantastic spam filtering capability so most of my spam emails get properly filtered into my ‘junk’ folder. Of course, every now and then, I take a quick look down the junk folder to see if anything has been incorrectly filtered – it does happen occasionally.

What kind of subject lines are theses people using? Here’s a few examples taken from my own junk folder just today:

  • A Book that Reveals all My Secrets
  • Amazing Software Collects Huge Commissions
  • ClickBank is Closing

Now, I don’t need to open any of those mails. I can tell from the subject everything I need to know. Firstly the guy who is writing all his ‘secrets’ down in a book simply cannot see, apparently, that nobody even knows who he is and therefore nobody will be interested in his, so-called secrets. Secondly, the guy telling us that you just need to install a piece of software to make money online is simply preying on the gullible in my opinion. No need to open that one. Finally the last guy is attempting to use a shock tactic. This doesn’t work either because, if ClickBank were indeed closing, they would have notified me directly and I would definitely not expect to hear the news from somebody I don’t know.

Those are the kind of methods that 95% of internet marketers are using and they don’t work because firstly, their emails are correctly filtered by Google, secondly, even if they weren’t, you can tell from their subject lines alone that they are spam and thirdly they come from a person you don’t recognise. If you needed further evidence, many programs, including gmail, also provide a nice preview of the first line of the message so again spam is very easy to detect. It is any wonder that 95% of them are failing using these tactics?

Of course, I am only using internet marketing as an example here. The same is true for all success, I believe. Success is not located along that broad road that is packed with so many others all trying to do the same thing. It is down the other one, the road that probably less than 5% are taking. It is the one that is grassy and needs wear, not the one that has the leaves trodden black.

If you want success, you have to do what the majority of people are not doing. You have to become one of the 5% – you have to take the Road Less Traveled. James Caan makes the same point in his book The Real Deal. He said it was something he learned from his father. The way he put it was to ‘observe the masses and then do the opposite’ and James says that it has proved to be a remarkably good guide throughout his career.

So which road are you on? Is it the one that is jammed full of people all attempting the same thing, or is it that lonely, quiet road that is making all the difference?

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