Recently Jon and I flew to Virginia to work on location with a client of ours. While going through airport security, it was discovered that I was carrying some serious contraband so airport security made me toss the tube of highly suspcious terrorist hair product I had on me. So now with the free world safe from my heinous schemes, we traveled on.
It's a silly thing, but I don't quite feel like myself if my hair isn't sticking straight up in the air, doing it's best Eiffel Tower impression. So after we landed and took the shuttle to the hotel, I decided I'd try to get some more of this highly dangerous hair product of mine. It turns out a big box store was just under a mile away. Perfect, I'll just walk down and grab some.
The hotel we were staying at was in business park of sorts and didn't have much in the way of sidewalks, but that didn't stop me or the other brave pedestrians who had worn a path through the grass on the side of the road.
The moment you step off someone else's path, you are forging your own. There's freedom here.
I began walking on the little dirt path but quickly found I had a hard time staying on it. My feet were just too big. I gave up on the path and stepped off into the grass. I noticed two things immediately. 1. It was much softer to walk on. The path was packed down and was like walking on concrete. 2. It was bumpy! From there on and on the way back, I stayed off the path and it got me thinking...
Following an existing path requires very little thought. It's easy to see where it goes. The downside to this is that we often don't think as openly and broadly as we could. The prevailing thought is that "best practices" and "proven methods" are working so obviously we should do it that way. That might work for you. Mostly likely, it won't, not to the extent that you are hoping for.
Why is that? It's because it's someone else's path. It's what worked for them at the time. Additionally, it might be very difficult for you to follow someone else's path as you don't know what it took for them to walk it. (Even if they write a really good book or blog post with all the details.) There's a reason copies are never worth as much as originals.
The moment you step off someone else's path, you are forging your own. There's freedom here. You don't worry about stepping off the path or being limited to someone else's ideas. Sure, you might walk parallel to their path for a while, but sooner or later you are going to go your own way. You can learn the lessons of others withouth being subject to their terms. In short, learn the practical things that are universal, then chart your own course.
You'll also find that the way isn't as smooth. Which is what freaks us out. You may feel off balance, stumble around, and maybe fall flat on your face. But that's the nice part about failing doing your own thing, you'll learn what works for you and most importantly you will learn to be adaptable. A smooth path doesn't prepare you for much of anything. After a while, these bumps along the way won't even phase you because you've learned to expect and prepare for them.
Pathwalkers won't have this strength.