A Contrarian View

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” John Kenneth Galbraith

As soon as I am comfortable with a view I have adopted, it is going to be challenged by the ultimate challenger in my life, my wife Carol. Sometimes, I just know that I am on solid ground. Then, I dive into a one-on-one with my life partner, and soon I have second thoughts about a view that seemed to be certain only minutes earlier. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Carol poses a contrarian view at times in my life.

I am reminded of this quote from  a famous poem penned by Robert Frost: “Two roads diverge in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”  For most paths we traverse during a lifetime,  we often take the trail that has already been created. It is convenient, easy. We do not need much thinking. And, because it has been traveled before by others, we assume that it is the right path. We conclude that all those people could not be wrong. Right?

Successful people are often described in terms that are much different from  the majority of people who follow the path everyone else travels, such as . . .

Unique approach

Took a less traveled path

Discovered a new medicine when looking for something else

Voice was very different (describing a successful singer)

If, in fact, a different path would be a better chance for success, why do we not choose it? Perhaps, we are afraid of what others will think or say. We might be embarrassed. Or, even worse, we might actually fail, and that would be worse than just embarrassment.

“I do not agree with that at all,’ she counters again to something I had embraced as my sacred view. There she goes again. I am challenged to rethink. I draw a line in the sand (of my thinking) and Carol has already crossed it before the conversation gets started.

Carol is not always right (even though she believes she is). There. I said it. Laughing out loud as I write this, my wife, who is nearby, asks what is going on. I reply that I am writing something funny about her. She responds with, “You better not be sending that out!”  I proudly proclaim that  it is for my newsletter. She replies, “I will need to see it first.”  All of this back and forth inspiring banter is what I expect from her. She will not go softly into the night. No way!

Carol will one day leave this life kicking and screaming. And for that, we all owe her much.  For the last 4-plus decades, she has taught me to question everything – what  I write, what I do and the decisions I make. And for the most part, her reliable insights have been life-changing for me.

However . . . I lovingly acknowledge that she is not always right! (Of course, she will contest this statement, too).  Like a centurion exerting authority, she again firmly states, “You better let me read that!”   As always, she will edit the first draft, and I am not afraid of that moment. Her bark is much worse than her bite. But, at least she has a bark, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Two roads diverge in a wood. Because of Carol, I have often taken the road less traveled, which has made a huge difference in the success I have enjoyed in life. I am a better person, in part, because I am a different person. I am more of whom I was meant to be  because I have often had to either defend who I am, or reluctantly consider a different view, a new path, a new person.

  • What road are you currently traveling that duplicates what everyone else is doing, yet not what you should be doing or want to do?
  • What personal decision should be challenged right now? What do you wish to change?
  • What unique element could you employ that would enrich your life and others, but, because of ruffling someone’s feathers, you have restrained your progress – holding back when you should be prevailing?
  • What do you fear that the majority crowd will say about what you are deciding or doing today?
  • What does your heart say that is opposite of what others are telling you?

Some of the most important medical discoveries came when the scientists were working on something different. Or when someone took a path that did not fit in with what other researchers were supporting.

X-Rays, rubber, Vaseline, Post-it-Notes and even cornflakes were discovered when  entrepreneurs researching the next great idea were looking for something else. What made it possible was their willingness to select a different or new path, one less traveled. How many of us have ever used super glue or Teflon?  What would we do without a microwave oven?

Accidental discoveries? That’s one way of viewing it. Another way is the folks involved were willing to see another view, to take a different path, a road less traveled.

Taylor Swift, a popular successful country singer who needs no introduction, got her start by posting song videos on the Internet – not in Nashville where many other country singers get their start. There are many other examples like her within  the music industry.

The original plan for Hackbarth Delivery Service (HDS) was to be a furniture delivery company, but small package courier service is what evolved.. The total revenue the first month was $7.50. All small package deliveries, not exactly an indication of future success in furniture delivery. But, those small packages led to bank transportation which  led to wholesale pharma deliveries, then onward to  other verticals. The rest is history. A highly successful company that took the road less traveled a number of times. And that has made a difference in our success.

Meeting a future spouse . . .  the examples are endless. Carol and I met in a bar – not  exactly the place any of us would choose for finding a life partner. Yet, here we are over four decades later in a successful marriage. All of us know stories about couples whose first meetings were unique. Blind date. Accidental meeting. It was not supposed to happen.  But, it happened and changed everything about the lives involved. You know the stories.

As a resident in Mobile, Alabama, I have heard countless stories of how someone got here and then decided to stay. It was not planned. They came because of a temporary job, or a friend or family member, or to take care of someone who was sick. Some were just passing through. And, then they stayed. How many times have you heard that experience in your own hometown? They did not plan to stay. Mobile was not even on their radar. Yet, 30 years later – in  a life they would not change – here they are. The road less traveled.  Only contrarian views apply.

What does it mean? We should be open to new discoveries and people each day.   Success is often hidden from the masses, but visible to the few who just open their eyes and hearts.

How can we find success?  Should we take every detour? Probably not.  But, if we are always traveling the same road everyone else is traveling, perhaps we need a new compass.   A different path, a contrarian view, a road less traveled may be available for our success.

Success is being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life. How will I become that person today?

“Rob, why are you doing it that way,” she challenges me. There she goes again, forcing me to look at things in a different way. My ‘path hijacker,’ ‘my road detour’ . . .  my success template. My partner. Carol. Perhaps, there is another way of looking at it.

Today, I will open my heart and mind to success.

One more thing . . .

It’s never too late to choose a different path in life.