The Roads We Take

I have a large network of business owners and senior executives that I communicate with on a regular basis. Routinely, I send them articles, words of wisdom, or motivational things I’ve run across. From time to time, they send me things. Yesterday, I received a package in the mail from the CEO of an Insurance firm. I had spent a day presenting to a group of CEOs last year and he was among those in attendance. He became a part of my professional network and decided to send me four books that had impacted his life. Today, I read one of the books and it made an impact on me as well.

I want to share a few takeaways from that book with you. The author of all four books is Richard E. Simmons III. If you’re not “religious” don’t be scared by the references. The message applies to all.

First let me share a story with you. As a young naval officer, Jimmy Carter interviewed for a position on a nuclear submarine.

“I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours and he let me choose any subject I wanted to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those things about which I knew most at the time – current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery – and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen. He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold seat. Finally, he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, ‘How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?’

“Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered. ‘Sir, I stood fifty-ninth in a class of 820!’ I sat back to wait for the congratulations – which never came. Instead, the question, ‘Did you do your best?’

“I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No, sir. I didn’t always do my best.’

“He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget – or to answer. He said, ‘Why not?’

“I sat there for a while, shaken, and slowly left the room.”

What keeps people from maximizing their potential? What prevents them from becoming the person they want to become? We all have good intentions, but at the end of the day, it’s the direction of the path, not good intentions, that will ultimately determine our destination in life.

There is a word commonly used in Proverbs and Psalms. The word is “way.”

Proverbs 4:11 – I have directed you in the way of wisdom.
Proverbs 9:6 – Proceed in the way of understanding.
Psalms 119:104 – I hate every false way.
Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

The word way is derived from the Hebrew word derek, which means “road” or “pathway.” We are being told that each of us is on a road that is leading us in a certain direction.

Each of us is on a path right now, whether we realize it or not. And this path is taking us to a certain destination. The path we are on is not a respecter of persons; it does not care who you are or where you are from. It leads where it leads regardless of one’s talent, wealth, physical appearances, or social status.

Right now, you are on a physical health path and it is taking you in a specific direction. In all likelihood, this path will impact the length of your life and the quality of your life in old age. Likewise, your marriage is on a certain path at this very moment. It will determine the kind of life you will experience with your spouse as the years go by. If you have children at home, you are on a child-rearing path, and that path will determine the types of people your children will become. We are each on a financial path, a moral path, an intellectual path, a career path, and a spiritual path. The paths we are on always determine our end results. Always!

We choose our path by the choices we make. Do you live a life of purpose, or do you react to what life throws your way?