Invisible Trails – by James A. Pearson

Follow the invisible paths
Walk upon the high places
The sides of mountains
The edges of planters along the road
And when the trail gets too narrow to walk
Keep your knees bent
And your feet light
And your eyes on what calls you
And dance along its dangers

I love this poem because it speaks to a unique trend I have noticed for those of us looking for meaning in our lives and work. If you have ever read a self-help book or listened to a motivational speaker there is a lot of talk about how you should “blaze a new path” or “rewrite the rules” in your quest for significance.

They cite famous men like Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin), or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) as people who burned down the old ways of thinking and built an entirely new highway amidst the rubble of the old.

I’m inspired by those stories, but the reality is, very few of us are the burn and build types. And that’s a good thing. People often assume that in order to be successful they have to begin by charting a brand new territory. Something a very small percentage of the population will ever really do.

I believe much of this thinking is what paralyses everyday people, keeping them complacent, discontent, and stuck in lives and careers they don’t love. You are not the next Steve Jobs, so why try at all?

Instead, our focus should not always be to blaze a new path, but to run along the edges of the ones that already exist.

It’s not enough to be complacent, cruising down the middle of a well-worn path. Its not enough to be sheep-like, keeping your head down, following instructions, living your live on autopilot.

The grooves are deep, the rocks swept aside. Instead, aspire to tread on the fringes of your industry, racing along its edges, your arms stretched out awkwardly for balance.

Here’s the thing:

You don’t have to be radical, just a little different

By being a little different, over time, you will begin to carve out a space for yourself. You started by running on the edges of the trails, but soon the path will narrow. The weeds may brush your ankles as you pass through. But you will be ready for it.

The practice of finding your balance on the edges prepares us for hacking through the brush of a brand new trail.

All the while, you will “keep your knees bent/ and your feet light/ and dance along its dangers.”

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