That the unmarked road is often a shortcut to nowhere…

It’s an iconic image and big screen mainstay: the depiction of an exasperated individual leaping through an open meadow, smiling broadly from ear-to-ear with arms raised in triumph. This scene is often the happy ending to a classic movie, and just as often includes two people running toward each other…finally embracing the fruits of their long-fought struggle for bliss. Their faces are painted with shades of joy, mixed with exhaustion and a weathered sense of entitled freedom. What I noticed this week however, is all too often in life we choose to fast-forward the film of our own lives in an attempt to cut the corner from misery to joy. No matter how much we’d like to believe the contrary, simply put: in life there are no shortcuts. And the most interesting aspect of this observation is that it can apply across the broadest of spectrums. From the neighbor across the street to the President of the United States, no man or woman is immune to the necessity of taking the long winding road to success while ignoring the tempting right-hand turn down the dirt path into the dark woods. Necessary because the journey is more than just the means to our end goals. Along the way we are meant to experience, learn, fail, triumph, and struggle. All of it equally important in preparing us for when we finally reach our final destination.

Take the neighbor who despite a lifetime of struggling with weight issues consistently and constantly insists on discovering the breakthrough quick fix weight-loss tactic. Whether a magic pill or an abbreviated exercise routine, the expectation is to cure a lifelong issue with a momentary solution. Then there is the basketball phenom, fresh out of high school, desperate to be the next big thing (and even more desperate for the payday that goes along with it). How often do we see that cocky kid strike gold in the NBA draft before playing a single minute of professional ball? And how often do we hear the subsequent tale of that impressionable young man immediately losing the competitive drive that made him so promising, and allow his complacency and new-found wealth become his new compass; pointing him toward a new true north away from sustained success and instead toward a fleeting squandered fortune?

And then there is our Commander-in-Chief, who despite a long (often bumpy) but undoubtedly educational and enlightening road to vast levels of business success appears willing to parlay his political shortcut to the White House into a series of quick fixes for our nation. Perhaps this is most evident within his attempts to enact meaningful change to international relations (fractured over the course of generations) in a matter of months through the use of that same magic diet pill. Or maybe he is most enamored with the notion of generating sustained prosperity for the American people via a handful of rushed executive orders, bold in message but hollow in substance, content to then rest on his laurels like the NBA draft pick swimming in cash before ever scoring a basket. No matter the circumstance or the people involved, there’s an important lesson to be learned through taking the long road to prosperity: that we must first walk through the flames before we can run through that meadow…

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