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Scott Monty - Keynote Speaker, Timeless Wisdom

Scott Monty - Keynote Speaker, Timeless Wisdom
 


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken is by far Robert Frost's best known poem. So much so that it has inspired many other creative outputs from others: books, commercials, episode titles for a dozen TV shows… In fact, it may be the best known American poem of all time.

But most people get it wrong. The initial instinct is to view this poem as a celebration of individualism — of making a conscious choice and being reassured in our decision.

But if you read it or listen to it again, one road isn't really less traveled. He says he "took the other, as just as fair," and "the passing there / Had worn them really about the same."

So the narrator knew that both paths were comparable. And he just chose one of them, as it looked just as good as the other.

The key though, is when he says: "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence," meaning that one day in the future, he'll be recounting this moment in time. And what will he do then? He'll tell everyone:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Not Life Choices, But Story Choices

So this isn't really about making a difficult life choice; it's about how we concoct stories to make a narrative. How we perhaps look back at a situation and romanticize it a bit. Or infuse it with details that we didn't notice when it happened. Or embellish with larger figures or more expansive descriptions. 

Humans are natural storytellers. We have been since our earliest days, before our ancestors could speak or write. They told stories by painting on cave walls. And then around a fire, handed down from generation to generation. And finally in writing.

Don’t you think it's reasonable to believe there were embellishments and improvements along the way? Of course there were. I mean, who's going to want to read or listen to a poem about a guy who comes to two grassy paths and just picks one at random?

So in that respect, yes, it's about choices. But it's about the choice to tell a story in a certain way. And each of us faces that every day as we choose to create our own narrative or a message for a brand or company.

"We must take the current when it serves / Or lose our ventures"

We need to choose which details are essential to include, and which are superfluous to the story and should be omitted. In doing so, we capture the imagination and attention of the people we're trying to reach, whether they're in a room with us or in front of a screen somewhere.

The conditions in which we do this are ever-changing: platforms, moods, other priorities. And so elements of our narrative change accordingly. But always leading on to something better.

The alternative is unthinkable.
We, at the height, are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shadows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
— William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (Act IV) 





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