Two Paths

Spring break is over and the armada of homework has arrived on the shores of my life once again. Fortunately, I enjoy the majority of my classes, and unlike past semesters, I feel that the classes I am taking will actually be of use in my entrepreneurial journeys. I am making a concerted effort to ensure that I am never overwhelmed by school work during this last stretch of the college race, and I have actually been working ahead for the past few days. Every day, I cross out one more day on my calendar as I count down to May 10 – the day of my liberation. Today is T-minus 50 days and counting.

In between school and work, I have been reading. Some days I have just been reading quotes by industrialists from the early-20th century to motivate me, but they can only take me so far. Yesterday, while at the library, I picked up Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I felt that it was about time that I read the book that many successful entrepreneurs have cited as one of the most influential books in their lives. I only had a half hour to look through it, as I was killing time before a late night dinner with some old friends, and I only made it through the introduction. There wasn’t anything unique in the introduction that I hadn’t read in any other financial lifestyle books, except for a poem.

Up until the last couple of years, I had never been able to really appreciate poems. I preferred encyclopedias as they were straightforward and efficient. However, I have recently discovered that poems can be magical and can speak to one in a way that encyclopedias will never be able to. This was one of those poems.

The poem was The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, and Kiyosaki referred to it as his favorite poem. The reason for this was obvious, as the poem is about a man recalling a point in his life where he was faced with two paths. The man contemplated the decision, and in the end, took the “one less traveled by.” Many entrepreneurs would be able to relate to this, as the entrepreneurial way is a long road with few travelers. However, to me, there was a deeper connection to this poem than just the surface analysis. Frost writes that both paths were equal, and that only in retrospect did he realize that he took the “one less traveled by.” There even seems to be a bit of regret in this decision, as Frost writes “I shall be telling this with a sigh.”

I can relate to Frost at this point in my entrepreneurial journey. At the moment, my business is stagnant. I don’t feel that my business is in the right place, and it shows in the sales report. I don’t feel like I have as much control as I would like, and I don’t feel that the business has as much potential as it should. I have talked to my business mentor about it, and he seems to agree with me. His advice is that I have learned how to build a business, but that I am just in the wrong market. A few months ago, I would have disagreed with him and said that with enough drive and focus, any business can succeed. However, seeing how some of his stores have become steady six-figure stores in less than a year, while other businesses have failed to even reach the four-figure mark, has changed my views. Both sets of stores are equally as developed, both sets rank well within their respective categories, and yet some thrive while others die.

At this point, I am contemplating whether I should change the direction of my store and change my focus from direct retail to distribution, or whether I should just cut my losses and use my capital and my knowledge in a more profitable market. Distribution will allow me to be in control of how my business runs, while retailing in a different market will allow me to control my time. At some point, I want to be able to control both, but I have yet to reach that point, and at the moment, both paths appear to be equally advantageous. I will have to choose one of the paths in a couple of weeks and time will tell as to whether I chose the best path. I just hope that unlike Frost, I can reflect on my decision with a smile instead of a sigh.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
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