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.

— Robert Frost

One of the things that has always attracted me to social media is that it allows me to get a glimpse into other peoples’ lives. Reading blogs like In Over Your Head from Julien Smith, or Levite Chronicles from Jon Swanson gives me a snapshot into what someone else is thinking at that moment. Following people on Twitter like Christopher Penn and Danny Brown provides a stream of real time thoughts, feelings and inspiration. Facebook allows me to instantly answer the question “What ever happened to…?” as I pick up where I left off with friends from over the years.

We are more connected to each others’ thoughts and feelings than we have ever been. We can literally follow along as people go about their daily lives, but more than that, in an instant, we can become involved in the story. All it takes is one comment, one reply, or one small note to open up doors we never thought possible.

Thinking of how we’ve intertwined our lives thrills me. I am close friends with people I never thought I’d have an opportunity to meet. I’m doing business with people all over the world, many of whom I’ve never met in person. We’re bonded together, with some sort of technological epoxy, and that bond is not easily broken.

But an issue starts to occur when that bond becomes too significant. We begin to pay too much attention to everyone elses’ life and we start to forget our own focus. We look at all the brilliant people around us, and we start to compare ourselves to them. “Is this blog post going to measure up?”, “Am I saying the right things?”, “Am I the next [name of favourite social media guru]?”

I learn so much from my friends out here in this world. Every day I’m given new things to think about, new ways to expand my business, my career, my spirit. But the minute I start to get too wrapped up in other peoples’ thoughts and opinions, I need to take a step back. I need to get re-focused on my own path. I’ve got to check in with myself every now and again to see where I am on my path.

It’s important to have mentors, it really is. I’ve had some dandy ones, and I still do. Everyone needs people to look up to and learn about success, and failure, and everything in between. It’s all fine and well to be inspired by someone’s achievements, but never, ever, EVER aspire to be “just like” anyone.  Look around you. See those people who are succeeding the way you want to? You can have that too. But you can’t do it the same way they did. Why? Because everyone’s path is different.

Let’s say your dream is to be the CEO of your own successful company. You see someone you know doing this and you want it too; he’s building his company, getting lots of clients, speaking all over the country, and starting to rake in the dough. You begin to study how that person got there, and you start to realize a few things. First, his spouse has a really good full time job, and they were able to afford to be a one-income household for a while. Second, they don’t have kids to feed. Third, he’s got an investor on board who has put forward a good chunk of change to get things moving.

But you’re a single mom, with big rent and big bills and you absolutely can’t afford to give up your day job. You don’t have any investors, and don’t have the time or the money to travel around to try and get some, either. Suddenly your dream of having your own company starts to fade. You go back to life as you know it.

And that is where the problem lies. We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others. If you want to be the CEO of your own successful company, it doesn’t matter HOW you get there. What’s important is that you get there.

We all travel our own path in this life. Our lives intersect with others, sometimes very deeply, as with our family, our spouses, our friends, and our mentors. But in the end, it’s just you. You are the one who has to get out of bed every morning and decide what you’re going to do with your life.  You are the one who knows your circumstances better than anyone, and you are the only one who can decide what step to take next. Oh sure, you can ask advice from those close to you, you can read and learn and share and ask questions. But it’s you, and only you, that has to make the decision.

Lots of single moms with little time and less income become successful businesspeople. They do it because they figure out how to succeed in spite of their circumstances. They don’t compare themselves to others. They listen, and learn, and absorb information. But then they make decisions based on what they know deep down inside.

We only get one shot at this life. One shot. If we spend all our  time living through other people, trying to be just like everyone else, then we’re going to wind up on our death bed wondering why we never accomplished much. You can’t achieve anything on someone else’s hand. You get the hand you’re dealt. You must play it. So stop trying to live everyone else’s life, and start living your own.

Go on, then…what are you waiting for?

Photo credit: John-Morgan on Flickr