The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told a story of an incident that would have seemed insignificant to the casual observer, but which had a profound influence on the rest of his life .The winter when he was nine years old, young Frank went walking across a snow- covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped and turned around. He pointed to his own tracks in the snow, as straight and true as an arrow’s flight from one end of the field to the other. Then he pointed out young Franks tracks meandering all over the field. “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again” his uncle said, “and see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.”
Years later when Frank was a world-famous architect, he liked to tell how that experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life: “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”
So who was the wiser of the two? Was it the uncle who focused on his objective and let nothing take him off course? Or was it young Frank, who took the creative and impulsive approach, focusing more on the journey than the destination?
The answer is Yes – they were both right! The uncle was focused on a goal and was committed to letting nothing get him off track. He knew the shortest distance between where he was and where he wanted to be was a straight line. Young Frank, on the other hand, loved the journey. He was willing to delay getting to the end of the field as long as possible in order to experience everything along the way. In fact, he might never have made it to the end of the field had he not been keeping up with his uncle.
There is a tension in life we all wrestle with: How to find the middle ground, or balance, between the rigid pursuit of goals and remaining flexible at the same time. How do we know when it’s right to delay the goal, or perhaps choose an entirely different destination, in order to take advantage of opportunities we didn’t foresee when we began the journey?
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