A Tale of Two Paths

Let me warn you, this article is a long, but I can assure you, an interesting read! So, do not turn the page to the next article until you have read this one completely. Just do it!

When the Pathways education scheme was introduced in the summer of 2018, those who were dual members were offered a path for each of the clubs they were members of, a free path, which otherwise cost USD 20 (around Rs: 1450).  Others were not so fortunate and had to buy their way to a “great learning experience”, which they did not ostensibly, really mind, because in the end it worked both ways – It was value for money and money for value addition!

But what one must admire, puns intended, is that was a great motivational strategy, involved presentation mastery and was a decision that emanated from the Dynamic Leadership at the top of the pyramid of the Toastmasters organization! 

The Pathways education program was unique in that it combined both the leadership and the communication streams of the previous education programme of Toastmasters to provide a realistic and holistic learning experience that transcended the TM Meeting hall to go beyond, into real life.

There are 11 paths currently, including a recent and welcome addition – engaging humour.  The paths that pre-existed compelled you to manufacture humour from nothing, like a magician.  Some are. Some are not!  Magicians. Finding one’s funny bone among the 208 in the body, does take some doing.

But choosing a path, free or otherwise, is a difficult exercise for even the most decisive of human beings. For, the most decisive among us are often intuitive and hasty, and naturally prone to mistakes (that is murphy’s law), while the least decisive are the ones who have their feet on two paths simultaneously… hoping to shift forward movement at the least challenge. Then there those of us who choose their paths after much consultation and deliberation, with, as Steven Covey said, “the end in mind”.  We tread carefully, and steadily along that path, much like the turtle did… and we win the race at our own pace!  Our hope is sometimes belied by the proscriptions imposed by the law of nature… you win because I allow you to… but hope and perseverance are the best options for our journeys on this earth.

Be that as it may, the choice of paths and its aftermath comes down to our perceptions of where and what we want to be, of the difficulties or challenges the path might throw up, and our ability to deal with them, our fear of failure, or of success even in some cases, and infinitesimally, the cost factor…

Nothing illustrates this more than this tale of two paths…

There was this distinguished elderly gentleman, a retired lieutenant Colonel who was habituated and committed to an evening walk along a pre-determined path, and so every evening while on these travels, he espied a rather young and handsome but rather unkempt gentleman who sat along his path, with a bowl and a sign that read – “Help is what help does, have pity on me”.

The Colonel, having worked hard and led a disciplined life, over his seventy ears on this earth was not without both sympathy and empathy, but could not reconcile himself to the fact that this seeming perfectly fit young gentleman was literally begging for money and he would ignore him and walk on. But one day, his helpful nature got the better of him and so…

He stopped by the guy and struck up a conversation. Asking him why he is sitting here every evening begging when he could easily join the army. “You seem fit as a fiddle, young man,” he exclaimed. “I could help you join the army, where you will be well taken care of, even as you take care of the country. Look at me, I am a prime example of what the Army can do for you and what you can do for the country. Your path to glory, must be paved with hardship and sacrifice”.

“Well, I could, and I am grateful for your offer said the young beggar. But I do not want to,” without arrogance. The Colonel was taken aback but as was his wont, he went on, “and why is that young man?”

“Well, that’s a long story sir”, replied the young man.

“Get on with it. I have all the time in the world”, said the Colonel, hoping to convince him to join the services after he ventilated.”

“Ok”, said the young man, “it’s like this”.

The Colonel continued to stand while the young man narrated the story.

“if I join the army, two things can happen. I could be given a desk job, or I could be sent to the frontline. If I am given a desk job, that is fine, but if I am sent to the frontline, two things could happen to me. I could be injured, or I could die. If I am injured, its fine, but if I die two things could happen to me. I could be cremated or be buried. If I am cremated, that is fine, but if I am buried, then two things could happen to me, I could be eaten by ants and worms or a tree could grow over me. If I am eaten by ants or worms, it will not matter, but if a tree grows over me, two things could happen to me. The tree could be allowed to survive for a long time, or it could be cut down. If it can survive, well, that is not a problem, but if it is cut down, two things could happen, it could be used as firewood or it could be used to make paper.  If it is used to make firewood, that is great, but if it is used to make paper, two things could happen – it could be made into writing paper or newspaper or it could be used to make toilet paper. If it is used to make writing paper, I am fine with it, but if it is used to make toilet paper, two things could happen. The toilet paper may be used by a man or a woman. If it is used by man, fine; but if used by a woman… well I would die of shame,” he concluded.

The Colonel was stunned into silence. He had never met such a far-sighted man before. One that thought so carefully before choosing a path and embarking on a journey. He recalled his own path and realized that he had chosen his path instinctively!  Or was it destiny that guided him?

Well to each his own… but the end goal of any path we choose is happiness from having grown in wisdom…

Choose yours the way you would like to with great deliberation, instinctively or intuitively – But once you choose a path, tread it with determination and diligence until you cross the finish line…