My first semester of college landed me in Rhetoric class, which included poetry analysis. Specifically we talked about Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. A bunch of know-nothing freshmen were giving a lot of back and forth, rattling off ideas they had cribbed from “experts” and Cliff Notes. “It’s a metaphor for death!” “It’s about Santa Claus!”

When I said, “What if it’s just a guy who stopped by the woods on a snowy evening?” – well, you would have thought I was the biggest idiot on the planet. How could it be so simple, just a person pausing on a beautiful evening and soaking in his surroundings?? (For the record, I always preferred The Road Not Taken, anyway.)

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

My son just finished a travel baseball tourney in Florida. His team, Midwest Wicked, played very well in pool play, and ended up as the top seed in their bracket. Their reward was an easier path to the championship; they won two games Friday, which put them in the final Saturday evening.

The Louisiana Bolt Gold had the same record in pool play, but allowed 3 more runs – so they were one seed lower. They then lost their first game Friday, which sent them to the consolation bracket Saturday. That made their path to a title 8:30, 10:30, 2:30, 4:30 games, all before the 6:30 final. They simply had to keep winning – and win they did.

The nature of these events is they rarely stay on time, and this was no exception. Running an hour behind on a hot, humid Florida day, the Bolts kept rolling. The 4:30 game began at 5:30 – and they won that one too. By this time, our Wicked boys were there for a theoretical 6:30 start. You could see the Bolts were tired, but they were picking each other up as a team. That “4:30” game was against a team playing their first game of the day, and the Bolts dominated them.

By the time the final started, it was 8:00 pm. The Bolts were starting their fifth game, having already been at the yard more than 12 hours. You know what? They looked great. They were battling and scratching and clawing, and after 4 innings held a 3-2 lead. Our boys may have taken for granted they would roll over this exhausted squad, but their opponents had other plans. In the end, the tide turned as our team started to hit, fatigue set in, and Wicked took a 12-4 win for the championship.

As they walked the handshake line and got their rings, the Bolts were in tears, exhausted from everything they had gone through. We gave them multiple ovations, and reassured them that they had played fantastic baseball. They didn’t want to hear it, of course – it was too raw and fresh. Eventually, though, they will hopefully realize they did something nearly impossible. They faced a challenge that no one should be able to beat, and came within 9 outs of completing it.

Watching our boys celebrate, I was certainly thrilled for them. At the same time, my heart went out to the Bolts. They lost, sure – but they kept working, and never ever quit.

Contemplating Your Journey

At the 1DOS Foundation and in our online group, we say you shouldn’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end. Your journey is yours. Anyone else is coming from a different place, and at a different spot along their path. What you can do is recognize what you have achieved, how far you’ve come, what you’ve overcome. There is true power in that.

Our Wicked boys had a rough start to the season, found their stride late and finished on a roll. This Florida World Series was the completion of that roll; they don’t look like the same team as March and April. They handled the schedule put in front of them, beat the challenges presented. They are not less successful because they faced a different path than the Bolts.

In the same way, the Bolts are not failures because they didn’t win the championship game; their journey looked different, but they knocked out challenge after challenge. There is certainly no shame in them “only” winning four games that Saturday.

Comparisons come naturally – but when you find yourself looking with envy at someone else’s spot on their journey, just remember that you have no idea what missteps they may have taken along the way. They faced their own schedule, defeated the challenges put in front of them.

Maybe, just maybe, when you stop by those woods and absorb the scene, you will realize that you took your own road – and that truly does make all the difference.

Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash