Straight lines are rarely straight
Last week I was lucky to attend the most amazing production of Into the Woods at the New York City Center. I've never seen the show (and regret seeing the marginally awful film) but wow, was it funny. Not funny actually. Sharp. Like cuttingly sharp. Guffaw sharp. Cheeks hurt sharp. Rather than a full production, some of the actors still use a "book" and the staging is minimal. It's all part of their Encores! series and is a 2-week run with a stellar cast including Neil Patrick Harris, Heather Headley, Sara Bareilles and more. For those unfamiliar with the plot, it's a weaving together of several fairy tales including Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. In one scene, Red Riding Hood remarks that her mother told her not to stray from the path when running through the forest. To which another character says, "what if the path strays from you?" This hit me like a punch. What if the path strays from you? We spend so much of our lives trying to stay on the path — the path to college, to the right career, the right partner, raising our kids etc. But what if our path veers from what we intended? What if we're so intent on sticking with the path that we don't pay attention to where the path is leading us (or when to get off it completely)?
The long and winding road
This is especially true in business. Most businesses create goals and targets. They devise strategy and calendars. They do everything they can to stick to the path and focus on the destination that they lose sight of the view as they go by. They forget to see who they're passing on the path. They forget to acknowledge that conditions might change and that the path might not be the right way anymore. The only way the path strays from you is if you aren't paying attention in the first place. If you're so head-down and laser-focused that you forget why you're on the path in the first place. This is why it's important to look up and look around once in a while. To ask if you're still heading in the right direction. To see if your audience has changed what they need or if you need to change what you're delivering. Or even if you want to change the path you're on. Maybe if the path strays from you, that's intentional and a sign. Don't ignore it. And if you need a new path...