The Path of Least Resistance

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Henry David Thoreau, states:

“The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.”

I love this imagery of this quote. In my mind’s eye I can see a small stream of water trickling downhill, slowly growing in volume and gaining momentum. As it grows, I see it dashing against small rock and stones, being diverted left and right, always going around not through. Fallen logs and debris and tree roots and boulders coax the running water into diverse paths resulting in a crooked serpentine shape.

But had the water been more focused and channeled directly at each obstacle, it would have, given enough time and pressure, eventually uprooted and unseated most of the obstacles in its path. And given enough volume, the largest of boulders, or even mountains themselves, eventually give way.

So it is with us. Too often in pursuit of our goals we run up against obstacles. Our dreams collide with opposition. Sometimes real, sometimes imagined. Sometimes the obstacle is another person, or a group of people, or an institution, or a corporation. Sometimes the obstacle is a cultural norm or outdated dogma.

But I would venture most of the time it comes from inside. Bad habits. Lazy attitudes. Small thinking. Our new dreams crash up against our habitual selves. And instead of channeling and focusing and digging deep, we give up. We go around. Or worse, quit altogether.

What if instead of seeking ease and comfort, we looked for opportunities to test ourselves? What if we welcomed challenges and obstacles? What if, like some crazed infantryman’s badge of honor, we actually reveled in metaphorically sleeping in the freezing mud and eating cold chow.

Could anything stop us then?

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