You’ll know that here at Add Then Multiply, we value creativity. And what better way to celebrate National Poetry Day on Thursday, 28th September than with a poem.
Below, we share our favourite: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost and discuss some of the lessons it has taught us: with an entrepreneurial angle of course!
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What we initially loved about the work was its celebration of doing something different. Of taking risks, of being brave and trying something new. However, in preparation for this blog post, we did some research about the poem and discovered that there was a different meaning to be found. Frost actually wrote The Road Not Taken as a joke for his friend Edward Thomas. The two were out for a walk one day and upon encountering a fork in the road, Thomas was paralysed by indecision. He finally settled upon a path, but later lamented his choice. When we take this context into consideration, we can see that the solemnity employed in the poem is ironic. It is not symbolic of a life changing moment, but merely a mockery of his friend’s indecision.
Here at Add Then Multiply, we were slightly taken aback by this realisation. It had been somewhat of a landmark text for us, as it embodied a pioneering spirit; stray off the beaten path, and you might find something beautiful. However, if we take a closer look at the language we find that the paths are quite the same; ‘as for that the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same’ and ‘both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black’.
Despite this, the speaker changes his mind in the final line of the poem; ‘I took the one less traveled by, /And that has made all the difference.’ In analysing the poem, this line has often been isolated which has led to a vast misunderstanding of the text. Frost himself declared it a ‘tricky poem’, and it certainly tripped us up! At first, we were disappointed to learn of the poem’s true meaning, but we soon realised the text could teach us something different.
As entrepreneurs, although it is easy to get bogged down by details, it is important to consider the bigger picture. Because we honed in on the final line of the poem, we allowed it to inform the entire meaning of the text. This can happen in business too. It can be tempting for companies to ignore certain facts or sets of data if they do not tell them what they want to hear. Or to focus in on particular parts of their business, without considering how it operates as a whole. Perhaps your customers are responding differently, maybe your product strategy needs adjusting. What we have taken from the text is that it is important to research, gather information and learn as much as you can. Sometimes you will need to change your approach but entrepreneurs are agile and this is something you can do, if only you approach your business with an open mind.
Finally, our second reading of The Road Not Taken reinforced the importance of a sense of humour. As an entrepreneur, life can be tough. Decisions can seem overwhelming and it is easy to lament when you feel you have taken the wrong one. You have to learn from your mistakes but it is also good to approach them with a sense of humour. Sometimes the path you take is a lot more challenging than you thought it would be, but if you approach difficulty with lightness and a sense of humour, in the end, that can make all the difference.