Lesson 6: Choose a Beautiful Less Traveled Path

by | May 14, 2016

Photo of a lemming in the snow

Choose a Beautiful Less Traveled Path



Part 1: Do Not Be a Lemming


In the new Disney movie, Zootopia, there is an excellent scene in which a bunch of lemmings, all wearing the same outfit, leave an office building together on a break, and all buy pop sickles.  They scarf them down, throw the stick in the garbage can and scurry back into the office.  It is a brilliant image about the dangers of conformity.    Lemmings, of course, are often used as a symbolic image for going with the flow.  Lemmings do not take a beautiful, less traveled path; they take one common, well-worn road.  Lemmings tend to follow the lead of the very first one.  Do not be a lemming.

A good friend of mine that I worked with for a couple of years was an avid musher.  She owned a bunch of Alaskan Huskies.  Huskies are beautiful dogs, but the expense involved with keeping up with feeding and cleaning them must have been enormous.  One day I was privileged enough to be invited to watch her give a demonstration on how to use a sled – how to be a musher.  As I was watching, I noticed that there was much more pressure on the lead dog compared to all of the other dogs.  The success of the journey, the strength of the team is really in this dogs paws.  Most people, I surmise, if they were really honest with themselves would much rather follow the lead dog than be the lead dog.  What about you?  I am sure if they were pressed, they would say, “well, I don’t want to be at the back, somewhere in the middle of the pack would be perfect.” They really want to be lemmings.



Part 2:  Be the Lead Dog


I would much rather be the lead dog.  The lead dog gets harnessed first.  The lead dog is the most trusted dog in the team.  The lead dog has the majority of the responsibility for leading the rest of the team.  The lead dog gets to be the very first dog to step into a fresh, pristine snowy trail.  The lead dog is typically harnessed alone and does not need to rely on the strength or lack of strength of a teammate next to her.  The lead dog is the first mammal to see the beauty, the scenery, before her.  And, the lead dog is the first animal to experience the thrill of a journey or race completed.  Meanwhile, all of the other dogs get to look up the butt of the dog ahead of them.  It’s funny, but true.


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Obviously, a sled team analogy is a little bit different than the team environment you face at work, at home, in the nonprofit, at church.  You may not have the option of becoming the lead dog.  But, don’t you often feel like a lemming?  You come out of the same office door, go to the same eating establishment, sit with the same people, in the same area day after day.  Some of you have the cost of your regular meal down to the exact penny.  You time your lunch and breaks down to the second.  You pick out the same clothes, same styles day-after-day.  You have been trained to say “Good morning,” you follow the typical meeting protocols.  You have conformed.  You are a lemming.  Sorry.  Lemmings are a pretty cool rodent as far as rodents go.  Do not be a lemming.

Ironically, one of the major themes of the movie, Zootopia is to follow your dreams, follow your heart, and to not conform to someone else’s version of your life.  Good theme.  It would have been really clever to see one of the lemmings in a purple suit or Bermuda shorts and Birkenstocks, another symbolic metaphor. 



Part 3: Be the Lead Dog of Your Life


I imagine another beautiful thing about being the lead sled dog is that she has learned how to take different paths.  Some paths are more curvy and steep and require a different pace, while others are covered with prints from lots of other dogs and animals and requires a totally different approach.  Whatever path is chosen, being the first to strike out on that path must be an exhilarating feeling.  Find a beautiful path for yourself.  Even if the path you take becomes just a simple detour that leads back to the well-worn, trampled path – that journey may make all the difference.  That detour of nonconformity, of breaking out, may be enough to set you apart.  And even though you may go back to being a little more lemming like than you should, perhaps, when people saw your true colors it will make all the difference.  Dare not to be a lemming.  Become the lead dog of your life. 


Be the Lead Dog of Your Life

Be the Lead Dog of Your Life





Homework Points

  1. Are you totally a lemming?
  2. Is there a different path you have been considering?
  3. What quote, phrase, verse, mantra will you recite to help you?