Following the desire path: good, bad, or lazy?

I’d really love to hear from any readers on this one- it’s a 5 minute read max:

image002“The key to the desire path is not just that it’s a path which one person or a group has made but that it’s done against the will of some authority which would have us go another, rather less convenient, way.” (flickr group)

There are two sides to this issue.  Well, two paths to be precise.

In defense of the desire path, its convenient.  And if, like me, technology has programed you for convenience, the desire path is the most logical.  It’s the shortest path from A to B.  A group of individuals decided that following the path and walking an extra 30ft was stupid, so over time they independently charted a faster route.  Convenience is the means to saving time; screw your grass.

The paved route walkers ask, what’s the rush?  You damn desire pathers just ruined the grass.  Convenience?  Try lazy.  By living together in a society, we all agreed to a social compact.  Part of that agreement includes sacrificing some liberties for social order.  Stay on the damn sidewalk and keep the grass looking nice for the rest of us.

A fine line between lazy and convenience.

That line is motivation.  Are you saving time or avoiding a process?  Lazy is synonymous with avoiding hard work. Take me for example.  By all indicators, I’m a lazy person.  But I don’t fear hard work.  I enjoy it if it is challenging, fun, and meaningful to me; a perfect storm named Dream Job.  And if the work doesn’t satisfy all three, it’s a waste of my time.  But there is a fundamental flaw with this attitude.

The short-term vs. long-term perspective dilema.

Two years of hard work can be full of non-challenging and non-fun work.  And that work may not feel meaningful until day 500, and for 499 days, work sucks.  But on day 500, it’s all worth it.  But my fear is that I may end up grinding it out and never hit that point where it all becomes worth it.  Okay, the work is definitely worth it if it pays my rent, but I’m talking really worth my time here.

How can I tell if I am saving time or avoiding a process?

How can we tell if a short term drudgery–a seemingly inconvenient waste of time–is a necessary process for achieving something meaningful in the long-term?  Are there indicators, or is it simply up to me to make the work meaningful?  My own reflections are pointing me toward the latter, but I’d really enjoy hearing others’ thoughts on the matter (experts in human capital, I’m looking at you).

If talking specifics helps, here’s the deal.  I’m graduating from law school this month.  I’ve put in some good effort over the last three years, but I have definitely been outworked by many of my peers.  I’m not sure where they find the motivation.  I need a genuine interest to get my ass going, and when your studying tax law, that interest is hard to find.

So I “save time” by reading online explanations instead of entire cases, and I cram at the end of the semester.  I have long-since mastered the art of the multiple choice exam, so I do just fine.  I’ve been walking the desire path and consistently get to the same location, but perhaps I am missing important processes.

Then there’s the whole career thing.  I have long-term dreams of starting my own business and helping others do the same.  I know that certain drudgeries associated with going to work everyday (especially when the surf is good) will assist me in performing work that I will someday find challenging, fun, and meaningful.  But is this something we are told to be good little cogs?  Or maybe it’s just the less vindictive path of the wandering calf, something we follow simply because others have walked it before?  

Because seriously, who wants to wake up in 10 years and realize they’ve been hosed by the system?

Now, sidewalks and desire paths aside, if I take the road less traveled, meaning more risk and less pay, am I simply choosing short-term convenience over long-term gain?  I suppose this brings me back to the short-term/long-term dilema.  And while I think my motivation is to save time and not avoid the process, my perspective is limited and my ego is biased in my favor.

A bit of a ramble, I know, so any thoughts are appreciated.   Here’s the debate that sparked this post:

“Money is really like a chronic disease, my financial situation is something that intrudes on what I want to do, and prevents me from doing it unless I keep it treated. Either the work is interesting, or it isn’t what I want to do with my life. (You turn 40 at the same time regardless of what you’ve been doing, the question “was it worth it” is not a dollar value question.)

I suspect all real geeks are like this. Being paid very well to sit in a cubicle with nothing to do (been there, quit that) is low-grade torture.”

James Legendre says:

[W]hat bunk. Money is simple. Spend less than you make and save for a rainy day. If you want to do something that makes less, do it. You don’t need to wax on about what a revelation it is to settle for less of something. Most American’s do it every day. The real question is when faced with a choice, how many people would eagerly jump at the chance for one day in your shoes? Nobody appreciates anything any more. That kind of article, book, or whatever it came from is what’s wrong with America today. Just a bunch of grown up children that don’t want to sit through story time even though the teacher says it’s good for them. 


4 thoughts on “Following the desire path: good, bad, or lazy?

  1. Hi Ben. As a coach, I’ve reflected on some of the issues you outline in your post at
    Of course, this post only a very partial reflection and I have to say that this reflection is disseminated throughout my blog. I am presently writing a white paper : From where you are to where you have to go about the hyperdialectics between journey/ process and destination/product
    Might interest you. Tell me if you are interested and you will be privy to the first version when it’s ready.
    Take care,

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