Two men traveled in the wilderness. Both were driving snow machines. Both making their way along the same winter trail. They did not travel together.
The first man enjoyed the pleasant day and the solitude of traveling alone. He had hopes of finding the wolverine which had passed this way a few days earlier. He was familiar with this trail; traveling here most every day, hauling firewood to heat his home or to sell to others. He knew every turn. He knew where the trail drops suddenly down the steep bank onto the frozen lake, where it makes the hard left around the old stump, where it winds its way through the patch of standing dead spruce trees. As the cliche says, "he knows this trail like the back of his hand"; he's that familiar with it.
Which is why the fallen tree across the trail seemed so...rude. He travels this trail all the time. Now, suddenly, with no advance warning, the way is blocked. Last night's wind, accompanied by the sub-zero weather, had snapped a medium sized spruce tree off at the stump. Like a military road block in a war torn nation, the tree barred his way, commanding him to "HALT!". There were no rebels armed with AK-47's. No camo fatigues adorned with hanging grenades. No helmets, berets or floppy hats. But the effect was the same. His way was blocked.
Yet this was not the first time a tree had fallen across the trail. In such cases, the traveler must turn his snow machine around and go back, unless he happened to be carrying a chainsaw. With a saw, the roadblock is quickly removed, the insurgents are disarmed and sent scurrying into the forest, and the way is open for all to pass freely.
But the first man did not have a saw. He did carry with him an axe; all prudent travelers in this winter northern wilderness do. He looked at the tree and mentally considered the work necessary to chop through the log, twice, in order to remove a section blocking the trail. Hmmmm. A considerable effort would be needed. He didn't want to turn around and he didn't want to chop through the obstacle. Hmmmm. Maybe there was a third option.
The tree had fallen upon uneven ground. Small humps in the earth were holding the tree suspended over the trail. If he tried, he might be able to lift up on the log and quickly drive the snow machine under it. It looked possible. Hmmmm. The windshield might get broken as it was forced down going under the log; a strong possibility, but no matter. The snow machine had been battered before.
He lifted the log, drove the machine under, cracked his windshield, added to it's growing assortment of "battle scars" and proceeded down the trail.
Along comes our second man. He too is halted at the rebel road block. Like the first, he does not possess a chainsaw but does have an axe. Just as his predecessor, he mentally assesses the work required to chop through the log. Hmmmm. "It won't be an easy task. The tree is green and frozen, so it will be hard to chop, and heavy. If I try to go under it, I'll break my windshield". Hmmmm.
The second man kills the engine and slowly gets off his machine. Anticipating the work ahead, he removes his parka, exchanges his heavy mitts for a pair of lighter gloves and grabs his axe. Deliberately, like a batter stepping up to the plate, he moves into position. After trimming the limbs out of his way, he swings his axe down upon the log; a motion he will repeat dozens, perhaps hundreds of times.
Eventually, the sweating man dries his brow, dons his parka and mitts (though feeling hot he knows he will cool quickly on the moving machine) and continues on his way.
So why does one man evade a challenging obstacle, even when doing so causes him harm, and another man accept it? Is there a connection between how a man faces a log across the trail and how he lives his life? Hmmmm?
I can tell you which man has a better snow machine, but I think you already know.
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