The Road Not Taken By Others

Editor’s note: Taking a break from supply chain and logistics, Adrian shares a story on how the decisions made by others contribute to the paths we take in life.

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, and as it often does, my mind wandered off.

How did I get here? Not here, on this sidewalk, at this moment. But here, at this point in my life?

Tracing back my footprints, I can point to decisions I made here and there that made me go this way or that way. Like the day I decided to quit my job and start my own business.

Going further back, my footprints lead me to my sophomore year at Cornell, standing in front of two lists outside the Engineering Co-op office. I had interviewed for several co-op jobs, but the best I could do was land as the second alternate for two positions at Motorola.

My friend Paul, who I didn’t know at the time, was the primary candidate for one of the positions and he accepted it immediately.

For me to get the remaining co-op job at Motorola, two students I didn’t know had to decline the opportunity. They had a week to decide.

I checked the list multiple times on Monday. No change. Multiple times on Tuesday. No change. But on Wednesday, the primary candidate declined the job offer, which moved me up to first alternate. I checked the list almost every hour on Thursday. No change. I checked almost every hour on Friday — before breakfast, after morning classes, before lunch, after lunch, before my afternoon classes. Still, no change, no change, no change.

Then, at 4:00 pm that Friday, with an hour left to decide, I trudged back to the office and checked again. The student ahead of me had declined the job offer. He decided to go that way instead of this way, and so I got the job.

I worked at Motorola in Arizona the fall of my junior year, then again the following summer, which led to a full-time job after graduation.

That’s how a boy from Brooklyn, NY ended up in Arizona. Two years after moving there, I met a young woman who had just moved there from Connecticut. She became my friend, then my fiancé, and then my wife of 25+ years, the mother of our four children.

I don’t know who the two students were who declined the job opportunity with Motorola. I don’t know where their decisions and footsteps led them, but I know where they led me.

I got here via the road not taken by others.