The Crooked Trails' Alternate Route

Dec 14, 2021

With the end of the year so close, it seems the right time to set our next year's goals. The most common way is to establish a strategy to get there, a list of actions to turn those aspirations into a reality. However, there is an alternative approach to it; instead of looking at what we should do, we can focus on what is getting in our way to accomplish our objectives. 

In this episode, we concentrate on that alternative way of reaching our goals; we talk about the stop-doing list. We revisit Sam Foss's poem "The Calf Path" to think about the habits, procedures, or actions we insist on doing not because they are effective but because we are used to and evaluate their ROI. Together, we explore the things we probably don't realize are slowing us down, things we could stop doing at all, moderate, or even change for others.  

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • What can we do to reach our goals and help our team reach theirs (1:18)
  • How can we accomplish our objectives using an alternative path (3:27)
  • The big chunks of mental space low ROI habits take from us (5:15)
  • The Calf Path (7:40)
  • How to identify unhealthy habits and how to eliminate them (11;23)


Let's Connect!


Clint Hoopes: And really when we start talking about things we want to stop doing, we're really talking about cutting things out that are taking our time. So, what low priority or low ROI (Return On Investment)? We talk about time in terms of spending time because it's a resource – we're spending it. Just like you spend money, you're spending your time. So, usually, when you spend your money, you want to get an ROI, a return on your investment because you want to know that it's worth it. 

Welcome to The Flavor of Leadership Podcast. So grateful to have you here. I just want to start off by saying thank you for those of you that have taken the time to leave reviews on Apple Podcasts for the show. It just makes me so happy to read the reviews. And it really does help others find the show. So, thank you for taking the time. As we get started today, I want to start with a question: Have you already set your 2022 goals yet? We've talked about this a couple of times leading up to the end of the year. So, if not, it is time, it is past time. But there still is time with the year coming to a close. But I just want to make sure that you're prepared to help your team accomplish what you want to accomplish this year. And I'm telling you, one of the best ways I have found in my career to ensure that your team goals are not only remembered but executed is to have consistent and effective one-on-one meetings with your team. I talk about one-on-one interactions and one-on-one meetings quite often on the show because truly that is where the magic happens. So, after having a request for a template, really the template that I use for one-on-one meetings, I went ahead and created one for you. I also created the guide to go along with the template so that you'd have every instruction that you need to see how I use the template. 

The guide that I created, not only shows you how to use the template, but also some of the tried and true strategies to make sure that you are making the most out of the time that you spend in your one-on-one meetings. Remember, it is a template so you can modify it to fit your needs, so it will work perfectly for what you need on your team. You can go ahead and share it with anyone you like on your team. And make sure that if they need that they can use it. It's a good thing. So, go ahead, download the free template and the guide at or just click on the link in the show notes and it will take you right there. 

Let's continue on this track of talking about 2022 goals. I don't want to talk so much about your big organization-wide goals. But really goals that are focused more on you. So, as you're considering your goals for next year, what is going to be different in 2022? Have you considered doing something a little different with your goals? Have you considered a goal to stop doing something instead of starting to do something? Most of the time we think about the things we're going to start doing. But often, the way to make the most amount of traction is to stop doing something. So, in the past, we've actually talked about this idea of a stop-doing list. And they can be super helpful – stop-doing lists. I've used them over time and it's been incredibly effective. But is there one big thing in your life or in your business that you want to stop doing for the year 2022 or maybe even forever? So, Steve Jobs said, “My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” That can't be more true. I agree with that. And really when we start talking about things we want to stop doing, we're really talking about cutting things out that are taking our time. So, what low priority or low ROI (Return On Investment)? We talk about time in terms of spending time because it's a resource – we're spending it. Just like you spend money, you're spending your time. So, usually, when you spend your money, you want to get an ROI, a return on your investment because you want to know that it's worth it. And so what low priority or low ROI items are taking our time? And not just our normal time to complete the item but I'm talking about the mental space that it takes in our life to have those items. It really does take space in our life. So, is anything coming to mind for you? So, think about that as we continue to chat through this. 

Let's look at it a little differently now. Back in episode number 29, I shared a poem by a man by the name of Sam Walter Foss. And the poem is called The Calf-Path. So, you may remember this from Episode 29. But if you don't, I'm going to revisit it here today because it really does seem like the perfect time to revisit this poem. It has a powerful message for us on the things really that we should consider stop doing in 2022. So, as we're considering our stop-doing goal for 2022, let's read this and see what comes to your mind as I read. So, listen carefully to the poem. It'll take a minute or so to read through it. So, there are some powerful phrases to ponder in this. So listen carefully and then we'll come back and keep covering this. So, here's the poem:

One day through the primeval wood

A calf walked home as good calves should;

 But made a trail all bent askew,

A crooked trail as all calves do.

 Since then three hundred years have fled,

And I infer the calf is dead.

 But still he left behind his trail,

And thereby hangs my moral tale.

 The trail was taken up next day,

By a lone dog that passed that way;

 And then a wise bell-wether sheep

Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,

 And drew the flock behind him, too,

As good bell-wethers always do.

 And from that day, o'er hill and glade.

Through those old woods a path was made.

 And many men wound in and out,

And dodged, and turned, and bent about,

 And uttered words of righteous wrath,

Because 'twas such a crooked path;

 But still they followed—do not laugh—

The first migrations of that calf,

 And through this winding wood-way stalked

Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,

that bent and turned and turned again;

 This crooked lane became a road,

Where many a poor horse with his load

 Toiled on beneath the burning sun,

And traveled some three miles in one.

 And thus a century and a half

They trod the footsteps of that calf.

 The years passed on in swiftness fleet,

The road became a village street;

 And this, before men were aware,

A city's crowded thoroughfare.

 And soon the central street was this

Of a renowned metropolis;

And men two centuries and a half,

Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout

Followed the zigzag calf about

And o'er his crooked journey went

The traffic of a continent.

A Hundred thousand men were led,

By one calf near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way,

And lost one hundred years a day;

For thus such reverence is lent,

To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach

Were I ordained and called to preach;

For men are prone to go it blind

Along the calf-paths of the mind,

And work away from sun to sun,

To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,

And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,

To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,

Along which all their lives they move.

But how the wise old wood gods laugh,

Who saw the first primeval calf.

Ah, many things this tale might teach—

But I am not ordained to preach.

I love that poem. I've loved that for quite a few years ever since it was first shared with me. I just picture in my mind this little calf. If anybody of you has ever seen a calf when they're brand newborn, and they're just brand new, and they just kind of wobble around. I just pictured this little calf just wandering through this meadow. And then eventually, the grass is kind of bent down a little bit and so the animals begin to follow and before you know it, there's a man in a wagon. And then there's a kind of a trail built, and then a road. And then before you know it, there are buildings on the side of the road. And then there are cities being built. They even said a metropolis. I mean, just a huge city. And they're all on that crooked path. Like I said, he even said that people were cursing the path; “This is so crooked, this is so ridiculous.” They said that people would toil down beneath the burning sun and travel some three miles in one. So, I mean, they're going back and forth, and zigzagging, and all these ways when they could have been a straight line. To travel one mile, they could have traveled just straight. But instead, they traveled three miles to get that far. And men, two centuries and a half, trot in the footsteps of that calf. 250 years and people are still just following that path that was just haphazardly made. The intention of the calf was never that they would follow it. And since they followed still the crooked way and the lost 100 years a day. All that efficiency, all the time is wasted by people weaving in and out and back. They lost 100 years a day – all that efficiency gone. And this is to keep the path that others do, they keep the path a sacred groove. You guys ever felt that way about something in your life? A habit or maybe been in a company where something is done a certain way and it's always done that way. And why? Because that's how we've always done it. It's kind of a sacred groove; “That's the way we do it.” I think about the story, and I think someone could have straightened up that path a long time ago. It would have been so easy. Just those first men that started following it. They started following kind of a little game trail, basically. It's just kind of simple. They could have been like “This is crazy,” and started walking straight. But instead, they just followed along because it was just easier to just keep following the same way as everybody else. But eventually what happens is it gets settled in and stronger and stronger. It will get harder and harder and harder as time goes on, to change the path. So, now, you have the cities that are built, it becomes nearly impossible to straighten out the path; you'd have to knock down whole buildings and redo major roads and thoroughfares in order to do it. And so when would have been the best time to fix the road? Well, really before it ever became one, not following the crooked path, seeing it sooner. But all we can do is go from where we are now.

So, we look at our own work, our own personal lives. Let's start with work. So, when you're thinking about your work – because I was reading that – was there anything that came to your mind? What things are you doing at work just because you have always done them that way? What things are there? You know they're there. And the more you pay attention, the more you'll realize that you don't know exactly why you do them. There are certain things that are just done because that's how they're done. Find those things. Maybe they are being done the right way but find out why. I guarantee you there are a lot of things that you'll look at and be like, “Wait a second. Do we even need to do that at all?” Or “Do we need to do it a different way? Is there a better way?” Maybe they're things that are smaller and really doesn't seem like it matters. But then when you realize that maybe all of your employees are doing this thing every day, three times a day, whatever it is, it adds up. Just like in the poem it talks about, they lost 100 years a day because there are so many people wasting time on that crooked path. As you scale your business, it gets bigger, it's going to happen. It's going to get more and more, like compounds these little problems. 

So, how about your personal life? What activities or commitments take your time or your money or both but don't give you that return that you want? We talked earlier about spending time, just like you spend your money. What is the return you want to be intentional about it? Or perhaps maybe there's a habit in your life that is just unhealthy or just not something that you really meant to form intentionally, it just kind of happened. I know most poor habits that we have start out that way. We didn't really mean to form them intentionally. Most people don't start good habits, you know, it's like, “You know, it was funny, I just started getting up and exercising every morning and eating right. I don't know what happened. I stopped eating junk food. It just felt great.” And maybe there are some of you out there and I'm envious of you – the ones that do that. Most habits I form unintentionally are the bad ones. And I'm guessing that many of you are the same. 

So, as you're thinking about yourself, I'm going to give you some more ideas so you can kind of start brainstorming and think about yourself as you consider what you might stop doing in 2022. So, you might consider something else. How about consider stop using negative words in your language? Or maybe there's a specific word that you use all the time and you just hate it; you're like, “Ugh, I just need to just stop using that word.” Maybe you want to stop making excuses in your life. Maybe you find that you're someone that plays the victim quite often and you find yourself just making excuses. Maybe you want to stop that in your life. Maybe you want to stop procrastinating, or maybe you need to stop procrastinating on a very specific thing in your life. Maybe you want to stop accepting other’s criticism in part of your life where you've allowed it to happen and tolerate it but maybe, it's time to stop that, or stop accepting it in your own life, stop identifying with it when someone says it. Maybe you could stop participating in unhealthy relationship in your life. Maybe you need to stop always saying yes to things in a particular part of your life. Maybe it might be something a little bit different altogether; maybe you need to stop binging Netflix every night. This happens from time to time for a lot of us, I think. You might even decide to stop wasting time listening to podcast other than this one. I'm just kidding. But really all joking aside, if you choose to eliminate something from your life, you must be specific about how things will look after so that you know you're improving. So that you know what impact is being made in your life, you're starting to straighten out that path. So, to get more specific, if we’re talking about Netflix, you might choose to stop binging Netflix every day. Or you might decide to stop binging Netflix or watching Netflix or TV in general, after 9 pm, so you get your sleep. Or maybe it's just on weekdays, you want to stop doing it and just watch on weekends. That is something you can do. You can choose. It's your thing. But find that thing that will help you meet your goals when you stop doing it. 
You'll find that when you're intentional about what you want to stop doing, you begin to become more clear and more intentional about what you want to start doing. So, what are you going to choose to stop doing in 2022? I'd love to hear what you decide. So, really, as always, reach out to me directly at [email protected]. To send me a message of what you're doing or if you just want to drop me a line of any kind, ask a question that we could answer on the show, to give me some show topics, that you want to be covered on the show – any ideas, I love that – or if you're interested in my one-on-one leadership coaching, I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email and we can chat. 2022 is going to be your best year yet. I know it. I can feel it. You got this. Until next week.