People as Parrots

Some years ago we decided to take a nature hike with a friend in a state park nearby Palm Springs, California. It had been a hot day but it was nearing sunset as we approached a bridge that took us to the upper part of the trail. We knew from the map that the upper trail snaked back to our car in the parking lot, and that the bridge was about the halfway point on the trail. But we had been walking for a while on the lower trail, which had been shaded in mountain trees next to a rushing river. Our three year old daughter seemed to be getting cranky, and our friend was wondering if venturing to the upper part of the trail was worth it. Not knowing what was up ahead, she decided to ask a couple approaching us from the other direction what they thought of the upper trail.

“It’s not worth it.” The man said emphatically. “The trail is hot and sunny and there’s not much of a view up there.”

With this new information my friend urged us to turn around and go back the way we came. But our three year old daughter kept on running farther ahead.

A man and a woman caught up to us, walking in the same direction as we were. They were tired and asked us about the upper trail. “It’s not worth it.” Our friend said. “The upper trail is hot and sunny and there’s not much of a view.” The couple turned around, just as we were planning to do.

But our daughter had found the bridge and was crossing it to the upper trail. By that point it made no sense for us to turn around, so we looped back on the ridge trail that we had been told was no good. We were treated with a spectacular mountain vista view at sunset as we walked. It turned out to be one of the prettiest trails I had ever seen. Had it not been for our three year old daughter, we would have missed it.

I realized as we walked that evening that the first couple who had told us the upper trail was no good had not been lying. Their experience of the trail–walking up the ridge with the late afternoon sun beating on their backs–had probably been exactly as they described. But our experience–walking down the trail, with cooling wind a few hours later at sunset, and multiple mountain ranges in view below us–had been completely different.

Have you ever been given bad advice that was based on someone else’s limited vantage point? Everything from being told not to take a job in a certain industry or to date a certain person. It’s hard to see how the situation has changed unless you try out the situation.

Always take the high road.

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