Do you carve the path?

[behavior] carve the path. [persona] pioneer.

  1. the ability to take a set of unknowns or uncertainty head on and proactively define a way forward.

A good way to think about carving the path is by considering a trailblazer who makes a new track through unfamiliar territory. Imagine the last hike that you completed – now imagine that you were the person who made the trail. A trailblazer deals with uncertainty and risk as they move through a territory for the first time to understand the terrain and its environment. Although the territory may be new to them, odds are they take what they’ve learned from other experiences and environments to make informed decisions about how best to navigate the new area. Ultimately, they use their knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about how best to move forward.

In consulting, similar situations arise when clients are faced with very challenging problems to solve. The problem becomes the territory; the consultant becomes the trailblazer. The role of a consultant in this situation is to mark the trail: evaluate the client’s goals, understand the current state of affairs and options available, analyze and educate the client of the pros/cons of various approaches, point out risks, and define a way forward. Successful consultants not only solve the problems that clients present to them – they 1) predict the problems and challenges a client will have in achieving their goals, and 2) are proactive in communicating and describing how to get ahead of those problems.

Applying a carving the path mentality is useful whenever life presents a tough decision to make where there is a high degree of uncertainty or perceived risk. You may be deciding where you want to go to college, choosing a career direction or school major, taking on a new project, buying a home, helping a customer with a complex challenge, or perhaps considering to start your own business. These are big decisions that get you out of your comfort zone. What I find useful in these situations is to write down my thoughts on paper – the act of transferring my thoughts onto paper helps reduce what I call think fatigue. I also make use of techniques such as the GROW method to analyze the big picture and bring structure to analyzing options for moving forward.

Follow these tips to embrace a carving the path mentality:

  • Don’t be afraid to venture into new areas or experiences
  • Be proactive in predicting challenges and solving problems
  • Expect unknowns, uncertainty, and risks when making big decisions
  • Use a structured approach to analyzing situations and defining a way forward (the GROW method)


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