Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

from Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken on Rap Genius

Meaning

By taking the “less traveled” path, he’s committed himself to more risk, but also more potential reward.

As Ken Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Since fewer people have taken this path, the narrator won’t be able to avoid all of the hazards and risks; he may even fail. At the same time, however, he may discover something mysterious and marvelous, something never discovered before. It is the small, seemingly insignificant difference that alters how and or where the paths lead.

These famous final lines are often quoted as presenting a stark choice between originality and conformism, boldness and timidity. As the poem’s context makes clear, though, the situation isn’t that simple: the paths are “really about the same,” with one only slightly less traveled than the other. There’s risk and opportunity cost involved in taking either.

However, although the paths were similar, he imagines himself later telling people that he made a monumental decision. The poem is in part about randomness and the meaning we attempt to force onto our lives in our desire to see ourselves as masters of our fate.

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