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ironiya • this career-oriented blog—published on biweekly Wednesdays—looks at the positive and sometimes ironic sides of a kaleidoscopic range of workplace and life issues, from education and employment to discipline and discord •

the beauty of cobblestone: uneven paths

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When driving, who wouldn’t choose the paved roads, the smooth transitions, the shock absorbers’ gratitude? The initial response may well be likewise when confronted with personal and career decisions, yet is the flat ride always the best?

Instinct may have us attempt to avoid struggling, yet perseverance and character are built upon that self-same struggle and arguably impossible to achieve without it. The twin peaks of satisfaction and contentment are borne from a belief in—and willingness to confront— what lies ahead rather than an escape-at-all-costs mindset that has less substance than a microbe.

And why hesitate to take the unconventional route, especially when following prescribed paths may well lead to routine lives, to unfulfilled potential, to boredom? The celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks, for one, took an unorthodox path to both his life and his study of the brain. He allied a deeply sympathetic engagement with patients to an energetic, fiercely independent—if vulnerable—personality unafraid to put his work on display through books, articles and classrooms. His new memoir, On the Move (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/books/review-oliver-sacks-looks-at-his-life-in-on-the-move.html), reveals an altogether fascinating, inspiring perspective.

Doubt is real and often cannot be avoided, yet it surely can be channeled productively. Questions about how to proceed? Be they allied to a job application, to a marriage proposal, to heart surgery, to a huge project that promises months or years of steady effort or to countless other scenarios, that self-same doubt may well lead to extra preparation, to extra discipline, to extra care that can well mean the difference between rejection and accomplishment, between regret and gratitude.

Ask for help. Seek guidance. Work hard. Don’t be afraid to take educated risks. The uneven cobblestone path to get there may well turn into the most durable of them all.