Vail Valley: Taking the wrong path leads to a life lesson |

Vail Valley: Taking the wrong path leads to a life lesson

Michael Norton
Vail, CO, Colorado

Do you ever find yourself talking with one of your children or employees and saying something like “you won’t understand this now, but when you have children of your own…” or, “when I was in your position…?”

I have shared that philosophy all too many times only to have the message fall on deaf ears – deaf teenage ears, to be exact. Deaf, that is, until this past weekend when an event took place that allowed me to dust off my soap box and demonstrate the point one more time. This time, though, I had supporting and irrefutable evidence on my side.

We had been skiing over in Beaver Creek, and my 18-year-old son had invited his girlfriend to join us on the mountain. She is still something of a beginning snowboarder and my son decided that he would spend the morning with her to provide some coaching.

On their final run before lunch, he made a choice that he would soon regret.

As they approached a part of the ski run that had an option to go left or right, my son made a decision to allow his girlfriend to go the next few hundred yards alone, as he wanted to jump into the trees for a little fresh powder. As his girlfriend neared the point of going left or right, she chose to go right. My son went left. Her choice brought her to the bottom of a different run than my son. Unfortunately, she had decided not to bring her cell phone because my son would be teaching her and therefore they would “never be apart.”

Support Local Journalism

My daughter and I were also on the mountain that day, but we had been skiing on our own and when we skied to the bottom for lunch, we came upon my son, who was very nervous, sad, and anxious because he could not find his girlfriend, someone he cares for, someone he loves. She had taken a different path than the one he assumed she would take.

The good news is we split up, figured out where she probably could have ended up and found her within the next 15 minutes. The better news is that now I had a real world, living example of a message I have been trying to deliver for years.

Whenever my son has made his typical teenage mistakes and bad choices, I would try to tell him he was on the wrong path, and certainly not on the path I wanted for him. And whenever he chose the wrong path, I was hurt, nervous, scared, anxious, and sad.

Now, on this day he had an opportunity to understand those very same feelings – I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

With the very of best intentions parents, business owners, and managers sometimes get a little too philosophical and a lot too wordy. And sometimes life is simply just the very best teacher. The next time a parenting moment or management opportunity comes up, especially with a real- life example, make sure to see if you can capture the experience and share its lesson with those who could benefit most.

Thanks again for all of your e-mails. I would love to hear about your recent life lessons at, and make it a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

Support Local Journalism