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Take A Detour

Peter Aceto is a passionate leader. As the President and CEO of Tangerine, he stands for more than a leader of a bank: his goal is to change the conversation about leadership, and to inspire unconventional thinking and transparency that delivers unparalleled results for business and consumers. His upcoming book, Weology: How Everybody Wins When We Comes Before Me, will be published this fall. Below, Peter writes about the importance of “straying from the path”:

Follow in my footsteps — a wonderful sentiment isn’t it? It’s very comforting to know that others before us have forged great paths for us to follow — our parents, older brothers and sisters, business leaders, etc. Society has a plethora of great examples for us to shadow, to emulate.

It would seem to be the right thing to do, even honourable, to match the steps of those before us and to stay on a steady path. Get a great education, get a great job, get married, have kids, get promoted, make more money, retire, buy a boat… you know what I’m getting at. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I wonder — are we making the most of our existence when we follow the path forged before us? Is our focus on the plan or the goal depriving us from interesting experiences?

What if we take a small detour? Try out something no one you know has done before, consequently creating brand new footsteps? Could we find the magic that might be missed in a preconceived predictable path?

I’d like to think so. In fact, I know so.

I met the founder of Tangerine (formerly ING DIRECT) by chance at a car shop. I was a lawyer back then, an unhappy one, and Arkadi Kuhlmann’s vision to start this entrepreneurial bank was so inspiring, I decided — without any frame of reference before me — to change my career and pursue any opportunity that would put me in the middle of this wonderful venture he was so passionate about.

I had no idea where this might lead me, but eighteen years later, ten fingers aren’t enough to count the many valuable lessons I’ve learned (and magic I found) from taking that detour.

But I’m not the only one who is in pursuit of magic. I recently met Jorge Blanco. Jorge is a former lawyer from Spain, and a pugilist who also took a detour in his life. Jorge left his law career to pursue his love of the martial arts. He fought professionally and he fought for his country. He later moved to Canada and started an elite training program for executive teams and professional athletes. He and I worked out a few weeks ago, and I have to tell you it is wonderful to be around those who have found their true passion.

And then if you are a basketball fan, you might know the great story of Nick U’Ren. Nick is a special assistant to the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, the recently crowned 2015 NBA champions. He is credited for making an unprecedented and crucial recommendation to the coaching staff that set the team on a winning path. The point is that Nick, at 21 years old, took a detour. Instead of following the traditional path, he decided to move to Italy with very little money and pursue opportunities that expose him to his passion for basketball and key players and coaches. That one decision changed his life trajectory. As unconventional as his detour was, it produced magic and now defines who he is, for now.

Small changes to the course of our lives are not easy, but they are necessary. We will almost certainly learn something that we never knew, or we might find an interest we never had before. Others before us can inspire us, and teach us a great deal from their experiences but in the words of Albert Einstein, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Your experience, that is. No amount of inspiration can equate to the learning attained, or the magic found, from paving your own way, creating your own fresh footsteps. Who knows where they might lead and how they change your lives forever? They may or may not take you on a new fulfilling journey, you might “fail” (the buzzword du jour) but you will learn, and at the very least it will be a new experience on your list of experiences.

So take a few minutes to not just smell the roses but to stray from the road, to try anything new, to create possibilities and ultimately to enrich your perspective on life forever.

Peter Aceto/July, 2015