There are No Detours in Life

Dr. Bharucha with Chris and I after one of our splendid dinners in 2014

One of my most cherished mentors and friends, Dr. Ashok Bharucha, who also happens to be one of the kindest men I know, once told me that “there are no detours in life.” He posited during dinner with my friend Chris and I that “all so-called detours eventually take us exactly where we’re supposed to be.”

At the time, I didn’t quite get what he meant and over the years, I have wrestled with this idea in my mind from time to time. Thankfully, as the years have gone by, experience has graciously shed more light on this subject for me.

A detour is defined as “a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way.” Stop. Read that again, but slowly this time. Based on this definition, detours are actually pretty awesome! I know...I know...they hardly ever seem that way in real life but I have come to appreciate them more by taking a close look at the various parts of this definition.

First, detours are “long or roundabout routes” not wrong routes! It’s important to recognize detours as being connected to your final destination except that they make you travel in a manner or at a speed that is inconsistent with what you had initially anticipated. That’s annoying. I agree. But still, you’re going to get there eventually so just chill out and practice some patience!

Second, they are “taken to avoid something.” Take a moment to think about a few things or people that you’re currently avoiding. Which of those things or people are you avoiding because they are good for you? Which of them made you feel so wonderful that you decided “hmmm...this thing/person is so good for me! I think they ought to be avoided forever!” If you’re constantly working hard to avoid danger and harm, then why are you hating on detours for helping you to do the thing that you work so hard to do everyday anyway?  

Third, they are taken to “visit somewhere along the way.” I’ve had the privilege of doing a little bit of traveling over the last decade of my life and I can say without a doubt that the best thing about visiting new places is that you get to learn new things both consciously and unconsciously. Rumor has it that Albert Einstein once said, “once you stop learning, you start dying.” If learning is an antidote to dying (in the intellectual sense of the word), and detours are opportunities for learning, then it might be safe to say that the more detours you take, the longer you’ll “live.” Sounds pretty good to me!

Contrary to the distractive phenomena that they are often perceived to be, detours are actually adventurous experiences that teach us a few things in preparation for our target destination and often keep us safe from disaster on our way there!

The major reason why detours are so annoying and unwelcome is because we hardly ever plan for them! In order to enjoy a life detour, you must make some provision for it ahead of time. Some practical ways to prepare for detours: avoid procrastination so you have some extra time to enjoy distractions; save more money than you should so you can afford to buy some “souvenirs” along the way; invest in useful relationships so you have someone to call to come your rescue if the need arises.

The thing about detours though, is that you’ve got to pay attention to the signs and arrows if you want to end back up on the main road.  You will miss the signs and arrows if you bow your head in disappointment throughout the journey. So keep your head up – if not out of excitement, then do it just so you can notice and seize your opportunities to stay on track so as to eventually reach your final destination.

Here’s the best part about all of this: my Bible confirms it! As Christian, that’s pretty important to me. We are told in Romans 8:28 that “...in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” We are also assured in Jeremiah 29:11 that God’s plan is to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. In my experience, what God says, He does. That means, I can expect all my so-called detours to lead to an ultimately beautiful destination. I can already see that happening in several areas of my life and it’s quite exciting!

So to anyone feeling a little lost in life or in an area of life, here’s a little bit of unsolicited advice: cherish your detours, learn as much as you can from them, and pay attention to how they connect you directly or indirectly to your destiny! Just keep reminding yourself that detours are not dead ends and soon enough, you'll see what wonderful places they take you.