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Jeff Nania on the Road Less Traveled

Jeff Nania is the author of the Northern Lakes Mystery series. You can find out more about him on his website,, or by clicking here, read his last post here, and see his books here.

Postage stamp 10¢ with image of a man and the words "Robert Frost, American Poet"

One the greatest American poets that ever lived was born 149 years ago on March 26, 1874. Robert Lee Frost’s work was recognized during his life and beyond, including four Pulitzer Prizes, thirty-one nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Congressional Gold Medal bestowed on him by President John Kennedy. He died in 1963 at the age of eighty-nine, leaving an unprecedented literary legacy.

Frost’s colloquial approach to language that he called “the sound of sense” resonated with people across America. The sound of sense—we know it when we hear it. Speak plainly and clearly with meaning. His extraordinary words described the actions of ordinary people. 

The year Frost died, best-selling author, Malcom Gladwell, the descendant of enslaved people, was born. In his 2008 book Outliers, Gladwell discussed in detail the idea of an “outlier”—a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body of a system. He shared stories of those among us who shy away from convention, seeking their own path. 

Frost’s poem “A Road Not Taken” was written almost one hundred years before Gladwell published his book. Both are tales of outliers. In Frost’s story, a traveler comes to a fork in the road and considers his options—with one path clearly more travelled than the other. In the end, the hiker says, “I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” The traveler’s choice, one of an outlier.

Gladwell said these outliers can take advantage of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. Hardwork? He says that it will take ten thousand hours of practice to attain a level of expertise in any field. Five hours each day for nearly five and a half years following a path they believe will ultimately lead to success. 

Image in the woods of a hand holding a phone with a book cover "Musky Run" and the words "Releases March 21" on the side.

I have been in every version of my life an outlier. A dear friend of mine who runs a great bookstore told me I am not just an outlier, but also in a subcategory of outlier—a writer outlier. I don’t write the way others do. It doesn’t mean I write better; it just means different. 

He’s right, but it is not just me, it’s all of you too. Every one of you who dares to sit and craft words into a page, then turn the pages into a book, is taking the path less travelled. I am afraid that ten thousand hours is just the beginning.

Jeff Nania

Award-winning author Jeff Nania draws upon careers in law enforcement, conservation, and a passion for our natural resources in his bestselling Northern Lakes Mystery series. Jeff’s narrative non-fiction writing has appeared in Wisconsin Outdoor News, Double Gun Journal, The Outlook, and other publications. Download a free short story and read more of Jeff's writing at, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Jeff — Congratulations on your up-and-coming release. I look forward to reading it!

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    Jo Winkler-Bley

    Jeff~your ability to spin a tale has always been one of the traits people enjoy most about you. I’m so glad there is another book!

  3. Sherrill M Joseph
    Sherrill M Joseph

    Jeff, thanks for sharing about outliers. I believe that most artists–including writers–are outliers as you define the term. Because outliers via their creativity offer new ways to see or think of the world, they are too often misunderstood or ridiculed. Some survive and rise while others sadly crash and burn. It takes courage and fortitude to sustain being an outlier. Bless outliers and their gifts to the world.

  4. joyribar

    Hi Jeff. I love the book Outliers and used to teach it to my AP English Language students. They heard me use the mantra about 10,000 hours of practice to be good at anything in reference to their writing and analysis of books. I know they were sick of hearing it from me, but I now I remind myself, Joy the author, about what will be required of me to improve. Thanks for sharing that reminder with the group. I think most creative people are outliers of sorts.

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    Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Thank you so much for this thought-provoking piece. As a high school science teacher, I can’t help but SEE in my mind’s eye graphs–graphs with a few dots here and there that are too far away from the line connecting all those other points. Life, I think, can’t exist in reality without outliers. Now, I see that I, myself, may be much like one of those outlying dots professionally as much as I always kind of felt I did personally. Intriguing and engaging. Thanks again.

  6. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Jeff, thank you for this wonderful post. I think you fit right in with R. Frost. I can’t wait for your next book! As they say in Austin, Texas, “keep it weird.”

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Great post, Jeff. Yep, I call it tap-dancing out on a limb. Congratulations on the upcoming release of MUSKY RUN!

  8. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    What a great post. We’re all outliers. As kids, we probably felt “on the outside” at times. Little children definitely feel that and it’s why we have millions of picture books about how to cope with being an outlier. Let’s hope we never grow up because being an outlier is about being different and creative. Congratulations on your new book!!!

  9. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Wonderful post, Jeff! So insightful. I’m so excited to read your latest!

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