What Pioneers Can Teach Us All

The glory and plight of the pioneer, something we should all aspire to.


We all know the feeling.

The feeling the pioneer gives us, the disbelief, the shock, the awe.

We never know until we experience it — but when we do, we are lost for words. We are hit like a ton of bricks, and left thinking “that’s incredible.”

It’s innovative, it’s barrier breaking, it’s revolutionary, it’s glorious — it’s what a pioneer does.

What a pioneer instills in us is hope. The drive to do something we have never done before, something we thought impossible.

When the pioneer builds something we can’t comprehend, when they manufacture an entirely new category of products, or when they win like we never thought possible — it’s inspiring.

Pioneers re-define the rules.

Pioneers move us forward as a species, as a civilization, as people. They make us dream of more, inspire us to move, and create. They motivate us to be better than what we think we are capable of, and to push the boundaries wherever we can find them.

But there are things that we don’t see up-front in the pioneer.

We don’t see the struggle, the anguish, the battles, the small victories and the large defeats.

There is a duality to the pioneer. On one end they inspire us to be better and strive for more but on the other they struggle to keep going, to keep moving. Because while we only see the final win, they have been changing the rules, questioning authority, and breaking down the status quo.

The pioneer is forced to be an outcast, a misfit, a rebel. Because society isn’t ready for the pioneer.

The pioneer struggles, battles, wins in spite and triumphs, but not without sacrifice. Winning, but not without a fight, not without opposition.

The beauty is that the pioneer is hardened by their opposition, they feed off of it, they use it, they embrace it.

Opposition nurtures the pioneer. They use it like air in a wind-tunnel, shaping them, molding them, hardening their purpose, making them more resistant to the negative drag.

The pioneer is nothing without their fight. Greatness doesn’t come from a lack of adversity. Greatness comes from a fight. A fight to overcome, to triumph, to crawl out from where they’ve been forced.

Perhaps this is why we believe that we can’t become pioneers. Because we’re disconnected from this fight, because we don’t have to struggle. We don’t have the “chance” to be great, we haven’t had the opportunity.

Pioneers seek the opportunity. Pioneers don’t follow the path, they find where the path should be. It’s not that we haven’t fought hard enough, it’s that we haven’t fought where the fight should be fledged.

Prior to the 1968 Summer Olympics no one approached the high-jump in the way that we now consider normal. That was until Dick Fosbury took a back-first jump to win the Gold medal at his first Olympic appearance. The style that we now know as the “Fosbury Flop” was met with initial skepticism, and even thoughts of illegality. Though now 34 of 36 Olympic medalists in the event from the 1972 Olympics up until the 2000 Olympics used the flop.

“To follow the path that others have laid before you is a reasonable course of action; therefore all progress is made by unreasonable men” — Steve Jobs

No one thought to take 8 rounds of lethal punches from George Forman before laying an assault on the tired giant to win by knock-out in arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century, in Kinshasa, Zaire.

That was until Ali took the ring and showed the world something we had never seen before. Laden with ridicule, thoughts of imminent defeat, and scorn, Muhammad Ali took to strategy that no one would ever expect, tiring an undefeated heavyweight champion to reclaim his title in the 8th round. He didn’t follow the path, that would have led him toe-to-toe with a raging bull. Ali forged his own path, tiring the champion, taking hit after hit until finally the time came to make his mark. An assault of glory, bestowed upon arguably the most powerful boxer of all time, to take back his crown for the third time.

The plight of the pioneer is that they will always be met with backlash, with friction, with negative resistance — because everything they fight for is against the grain. It may be from the people around them, it may be internal turmoil but there is always that harsh resistance met by a rebellious incentive to do things the way they believe things should be done.

Every great hero has a great nemesis, just as every pioneer has their struggle. Struggle only sharpens the pioneer, it’s something to measure against, it’s a visceral battle. When the pioneer overcomes the adversity, when they finally breach that precipice and stand anointed as a true “great” — that’s when we are left in awe.

That’s also when the critics, the naysayers, the close-minded status quo marchers, the friction, the opposition shows up and says, “Is that even legal?” But the pioneer has already won.

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”

We would not be the same without pioneers. They teach us to question the rules, break the status quo, seek our own way, and stand out amongst the crowd. They teach us to seek the fight, not take the easy way out, to embrace the pain, because the pain is where the true path lays. They teach us to be better, to think differently, to be the greatest, to seek perfection.

Pioneers teach us that our fight is not worthless, that our dreams are not a fantasy, that we can obtain all that we dream of, and that the battle is worth the fight.

What is your fight? What do you believe in? Are you rolling with the current, or are you forging your own path? Where will you end up ? Awash in regret, or remembered throughout history?

Aspire to be great, aspire to change the world, aspire to be the pioneer.

Glory to the pioneer.

I’m a marketing consultant and adrenaline junkie. I write on Copyblogger, The Huffington Post, and many other publications around the web. I’m also a consultant for hire.

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