One of my favorite words in the English language is trailblazer.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a trailblazer is “the first person to do something or go somewhere, who shows that it is also possible for other people.”
A trailblazer is someone who is bold. Someone with vision who sees not only what’s been done before but what is possible. Someone with courage willing to take risks and fail until they figure out how to succeed.
And, significantly, a trailblazer is someone who is connected — because one of the signature attributes of a true trailblazer is the motivation to inspire others.
TRAILBLAZERS & MAPS
On the face of it, it would seem a trailblazer would be the first to reject a map. After all, a map lays out what’s already been discovered, and the whole point of being a trailblazer is to go beyond what’s already known and been done.
But here’s what a trailblazer learns about the value of a map:
A map shows a place to come from, not a place to go to.
The key to living a trailblazing life is to maintain and act on the intention to innovate while simultaneously respecting and learning from the achievements of those who came before. Admittedly, it can be a difficult balance to maintain…
In the rush to create something new, it can be easy to bypass the wisdom earned by the painstaking efforts of one’s predecessors and find oneself unnecessarily “reinventing the wheel,” or worse, headed into a dead-end that had already been determined. Alternatively, in the wake of someone else’s truly impressive achievement, it can be easy to get lost trying to master the existing system, so that one never ventures forward and takes the next step on the road of creating something new.
HOW TO USE A MAP TO POWER YOUR OWN CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT
Here’s how high-achieving trailblazers use a map as a place to come from:
- Pause, Reflect, and Learn Before Embarking on the Path
A map is a source of inspiration. It stands as proof that people before you have been explorers, adventurers, and discoverers, and it shows you their example, providing a high-level look at their paths and how they turned out.
Your goal is not to copy someone else’s’ adventure. But you can study someone else’s adventure for insights and abstract lessons to apply to your own. Spending some time with a map drawn by someone else can give you the opportunity to pause and reflect and gain some high-level perspective on a journey before you plunge in.
Just don’t take too long before making the plunge! Some lessons you won’t even be able to appreciate until you’re in the middle of your own adventure, and some things you’ll only learn through experience alone. Planning and preparation can be good, but what’s most important is the plunge.
- Commit to Making Your Own Map
Don’t get overwhelmed by someone else’s map. If you compare someone else’s life’s work to your own “You’re Here” current point, it’s easy to feel that you’ll never be good enough to go your own way, so that you end up only ever following the current map. And it’s true that sometimes following someone else’s’ adventure can be exhausting enough…
This why it’s important to commit (and continuously recommit) to your intention to make your own map.
- Re-Orient When Necessary
One of the hardest truths high-achievers face when they set out to be trailblazers is the fact that failure along the way is inevitable. You will make mistakes, you will hit dead-ends, you will encounter roadblocks that will require multiple tries before you figure out how to go beyond them.
Further, you may have set your compass in one direction, and find along they way that, no, really, you want to go a different way instead. Many high achievers are so committed to the idea of attaining a goal that they don’t sop along the way and question whether there is actually a better goal to pursue.
When you’re a trailblazer making your own map, it’s important to re-orient when necessary.
- There is No Final Destination
Perhaps what’s most exciting about the trailblazing life is that there’s always another, greater achievement to pursue.
High achievers know that when they reach one destination, it’s only a temporary stopping point on the path of more and more adventures. Note: it IS important to stop. Many high achievers don’t take the time to fully soak in and celebrate the achievements they do earn. But it’s also simultaneously important to keep dreaming, reaching, and acting toward the next goal.
For more on finding the balance between seeking the new while respecting the true wisdom of what’s come before, check out my video on Thinking Beyond Systems.