“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson Heading in your own direction. Away from the beaten track. Discovering new opportunities. Always questioning: could things be different? Better? Do you often work alone? Feel that you are swimming against the current? Then there’s a good chance you’re a pioneer. You mostly discover that about yourself later; others point out that you are different far sooner than you do. Pioneers are people who are the first to enter a particular field. They have to find their own way without the assistance or the experience of others. A characteristic of a pioneer’s work (the so-called pioneering) is the hardship that pioneers experience and the huge effort they have to put in because many things are still missing. A pioneer’s work often goes hand-in-hand with failures and setbacks as he or she does not yet have access to methods that have been proven in practice. A pioneer’s work is very important as others can build on it. Some people are born pioneers. In the past pioneers sought new and unknown surroundings, while modern pioneers are those who, for example, start a new company. A real pioneer functions less in an entirely established situation. ~ Wikipedia. The process that many pioneers will recognise is ‘strive, struggle & shine’. They are not held back by the uncomfortable feeling of stepping outside of their comfort zone. They know they have to work hard, often fall flat on their face, and that few people will understand them; until they make the breakthrough and leave a trail that others can follow. In some cases there is praise, but in others a lack of understanding or even jealousy. Pioneers take very little time for the ‘shine’ phase, and are often heading out on another voyage of discovery almost straight away. Yet I think it’s important to stand still and reflect on your ‘successes’ and share your lessons with others. I do this, for example, in the inspiration section on this site. I have always felt different. And have always gone my own way. I was curious about other countries, sought out extreme experiences (such as participating in the reality show Survivor) and so discovered my own limits. My biggest lesson was Coins for Care, whereby with no budget and zero experience I burrowed my way into the charities world and collected €16m. I encountered resistance, nepotism, kingdoms, old boys networks, dubious financial streams, etc. I did everything differently, more quickly and more cheaply and so did not make many friends… Especially the established charities saw me as a threat. For others I was a source of inspiration, and a breath of fresh air in a rigid, established sector. In an interview in Carp– introduce a spark (Dutch), I talk about my experience. Around that time I first read this quote, with which I could identify myself fully: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt I recently discovered the book Leadership on the line. Although the theme of leadership is really not my thing, the book provided me with some important insights into group dynamics and defence mechanisms that are used in times of change. Oh, I do so wish I had read (and understood) this when as a 28-year-old I naïvely dived into the world of charities… In the (Dutch) book pamflet2.nl about personal steering, entrepreneur and explorer Jeroen Komen wrote a story about autistic fish. If all the little fish continue to swim along tidily with all the other fish in the school, they would never discover new routes, places, hiding places or sources of food. The ‘autistic fish’ that deviate from the group behaviour are in fact the pioneers of the fish society. They stick out their necks, are sometimes eaten by predatory fish, but are otherwise the key to the survival of the school. So: as a pioneer you have no choice but to accept who/how/what you are, and to follow your own compass. Even if it is not always easy and you are often not understood. You are paving a way that one day will be followed by others.