Blazing Your Own Trail

I find more and more that people are becoming reluctant to think outside the box and try new things. They are seeing what has worked in the past and they’re merely falling in line with the status quo in hopes of grabbing a small piece of crust from a pie that is already been eaten. This is especially true in the world of business. So many companies are just carbon copies of each other nowadays and I’m finding it hard to find anyone who is really innovating in any space.

We have to look beyond that paths that already lie before us and try to solve problems in new and exciting ways. For example, Apple was able to do this when they first introduced the iPhone back in 2007. Before that, no one liked their phone or even had the slightest bit of personal connection with any consumer electronics device. However, once the iPhone was introduced, people were suddenly in love with their phones and they became an integral part of their lives. I honestly don’t know what I would do without a device that provides the functionality that my iPhone provides.

All that being said, I think it’s quite obvious to many that Apple is and has been somewhat resting on its laurels for the past few years. They seem content on riding the wave of success that was created by the original iPhone and have, for all intents and purposes, stopped innovating in the mobile computing space. I realize that they’re simply trying to sustain this amazing business that they’ve been able to grow over the past several years, but as is the case in any industry, I believe that without innovation you are doomed for failure.

There is a quote that I love by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and that quote refers to this exact situation…

Do not go where the path may lead. Instead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.

This should be your battle cry if you’re starting a new company or even if your existing company seems to have lost its way. You need to look at all facets of your chosen industry and go in search of problems that have yet to be solved. Only when you locate these problems and understand them can you begin to develop an innovative solution. We need to go beyond what users and consumers need right now and think about what they’re going to need in the next 5 or even 10 years from now. That is how you innovate and that is how you will ultimately position yourself or your company on top of the proverbial heap.

Once you’ve identified a problem to solve, ask yourself how you can solve it and what it will take in order to bring your idea to fruition. Build a team around you that will fill in the gaps in areas where you might not be as strong (i.e. if you’re a designer, hire a kick ass developer). Rome wasn’t built in a day and it certainly wasn’t built by just one guy and a hammer. Set realistic goals for yourself and/or your business and make yourself accountable for those goals by setting hard deadlines for progress. You’ll find that as you meet or miss these deadlines that it will only energize and motivate you to hit the next one with even more time to spare. Celebrate your accomplishments, and embrace your failures as lessons that you needed to learn in order to achieve the goal that you’re striving for.

Whether you’re starting a new business, changing careers, or just trying to inject new life into the job/career that you already have, be sure that you identify that path that lies before you and that you take one giant step off of it before setting out on this journey. Only when you’re off the beaten path can you clearly see where your trail should and will be blazed. Once you can clearly see that, you have the power to change the world.