Are You a Trailblazer? And no not the basketball team, a real trailblazer.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. Yup that is a little while, and we talked about the differences in our lives. The conversation started because of a remark an african-american friend made. He said we were both granted a pass to start life “on third base” because we were caucasian.
I don’t really understand the analogy, because being born on third base is no guarantee of making it home, and starting on home plate (and being an american) doesn’t mean you can’t make it to home plate, even if the white guy on third gets tagged out. In fact the guy who made the comment is doing very well, and has been for a long time.
We started comparing our lives to each others and to the life of the guy who inspired the conversation.
My childhood friend is doing what he expected to be doing, basically working with 2.5 kids and surviving in the same area we grew up in. We live just 5 miles apart. Out of the chute we both went into the military, he stayed in the 4 year minimum got married and got out. He eventually divorced and re-married. A pretty typical scenario. Most of his life he didn’t make any waves.
I went a different direction. I stayed single until I was in my late 20’s. I almost made it to 30 as my Dad had suggested. I also studied military life and learned the rules so I could bend them. My friend had played by the rules, had one job and got out. I got on the base marksmanship team because that was a way to leapfrog ahead quickly. That was just the beginning. Sadly I wasn’t smart enough to follow that pattern at every turn in my life.
These days I am still a little stunned at the life that I am blessed with. I often wonder why others don’t do what I have done. Or try to do what I am trying to do. At the end of our conversation my friend made a very profound statement. He said “It doesn’t matter where you start, it only matters how you run the race. I settled for a spot very early and you kept running. I envy you for that.”
I don’t know if I kept running, but I do know that I never stopped moving. It wasn’t always moving forward though. For a while, I went in circles because my head was firmly placed where the sun don’t shine. I think I have done the “pop” maneuver and pulled it out. If I haven’t please sound off.
One thing I am pretty good at is seeing through the chaff and keeping a clear view of the target. I learned this at Ridgewood Military academy and fine tuned this skill at Army-Navy in Carlsbad and later in the Air Force. In life being able to quickly ignore the “chaff” and move to the target is a valuable skill. To some my ability to cut through the story to the essence quickly makes me a bit annoying or “anti social”. I am working on that, but I just don’t see the need to waste the time, I would rather go play. I have always been like that.
As a kid the chores I hated where the ones that were time based like watering the grass. 15 minutes for each area and my dad would time it. If I cut each area short by one minute, I figured I could go 5 minutes early to play. I only took that shortcut once.
My friend also said something interesting. He called me a “trailblazer”. He had never seen me fail or give up on anything. I have given up, and I have failed. Some failures were massive and expensive lessons. The conversation turned when he admitted that he wants to know how to latch on and catch back up or at least follow my trajectory.
The funny thing is that he might just be on to something. You don’t need to be a trailblazer to accelerate your life. The truth is I really am not. I do know how to find them so I can eliminate the time wasters and keep moving.
Early in my life I thought it was important to do it all myself. Now I know learning from the school of hard knocks sucks. You just need to know one trailblazer you can grab on too and follow. The truth is I didn’t do any of this on my own. As a kid, Forest Sherman and Grady Griswold took me under their wing, they were my early trailblazers. In the Air Force, Lester Esparza, Bob Silva and Emanual Jauquin kept me on the right track. They were my later trailblazers.
At Stanford, Apple and AirTouch other people taught me more about how to move forward quickly and overcome what looked like insurmountable obstacles.
While I lived in Texas I got ahead of myself and tried to run a company all by myself. I fell pretty much flat on my face. The school of hard knocks kicked my butt.
As I shared my biggest failure with my friend, he was confused. How did I recover so quickly from that failure. He said it would have devastated him.
For some reason people forget that we really do live in the land of opportunity. You can fail, and recover. That is the secret, you have to recover. Some can work harder to recover faster, others can continue to fall until they hit bottom.
The best rewards in my life are watching people get a direction and start moving forward. My nephew is not even 15 and is already a better musician than I could ever be. He plays bass in a band and is an up and coming rockstar. He has the potential to be amazing. Getting an email from a client after a Yelp! inquiry that said “I responded but we are booked solid until September” brings a little more happiness to my world.
Am I a trailblazer? I don’t know about that but I do know that I don’t take no for an answer, and most of the time I keep pushing even if it isn’t quite pushing forward. Giving in leads to giving up and that leads no where. I want to go somewhere even if I don’t know were “somewhere” is. Don’t you?
Your possibilities are endless. The question is, will you be a trailblazer or hire one so you can make your possibilities into probabilities?