We all know who the movers and the shakers of this world are…and were.  Their sole purpose, it seems, is and was to show us the way – to turn the light on, and to leave humanity with something lasting and true. Pioneers, generally, are people do, see, and think about things differently. With words, actions and experiences, they chart their own course. Talent is something a person is born with, for sure, but brilliance and legacy can be things people create. Well-known innovators, artists, politicians, writers, poets, personalities, scientists, photographers, philosophers, musicians, architects, builders, educators, and designers (too many to name!) are usually people who haven’t compromised their creativity. Instead they forged ahead to discover, uncover, and hone their unique view of the world. What do true pioneers have in common besides energy, the will to succeed, momentum, and a deep desire to express themselves? How can we emulate the famous pioneers of today and yesterday so that we, too, can create our own lasting impression and influence, even if it’s on a much smaller scale?

While we can’t be them, we can certainly try to “do as they do” when we walk our own true path. Here is a list of what pioneers seem to have in common, and, as an added bonus, a bunch of kick-ass quotes from famous people:

1.  They know who they are and they do not make excuses

“When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves.” ~ Albert Einstein

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.” ~ Oscar Wilde (at the immigration office)

“Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” ~ Satchel Paige

“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~ Steve Jobs 

2.  They take no prisoners, and they know bullsh*t when they smell it

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~ Maya Angelou

“Logic is in the eye of the logician.”~ Gloria Steinem

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” ~ Mark Twain

3.  They waste no time, they cater to no one, and they do not take no for an answer

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ~ Charles Darwin

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” ~ Warren Zevon

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” ~ Ayn Rand

4.  They make plenty of mistakes – they often fail before they succeed

“You’ve got to work with your mistakes until they look intended. Understand?” ~ Raymond Carver, Cathedral

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” ~ Dale Carnegie 

“Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.”~ Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”~ Thomas Edison

5.  They are not boring, and they have a passion to express themselves

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” ~ Rumi

“If you are not interested, you are not interesting.” ~ Iris Apfel

“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.”~ Pablo Picasso

“Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.”~ Albert Giacometti, Sculptor

6.  They are prepared, well practiced, and they know what they are talking about

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” ~ Dorothy Parker

 “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” ~ Galileo Galilei

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” ~ George Eliot

“A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.”~ General George S. Patton

7.  They know when to speak up, and when to shut up

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~ Ansel Adams

“Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.” ~ Susan Sontag

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

8.  They are in the right place at the right time because they work to create their own luck

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”~ Thomas Jefferson

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” ~ Alan Kay

“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” ~ Tennessee Williams

I’ve always been in the right place at the right time. Of course, I steered myself there.” ~ Bob Hope

9.  They make the impossible possible by going around it if they cannot go through it

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”~ Emile Zola

“Black holes are where God divided by zero.” ~ Steven Wright

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”~ Henry Ford

“Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.” ~ Banksy

10.  They have a vision, but they adapt when necessary

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~ Vivian Greene

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”~ George Washington Carver

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ~Antoine de Saint Exupery

11.  They ask and answer the essential question, “what if?”

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin

“What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions, a consequence of our sophisticated spoken language.” ~ Jane Goodall

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”- Thomas Henry Huxley

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”~ Carl Sagan

12.  They tell the truth, even when they are afraid

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”~ Sir Winston Churchill

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~ Budhha

“The truth is more important than the facts.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

13.  They surrender to the process

“How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.” ~ Coco Chanel

“In any contest between power and patience, bet on patience.” ~ W.B. Prescott

“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

14. They think and do things by themselves because they aren’t afraid of being alone

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” ~ Frida Kahlo

“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.” ~ John Muir

“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.” ~ Alice Koller

15. They move forward without second guessing every decision

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ~ Tina Fey

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” ~ Mario Andretti

“He who hesitates is a damned fool.” ~ Mae West

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.”- Francois-Auguste Rodin, when asked how he managed to make his remarkable statues

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things that are left by those who hustle.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Guess what? We can all be pioneers to some degree, but we must be willing to change some of our thinking. We must be motivated by something higher than ourselves and we must be willing to channel our creativity, talent, and drive in order to step forward. We must believe in and bet on ourselves. Often, it’s about stepping forward blindly, even when we are afraid. When we understand our intellect and what moves us to act, we can cultivate the curiosity necessary to promote change. We can’t be lazy. Thinking for ourselves, without fear of what other people will think of us, will certainly change the way we do things. We can’t let excuses and detrimental behaviors stop us from seeking our own moments of wonder, brilliance, and inspiration.

Our purpose on Earth is forge a path to happiness, to love and be good to one another, and to courageously pioneer our own life to the point of fulfillment. Our purpose is to reach our innate and exceptional potential. 

We can, indeed, leave behind something lasting and true. When we love, give freely, raise our children well, follow our dreams, and become the happy people we were born to become, those we leave behind will surely see our mark, and marvel at the trail we blazed.