Opinion

Reviving the pioneership spirit

‘‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’’- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The conundrum of the 21st century calls for the renewal of the pioneership spirit: the attitude of blazing new trails, setting new paces and creating new paths.

Our challenge in this age is how to transform our minds from being prisoners of the past to become pioneers of the future. If there is ever a time in history when creativity, innovation, and proliferation of ideas are greatly needed, it is now.

The pioneership spirit is the attitude of thinking and doing things differently from how it used to be done. We know that convention – the way things used to be done has always been opposed to a shift in paradigms. But a change in thinking is necessary for success, as in the words of German-born theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

It is indeed insane for a people to keep staring at obstacles with dated, sterile, and inoperable solutions while the lives of individuals are wasting away. Former president, chairman, and CEO of General Motors Corporation, Alfred P. Sloan said, “There has to be this pioneer, the individual who has the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tries to do something worthwhile, especially when it is new and different."

The pioneership spirit is a producing not a consuming mindset.  The world today is hard pressed on every side economically because most of the developing nations and their people around the globe have taken the consumer stance and not the producer, innovator, or inventors’ spirit.

Presently, people have abandoned their agricultural lands, shelved their natural endowments and talents, and their innate ability to create or invent for the pursuit of cosmopolitan living. 

Since time immemorial, the economies of individuals and nations have largely depended on trade, i.e., the exchange of individual goods and services for what is needed in either the domestic or world market. However, in today’s world, people are exclusively dependent on white-collar jobs and inventions of a few elite individuals or nations.  Virtually every student in this age is keenly seeking to land a job with a Fortune 500 or a multinational company after graduation from college or university.

Only a few individuals would be willing to put their knowledge to use through their natural endowment. But it is time to be the pioneer of your generation; so go ahead, prepare the way for others to follow. It has been said that "… the way of the pioneer is always rough." Pioneers make history for others to write about.

Basic economics teaches that when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (which refers to the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period), is low, the citizenry suffers; low GDP is often indicative of a consuming economy. 

This same principle works at the individual or personal level; when you as an individual consume more than you produce, it is a sign that you are heading towards an economic abyss.  Hence, you cannot afford to rely predominantly on your skills and education; thus you have to tap into the spirit of pioneership by stepping out to express your ingenuity in a way that is unique to your gift, calling, special abilities, and purpose in life.

You were not created to be a conformist but a maverick; not to follow but to lead, not to be a mediocre but a world-changer, not to be a borrower but a lender, not to be a receiver but a giver!  Someone once said, “When others sit, may you stand; when others stand, may you be outstanding; when others are outstanding, may you be the standard” that is the spirit of a pioneer. 

You were designed for greatness, so do not short-change your destiny by living below your potential and domain. We are in a season where the world is desperately in need of pioneers , and the greatness in you is also screaming for exhibition and significance. Hence, let your spirit loose and shoot for the extraordinary just as the following ordinary individuals did:

•George Washington Carver, an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor; born into slavery in Missouri in January 1864, declined an invitation to work for a salary of more than $100,000 a year (almost a million today) to continue his research on behalf of his countrymen.  As an agricultural chemist, Carver discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundred more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes.  He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.  Carver did not patent or profit from most of his products.  He freely gave his discoveries to mankind.  Most importantly was the fact that he changed the South from being a one-crop land of cotton, to being multi-crop farmlands, with farmers having hundreds of profitable uses for their new crops.  "God gave them to me" he would say about his ideas, "How can I sell them to someone else?"  On the Epitaph of his grave is the inscription, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”  Is your pursuit of fortune and fame sidetracking the true essence of your existence and greatness?

•Patricia Bath, a holder of four patents, was a pioneer among both African-Americans and women.  Prior to her feats, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology or haď been elected to the honorary staff at the UCLA Medical Centre.  She became the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent.  Patricia Bath's passionate dedication to the treatment and prevention of blindness led her to develop the Cataract Laserphaco Probe.  The probe patented in 1988 was designed to use the power of a laser to quickly and painlessly vaporize cataracts from patients' eyes, replacing the more common method of using a grinding, drill-like device to remove the afflictions.  She restored sight to people who had been blind for over 30 years.  Patricia Bath graduated from the Howard University School of Medicine in 1968 and completed specialty training in ophthalmology and corneal transplant at both New York University and Columbia University.  In 1975, Bath became the first African-American woman surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center and the first woman to be on the faculty of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.  When asked about her greatest obstacle, Patricia replied, “Sexism, racism, and relative poverty were the obstacles which I faced as a young girl growing up in Harlem.  There were no women physicians I knew of and surgery was a male-dominated profession; no high schools existed in Harlem, a predominantly black community; additionally, blacks were excluded from numerous medical schools and medical societies; and, my family did not possess the funds to send me to medical school.”  Patricia Bath truly exhibited the pioneership spirit in spite of the obstacles she faced. What is preventing you from unveiling yours?

•Isaac Newton, an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor, theologian and natural philosopher, who lacked the discipline and affection of a father figure all of his life owing to the death of his father two months before his birth, rose above the vicissitudes of life to become the most influential scientist in history and most famous for discovering the Laws of Gravity.  Musing about his pioneership spirit, he opined, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”  In the end he affirmed, “Godliness consists in the knowledge, love and worship of God, Humanity in love, righteousness and good offices towards man.”  Are you converting your knowledge of love and worship of God into a real-world usage by impacting on humanity the good office the Creator has endowed you with?

You can also be a pioneer if you strongly believe that your gifts, talents, and abilities are tailored for such a time as this.

The following are few tips to help you release the pioneership spirit within you:

•Created to be a creator- Nigerian poet and novelist, Ben Okri believed that, "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." Adversity in life comes to unearth the creative genius in you and not to break you. Someone once said, “don’t waste your pain." In other words, do not go through adversity and come out empty; you have to emerge better, wiser, and stronger, ready to go to higher heights.  Go ahead and start creating!

•Be Unique – There are over 7 billion people in the world and no one has the exact DNA and assignment in life like you. Whatever you are carrying is unique to your gifts, talents, abilities, and calling in life. Your uniqueness is undoubtedly hitched to your ability to create and innovate. Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl intimated that, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it." No one can be the best you but you!

•Yes You Can: One of the quandaries of pioneers is their ability to rise above their place of familiarity and comfort. Most times due to the vilification of friends and loved ones, people who have been wired with gifts, talents, and ingenuity to change the course of history tend to surrender their dreams. But true pioneers scale the walls of traditions to land on the other side of possibilities.

•Step out and achieve – It is encumbered upon you in such a time as this to release the greatness residing in you because difficult situations always inspire ingenious solutions.  Remember, necessity is the Mother of Invention!  American author and humorist, Mark Twain also believed that “Necessity is the mother of “taking chances,” hence, step out of your comfort zone and take your chances.

Yes, you have lost your job; You do not have the education and resources; You are young or old; You were born at the wrong side of the tracks in life, but it is possible to become a true pioneer in this age by rising above the challenges confronting you to release your gifts, talents, abilities, specialized knowledge, and your true purpose of existence. 

Pioneers do not just survive in difficult economic times, they thrive; they rise above the tides of life to make a way where there seems to be no way, to set the pace for others to follow, blaze trails in seemingly impossible circumstances, create jobs instead of seeking one, as well as initiate unprecedented ideas and ideals . Someone once said, “Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.” 

Pioneers are not scared to fail or to be ridiculed when their ideas do not take off or fall through.  American cyclist and the first African-American athlete to achieve the level of world champion, Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor declared, “In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail.” I therefore urge you today to allow the Pioneership spirit which is innate in you to be revived so that the purpose for which you were created would be achieved. Remember, "The principle mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers, "Arthur Koestler. Discover Your Greatness!

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