Contrary to popular belief, the first are often not the fastest, strongest, or those with the most money. The first, rather, are those who simply chose to do what others did not. The first are those that throw away the map, don’t concern themselves with the failures of others, and whose strength lies in not knowing everything, but trying until they succeed.
#1 Don’t Let Other’s Failures Be Your Own
“Twenty year from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” - Mark Twain
Did you know - light bulbs had been invented before Thomas Edison was born. They burnt out in few hours, making them unsuitable for use in homes. Edison realized the problem was the filament. He tried thousands of alternative materials before he found a material that lasted and then formed a partnership with his competitor, a company that was better at manufacturing bulbs. Edison-Swan United became the world’s largest manufacturer of light bulbs.
The Altar of Sacrifice in Zion National Park is the tallest sandstone rock climb in the word. It’s 3,000-foot face is as big as that of El Capitan in Yosemite. A Japanese team spent a month trying to climb it. Several well known American climbers failed trying to climb it. My partner and I were not the best. We succeeded by being as tenacious as Edison. Where as others made one attempt, we made a dozen, employing a different tactic with each effort.
#2 You Don’t Need to Be an Expert
“A journey is like a person - no two are alike.” - John Steinbeck
A lot of people who didn’t know anything, but had an idea and took action anyway, are now considered experts. When Albert Einstein came up with new concepts for how gravity, time, and space behave, he didn’t possess the math skills to develop them into equations. He turned to childhood friend and mathematician, Marcel Grossmann, who is credited with fusing Einstein’s theories with mathematics to create what are considered the most elegant and powerful equations in modern physics - the general theory of relativity.
You’ll never be fully ready and perfect. If you lack expertise, find a partner, someone with those skills, someone you trust to work with, and build a team.
#3 Throw Away the Map
"Not all who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien
When you’re on the highway driving to where everyone else is going, take a random turn, lose yourself somewhere in a nameless place, and get lost. You might discover a mountain that has never been climbed.The first time I got lost is when I started to notice the unclimbed mountains around me. Whereas previously I had been focused and rushing past them to climb what was in guidebooks, when I got lost is when I stopped to ask myself what these other mountains were. It was the start of a pattern. The more mountains I climbed, the more I noticed ones that had not been.
#4 Don’t Follow the Crowd
"I don’t know where I’m going but I promise it won’t be boring." - David Bowie
Don’t assume that because something has not been done there is a reason it has not. The Beatles were not the first to write and record their own songs. Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, and hundreds of others, wrote their own songs. And like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles’ first two albums were recordings of other people’s songs. But when the Beatles decided that they were only going to record their own songs they set precedence and made it the de facto-standard.
Castle Dome was one of the last mountains in Zion National Park to be climbed. For decades climbers assumed it was impossible due to its massive, loose, steep, blank face. Thousands hiked past it each year without trying. After carefully walking nearly completely around it, I found a route to the top.
To be first you don’t need to be the fastest, strongest, or richest. You just need to look outside the box by stepping outside of it, and go somewhere not the map. Whereas in climbing the map may be physical, in life and business it’s a mental one. The first don’t concern themselves with other’s opinions and failures. Their strength lies in not knowing everything, but in trying until they succeed. Those who are first simply do something in a way others have not, and are not distracted by those who say it can’t be done.