You don't choose the trailblazer life; it chooses you.
A lot of people can become entrepreneurs, but not everyone can be a trailblazer. Trailblazers don't just see a need in the market--they create new markets, and they forge their own paths to get where their outsized visions tell them they need to go.
Take Steve Jobs, for example. No one knew they needed a tablet, or a smartphone, or a better way to listen to music until he changed the rules with his innovative vision. By daring to envision what was possible and then acting on it, he brought his dream to life and offered it to the masses. Somehow, he knew what consumers wanted before they did.
And that's the definition of a trailblazer.
Attitude is everything.
If you're hoping to read a guidebook with a set of steps to follow, you'll never become a trailblazer. You must be an obsessive innovator and not let the status quo get in the way.
To blaze a trail, you must possess deep conviction in yourself and in your vision, drive straight forward with blinders on, and ignore the distractions, detractors, and Debbie Downers surrounding you who will tell you it's impossible.
Trailblazers share some notable, defining traits. Across the board, they are:
1. Ingenious. Trailblazers make their own rules and don't buy into what has always worked in the past; they find a gap and fill it. For instance, Sarah Blakely famously cut the feet off of her control-top pantyhose to create a blemish-free look under white pants--lifting the bottom lines of millions of women, as well as her own.
Tony Hsieh created an online shoe company focused on incredible customer service that revolutionized the entire industry. These two saw opportunity where no one else did, and then ran with their ideas.
2. Visionaries. Not everyone can be a trailblazer. People either don't have visions, or aren't willing to follow their visions through to execution. In fact, so many people lack the visionary mindset, if you're lucky enough to be struck by something (an "aha!" moment) that you can't shake off, it's probably a pretty good sign you should pursue it. It's a rare gift.
As co-founder of Emmi Solutions, Jordan Dolin, says, "Being an entrepreneur is not about love at first sight; it’s about having an idea that intrigues you and increasingly pulls you in until you can no longer ignore it."
3. Relentless. A vision will not only guide you, but also provide the impetus and resilience to not give up. Trailblazers persevere in the face of uncertain success. They make habits out of venturing outside of comfort zones, challenging obstacles, taking chances, failing repeatedly, and persevering until they achieve their goals.
When Amy Wilkinson researched the most successful entrepreneurs to discover skills they had in common, she found that every single one of them had failed--but had never given up. The most successful entrepreneurs learned from their mistakes and kept striving. Some even channeled the naysayers to inspire them to overcome even more.
4. Collaborative. Wilkinson also discovered that these trailblazers drew upon other people's ideas to solve problems that arose while growing their businesses. She observed that successful entrepreneurs actually gained a competitive edge by building positive relationships through helping others.
Trailblazers surround themselves with teams and resources that enhance and help them reach beyond their own strengths. Ask any successful entrepreneur about his or her story, and it will invariably include others who helped along the way. Rarely has anyone ever created something visionary entirely on his or her own.
A longtime colleague and fellow innovator and trailblazer, Jay Samit, has just published a fantastic new book entitled "Disrupt You!" which, in part, dissects and shares more unique facets of what it takes to be a trailblazer. The book is a must-read for any aspiring trailblazers--and certainly for all entrepreneurs.
Becoming a trailblazer isn't easy. The only way to know you've succeeded is when others say you have. It's a title that's earned and granted, but can't be chased down. With the right mindset, you can blaze your own trail and change the name of your industry's game.