Following Footsteps vs. Blazing the Trail

We all have our heroes, the people we want to be like, and whose lives we want to emulate. We are entitled to our obsession, our heroes (mine at least) were pretty badass. I want to be like them, I want to change the world like them, and when we get down to looking, we take inspiration from how they achieved what they achieved. 

This is fine, but I have witnessed (and experienced) an odd affect of this kind of interest. We tend to value the kinds of things our heroes did over the kinds of thing we are currently doing. I suppose this is normal, but it is not intelligent. 

The classic tale is someone giving up creative control, income, audience interaction, and time in order to move from online video to TV. The result is often a depressing mash-up of a failed TV show and an abandoned online audience.

And yet, we still do it, chasing after old models instead of inventing new ones. Why? Well:

  1. You don’t have to constantly invent new stuff, which can be stressful and tiring.
  2. It’s easy to explain to friends and family what you do and feel like your job is legitimate.
  3. It’s closer to the definition of “success” that we’ve all subconsciously built inside ourselves.
  4. It’s what all of the people who don’t do what you do are telling you to do (specifically agents and managers, who often don’t get a cut of your existing income…only of new income streams.)

Some people think it’s an unbridled honor to be approached by a television station. Like the TV people are in the position of power, and you should be flattered to even be in the same room with them. But that’s just not the case, both sides of the table have power, and often it ends up that an online creator has more than the legacy media distributor.

It might never really feel like that, but you’ve got to pretend your way to reality, I do it all the time..

But here’s the real deal…your idol (probably) didn’t become idolizable by playing the game as it existed. They redefined the game, took advantages of new technologies, innovated, and created their own, new models. If we truly want to emulate our heroes, we must not walk in their footsteps, but instead blaze new trails. We should emulate their values and their ethics…but not their paths.

It’s harder, sure. People won’t understand, and the midnight oil will burn, and your mouse-wheel will break and your keyboard turn to dust while you slave away coding, editing, writing, producing, or doing whatever it is you do.

But whether it was Sinatra, Sagan, or Armstrong (Billy Joe or Neil, you pick) it’s what they did, and maybe it’s our responsibility to do the same.

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