Introduction to the Pioneer Archetype
“The Pioneer is called to discover and explore new lands, whether that territory is internal or external…a need to step on fresh and undiscovered territory…”
“Sacred Contracts” by Caroline Myss, pg 404
Are you the kind of person who loves exploring new territory?
I’m not referring solely to geographical territory, and you don’t need a covered wagon. You don’t even have to love the outdoors to be an archetypal Pioneer. The Pioneer is someone who explores all kinds of new territory, including the territory of the heart, mind, and soul.
Archetypes are descriptions of essential energies that human beings can contain and claim as part of their prime motivations and movements in life. We all know and speak archetypal language, even if we don’t realize it. When we speak of a Bully, Genius, Fighter, or Ally, we know what we mean and understand the characteristics that go along with it.
Pioneers are people who are characterized by their joy in risk-taking and walking their own path. They are not swayed by public opinion but rather find direction and encouragement from within. They don’t mind starting from scratch and actually prefer it; they know that scratch material is the most potent.
Pioneers are natural status quo disrupters. They are the changemakers, game-changers, and paradigm tippers of our world.
The mantras of the Pioneer sound like:
The journey is more important than the destination.
The right people will come at the right time.
I need to try it.
To infinity, and beyond!
Not Fitting the Mold
When I started teaching yoga in 2002, it was immediately clear to me that I would never fit the mold of a teacher in a “traditional” yoga classroom.
I didn’t want to teach the same style week after week. I wanted to be able to run over the allotted time if that’s what was needed. I needed to share “yoga” from the concept of stretching our whole selves, not only our bodies—which sometimes meant I read stories, or taught chants, or taught walking meditation for the whole hour. Mostly, I didn’t want anyone over my shoulder, telling me what I could or couldn’t do.
So I became a pilgrim, with a yoga mat strapped on my back. I showed up at workplaces and offices, a bin of yoga mats and a sign-up list in tow. Even regular students never knew what to expect, and they came to love that as much as I did. As I grew, I rented space in churches and fitness centers by the hour.
For over eight years, I had a thriving yoga business which gave me freedom and enjoyment. I didn’t have to find a substitute if I was sick; I just needed to send an email. I could adjust the pricing or give freebies whenever it seemed right. I could do workshops at the drop of a hat if I got a creative itch. My business allowed my creativity full reign.
But I didn’t recognize what a gift this really was, until I decided to roll it all into a larger, brick-and-mortar yoga studio with two other partners.
I thought I wanted stability and a reputation. I thought I would be able to provide more options for students in the long term. I thought this was what I was supposed to do next.
But after less than a year, my curiosity and creativity got strangled by convention, norm, and “this is what other yoga studios do.” I had never wanted to be just another yoga studio. I’d always wanted to strike out on my own and forge a new path.
But in letting my ego get a toe-hold in my work for the hope of a more “traditional” definition of success—one of status and reputation—I got myself in a bind that stifled and eventually snuffed my creative fire. I’d made a horrible mistake.
I didn’t realize that I’d already found success as a traveling yoga teacher. Success in this case meaning that I had helped form connections and relationships, many of which last to this day. I had developed and trademarked my own unique style of yoga. I created and re-created rules along the way. I was out there, doing it on my own, making it up as I went along.
I had been a true creative pioneer.
The Limits of Traditional Creativity
I don’t know about you, but if I see one more Yoga + [something] combination class, I’m going to scream.
This kind of creativity, if you can call it that, where you just plug two things into each other is so boring to me, so lifeless and lazy. Taking two existing creations and combining them into one is not true creativity—it’s a marketing tactic. It’s a follow-the-leader type creativity, not original creativity.
Using something that’s succeeded in the past as a template might seem smart from a left-brained, logical, risk-averse perspective. But from our right-brained, creative, and non-linear side, this leaves little room for the magic that true and radical creativity fosters.
Here are Five Limits of Traditional Creativity:
Early in my business partnership, I got a last-minute idea to hold a special workshop on New Year’s Day—which was just a few days away. I offered it, word of mouth, to anyone who could make it. The class was fun, and packed, too! A true “success” by my definition.
But my partners were angry with me for not putting the workshop through the planning stages. To them, this was not a success but a failure, as so many others who didn’t hear about the workshop might feel left out. In their minds, if I didn’t think of it early enough to advertise it properly, I should’ve waited until the next year.
I understood their point, I really did. But I wasn’t sure if I could put a cap on my spontaneity, even for the sake of following “proper marketing protocols.”
Traditional creativity doesn’t make much space for deviations from the norm. It likes straight lines and boxes—not sudden twists and turns. For some, that is okay. But for me, it was a bad sign of things to come.
When we create within confines and structure, the end product tends to settle within confines and structure, too. You can’t work outside the box later if the creation itself lives within one. We all know the frustration of engaging with a business where they repeat company policy without even hearing our unique situation. In these businesses, there is little empowerment allowed within the structure; little independent thought allowed. The whole process becomes a script to be played out, not an improvisation to engage with. There are limits as to what can be done with these creations, as boundaries are imposed on our creativity.
Traditional success is the only option
When we create from traditional rules, we expect traditional results. We set up our criteria of “success” through the lens of our capitalist society: money, power, and influence.
But success can be defined in many different ways. For me, my traveling yoga business was a success. I never made much money, but I brought people together that, over a decade later, remain connected. I had freedom of expression and trial-and-error. I grew as a teacher, gaining skills that help me in everything I do to this day.
Only moderate satisfaction for our souls
I believe that we humans are all creators, and we must create. The more freedom we have in doing this, the more satisfying for our souls. Once we let go of our ideas of how things “should” go, we open up to the universe of what’s possible. This is where pure genius comes from. It’s Stephen Hawking, Oprah Winfrey, Mozart, Vincent van Gogh, Yo-Yo Ma. It’s people who don’t seek success in the traditional sense, but instead seek the success of soul satisfaction by reaching outside this time and space. From Psychology Today:
“But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this “escape” is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.”
Only moderate impact on the world
What we all want when we create something is to make a splash. We want to build something—a company, a brand, a movement—that inspires people. But when we’re working with traditional creativity, this means we’re stuck inside a paradigm of rules, structure, history, and boundaries. We can’t allow disruption or too much risk. A business that can’t disrupt the status quo is beholden to the status quo. It cannot tip the very hierarchies it depended on during its gestation and birth.
Set your Inner Pioneer Free
We need to push against traditional expectations of creativity and tap into a more innovative style of creativity for the sake of human growth and evolution.
Entrepreneurs of our day need to stop looking behind us for where humanity has been, and look ahead to where we’re going.
We do this by awakening our inner Pioneer.
We need to re-engage with risk — I don’t mean in terms of financial capital, but in terms of our reputation, our standing as “normal” people, or what strangers on social media might think.
To tap into your inner Pioneer, focus on and unleash what the Pioneer values most.
Take on a Challenge
If you’re not doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, sticking only with that which is easy or natural, what’s the point in terms of our growth? Even if you get rich, you haven’t grown or learned much from the venture.
Ignore that creativity-stifling expression, “Write what you know.” Try writing about (or doing, or creating) what you don’t know, from places you’ve never been. Stretch yourself and see where it takes you! Leave the “safe” investing to your financial planner, and take on a risk that feeds your soul.
“I’d say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They’ll play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it’s going to be interesting. It’s not predictable that it’ll go well.”
Not only your independence, but that of everyone you work with! Empower everyone to make creative, spontaneous decisions. Let them ask questions and challenge underlying beliefs and values. Let there be room to move, and for everyone to touch the business with a piece of their soul, not just perform tasks. Plus, empowering people means you will be less likely to suffer from groupthink.
From Vast Conference Blog
“With an inclusive environment, empowered employees, and ego-free decision-makers, groupthink stays out of the room and creative solutions have a safe space to thrive.”
Awaken Your Inner Lion
Not the cowardly lion, but the king-of-the-jungle lion. Embrace your roar, your bravery, your power. Let yourself be seen as you venture out where no one has gone before.
“You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
~Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
However your creation works out, trust that you will learn and grow from the adventure. Trust that the bridge you need will manifest beneath your feet just as you need it. That the right people and information will come at the right time. Break the rules, and break with tradition, knowing that when you’re creating from endless possibility, endless possibility will feed you in return. Let go, give in, surrender to the creative process. Be the brush, and let creativity itself be the hand that moves you.
If more of us bring the spirit of the Pioneer into our ventures, our world will be filled with fewer mix-and-match and follow-the-leader type creations, and more truly innovative, game-changing ideas. There are new ideas to be had for those who are brave enough to seize them. See this list here for 10 great creative ideas! Human beings are constantly evolving and transforming. Our creativity should, as well.
After I left the yoga center behind forever, I revived my original yoga business and began teaching again the way I enjoyed most. By this time, everyone had their own mats, and I only rented space from one place. So, I wasn’t quite the traveling yogi I once was, but there was still so much room to be as creative as I ever wanted or needed to be. Until that venture, too, came to a natural close, and I walked on alone to the next one.
Let me end with this passage from “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield.
I break tradition
Sometimes my tries are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes
But I can’t live that way
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