There’s something special about being first in line.
Being at the front of a line means you’re committed. You’ve made some form of sacrifice to ensure you’re first to experience something you care about. The unknowns of arriving in time to secure this coveted spot requires a concerted effort, but a sense of pride materializes when everything goes to plan. When was the last time you where first in a long line? My hope is that the wait was worth it!
When I think about being first through the lens of innovation, first in line is not such a desired position. Being first gives entrepreneurs a chance to take an early lead, but early leaders don’t always win in the end. The headwind is strongest when you’re in front. When your art involves creating something the world has never seen before, enthusiasm from early adopters is often met with pernicious friction. One common source of friction is the almost endless time spent educating the prevailing market. This protracted process wears on even the most resilient and exhausts resources every step of the way. Along with frictions that come with being first, without any clues from past success/failures, it’s harder to avoid potential pitfalls as well.
There’s value in a head start, but the early market leader often falls behind the innovation curve. Please, never hesitate to forge into the unknown, but remember that when you lead, others will always be chasing you. If you’re building in front, stay ahead with epistemic humility, a challenge network that invites you to be wrong by avoiding groupthink, a genuine desire to accelerate others, and bold leadership that allows intrapreneurs to stay wild. If you’re the one chasing, which is far more common, you’ll need to be innovative to find product-market fit, but it’s nice knowing there’s an existing path with fresh opportunities to champion change in an existing environment.
Alright, let’s add some sugar.
What if we don’t have to be in the line at all?
The front of any line may be a traditional way of getting ahead, but this requires time with no guarantees and you’re still relying on some else to let you in. If this activity is something you really enjoy, be conscious of how business can sometimes kill your passion, but there’s usually a way to be less of a spectator by getting more involved. One way to do this is by combining your creative skills and an entrepreneurial spirit to wedge yourself into the experience itself. This requires initiative, but volunteering, building into a side hustle, or using content creation skills can quickly become your ticket to skip the line all together.