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Why you don’t need a clear path to be successful

Sometimes, it’s better to start from scratch.

Why you don’t need a clear path to be successful
[Photo: John Moeses Bauan/Unsplash]

From the moment we start crawling, we’re programmed to look to those around us and mimic what they’re doing. A huge part of growing up is simply learning to replicate other’s actions in order to fit in with family, friends, and society at large.

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But for many people, especially entrepreneurs, there are plenty of benefits to taking a slightly different path.

I don’t mean you have to necessarily abandon what’s known to work–there’s no need to reinvent the wheel at every turn–but experimentation and finding your own route are crucial to success.

In fact, most entrepreneurs I know didn’t follow a script. Instead, they found a different way to approach a problem and managed to create a better solution than anyone before them.

Here’s why every aspiring entrepreneur can find value in wandering off the beaten path:

You find your own formula

Today, you can use a formula for just about anything. There’s always a program, a webinar, or a course that purports to teach you the “secret” to doing something well.

I’ve typically stayed away from those types of courses because it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a product and expecting it to solve all your problems. There’s plenty of value in seeing how someone else found success, don’t get me wrong.

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But the value you get from reading a book or taking a class is more about activating your creativity and helping you think about what your path forward will be.

A webinar isn’t going to do the work for you. In fact, that person’s secret to success may have been dependent on a specific set of circumstances or fortunate timing. Even worse, the market may have become saturated after thousands of people jumped in and tried to do the exact same thing.

You can’t buy the formula to success–you have to discover it on your own.

Your creativity gets a boost

Finding your own route creates a virtuous creative circle. You have to be creative in order to do something new, and by using that part of your brain repeatedly, you become better at thinking creatively.

When you follow someone else’s footsteps exactly, you’re essentially checking items off a list. It’s possible you might have to use some creativity to accomplish them, but it’s not the same as truly creating a new path.

If you have to come up with that checklist yourself and develop the entire strategy behind it, that’s a different story. Personally, I find that when I have to create my own path, something activates in my brain. It feels like all neurons are firing, and I start coming up with ideas on how to do things even better.

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Remember, the more you work on thinking a little differently than everyone else, the better you’ll get at it.

You feel energized and empowered

One of the most important aspects of finding your own route is the feeling you get when you realize you’ve done something great.

I’ve always felt a sense of accomplishment when I’ve had success, whether or not it was my own idea. There’s something about following your own path that’s extremely empowering. You look around and realize, “I did this. I should be proud of myself.”

When you just copy what someone else has done, you don’t get the same sense of empowerment or the same confidence boost.

You perform at your best

To get to the highest level of competition–business, sports, music–you have to follow your own path.

Because in any field, you’ll quickly reach a point everyone is talented and works hard. Everyone knows the game inside and out. There are no easy wins anymore.

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If you’re going to succeed, you have to be able to do something a little different, to make a unique move.

It’s easy to see this dynamic at work when you watch competitive chess. When two grandmasters play, both of them know every strategy and gambit. In order to win, one of them has to use their creativity to employ a maneuver in a unique way.

Honestly, you can get fairly far by copying what other people do. But to reach true heights, you have to follow your own path.

You develop a sixth sense about ideas

Finding your own route doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a consistent string of victories or success stories to tell people about. You’ll have ups and downs just like anyone else.

But after a while, you’ll learn to gauge the merit of an idea or a venture by how you feel about it.

You’ll start on a new project, and even though you may not immediately start making money or finding customers, you’ll feel that sense of energy and empowerment that you had in other promising situations. That part of your brain lights up again and you just know you’re on to something with plenty of potential.

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When you thoughtfully deviate from what everyone else is doing, you get the best of both worlds. You can take what you know works, and then use your creativity to build something uniquely your own–something no one else has done before.

And while that path may not be taken as often, it’s the surer route to success.


This article originally appeared in Minutes and is reprinted with permission. 

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