Sons (and Daughters) of the Pioneers

Last week at Canada’s Business Model Competition, Megann had an exciting side conversation with Deloitte Canada’s Louise Upton, and Mike Goldsby, from Ball State University. We were discussing what seems to be a common problem in many towns and cities, all over North America – the lack of desire to move or migrate when industries or resources collapse. Why, in the face of chronic unemployment, do people stay in their towns or cities, favouring locational loyalty to what seem to be better opportunities to provide for their families?

For many, it seems their identity is bound up in the place they’re from. Whether they are coal miners or cutters, lumberjacks, fishers, or farmers, there are generations of families who are tightly connected to the work they do and the land where it’s done. Even subsequent generations, who have left the farm, the mine, the woods or the sea to sell real estate, develop software, or make their money in investment banking, seem to have a part of themselves that can’t or won’t let go of “that place”, wherever it is. Yet for the vast majority of the North American population, we’ve originally come from somewhere else. Even if we’ve been here for five, six, or more generations like Megann’s family, at some point, we were pioneers. So when did we lose the courage to be pioneers? Or did we?

We’d like to think that the pioneer spirit is still “in there”. What makes one able to leave family and relations behind, sail across an ocean to what may be an unexplored, inhospitable land, and still put down roots? It’s qualities like self-reliance, inventiveness, courage, optimism, creativity, and hope that kept our forebears going. Pride in a job well done and the ability to surmount daunting odds gave them a sense of control, expertise, or even mastery. And the narrative of “we’re farmers” or “we’re fishers” or “we’re cutters” stitched the story together.

These same attributes exist in most entrepreneurs. So then the question becomes, can we re-ignite that pioneer spirit? Instead of moving our selves and our homes, can we tap into those dormant strengths and find new ways to use them? We’re betting we can – and that a new wave of pioneers is on the rise – inventing, building, and creating an independent, innovative future.

Forging ahead into our own unknown,

Megann and Steve

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