My recent introduction to Rogers Innovation Bell Curve was an interesting one. I spent a long time evaluating where I may fall on the graph and concluded that I was most likely crossing the “chasm” between “early majority” and “early adopters. That chasm is the most difficult to overcome, as it is full of shocking new ideas and concepts that would frighten most of the rest of the curve.
That 2.5% in purple labeled as “innovators” is also referred to as “the bleeding edge.” Those are the people who propose things that 97.5% of the rest of the world think is ridiculous. They are the people who believe in ideas like competitive governance and solutions to world problems that don’t involve political action or intervention. There is a lot of fear around the bleeding edge and being involved in it.
I desperately want to be on the bleeding edge. I have always lived a safe and reliable life, so the bleeding edge is exciting to me. It’s full of risk and adventure and potential rewards beyond the ends of my imagination. That particular demographic of society is teeming with people who want to change the world and alter how people think the world should be changed.
There are many things I want to do that would put me very close to the bleeding edge. Every day, I inch closer to this cliff of ideas. Who knows where I would end up if I jumped? Is the risk better than the anticipation of not knowing? That’s always the question we are posed with – if we don’t try, we will never know what may have come of it.
I remember when I was 15 and fell in love with ballet. Every single person in my life, including those closest to me, encouraged me to pursue it without the hopes of a future career. Most people were kind about it, saying this such as “you should enjoy it and embrace your love for it, but understand that your physiology and late start would never allow you to get anywhere with it professionally.” Yet, here I am, at a four-week ballet intensive, in a level with people who have trained for 10+ years, after I have only trained for 2.
That fear of being told that I couldn’t turn what I loved into a sustainable way of life was what gave me the energy to push myself. I come home sore, with aching feet and new blisters every day, but I get satisfaction from knowing that they are products of hard work and will only make me stronger. If I had listened, if I had only ever seen ballet as a hobby, I would never have known what I was capable of. I have fallen many times, but those failures pale in comparison to the joy this passion has brought me. In some ways, I was on the bleeding edge of ballet. I shoved my way into an art form that wanted to spit me out the second I set foot in a studio. I refused to be told what I could and could not do.
In some ways, I think that experience is one reason why I am so drawn to the bleeding edge. I love proving people wrong, especially when I gain a lot from doing so. It’s that combination of satisfaction and achievement that motivates me. I love being told I can’t do something, only to turn around and do it better than everyone else.
So I say don’t fear the bleeding edge. Embrace the possibility that it offers. Yes, people will think you’re crazy when you proposed your wild, innovation ideas, but their words will become their own humiliation when you prove them wrong. The mere fact that you exist at the time you do is so unlikely, why not stand at the edge of the cliff? You will only have one chance to do so.