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Following Paths vs Leaving Trails

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of May 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

“Do not follow where the path leads, Rather go where there is no path, and leave a trail.” – David Perkins

I’ve not been able to get this quote out of my head since hearing it over the weekend. I shared it last night on Twitter and half a dozen people replied quickly that it’d impacted them quite a lot so I thought I’d share it again here on ProBlogger.

There’s a lot that could be said about it and how it applies to blogging successfully – but I think I’ll just let it sit with you and see what it says to you).

update Mark from Creativitity asks – “Name 10 blogs that leave trails. They don’t have to even be successful. They just have to be taking risks.”

I think that’d be a great exercise. What blogs do you think are living out the quote?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. It’s basically the same idea as Robert Frost’s The Road Not taken, isn’t it?

    It’s a beautiful idea, but very few people are brave enough to actually live by it.

    Me? I follow paths. :)

  2. My blog tagline is “Boldly going…” It’s an homage to Star Trek’s opening words, but it is also about taking radical personal responsibility, which isn’t so well-trodden a path these days!

  3. Following paths is a lot easier then leaving trails, that’s probably the reason why most people follow paths.

    Wish I could leave a trail.

  4. Oh wow that’s going down as one of my favorite quotes Darren, I’m sure this is going to rattle in my head for a while as well. These words sing beautiful music to my ears, thanks for the enlightenment Darren. HIGHLY APPRECIATED.

  5. That just makes the trip way more interesting than taking the main path. Plus you have more stories to tell along the way.

  6. It is what makes an original blogger.

    In order to do this you also need courage and preferably some confidence …

    I see it as an inspiring way to make a difference, be it in blogging or in another field … such as for instance life …

    That’s what it’s about sometimes, isn’t it ?


  7. That quote has been with me since HS when my sister gave me a plaque with it on it, saying it reminds her of me. I leave it out for my sons to get used to the idea that there is no greater glory than in doing your own thing, and thinking – when the going gets tough, that maybe you are paving the way for others. I always seem to plow forth — and get my nose bit off a bit on the way, but I’d hate to follow the lead of most of those I see around me, spinning in circles and going nowhere. Yet, water does seek its own level.

  8. Brilliant quote indeed. Looking at Blogosphere, I see a lot of bloggers who are trying to copy popular bloggers like you Darren. One day they will understand their mistake, but it will be late. All we need is to discover our own path in life.

  9. I just spoke to a friend of mine about having a “Teach. Coach. Lead.” attitude for your personal, product or company brand. A Lead attitude is just like your quote. I actually just wrote a post about this attitude.

    I think leading shows logical extension into new markets and new areas where teaching and coaching can occur.

    Building a new trail is difficult, but you can find the largest rewards down those paths.

  10. I hate to be so literal-minded, but while this may be great advice for blogging, it’s terrible advice if you’re actually out on a trail. Leave no trace.

  11. Yes, this immediately reminded me of Robert Frost’s The Road Less Taken poem. The poem raise the same feelings in me now as it did over forty years ago when I first read it.

    I think words like these strike some primal chord within each of us. The world (virtual or real) is so crossed with paths today that it is difficult and maybe even impossible to strike out through true wilderness and blaze your own trail. Sooner or later, you will fall into a rut left by someone else.

    But we should never stop trying to blaze new trails– in life, in our hearts or in our minds. We should never let a rut hold us for long.

  12. It’s my fridge magnet as a daily reminder. Didn’t know who said it before, so thanks, and for sharing the message.


  13. I love it. Of course, people will say you’re crazy as you start blazing your trail. Then they’ll follow.

  14. What if I can’t identify the un-walked path?

  15. Road less traveled leads you to ‘Create’ something new. Not easy to take the road less traveled…So tempting to just follow the mob. Good quote and I think a lot of it depends on the brought up as well.. Good parenting lesson as well in the quote I guess – to encourage kids to be brave and do something different – don’t succumb to peer pressure

  16. That is an awesome quote. I think it’ll stick with me today too. Thanks for sharing! *=)

  17. As long as you don’t get lost in the woods. :)

  18. Thanks for sharing this, Darren. Highly relevant to blogging as many of us are out blazing new paths in the niches we have created, or the very fact that we are earning a living (or part of a living) online. Several years ago the very idea would have been dismissed as crazy.

  19. Thank you for posting this here, Darren. I read this via your tweet earlier today and it has had rather a great impact on me!

    Today I’ve been researching popular/influential blogs for a project I’m working on, and can honestly say this: the best blogs out there are the ones which leave a trail, rather than those which follow the beaten path :)

  20. I follow paths in the hope that one day I will leave trails.

  21. Darren,

    This is a powerful quote, especially as it pertains to the brave new world of cyberspace.

    Most of what we take for granted and use in our daily lives was not invented or accessible a mere 20 years ago for the everyday person: personal computers, cell phones, GPS, websites, blogs and never mind social networking and marketing.

    It took creative, fearless, and determined pioneers (many of them college students looking for better ways to do things,) to bring us where we are in communication today.

    How many times must inventors and innovators have heard “This is crazy! No one has done this before! It can’t be done!”

    The secret to forging a truly unique, life-changing path is to be driven by your passion for an untested idea rather than be motivated for a big money-making idea.

  22. Great quote Darren and like your analogy to blogging, food for thought,

    Trail blazing is sometimes challenging as it can mean getting out of your comfort zone

  23. I really like that, so much so that I tweeted it with a link to your post here. Thanks Darren!

  24. Name 10 blogs that leave trails. They don’t have to even be successful. They just have to be taking risks. I’d like to see that list and check them out. Thanks.

  25. I’m a huge fan of Robert Frost’s poem, and very much plan to live my life this way.

  26. I don’t know about leaving a trail, but I reckon I’m taking risks with my blog topic! (It feels risky to me – maybe I’m just a scaredy-cat!)

  27. My question is this…it is a simple question but a hard one to answer.
    “What is it that leaves a trail”
    It is all well and good to go off in a new direction, but what if you never leave a trail behind you and no one can follow you? Then you are just treking into the bush by yourself.
    So what can we do to leave a trail?

  28. @Ryan: To me, in this case “leaving a trail” means heading into uncharted territory in such a way as to make others say “He looks like he’s headed to an interesting place, I think I’ll follow him and check it out.”

    Of course, a big component of this is to at least appear to know where you’re going, and that you’re convinced it’s the best place to be. :)

    Why does Darren have so many imitators? Because people like the destination he reached, so they’re trying to retrace his path to get there themselves. And it’s easier to convince yourself you can succeed if you say “HE did it, so I can TOO” than it is to convince yourself with a simple “This will WORK.”

    There’s another proverbial-style quote that applies in this situation, though…”You can’t cross the same river twice,” meaning you may go over the same bridge any number of times, but the water beneath you is now different.

    Too many people run across bridges, wondering why it doesn’t have the same effect as it did for the first person who did it…the problem is, they forget that it’s not the bridge that’s important in this case…it’s the river.

    When I set out to start LagORama (my MMORPG blog), I had been a long-time reader of other MMORPG blogs, most of which are of the “personal anecdote” variety, with a few news sites thrown in.

    So of course, I created LagORama as a “news-style” blog with personal opinion mixed in, along with quite a bit of humor.

    I started LagORama at the end of September 2007. With the latest page rank update, I now stand at a (increasingly irrelevant) PR5 (higher than any of the blogs I had been reading), with over 5000 backlinks. I’ve been contacted by MMORPG publishers via email, asking if I would talk about their game, and contacted by other sites and blogs asking for my opinion.

    I’m not trying to say I’m wildly successful…I’m not, by a long shot. However, I’ve had some success by starting from the standpoint of looking at other blogs and finding a way to do things that others weren’t for that niche.

    Which, of course, is blogging in a nutshell. :)

  29. I am hoping to blaze my own trail as I continue my new journey as a blogger. This quote is great! First time poster to your blog. Frugal Dad introduced me to it and I just wanted to say thanks for doing what you do! You have great information to help people blaze their own trail!!

  30. That is quite an inspirational quote, Darren!

    Most of the time, bloggers are looking to what other people have done before them for advice and motivation. This is a great starting point, but at some point we need to take what we have learned and veer off the beaten path. Leave a trail behind for ourselves that is unique to us, and not merely a carbon copy of somebody else.

    Take the Road Less Traveled, as Robert Frost would say.

  31. Mine, of course.

    But seriously, I like Michael Spencer’s internetmonk.com.

    For anybody with a Christian frame of reference, he has no mold.

  32. Thanks! I’ve just discovered and love your blog. I’m not (yet!) a pro but find this extremely helpful and yes, often inspirational.

    Still I was all set to snark on you that I didn’t know who that David Parker was but I was pretty sure the quote was Frost adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson, when lo and behold the interweb reveals some have cited… disciples? if not Jesus himself?


    Sidebar, I know, but sorry, job hazard as an editor/former journalist, and actually just proves the point I see here made time and again, there truly is something out here for everyone – inspiration comes in all shapes/sizes.


  33. Darren, that quote describes what I’ve been blogging about to a ‘T” and it’s great to see a blog like this promoting the idea of “thinking outside the box.” I read your blog often and consider your advice a solid resource. Thanks for stepping outside your box to publish this post!

  34. Julie says: 05/08/2008 at 2:05 pm

    Wow, that quote really hit me. I am new here. I have recently been looking up info on blogging and how to make money at it. I am enjoying your site very much.
    It seems as though I have always made my on path in life. I feel like I can do this. That this is another path I’m supposed to make.
    It’s late so I’ll stop rambling.

  35. Here’s an esoteric question…if everyone reads this quote and then tries to blaze their own trail, are they trailblazers or followers? ;-)

  36. I think I am leaving a trail…at least in the lives of my kids, but also on my blog as I share about my life as a mother of many children, most of whom are adopted. There’s a lot of need of there, all too many kids who are living without families, and I would be thrilled to learn that even a few families got brave enough to consider adoption because of the trail my posts are leaving. Very few families will
    have as many children as my husband and I do. But many families could probably make space for one more child, maybe a child who might otherwise grow up alone. Seeing how we do it might make it easier for a few more families to step out boldly.

    Mary, mom to many

  37. This goes along with the “finding a niche” concept when we’re talking about blogs. I started my first blog back in 2001 when I saw a write-up on this “new thing starting to pick up speed” on CNN.com. I loved the idea, and had always wanted to write, but I had no niche. I started a personal blog visited by my grandma and my parents.

    At the beginning of this year, I thought of an idea for a blog I hadn’t seen around, and something I was passionate about — helping husbands be better husbands. I did several general searches, but didn’t come up with much, and thought that I had finally found my niche that was going to impact millions.

    After I got going, however, I started finding more and more sites like mine, and I initially lost a little spirit. What I thought was going where there was no path ended up being a path that just not too many people knew existed.

    But I press on, with those who are before me, hoping to leave a clearer trail for those who might come behind.

    Good thought, Darren.

  38. Darren,

    What every one doing now is following paths.

    Leaving trail is a very difficult task. Not many can do it. You have to be creative to do it and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

  39. Well Darren, your blog certainly blazes a trail:-)

    Hmm how to blaze a trail?

    now that would be a great idea for a post ! :-)

  40. PS you should be a motivational speaker ( or minister;-)

  41. i just cant help it – once again Darren Rowse post and a lot of us followed the path or shall i say link title ..

    Darren Rowse – just made a trail – where everyone seems to follow it ..

  42. Darren – I printed out this quote and placed on my desk. Extremely motivational and inspirational. Also retweeted at: http://twitter.com/cosguru/statuses/806308986

    Thank you!

  43. Want to see a blog that takes a risk? Take a walk over to my place.

  44. Darren – I’m a newbie. I just added a blog to my web site and I’m trying to develop my own voice and leave a unique trail. I love the quote and plan to print it out and hang it over my computer as a reminder. Somehow I was lucky enough to stumble onto your site and I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. Thanks.

  45. it is hard in the early stages not to follow in the path of others, I hope I am as individual as they come and map out my own path, but I also want to learn from other experiences, mistakes and lessons too.

    I like quotes like that as they make me think a bit outside my own boxed shaped thingy (head)…

  46. I just left Rogue Ink, where the author’s declared that her business blog isn’t a blog, it’s a pub. I like this trend. I don’t know if it’s trailblazing, but it’s different.

    I linked to it under my name, since I don’t know how ProBlogger feels about links in the comments . . . a woman name Tei writes it.

  47. Great quote that can apply to so many aspects of life. I think that I’d like to put it up in my cube at work and come up with a list of ways that it can help me improve in my job as a software tester.
    Thanks for sharing!

  48. *sigh*. I’ll take this as a bit of comfort. I always seem to going another way than everyone else. My spouse just shakes his head. Heh.

  49. I am not such a road opener, but I build a path together with God. My blog is about what I do – basically graphic design, marketing and photography -, and why I do it – to help other to know God by reading about my projects and how God influences them and also my everyday thoughts that motivate me.
    I do not know if others are going exactly this. But I know that there are many Christian specialists out there evangelizing with their life and even their blogs where they write about their life

  50. hornet says: 05/09/2008 at 11:00 am

    Excellent (and rather obvious, or at least should be) point. If a blog fails to contribute original, meaningful material, it’s merely regurgitating what’s already out there, at best, if not just generating worthless noise. This being said, I can think of 3 more “obscure” blogs that have nailed the trails thing:

    Wooster Collective (www.woostercollective.com) — these guys don’t just cover street art, they probe the meaning behind it. Plus, if you’re into guerrilla/graffiti culture, you can’t help appreciating the only blog that got an exclusive with Banksy after his infamous Louvre stunt — even the NYT didn’t get that.

    Strange Maps (http://strangemaps. wordpress.com) — the most bizarre, interesting, diverse, thought-provoking maps…by the hundreds. Talk about owning a niche.

    Brain Pickings (http://stickandmove.com/brainpickings) — it’s hard enough to operate a nicheless blog that covers anything from art to activism to psychology to gadgets. But doing it in a smart way that inspires anyone, whatever they do for a living, is just a whole different playing field.

    I’m sure there are plenty such smaller but incredibly innovative blogs out there. And the best part of it all is discovering them.

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