The Power of Being First
Almost as much as we’re fascinated by extreme accomplishments, and seeing people make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, we live in a world that’s obsessed with groundbreaking accomplishments like being FIRST.
After all, few of us remember the second person to set foot on the moon, the second person to design and fly an airplane, or the second person to run a mile in under four minutes.
A Chronologic Cross-Section of Firsts
Just like with the Guinness compilations of “most,” “greatest,” and “best,” being “first” can be a powerful motivation for changing the world.
Throughout history, it was those who went first that paved the way for today’s key industries. For example:
- The first people to fly: On November 21, 1783, the first manned hot air balloon flight was made in Paris, France, by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes.
- The first computer programmer: Ada Lovelace in 1843 contributed theories on how an “Analytical Machine” could process coded and looped commands.
- The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic: Amelia Earhart flew from Newfoundland, Canada to a field near Londonderry, Northern Ireland on May 20, 1932.
- The first million-dollar actor: In 1957 William Holden became the first actor to be paid $1 million for a single film – The Bridge on the River Kwai.
- The first super-marathoner: In November 2003, 59-year old Sir Ranulph Fiennes became the first person to run seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents.
- The first person to reach 25 million Twitter followers: Lady Gaga crossed that threshold in May 2012.
What’s Next for Firsts?
You’d think we’d eventually run out of firsts, but as time moves forward, so do our horizons as well as our imaginations. What are some of the big accomplishments still waiting to be claimed that could land someone in the history books? Here are a few that seem quite plausible:
- First person to set foot on Mars
- First president of Mars
- First space hotel
- First baby born in space
- First person to ride across the U.S. in a driverless vehicle
- First person to fly across the Atlantic in a pilotless airplane
- First 3D printed can filled with 3D printed soup
- First 3D printed bottle filled with 3D printed wine. I probably wouldn’t choose to be the first person to try it though!
- First globally elected leader
- First to cure cancer
- First to cure Alzheimers
- First to cure Parkinson’s disease
- First legal case presided over by an AI judge
- First person to communicate with a plant
- First person to travel at the speed of light
- First virtual boxing match where someone is actually knocked out
- First to produce a 3D virtual movie
- First to control gravity
- First to view events across time
- First to demonstrate machine intelligence with recursive self-improvement
- First to demonstrate control over a hurricane or typhoon
- First to demonstrate the mining of an asteroid
- First to send a probe to the center of the earth
- First trillionaire
It’s easy to look around us and see these types of possible firsts since they’re based on
our current frame of reference. True visionaries, though, are looking for what’s missing.
They’re the people who create entire new technologies and industries, and the job-
generating opportunities that go along with them.
Steve Jobs and the marketing geniuses behind Apple’s “Think Different” campaign said
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Let’s hope we’ll always live in an environment that rewards and encourages firsts –
especially those firsts that meet a public need, advance our horizons and spur our
imaginations toward the next set of firsts after that.