Every industry, field or career has been undoubtedly charted by the work of pioneering individuals that set out long before us. Rules, conventions, ideas, and philosophies all play a varying role in the way with which you and I both work, but nonetheless, likely dominate the standards at large.
These pioneers are giants, and as Isaac Newton may have you know, “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Let us, however, remember that we seek not just to see, but to do. So is it upon the shoulders of these giants that we should remain or should we make to the ground so we venture forward?
“It may be said that we ought to read our Contemporaries. That Wordsworth &c should have their due from us. But for the sake of a few fine imaginative or domestic passages, are we to be bullied into a certain Philosophy engendered in the whims of an Egotist—Every man has his speculations, but every man does not brood and peacock over them till he makes a false coinage and deceives himself.” – John Keats to J. H. Reynolds, 3 February 1818
We stand not on the shoulders of giants so we may admire their poise or gawk at the view, but so we may look out upon the horizon—to look further. Though, it isn’t up here that we must stay. We look further so we can gain perspective and understanding, see what the giant sees, and to find direction. It is then that we climb back down and set out to discover for ourselves what we had seen.
When we stand on the shoulders of giants, we can see further, but if we never venture onward, we may only stand where the giant stands. It is of our responsibility to venture onward, to set out towards what we see in the distance, for we live in a world of new context. It is with new discovery and new knowledge that we grow so that one day, we too, may be a giant.
Yes, look into history and see the genius which graced the field before you, but do spend time familiarizing yourself and recognizing the context of which these giants stand. Know that the ground on which they stand, their surroundings, and the paths they have walked are not the same as yours. Learn from them, stand upon their shoulders, ask them questions, understand their journey, look further, but set out on your own quest.
Greatness is the result of travel and the environments you experience along the way. Tend to your own context, not to that of the giant’s. It goes without saying that the giant is giant. There are many woods to travel, of which the giant isn’t capable. It is now time to descend from their shoulders, leave the giants behind, and to voyage alone.