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Knowledge Is Not The Barrier, Action Is: Pioneer Nation Recap

Imagine you’ve met a new friend and made plans to visit him at his home this weekend. He lives in a condo across town.

You follow the directions to his place, but the instructions only get you to the front door of the building. He lives down one of the many halls on one of the many floors. You’re not certain which apartment is his, and you don’t have his phone number to call.

What do you do? Do you turn around and go home? Many people would—it’s an impossible challenge, they’d say. They’d never find their friend.

But this isn’t true. There are actually a number of ways you could find your friend’s place. You could…

  • Check for a call box to call your friend.
  • Scour the bank of mailboxes in the lobby to find your friend’s name.
  • Ask another resident who’s arriving or departing for help.
  • Narrow down your search to fewer apartments using clues from previous conversations with your friend.
  • Try to contact them via media profile.
  • Find a building manager and ask for help.

Any one of these options could lead you to the friend you’ve driven all the way across town for, but you don’t know which. What can be said for certain, though, is you will find your friend if you explore your options and take action.

These are the types of problems you face—and overcome—every day. Last week, 300+ independent entrepreneurs arrived here in Portland to attend the inaugural Pioneer Nation, an event I co-produce with a few other smart folks, to do the same for their small businesses.

Here’s how it went and what you can learn from it.

Knowledge Alone Won’t Take You Where You Want To Go

So, you’re standing at your new friend’s condo building not sure what to do. You know a number of things you could do, and they’d almost certainly work, but will you do them? In this case, knowledge is not the problem—you know what to do already. What you need now is to get to work.

But will you? It depends on how quickly you connect your knowledge with the actions you need to take to succeed. Every second is precious, and the longer you wait to put your knowledge to use, the less likely it is you ever will.


This is the premise we built Pioneer Nation on. In the world of business conferences, you typically find two models:

  1. Conferences for tech start-ups trying to sell out for billions, and
  2. Half-baked events filled with inspiration but little substance or tangible advice.

Rather than copying one of those models, we set out to build a new one. The idea was to get a few hundred entrepreneurs together, give them knowledge and instruction actually relevant to their businesses, then immediately help them put that knowledge to work.

The main stage talks covered the big themes every indepenedent entrepreneur experiences. From there, attendees chose from 23 workshops where the instruction got more specific. And that flowed directly into implementation time where attendees were challenged to put their new knowledge to work in their business before moving onto anything else.


Whether or not you have a business, this is the order of operations you should follow to solve any problem and grow as a person:

  1. Understand the problem.
  2. Acquire the knowledge to solve the problem.
  3. Immediately implement that knowledge and adjust for your own conditions.

For Best Results, Add Community

In the scenario above, there were a number of options you could use to find your friend’s place. Any of them could have worked, but two of them would have worked much faster:

  1. Ask another resident who’s arriving or departing for help.
  2. Find a building manager to ask for help.

The power of a community is great, and if you can tap into it, you can solve problems in new and creative ways. Just as important, you can solve problems faster. Getting help from someone who knows exactly how to solve your problem will save you a great deal of time and energy.


Our attendees at Pioneer Nation understood this concept. If you’re running your own business, you’re a pretty intelligent person. You know how to solve problems, and you can do it on your own. But if you want to grow your business and make a great living, it helps to tap into a community that will help you solve bigger, more difficult problems faster so you can move onto bigger and better challenges.

With more than 300 smart business owners working on a wide variety of projects online and off, building physical and digital products, freelancing, coaching, and consulting, solving difficult business problems was simply a matter of walking across the room and talking to the right people.

And with a focus on implementing, solutions were put to work immediately rather than dying on the vine or “waiting for inspiration.”

In this respect, I’m more proud of the community that gathered in Portland for the inaugural Pioneer Nation than the event itself.

I’m calling it a success, but it doesn’t really matter what I think. Here’s a round up of just a few of the stories coming in from attendees and contributors a week after the event:

If you were there with us last week, thanks for coming! Will we do it again? We haven’t decided yet, but you’ll be the first to know when we do.


In the mean time, don’t forget: Success happens when action meets preparation. Knowledge is key, but it won’t take you the last mile. Only followthrough will get you there.

Any other advice for following through on big plans? Leave them in the comments.

More shots from the event:

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