Is There Still Room for Pioneers in Our Industry?

In our industry we have heroes like Dave Lennox, Willis Carrier, and others who sacrificed and paved the way to what we enjoy today. Most of us take these pioneers' contributions for granted and we rarely give them much thought. These days, things change so fast and frequently that we rarely slow down to look where we came from.

Our Ancestors
We all have those that went before and made our pathway a little smoother. I recently learned of ancestors I had in the 1830s in the Cleveland, Ohio area. They left the Ohio and settled in Missouri and Illinois, and then pressed on in handcarts to the valleys of Utah and Idaho. I recently returned from a trip where I visited the places where they carved out life in an untamed land. I traveled there in as many hours as it took them months to cover the same distance.

While there, I realized that they were true pioneers who sacrificed and paved the way for the life I have today. I felt a deep sense of appreciation and debt to those who went before and prepared a way for me. Early one morning as I drove across Southern Idaho, I considered what it must have been like to be a pioneer; plowing new ground, planting for the first time, and braving the elements.

It must have been exciting, and yet fearful at the same time, to live as they did and take the risks they took to establish their corner of the world.

The Frontier
Being a pioneer requires one to live on the frontier. A frontier is a place where there are few others, where you are often alone, way out ahead of the crowd.

In our day of the information age, the frontier is where new ideas and services flourish. But the spirit of newness is very similar to the frontier of the 1840s. The frontier will always be difficult and exciting. There is a recognizable spirit when you’re on the frontier. Although stirring, it's rarely a place of comfort and ease.

Today, the same as before, most pioneers found on the frontier don’t fit the mold of the crowd they leave behind. They are sometimes viewed as a little different because their ideas are ahead of today’s thinking. While it’s true some people may not care much for them, in the long run everyone loves a pioneer.

Being a pioneer rarely falls upon an individual. Like most good things, you have to go out and become a pioneer. I doubt if anyone ever earned the title while he or she just sat there. Pioneers are proactive. Inactivity never produced a pioneer.

While pioneers are being pioneers they don’t yet know the final results and outcome of their work, but are confident they are heading in the right direction. It’s easy to look back on the life of a pioneer and give praise and honor for what they did. But understand that while they were living through the tough times, it was their faith that they were doing the right things that sustained them. Few were sure they would succeed and there were days they wondered if they could even survive.

Could you become a Pioneer?
Pioneers fail from time to time but learn from their mistakes. New knowledge settles on them slowly, they gain their life experience just like we do, and passed their knowledge on to others. Could you be a pioneer in our industry in today’s circumstances? When our ancestors were becoming pioneers they were in their present day, just like us. They weren’t sure we would remember them.

There are many of us who view our work as a job, something to provide housing and food. Perhaps there were people who tagged along for the ride and saw the frontier only as a place get housing and food. But I doubt if their lives had any impact on the forging of the West and building a future.

You may think that our society today offers little opportunity for us to participate in pioneer work. I’d invite you to think again. I learned on my recent trek that being a true pioneer is more of an approach to what you’re doing, than the time and place that you live.

Become a Pioneer
In my work I have the opportunity to regularly meet with those I consider the modern day pioneers of our industry. They don’t happen to live in unsettled territories or be surviving in the midst of hardship, but they are worthy of the title.

While writing this article I had phone calls from two of them. To many, they would appear typical, but by the way they administer their professions they are leaving legacies one system at a time. Instead of battling the outdoor elements, they harness and create near ideal indoor climates. Their systems perform far above the average comfort and efficiency found in the field today.

What makes them pioneers is that each of them carries a passion for their profession and executes their work with the skill, enthusiasm and excitement of a pioneer. They seem to serve others while in a state of discovery. They rarely look at today, but realize that their work will affect others far into the future.

Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. You can contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800/633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, technical articles and downloads.

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