The Explorer, Pioneer, Settler and Gunslinger


Quick summary

All progress is made in three stages by these types of people:

1. The explorer

2. The pioneer

3. The settler


The explorer starts progress. What is once considered crazy will later be the norm.

The pioneer creates progress in contemporary society. He tempers the explorer’s vision with pragmatism, and he creates reality from dreams.

The settler is satisfied with the status quo, and does not like progress. When the settlers believe in the idea, that is when the idea becomes the norm.

A fourth personality, gunslingers are never satisfied, and will criticize even the most successful ideas. However, they also serve to ensure that proposals are practical.



We will use an analogy to show how changes are made. This analogy holds true regardless of the arena where change is to take place. It will serve us well in any areas of making America a better nation.


In the old west, there were four types of people: the explorers, the pioneers, the settlers, and the gunslingers.



The explorers left the comforts of the known environment for something new, something better. They set out across the mountains and deserts to explore the unknown. An explorer would often traverse the same mountain several times, looking for the best route. He would often curse himself for taking the wrong route, especially in winter, when he would get stuck on the mountain top. The explorer would run into many unforeseen troubles, and deal with them the best he could. From time to time, he would return to the civilization he left behind to tell of his adventures.

The crucial aspect to the explorer’s character is that he pushes the boundaries of knowledge. He may appear to have crazy ideas, and his ideas may lead him into trouble from time to time, nevertheless, the explorers start breakthroughs in society.



The pioneer picks up on the explorer’s tales. The pioneer has learned from several explorers about what might lie beyond. The pioneer hears the descriptions of the lands where each explorer has been. The pioneer sees an opportunity - perhaps a verdant valley for ranching and farming, perhaps a mine of silver or gold - and sets out to seize this opportunity. However, there are many difficulties: the pioneer must make the road, irrigate the land, and bring cattle, seeds, and equipment across miles of territory. Moreover, the pioneer has no guarantee that what he hears is there, nor a specific map to lead him. However, the pioneer learns the most he can from the explorers, and prepares himself the best he can.

The three crucial aspects of the pioneer’s character are:

1) He recognizes opportunity

2) He applies knowledge of one area to another, and

3) He turns possibilities into realities.



The settlers are civilized men with homes, jobs, and often farms. Their grandparents settled at their current spot, so settlers feel comfortable. Crossing into the unknown like the explorer or the pioneer does not appeal to them. However, after a few pioneers have literally paved the way, the settlers take notice. Once roads have been made, the maps well drawn, and the reports of the verdant valley are numerous enough to be considered true, then the settlers will come. And when the settlers come, they come in packs. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of settlers will come at a time. Businessmen, clergy, and artists arrive shortly, making the transition complete. When the settlers come, then life in the verdant valley becomes the norm.

The four crucial aspects to the settler’s character are:

1) He has little desire for change

2) He is reluctant to see the possibilities

3) He will change only when the path is an obvious choice and the directions are specific, and

4) He and his fellow settlers, because of their numbers, redefine a radical movement as an accepted norm.



The gunslingers? The gunslingers are never happy. They shoot down everyone’s ideas - explorers, pioneers, or settlers. The analogy of the gunslinger isn’t perfect in the Old West frame, but it is beautiful in describing the modern frame. (After all, most of the Generation Xers are gunslingers!)



An example of the personalities

As an example of these four characters, we will turn to industry. The explorer is a professor. He performs experiments which may lead nowhere. Sometimes he never finishes a project before going to the next. The pioneer is a development engineer. He reads about the work the professor has done, and develops the processes. He turns the professor’s experiments into products which can be manufactured. The settlers are the other engineers of the industry, who wait for the new process to work (or fail). When the process succeeds, the settlers adopt it wholeheartedly, and develop their own process with lightning speed. The gunslingers are the skeptics, who point out the possible technical failures no matter how successful the project eventually becomes.


Understanding where you fit in respect to the others

Let us now discuss the characters from the perspective of understanding one another. For example, let us assume you are the explorer. How would your activities look? How will you interact with the others?

In the arena of improving communities, explorers are often philosophers, artists, philosopher-statesmen, or activists. If you are the explorer, you must keep pursuing your ideas no matter how crazy they are. The majority of your ideas will not work - but that should not bother you, for you enjoy exploration and experimentation regardless of success. You should also make your discoveries available to the pioneer, not hidden away.

The pioneer usually comes from a combination of disciplines. This combination of disciplines allows the pioneer to take a discovery in one arena and apply it to another arena. If you are the pioneer, you have the most important set of responsibilities, for it is the pioneer who does most of the work in creating a real success.

In order to find the brilliant discoveries that have been made, the pioneer may need to search. The pioneer of the Old West may have had to visit the explorer on the mountain. The pioneer of industry might need to visit the explorer in his lab. The pioneer of other areas might “visit” explorers by reading their works and by attending conferences.

The pioneer must also be practical. Because the pioneer is working on something which hasn’t been done much, he may run into a few obstacles here and there. He needs to understand exactly what is required to create the change before he begins, so that he may plan accordingly.

Finally, the pioneer must understand the settlers, and must be able to communicate with them. The pioneer must understand that most people do not want change, and that most people do not care enough to make a stand, even when they desire the end result.

This concept is critical to understand if we are to truly make changes. Public support is required to make changes, yet the public is composed mostly of settlers. Therefore, the pioneer must obtain support from the very people who have the greatest inertia. The pioneer must have a very sensible strategy to begin with, followed by skills in selling his strategy to the public. The pioneer must find ways to make the settlers involvement as easy as possible for them, yet the activities must result in real effects. On the positive side, once the pioneer has convinced the settlers of his strategy, and the inertia has been removed, a powerful energy will be unleashed.

If you are the settler, realize that you do not like change. Realize that you have little desire to take risks. However, try to be open to new ideas, and listen carefully to their validity. You may actually desire the change. If you agree, then it is important for you to give as much support as you can. As a settler you must understand that you must back the pioneer. Remember, it is not just you taking action, it is your fellow settlers as well. A few brave leaders by themselves can do little, but brave leaders with the support of many people can achieve greatness. Positive movement will be limited without you.



We realize that there are four personality types in making changes. The explorer acknowledges that changes can be made and he creates ideas for new changes. The pioneer develops strategies to implement changes, and he convinces the settlers to support the strategy. Once convinced that the strategy is wise, the numerous settlers will make the change a reality. The gunslinger offers constructive criticism which ensures practicality throughout.

Thus, when we wish to make a difference in our environment, we must go through those steps, and we must acknowledge the need for the appropriate people at the appropriate times.