Last Friday afternoon I was at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) here in Charlotte, watching the Olympic trials for kayaking and canoeing.
As I watched a team of two late 30’s guys compete in the 2-man canoe event and place third overall (against competitors who were all nearly half their age), and heard stories from some of the people who were behind getting the awesome USNWC facility started, I couldn’t help but think that when you an entrepreneur, sometimes you just have to (figuratively) stick your fingers in your ears and yell “La la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la….”
You see, the folks that had the idea for the USNWC faced plenty of naysayers and pessimists. “You can’t build that in Charlotte! This is a banking town. Nobody will use it!!” And the two late 30’s guys in the canoeing race had plenty of people snicker at them when they came out of retirement to compete in this event. “You’re too old, you don’t have a chance.”
But the USNWC is doing extremely well. It’s become a destination spot in our community. And that canoeing team nearly won their event! But neither of these things would have happened had any of those folks listened to their doubters. Listened to the people who told them they couldn’t. Listened to the voices in their heads questioning whether everybody else was right and they were in fact crazy.
Rather, they stuck their fingers in their ears and pursued the things they were passionate about, the things the believed in. And being an entrepreneur is so much like that I couldn’t help but smile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remind myself to follow my instincts, to listen to my gut. Because while other people may have been saying I couldn’t, they didn’t have all the information I had in my head nor the passion I had in my heart to know that I could.
Jon Myerow, owner of Tria Cafe in Philly once told me, “Being an entrepreneur is a lonely road.” He was spot on. But if you stay on that road and keep looking ahead and trudging along, it will lead to the utter joy and soulful contentment I saw last Friday on the faces of the founders of the USNWC and those late 30’s canoers.