Dear Entrepreneur, don't you dare turn around.
Last month I joined a local women's hiking/bible study group that meets once a month. I had the choice to carpool or meet them at the trailhead for our first hike. Feeling familiar enough with Colorado's mountains, I chose to strike out on my own and meet them at the trailhead.
At the base of the mountain, I saw lines of cars waiting to ascend. I figured it was typical weekend traffic because the folks around here love to get out into nature on the weekends. I waited in line patiently to take a turn to drive on up the mountain. I texted the group leader and let her know that I was running late. She texted back that they had encountered traffic as well.
Just when I had turned and thought I was starting to make progress, I noticed my next turn was completely blocked off. I don't know if there was a car accident or a landslide blocking the road, but it had been shut down. An officer was directing every car back in the direction we had come from. I felt my impatience rising. I was already running late and tired of dealing with traffic. There wasn't any way to get up the mountain the way my GPS was trying to lead me. I was stumped!
I zoomed out on my map and noticed another way up to the trailhead parking lot that I needed to get to. It was long, with a bunch of switchback turns, but it looked like an adventure. I checked the time and hesitated. It was already almost time for the scheduled hike to begin. Would I even get up there in time? I almost turned around to go home for the second time, but then I shrugged and took the road to go up the side of the mountain on the other side.
The drive was beautiful. The minutes slipped away. I drove through small towns that looked like little villages in northern Japan and around bends with breathtaking scenery. For a moment I got lost in the beauty of my surroundings. Maybe this drive was my surprise win of the day instead of a hassle.
My phone lost all it's bars of service as I kept driving up the mountain. The ETA on my Google Maps was growing instead of shrinking. Had I missed a turn somewhere? I started to feel stress creeping in again.
Is this dumb to come all the way up here by myself? How will I even know where everyone else is if my phone doesn't even have service? Do they even know I'm on my way? How will I know they made it? Worried thoughts kept bullying the peace that I felt in the beauty of the moment. Maybe I should have gone back home when I still had the chance.
But I wasn't going to turn around because I'd come too far to back down now.
And then I there I was. I was seeing the sign for the trailhead parking lot. There it was, waiting for me, like it's been there for so many years, completely unbothered by anyone who wonders if they'll ever reach it. I still didn't know if I would see anyone from the group waiting there for me, but I pulled in and found a parking spot. The parking lot was full of cars I didn't recognize, but I decided to get out and walk around.
That's when I saw someone I knew! She had also driven up separately from the group and she was also wondering if or when anyone else was going to show up. It was now 30 minutes past the time that we were supposed to start our hike and we didn't know where anyone else was. About ten minutes later, the rest of the group arrived.
On my entire drive up the mountain, I didn't know that I was actually doing better than I thought I was. My moments of stressing about holding up the group and feeling silly for even trying to make it up the mountain, weren't even relevant to the actual reality.
So often, negative perspectives take over and become our reality. They come in with these intimidating ideas and parade around yelling for us to look at them and we do. We look at them and we start second-guessing ourselves. We let them take up more space than our dreams. Sometimes we know we shouldn't listen to them while other times we let them define a situation. I'm not against feeling negative feelings, that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that there's always another perspective than the one we're looking through and we always get to choose the perspective we have.
Little did I know, the lessons of that day were only beginning.
I had no idea what was waiting for me at the top of that mountain hike. Literally.
When our group got to the pinnacle of our hike, I saw the remains of what used to be a large summer home for one of our country's early entrepreneurs, John Walker. He built the beginning of the city of Denver. These ruins are now known as the castle on top of the mountain near Denver. I had no idea it was there and I had never heard of this man, but I was immediately intrigued.
John Walker did ALL THE THINGS. He served in the Chinese army, ran for Congress, made and lost the first of several fortunes in iron and real estate in West Virginia, and edited newspapers. I read each of the plaques around this historical site as my curiosity and amazement grew, because this was only the tip of the iceberg in the long history of this man's accomplishments.*
He came to Colorado in the late 1800s, where he tried his hand at agriculture, making a fortune by introducing alfalfa farming to the state. He went on to develop real estate and an amusement park in Denver. Moving back east in the late 1880s, he manufactured cars and staged what is believed to be America's first auto race. He bought the failing Cosmopolitan magazine in New York, improved it, and sold it for a profit in 1905.
Whew, what!? This guy! What an incredible legacy. But this was still not the end of what all he accomplished!
This was all done before he came BACK to Colorado in the early 1900s, when he set about developing and promoting the foothills area as an attraction. He opened a casino; bought and developed what is now Red Rocks Park, staging concerts at the stone-walled natural amphitheater as early as 1906; and built a cog railway up the side of Mount Morrison.
John's biggest dreams were focused on nearby Mount Falcon, which he had purchased. That's right, this guy bought thousands of acres until he owned an entire mountain. In 1909, he and his wife began building a mansion there, a grand stone edifice overlooking the plains of Colorado's front range and the surrounding Rockies. He also proposed constructing a retreat for the nation's presidents on a nearby bluff, a permanent summer western White House. Wow.
This guy dreamed BIG.
John Walker's castle was hit by lightning and burned down in 1918. Two years later, his wife died. There's not a whole lot that we know about him after that, because the Big Depression then set in.
What impresses me about Mr. Walker's story is that he didn't seem to leave a single opportunity undiscovered. No dream was too big to dream.
Not all of his dreams were realized, but today I'm living in the area where his legacy began, an area that his legacy built. My daughter and I have enjoyed places he's built, along with millions of others. Denver is one of the most thriving cities in our country because of the dreams John Walker had and the opportunities he went after.
As I stood amongst the ruins of John Walker's castle on top of that mountain and looked at the view from the castles former windows, a quiet peace settled over me. At that moment, I got a broader perspective of my life with all of its twists and turns, wins and losses. I realized that a big, mountaintop dream cannot fail, because even to have the dream is a win, in and of itself.
I thought about everything that I would have missed if I had turned around that day. I thought about the perspective I would have missed out on gaining if I hadn't been willing to try again and again to get up the mountain.
Last year, my business partner Regina and I had no idea if Urban Southern was going to work when we started working together. In the past year and a half, we have often had to take alternate routes up our mountains and sometimes it felt like we weren't getting anywhere. Sometimes we've thought about turning around and going back home and wondered if it's worth it to keep doing this.
But here we still are.
And here you are, right here in the process of your own journey.
Remember: you're doing better than you think you are. Never think a win is too small to count. Don't let fear in your driver's seat for too long, because this ride is going to be worth it. Never stop dreaming.
Don't you dare turn around, you've come too far to give up now.