By Jeff Matlow
I don’t know how I became the way I am. I’ve thought about it incessantly for decades. Maybe it’s my parent’s fault, maybe it’s genetics. I can go down a rabbit hole of nature vs. nurture until I end up in the loony bin, but all it will lead to is the fact that I have the entrepreneurial gene and no matter what I do, it’s here to stay.
This is the thing about the entrepreneurial gene, it thrives on solving problems. In fact, without problems and a strong desire to fix them, entrepreneurialism would die. It simply can’t survive without challenges to solve.
As Lily Tomlin somewhat famously once said, “the road to success is always under construction.”
Though not known for her philosophical banter, in this case Lily spoke a profound truth. The road of entrepreneurialism is not a straight and easy ride. There are twists and turns, potholes to swerve around, and detours that take you off-course. Entrepreneurialism is not the easy way out when it comes to career paths. It takes strength and stamina to survive.
There are few challenges too big for an entrepreneur. In fact, there are few challenges at all to an entrepreneur, as they are mostly viewed as opportunities.
Which brings me right to the running industry and this global pandemic. Our entire industry was decimated by COVID-19. Within a matter of days, the entire business shut down and revenue generation was ground to a halt. It got really ugly, really fast.
It is easy, in those situations, to just give up. It’s the natural thing to do, the easy thing to do. But nobody ever said we like the easy way out. I mean, we are talking about a group of people who will go run 26.2 miles “because it’s fun.”
One thing I’ve learned is that we, as an industry and as a people, are incredibly resilient. We don’t back down until we get to the finish line – and there is no finish line.
Over the past 14 months I’ve talked with hundreds of event organizers and their suppliers. I have yet to hear anybody complain that the times are too challenging to continue. I haven’t talked to an event organizer who even considered shutting down as a realistic option during the pandemic (aside from a few who considered shutting their doors prior to the pandemic).
It is because we are an industry of entrepreneurs. We all have the gene. We are people that won’t quit. The conversations I’ve had with event organizers have been filled with cautious optimism. They were conversations about the future, about what needs to be done to prepare for the return of endurance events. They were conversations about how to turn the current challenges into beneficial opportunities – because that’s the way your mind thinks when you’ve got the entrepreneurial gene.
Steve Jobs, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, once said that “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.” And those are better words than I can ever say to explain our industry’s attitude over the past 14 months.
Now I’m no scientist and I’ve never claimed to be a fortune teller, but I know for a fact that the endurance industry will continue to flourish. I know this for one simple reason: I am an entrepreneur immersed in an industry built by thousands of other entrepreneurs just like me.
We are all the same. We share the same gene. It’s a gene marked by optimism, innovation, progress and a deep-down determination to continue moving forward with whatever we have, doing whatever it takes.
We are companies that can pivot. We are leaders who can evolve. We are an industry that can innovate. We can rebuild. We can create new experiences. Better experiences.
Individually, we are driven by this gene that powers us relentlessly forward and this is why, collectively, we will prevail over any challenges. I feel lucky and grateful to be amongst you all in our journey into the next phase of our endurance industry; an industry that is larger, stronger and more powerful than ever before.
Jeff Matlow is a runner, dad, entrepreneur and creator of different things. You can reach him at jeffruns@imATHLETE.com. Subscribe to his newsletter here: bit.ly/IAmJeff