I’m an entrepreneur. I create things, I build situations, I control my little world and I have mad respect for anyone else who does it too. It isn’t easy, it’s a long road, and as long as you can stay on your toes no matter what may try to knock you down, you’ve got an edge. But, most of all, you have to be creative and you have to be able to see opportunity. Sometimes when it seems like there isn’t one, the best ones look harder and create it. I saw one of the greatest examples ever in my life in the unlikeliest of places, 2 days into a hiking trip in the Cinque Terre.
You can’t not fall impossibly, madly, gorgeously in love with this place. It’s the cruel pain and torture of the hikes that you come there to do, mixed with the drop dead natural beauty of the hills, the colors of the buildings, the crystalline waters and the incredible food. It’s one of those awesome trips where you work your ass off during the day on your treks, only to massively indulge in gluttonous gorgeousness in the form of pizza, pasta, and gelato in a vicious cycle, day after day and it’s beautiful. For me, it’s like living a dream.
Credit where credit is due. And this one deserves it all. Now, let me step back a bit first because these aren’t your grandma’s hikes. I’ve never seen anything like it- five towns connected by a network of hills and nailbiting cliffs just wide enough for someone with narrow feet to pass through. It’s an impossibly curious landscape where you climb endless stairs, mostly carved into the hillsides, yet when you think you’re descending on the other side, there still somehow are more stairs to climb. It makes no sense, it’s grueling, it pushes you to the brink. The only thing that makes it tougher is that since you’re clinging to the hillside for dear life for most of the series, there’s absolutely nowhere to stop to refresh until you somehow descend down to sea level and find the next town miles away.
About 30 hours into my most recent journey there, after I felt well rested, I started to climb. And climb. And climb. Against the hills, against the steps, against the sun. Enter this genius of a man who I credit to saving me and hundreds of people passing out and just giving up. Along one of the paths that’s just a bit wider than the rest, there stood several lemon trees, all in a row. And in between these trees stood a man, strategically placed so that nobody could miss him when they passed. There it was, a little lemonade stand that nature seemed to have provided, and all it needed was a little TLC and a dash of creativity. It took this man a simple table, a small wagon loaded with tons of bottled water (which he probably filled from his home tap), hundreds of paper cups, a few pounds of sugar, and all the lemons he could ever want, handpicked for free. Everyone passing near him was thirsty and desperate, and nobody thought a thing about forking over 5 Euro for a cup. And then another 5 for a refill, and so it went and I remember spending a small fortune that one afternoon on the way up and the way down as did so many and I am sure still do. As an entrepreneur, I sat and marveled. I took a seat and just watched for about 30 minutes (ok, I needed the rest too) but it was fascinating how he found a window of opportunity. I spoke to him and asked if this was what he did, or just a bit of a side hustle and I will never forget how he smiled when he looked at me and asked back something to the effect of “How could I want to do anything more than this? Look at where I am, look at what I get to see, look at the people I get to meet from all over the world”. He’d arrive, make what he needed for the day (and then some) with just a few hours put in, and the rest of his day to enjoy his quiet life here in this slice of heaven on Earth. He was creative, motivated, content and balanced and able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, no pun intended, exactly the way he wanted, and he made a lot of people happy too. For him, it truly was lemons but the lesson here is that we all have a lemon, or an opportunity, around us. I believe that. For some it comes naturally to find the window, others have to work harder to see it but it’s there. So, pursue it, find it and be happy. Just like the lemon guy.
More of my stories can be found here, in my most recent book. Enjoy! https://www.amazon.com/48-Hours-Lessons-Learned-Lifetime/dp/1546925694