I remember early in the ’00s, probably around 2003 or 2004, my parents were over for dinner, and I was most likely lamenting something about the challenges of Inside the League in its early stages. It was just in its second year and I was still trying to find an audience, and maybe I was coming across as whiny. It was at that point that my dad asked me, ‘why are you still doing it?’
I wasn’t really offended by his question. My parents have always been ultra-supportive of me; I enjoy a relationship with them that is closer than most anyone I know, and it’s truly one of God’s blessings. My dad just couldn’t understand why I would pour so much effort into something that took away from my time with my wife (we didn’t have our sons yet), especially when I already had a job. Inside the League was spending my time and money. What was the point?
Today, Dad sees ‘the point,’ of course, and is excited for the (limited) success I’ve achieved. He just didn’t have the vision for where I wanted to go with ITL at the time, and who could blame him for that? At the time, pretty much all he knew about ITL was that I had asked him to go to Washington, D.C., with me to meet with the NFLPA, but that we had been snubbed (a story for a different day); that I had had to significantly reduce my initial price point; that it was taxing to juggle a ‘day job’ and a ‘night job;’ and that what I was doing was very different from what everyone else was doing. For what it’s worth, he wasn’t the only one who had doubts.
So here’s the point. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but you’re going to have to be true to yourself.
I often use this space to encourage people to take the less traveled path — to look for a place in the market that you can satisfy that others don’t see. For example, my friend Ari Nissim, a former cap guy with the Jets, sees analytics as a great untapped market in football. I have another friend and client, Michael Dean, who specializes in concierge services for professional athletes. There’s Daniel Jeremiah, an ex-scout who had so much success on Twitter after getting dumped by the Browns that he left scouting altogether to become part of NFL.com. There are others out there that I haven’t even thought of.
It’s worked well for me, but it wasn’t a direct path. I had to spend a while searching and figuring out exactly where the need was. Along the way, others were questioning me, but hey, I was questioning myself, so who can blame you?
If you follow your passion and wade into this business, there are people who will ridicule you, but to me, they’re kind of easy to deal with. You just ignore them, or respond indignantly, or whatever. The harder thing is when someone you know and love questions your path. That’s when you have to understand that not everyone’s going to get you. Don’t apologize for that. That may be what makes your business, your idea, your market, special. There’s value in that.