Who hasn’t seen images and videos of very dangerous roads from around the world? Some of them are enough to frighten even the most fearless of drivers. I had occasion to drive one of them recently. It’s located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is a most beautiful – and harrowing – stretch of blacktop.
Covering just 17 miles, The Iron Mountain Road has 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three tunnels and three “pigtails” that loop 360 degrees over themselves. It’s so dangerous that the speed limit in some places is only five miles per hour. That’s for two very good reasons: First, the scenery is stunning, so one must drive slowly to do it justice. And second, exceeding the speed limit could kill you.
But at least it would be a spectacular death!
Then-Governor Peter Norbeck commissioned the road in the 1930’s. Built into solid granite, it must have been an almost impossible task in such an inaccessible area. The technology? Men. Horses. Dynamite. But that’s not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. When the Governor began the project, he had something more in mind than building a roadway. Something much more.
In those 17 miles of winding road, three tunnels are carved straight through the granite mountain. But the most fascinating thing about these tunnels is not only that they were carved out of solid rock. The most fascinating thing about these tunnels is actually miles away!
It’s not the tunnels, but the view the tunnels provide.
Upon entering them, visitors see – perfectly framed in the distant brightness – the four US Presidents of… Mount Rushmore.
Governor Norbeck had vision and patience, of course, but he also invested the time it would take to map out and build this fantastic roadway – and here’s the real kicker – years before Mount Rushmore was completed.
Like an entrepreneur, Norbeck was driven to show off a really big idea. But first, he did the tedious and challenging work of preparing for its creation.
We entrepreneurs know what it’s like to be so enraptured by a compelling idea that the end takes precedence over the means. I, too, want to take shortcuts so I can see my ideas come to fruition immediately. Sometimes that works. But all too often, entrepreneurs skip past the difficult and time-consuming work of structural planning… “moving the rocks,” so to speak. If you want to showcase that real work of art, you’ve got to plan far ahead and you’ve got to get it right.
True awesomeness comes from building the road that will eventually showcase your big idea.
Slow down. Plan the plan. Build the road. Take your time. If you really want to see your dream blazing out from the landscape like Mount Rushmore, it’s okay to work with a real sense of urgency. I’m simply suggesting that you be patient and rush less, not more.
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