The Rocky movie franchise in a nutshell is the story of a man coming from nothing, overcoming obscurity, getting battered by the champ, and then showing he could hang with anyone in the ring. It’s a great metaphor for the process some willingly endure getting into the fishing industry. Like Rocky, you may take some savage head and body shots in the beginning. You may get knocked down to a knee or knocked the truck out. Either way you’ll have to pick yourself back up. So if you’re in the early stages of a guide business, opening a fly shop, or just starting a small business – welcome to Rocky Land. Hope you can take some punches.

Rocky had his antagonists and so will you. Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Drago. Some are people, most are simple challenges, some could be you. What’s nice is, you’ll have people in your corner to help, your Paulies and Micks, maybe even a good Adrian. As you blaze your own path on the way to the top, one thing is certain, there will be good and bad.

You can find good in just about any place you want to. Stay alert for silver linings during bleak situations. Diving into something big like this makes you a stronger person. Starting a business can be hard. Challenging situations and long hours will test your mettle and force you to improve yourself. That’s truly a good thing.

Finding friends in unlikely places is something you have to look forward to as well. Some friendships, you won’t see coming and will surprise you. Be grateful for them. Receiving respect from people at the top in the beginning is especially good. That’s a tradition you’ll want to pass down when you finally make it. There is no shortage of good as long as you keep looking for it.

Then there’s the bad . Some really aren’t that bad at all and others are more like challenges. Getting ghosted is pretty minor, but fairly common. People will offer to help you. Introducing you to a great contact, sending you some helpful information and then POOF! They disappear. Nothing you can do about flakes, just keep moving forward.

There will be gossip and, for the most part, it’s harmless. It’s generally good practice to operate with blinders on, but you may need to take them off a time or two. Gossip is one thing, but someone dishing out low blows is another. You can take solace in knowing that if someone keeps smashing you below the belt, eventually they’ll bust their hand on your hip. Becoming branded as a gossiper in the community is not something anyone wants. If offenses are serious enough, then you need to address the offender in person, but you better bring some facts with you.

Some won’t want you fighting in ‘their’ ring. They’ll question your motives and insult your soul with words. First, remember that this ain’t anyone’s ring. The sport of fly fishing is bigger than everyone. With that perspective, there’s not much your Apollo Creeds or Dragos can say to make a real dent in your will.

You may suffer some self-induced wounds or step into a few punches you should have seen coming. Get back up, get your wits about you and continue to fight. Making mistakes is part of being ‘all in’. Learn from your mistakes. Reinventing yourself is part of the process. Consider if you’re wound too tight, too much of a closed book. Loosen up if that’s the case.  If you’re too much of an open book, then maybe close a few chapters. Here’s a good one: STAY AWAY FROM POLITICS! ‘Keep your politics in your pants’ is a motto you should live by when promoting your business. Another common mistake is assuming that someone who isn’t in your corner is against you. That’s not true. They’re just not in your corner yet. Learn from your mistakes, find your sweet spot on the success spectrum, and roll with it.

Challenges will be everywhere. Most challenges will be unique to your situation. But one challenge many will face is obscurity. Battling obscurity is going toe to toe with a giant steroid enraged, skull crushing Ivan Drago. Getting battered just trying to find some way to knock this giant down is part of the deal. You’ll probably find that your more established competitors have done an

incredible job of funneling business to themselves. You will have to find some way to break through and get people to see that you exist. Getting people to notice your business is the only way you have a business. Play the long game, play the short game, play any game. Do what is necessary to move the needle away from obscurity and towards existence. Your attempts won’t always be pretty. You may get battered by your peers or competitors while you find the voice or the mechanism that really moves the needle. Always remember that you’re not doing this for your peers, you’re doing it for your customers. If you truly believe that you have something special to offer, then be willing to go all out. Zig when others zag. Take the head shots. Take the body shots. Be willing to be bloodied and battered if it means that, in the end, you are standing over the KO’d and lifeless body of obscurity.

Knocking obscurity to the ground will begin to put things into motion for you. When an opportunity arises, that’s when it’s time to take advantage and go to work like Rocky pounding away at

Clubber Lang with body shots. Go after it with everything you have. Treat your customers the best you can. Many will end up as friends. Be your very best for them and they will be in your corner forever. When given the chance to speak in front of large audiences, make it count. Give them something to remember and a reason to have you do it again. Be ready for those moments. That’s why you stood in there taking all the abuse that comes from running down a dream.

Enjoy wherever you are in your journey to the top. Be encouraged by how much you’ve grown since you began. Keep taking shots when needed and keep making your blows count. When you finally arrive at your goal, stay hungry. Never stop learning, improving, or reinventing yourself to stay on top. And don’t hesitate to celebrate your accomplishment. After all, you not only proved you belonged in the ring, you became the champ.

Thanks for Reading
Captain Brian Boehm
Sarasota, FL