Many small business owners admire business giants like Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Richard Branson. Let me tell you about one of my business idols.
Warren Miller is considered by many to be the father of adventure films. After growing up poor during the depression and serving in the Navy, he lived in a tiny trailer in the parking lot of Sun Valley Idaho. He earned money as a ski instructor and began filming fellow instructors and skiers in order to critique and improve their technique. That winter a passion was ignited, a career launched and a legend soon followed.
The passion was for both film making and skiing in general. Miller said that guests at Sun Valley gave him money and in exchange he gave them freedom in the form of showing them how to turn a pair of skis. Although his career took him to the finest ski destinations around the world with some of the most talented and extreme skiers, Miller was definitely not snobbish. He clearly loved everything about skiing and the ski life. His films showed exotic places as well as small hills, experts and beginners, Olympic racers and physically-challenged skiers. He celebrated them all because he understood what they all had in common — the pure joy of being on skis. He made it OK to not wear the latest ski fashion and to have imperfect form. If you fell, just get back up again.
Business icons are sometimes idolized because they made a ton of money. I assume Warren Miller did, too. At least I hope so. That has nothing to do with why he’s an entrepreneurial hero to me. He found something he loved — skiing and making movies — and turned it into a great career. He didn’t follow anyone’s best practices because what he was doing had never been done before. He kept the quality of his work high because he never got tired of the job. He was always creative, clever, funny and inspiring. Even to people like me who are barely mediocre as a skier.
Warren Miller died last week at the age of 93. He always said that the stairs leading to heaven would be covered in snow. To paraphrase Miller, I suggest you watch one of his great movies this ski season because if you don’t you’ll be another year older when you do.