If Rocky Balboa taught us anything, it’s that America loves rooting for the underdog. Comebacks are always uplifting, reminding us that resilience isn’t a trait held by all; for the people who exemplify this strong determination, rewards are plentiful. Detroit has personified the brash willpower demonstrated by Rocky – gloves up and out – and is reaping the benefits.
1) Boldly share your vision. With a national ad campaign and a matching website and presence, “Opportunity Detroit” is actively marketing to young entrepreneurs, targeting them to bring their ideas here. When nobody is in your corner, you have to be your own loudspeaker. Once people recognize your greatness they’ll get on their own soapboxes on your behalf – until then, spread your message yourself.
2) Focus on impact more than personal gain. If you’re championing a cause and making a difference, your results will be better and more widespread. Ted Serbinski, our Vice President at Detroit Venture Partners, moved to Detroit from San Francisco. People always ask him why he came here, to which he always replies, “Ten years from now, San Francisco will be just as good as it is today. But in ten years, Detroit will be a roaring city once again, defining a new technology hub at the intersection of muscle and brains. Where do you want to be in ten years? Status quo? Or one of the heroes that rebuilt a city?” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
3) Become a category of one. Figuring out your individual strengths is crucial – and sometimes challenging. It’s easy for people to question how Detroit can be the Midwestern Silicon Valley or the “New York City of Michigan”. Focus instead on being the “Detroit” of “Detroit” and be the best you can. No different for your startup, company, or career: if you’re not innovating something fundamentally unique, positioning yourself as your own category, I’m not interested.
4) Pay it forward. With success comes responsibility. When you’re in a position to help someone in a community that has supported your gains, you should do so. If you open a coffee shop and you’re the hottest new spot in town, source the baked goods you provide from an up-and-coming baker who’s looking to make a splash – get her the exposure you’ve been fortunate enough to have yourself. For every ounce, minute, and dollar you give back, you’ll receive tenfold in return.
5) Play like you’ve got nothing to lose. As an underdog, you put it all out on the line because you have you. You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, and there’s nowhere to go but up. Clearly in Detroit we’ve had decades of struggles so improvements are always welcome – especially for people who play with heart and soul. On your own journey, fight with the ferocity of a streetfigher if you hope to achieve at the highest levels.
6) Never waiver. When you talk to visionaries in Detroit (Peter Karmanos, Roger Penske, and Dan Gilbert to name a few), they’ll tell you there’s no question mark of what’s to become of this area. Greatness isn’t a debate – it’s destiny. They believe in it wholeheartedly so they see the full vision as clearly as a crystal ball. Because of this clear result in mind, it’s simply a matter of playing the chess game backwards to manifest their bold vision. Dreams should big and bold, not restricted. Remember – you’ll see it when you believe it.
If Rocky Balboa punched meat carcasses to get in fighting shape, you can get off the couch and make it happen. Throw punches like the underdog and you might just take a lesson from America’s Comeback Kid – my hometown, the ever-surprising, chameleon of a city, Detroit.
Josh Linkner, Forbes.