I get a lot of correspondence from viewers, readers, etc. Recently, I got one from someone wanting me to address failure, and believe it or not, it's something I know a lot about. However, despite it, I kept going/trying and of course, fishing.
I mean we all know the story of the little engine that could — I think I can! I think I can! That story is applicable to my career. Except in my case, I was facing challenges in a bass boat rather than on a train.
I didn't simply fish my way to glory. There were lots of water hazards out there, and even some large dams. But I found ways to make it through the locks, and, sometimes, over the rapids!
Take my success in television, for example. Even as a kid fishing creeks alongside my grandfather, I dreamed of making a living in the fishing industry. And later, success in fishing tournaments would provide this springboard. The opportunity to conduct fishing seminars and sales and promotions came with my tournament success. This led to the call for a TV fishing show.
Of course, I knew nothing about photography, post-production and had no experience in marketing or the airwaves. Regardless, I dove into the project that was beyond my wildest dreams.
For months, I visited daily program directors throughout the Mid-South and presented my ideas for a program. Repeatedly, I was reminded that this was a dumb idea. The negative responses, repeatedly, day in and day out eventually began to wear on me and I began to suspect my critics were right.
At this point, my wife Dianne reminded me it was much easier for me to convince myself I could not accomplish my goals. She said if I allowed negative thoughts to dominate my thinking I might as well quit. That night, I went to sleep with mixed emotions, but slowly begin to think, "I can. I can! I will. I will!"
Dawn saw new motivation, direction and confidence. That day, I saw a ray of hope. Lance Russell at the Memphis-based ABC-TV affiliate told me, "I like your idea, and if you can come up with a sponsor to pay for the airtime and bring me a pilot, we'll give it a shot."
Wow! What a step forward. But then, I had to face many more closed doors. And many said, "We don't have an advertising budget; it costs too much," "Are you crazy?" "A fishing show, on TV?" and "Get outta here!" before shutting those doors.
I probably heard such 100 times in as many days. But I didn't quit. I had made myself and Dianne a promise. I had to find one person willing to take the risk, and it was Billy Woods, a sporting goods buyer for an independent retailer. He believed.
Today, 40 years later, Bill Dance Outdoors (on Versus TV) and Bill Dance Saltwater (on the Outdoor Channel), are aired all over.
So sure, I know failure, and lots of it, but thanks to the help of family, friends, a lot of hard work, determination and luck, I also know success. Looking back, I sometimes wonder, can we really know success, if we don't taste some failure along the way?
For more words of wit and wisdom from one of our sport's greatest legends, check out www.billdanceoutdoors.com.