No Plan B

People who accomplish big things tend to be single-minded when it comes to their ambitions.

Sometimes you'll hear them say "I just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer." But I think it's deeper than that.

I think the reality is not that they don't take "no" for an answer; it's more like they don't even ask the question.

My good friend Greg Hague of the excellent Savvy Dad blog posted a great story last week illustrating this. Even better, it was contributed by racing legend Mario Andretti.

Here's a reproduction of the story, part of a larger post which can be found here.


After the end of World War II, and living seven and a half years in a refugee camp in Lucca, Italy, the Andrettis were granted their long-awaited visas to enter the U.S.  Filled with hope and leaving all of their belongings behind, the family set sail for America aboard the Conte Biancamano.

On the morning of June 16, 1955, the Italian ocean liner slowly pulled into New York Harbor.

The family of five spoke not a word of English and

arrived with just $125 to their name.

They settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and lived with Mario’s uncle.

Let’s Race

A few days after arriving in the U.S., 15-year-old Mario and his twin brother, Aldo, were outside and heard the roar of car engines off in the distance.

“We looked at each other and BOOM, we bolted!” Mario recalls.

In sheer jubilation, the boys soon discovered a racetrack less than a mile from their home!  The twins had been enamored with racing in Italy.  Ferrari, Maserti and Alfa Romeo were the top players in the sport.

Though these were modified stock cars, not Formula One, the duo watched through holes in the fence.  They longed for the thrill, the speed.

This would become their turning point.

From that moment on, the twins had one focus –

to build a car and start racing.

Fortunately, their Uncle Louie managed a Sunoco garage.  Mario and Aldo went to work.  They learned everything about building and fixing cars, and saved enough to build a car of their own.  After four years their car, a 1948 Hudson Hornet Sportsman, was ready – and they were ready to race.

But there was a problem.

The legal age to obtain a racing license was 21.

The boys were only 19.

Mario recalls, “At the gas station, we made a lot of friends.  One was editor of a local newspaper, Les Young.  We said, ‘Les, we need your help.  We need you to do a job on our licenses to fudge the birth dates to make us two years older.  He did a pretty good job about that, no computers in those days to double-check things.  At age 19, we started racing.  That’s where it all began.”

A Roadblock from Gigi

Their dad, on the other hand, knew only one thing about racing.

It was dangerous

Mario explains, “He would not allow it because he was concerned about our safety . . . but we had so much passion.  The passion was burning.  A burning desire to do it.  We knew what we wanted to do. 

From my standpoint, I never even had a Plan B.

The first season, we raced without his knowledge.  We were winning.  We had one car and two drivers.  Aldo won his very first race.  I won the following weekend.”

This is Brandon again:

I love this story because Mario and Aldo faced not one but two possible deal-breakers: the law itself, and their own father. But they worked around both roadblocks, not even considering, for a second, abandoning their ambition.

Would you do the same for your dream?

Thanks again to Greg at Savvy Dad!

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