The Story of Forza…
Entrepreneurs: Keep Calm and Be a Force of Nature
You know – it’s been a long time since I was asked how I got the nickname Forza. Sometimes I forget that not everyone really speaks Italian. Surprisingly, most of the world does not. How is this possible? It is the mother language of so much culture in the world. Ah, but I digress. Forza – it does not mean invincible. I’m certainly not that – but when I was young – there were some things that required a tremendous spirit to confront. The town where I was born, it was in the southern lands of Italia. You probably never even heard of the place I come from – but such a beautiful place – I swear to you, you could not look away if you looked across the valley where my town is. It is a piece of heaven put down upon the earth. It was quiet and sleepy it seemed, at times, to a rambunctious youth such as myself. Always, I was looking for a way out. Some adventure that took me from the house, perhaps from the town. Some forest to explore, some cliff to challenge. As a youth, I was convinced that my destiny lay far from home.
Still, what of Forza? It’s not my original name you know. Gianlucia – that was the name that I was given by my Mama MonstR. Gianlucia Antonio Franca Domenica Marci Gino Lupia Gianelli. Can you imagine when I had to write that down as a kid! Are you surprised that I like my nickname so much more? What if I wrote a book? Would I have to put all that down? I shudder at the thought even now. Yes, yes – people asked me if my mama couldn’t make up her mind. To tell you the truth – I don’t even begin to know. Maybe one day she will admit the truth to me. Forza though is something that happened by accident. I did not always look as I do now.
Would you like to know the story then? Bravo! Let’s see – where did it begin? Oh yes – one day – a typical day in October in my small town – we were all out to cause trouble. I was only a youngster of 12 years then. It seems so long ago. My best friends Nica and Gianni were with me. We were free from our chores by this time – you have to understand – our town was mostly a place of farms. If you did not finish your work by noon-time – the temperature became insufferably hot. Worse – you would most likely have your allowance taken away for a week for being lazy, so we made it a mission to avoid this at all costs. It wasn’t much money – but each of us would rather have our clothes ripped from our backs by wolves than to let go of one single nickel – that’s what you call the little coin with the five on it here in America – yes? Anyway – no possible way would we risk such a loss. Even a little bit meant that we could have gelato or try to bribe the MonstR at the bar to give us something extra on our plate. We thought then that we were kings for so little.
So, like I said – a typical October day – and Nica was telling us a story about some crazy deep cave up on the mountain above our town. Gianni and I had never heard of such a place. For years, no one had mentioned anything like it. But here was Nica saying that she saw this cavernous hole with her own two eyes. I thought she was playing a joke at our expense, but after a while – she seemed so uncomfortable and also so afraid to talk too loud about the mouth of the mountain. You’d think that she had seen a monstrous set of jaws coming from the earth to eat our town. Impossible. What a crazy idea! But, no matter how much we teased Nica – she continued to demand that we believe her. So Gianni and I decided to prove that she was full of nonsense by seeing the “Mouth of the Mountain” for ourselves. As we were walking out of the bar, I noticed that someone was watching and maybe listening to the three of us. Still – who cares – it was just one of the grandmothers. They listen always to us so that they can make up wild stories to accuse us of and cause us trouble with our parents. Right before we stepped into the sunlight though, I looked back. She was still staring at us as we left. I stopped thinking about it only a moment later though as Gianni took off running ahead of us up the mountainside. For us – the mountain was something that we leaned upon just footsteps from our back doors all of our lives.
It took a while – maybe an hour had passed – maybe a little more or perhaps a little less. Not long though and we stood near the tree-line. Gianni turned to laugh at Nica for having played a joke on us so well, but it seemed like the breath of a ghost crossed Gianni’s face because just for a moment before he started to say something to Nica – he blanched for a moment. I’m not even sure he noticed, but I did. So strange to remember even now. Gianni was always the leader with us. He was a good foot taller than the rest of the MonstRs in my village. It almost seemed like he may have been chiseled from the mountain itself. He looked impossibly strong and vigorous. But – again – for that moment – pale as a ghost. We would wonder later if that was some kind of strange prediction in that moment.
Nica took the lead now – we had grown quieter because there was no other sound around us now that we passed above the trees. Only the forlorn music of the wind was there to carry us forward any further.
15 more minutes…and there it was. The jagged teeth and the deep soul chilling darkness immediately behind them. Perhaps this is where it began for me. Gianni still had a little paleness to him. Nica wouldn’t take a step further but I could not take any of this seriously. Being the relentless adventurer in my imagination of myself – I could nearly but not quite stop myself. Instead – 10 then 20 then 30 feet began to separate me from the others. And the darkness became closer and closer around me until it seemed like I was no longer in the world but instead running on a floor made of darkness itself. It seemed like I could hear Gianni and Nica yelling for me to come back – but I was too proud of myself to stop. Then I stopped moving forward…
This was – to my shock – because I was moving down and it was not a little step down – I fell perhaps 20 feet before I hit a steep slope and began to spin end over end down deeper into this darkness. This is maybe what Dante felt when he was inspired to write of the descent into hell? I cannot know for sure – but I can tell you – it felt like I would be falling for the rest of time before I came to a sudden and abrupt stop – and to the sudden realization that I had been making a sound during that entire fall. I knew this because there was no sound suddenly and I was gasping to recover from crashing down on my chest against the floor of some dark place that I found myself inside of. I tried to yell out to Gianni and Nica. But, nothing came back in return. Perhaps I really had fallen to some place in hell for my recklessness?
After what seemed like an hour later – of stumbling around – falling again and again over small rocks – and even hitting my head more than a few times from falling face first into things – I planted a bruised cheek on a wall. When I was just a young child – I spent literally hours playing with the maze books trying to find my way out faster and faster and without even using the pencil. I was pretty good at it, so I thought it would be easy once I found a wall to make my way out of this ridiculous maze I had fallen into. What was it – if I put my right hand on the wall and just keep walking following the lead of my hand – this would help me find my way out of the maze? Eh – well – it seemed like a good idea. I was leaning close to the wall when the next surprise hit me. Maybe I should not have actually been leaning? But there it was – my face on the floor once more. Ahem. Ok – sometimes it take me a few knocks on the head to figure something out. It’s a good thing I only have one eye – keeps me focused – I always remember to get my hands up in front of my face when I fall – so that I won’t poke my eye. Hey – don’t laugh – I fell a lot as a young kid – can you imagine what it’s like to see the ground coming rushing toward your eye – for me – its practically the scariest thing alive. You get very good at putting anything else in front of you rather than hitting face first. Maybe if my family came from those MonstRs with beady eyes? This might not happen – but at least this has given me very strong elbows – for whatever that’s worth.
Ah right – back to the story. Eh, so, again, I’m on the ground, nearly hugging my face with my arms and hands. If you didn’t know me better – you’d think that I might be impossibly vain. Ok, ok – maybe a little – but the eye – trust me – it’s so terribly incredibly awfully painful when I hit it. This time – my hands had not come up fast enough – so I could feel something moist and a little bit sticky on my eye lid. And then – the nose – she caught up with the rest of the face. My nose was planted dead in the middle of the problem. Awful, awful stuff. I shudder even to remember this part. A few moments later – I could hear screeching building up behind me – and then thousands of wings beating upon the air. If possible, the smell grew even more remarkably strong.
So – no going back – no climbing anywhere in pitch black darkness. What to do. So, I stepped forward – and then it hit me again…a smell. This time not of guano – yes – I was filthy and covered in it. Instead – this smell was fresh and strong with pine and other delicious smells that did not come from within a bat. Inching forward slowly because I still could not see a single thing – I came to realize that I was on a ledge. What was more concerning than that though – was how small the ledge was and how little the hole was where the sweet fresh breeze was coming from. Ah, perhaps it’s not right to say that the hole was small, perhaps it is right to say that the hole seemed impossibly far from where I was and in the dim light – I could see an incredible cliff to climb up to get there. I began to shake with terror at the thought of trying this. Better to try to be saved by Gianni and Nica. But – after what seemed like an interminable amount of time – I realized that this wasn’t going to work. They couldn’t know where I was and for all I knew – there were literally dozens of holes just like the one that I had fallen into. So after staring at the far off bright spot in the sea of night that was the inside of this cavern – I began my ascent. At first, it seemed as if the hole began to run away further every time I looked toward it. Still, after what seemed like forever – definitely the hole was closer. And, to my relief – the cavern was brighter as well…
Soon – maybe it was an hour maybe it was 2 – but soon – I found myself on a ledge just a few meters below the entrance. I’m tall but this was just outside my reach even with a good jump. I could see no other option. Looking across – the other wall seemed not so far away and it looked like there might be some more places to grip if I could just make it across. Looking to the right and the left, I could see no other ledges or a way to circle the space – so there it was. My leap of faith – staring me in the face… I could take a risk and perhaps find a way to climb the last few meters with a few more grips. I could sit here and hope that someone found me. Or I could climb down and try to start over – but my arms and legs were screaming at me from the climb before. This – was when I earned my nickname. This cliff, alone in the dark, one leap and bella fortuna standing beside me. I pushed off from the wall – closing my eyes for just a moment and then – nothing…only air. It seemed like a lifetime that I floated there. My eyes open once more the wall coming closer, heart racing – just enough ledge. And …
I was across! Adrenaline pumping through me – I looked back and to this day, I can’t figure out how this was possible. Looking that way – the distance must have been much larger than I thought. What seemed to me like just 2 meters before I took my leap of faith was clearly not. I found just enough additional holds to climb up out of the opening and could barely hear my friends calling from off down the hillside below. After I found them, I brought them back to my escape and then days later with others – we looked with flashlights and ropes to see where I had found my way out. There was no sign of the ledge I had stood on and the hole that seemed so small from the floor was more than 4 meters across. My friends said it first when they looked down inside – “Forza Gianlucia. You have done an impossible thing!”.
It stuck…I have carried this nickname since then.
Whenever I face an impossible thing now, I remember back to that time as a youth and the impossible thing that happened that day. That is the essence of what I am as an entrepreneur every day in every way. Being a force of nature in the midst of uncertainty, darkness, adversity, and then taking a leap of faith. That is the thrill of entrepreneurship – to do something so hard and yet find a way to succeed despite “impossible” odds.
I am pleased to meet you all and I welcome you all to this great journey to become like me – a MonstRpreneur!