What Niagara Falls Can Teach You About Business

In 1845, a group of four men had a vision to build a bridge over Niagara Falls between the United States and Canada.

The narrowest part was 800 feet wide, and it spanned the most turbulent part of the water. The civil engineers said it couldn’t be done.

But the men wouldn’t give up. They thought about how much trade, tourism, commerce and prosperity this bridge would create.


One of the four men, Charles Ellet Jr, had been obsessed for 14 years about building this particular bridge. He’d traveled the world, trying to find out how other countries had built bridges over long spans.

One of his team members came up with an unconventional idea. What if they flew a kite from one side of the water to the other, and attached a cable to start building the bridge?

Hundreds of people came out with their kites to try out the idea. Although the wind was prevailing, people started quitting as the sun went down in the evening.

One 15 year old boy keeps going. He slowly and patiently feeds out the line, inch by inch. After midnight, the wind dies down. His kite finally reaches the other side, only for the boy to find out that the string has broken.

Does the boy give up? No, he calmly comes back again another day and flies the kite a second time. Again, it takes him until after midnight for the kite to reach the other side, and this time it sticks. Soon, they are able to build a bridge.


What are the lessons from this story that you can apply to your business?

Firstly, the men had a strong vision. They knew how much trade, tourism, commerce and prosperity the bridge would create. They didn’t set out to build a bridge for the fun of it. There was a strong purpose behind what they were doing.

You too need a strong purpose in your business, because it’s what will keep you going through the toughest of times.

Secondly, think about the boy who flew the kite. He could have easily written himself off and decided he was too young to make any real contribution to this big project. He could have told himself he had nothing to offer. But he believed he could make a contribution to the project, and he did.

Before you can make a difference, you have to believe you have value to bring to the table.

Finally, this project would never even have started without the belief of the four men who came up with the idea together. They believed in their mission, they believed in themselves and they believed in each other. Not just for a fleeting moment, but for 14 long years.

Great things can happen when you have full belief in what you’re doing.