Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

March 18, 2017

When You Should Give Up On Your Ice-Cold, Crazy Ideas.

It was at a dinner shortly after the wedding that the idea came up. One of Frederic’s younger sister had just married the most eligible bachelor in town. Chilled drinks were flowing. And so were the ideas. As Frederic’s rich older brother William joked with friends, out tumbled one of those ideas: ice for everyone.

Why not harvest the plentiful New England ice, currently only affordable to the rich and famous and sell it to the masses in the steamy Caribbean? It was clearly a joke. The ice would obviously melt along the way.

But that joke of an idea became a burning question for Frederic.

Why not bring ice to the masses?

The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that he could pull it off. Using what he had learned from his apprenticeships and calling on his contacts in the Caribbean, this idea could make him seriously rich.

So it was on August 1, 1805, he inscribed in his journal—a journal bought specifically for this grand new business venture—his determined outlook:

He who gives back at the first repulse and without striking the second blow despairs of success has never been, is not, and never will be a hero in war, love, or business.

And quickly those blows of despair landed.

He couldn’t pay enough to get a boat captain to take him seriously. The first captain he tried to hire brushed him off. He wasn’t interested in being part of that failure. And neither was the second. Or the third.

Frederic decided to take matters into his own hands, spending $4,750 (or over $90,000 in today’s money) to buy his own boat, called the Favorite.

With 130 tons of ice on board, he left dock on February 10, 1806 — to the ridicule of the press. The Boston Gazette reported, “No joke, ship full of ice sets sail for Martinique. Let’s hope this doesn’t prove to be a slippery speculation!”

His friends laughed at this insane notion. His own dad called his new venture “wild and ruinous”.

Turns out they were all absolutely right.

Twenty days later he arrived in Martinique, located in the Caribbean. Most of the ice on his boat had already melted. The business partners he sent ahead of his arrival had failed to drum up much interest. They weren’t able to sell the wild idea of having a chilled drink on a hot day.

In a little over 3 weeks, he had lost just over $50,000 in today’s money.

But that was just the beginning.

His own brother (and business partner) bailed out on the business. Quit. Left. He wanted no part of his insanity.

If that weren’t bad enough, the warehouses used to store ice could not stop the ice from melting.

And then life happened.

A few month after the launch of his grand idea, the Embargo Act of 1807 made it illegal to trade in foreign ports, cutting him off from his Caribbean market. That was followed by the War of 1812, which tanked the business.

Frederic was broke. And he went on the run from his creditors.

When he couldn’t outrun his creditors, he was thrown into debtor’s prison. And when he got out, he was thrown back in. A second time. And then a third time.

Humiliated. Broken. Beaten. Destroyed by his own crazy joke of an idea.

And every day, while his world crashed down around him and he logged one failure after another, he saw these words written so many years earlier in his journal:

He who gives back at the first repulse and without striking the second blow despairs of success has never been, is not, and never will be a hero in war, love, or business.

It took a decade of despairing blows before he finally started to get it right.

And then that bit of success seemed like a stroke of luck.

He started hauling a cooler of ice into the eating area at the boarding house and convincing his roommates to try their first iced beverage. At first they laughed him off, but then they started clamoring for more.

And that was the spark that changed everything.

It was all-out hustle. He and his salesmen would travel the country convincing bars to experiment with chilled beverages to see which would sell better. They even went so far as to offer some bars free ice for a year.

He taught restaurants how to use his ice to make ice cream.

He pioneered the practice of chilling meat, fruits, and vegetables to ship them longer distances. He convinced doctors and hospitals to use ice to cool down feverish patients.

He developed an insulated ice house that kept his product cold by trapping a layer of air between two stone walls. He put those houses in Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta — literally, all over the world.

He continued to perfect his process, harvesting ice in ways that produced more uniform ice bricks, allowing them to be stacked tighter and higher. Some as high as 80 feet tall.

With that hustle came the success he envisioned so many years earlier.

People began to want cold drinks. Queen Elizabeth herself refused to drink any other kind of ice but Frederic’s.

By 1856, Frederic was at the center of an industry that was shipping 140,000 tons of ice to China, Brazil, Japan, India, Australia, and 38 other countries.

He became known around the world as the “Ice King”. He had fought his way from debtor’s prison to a fortune worth over $200 million dollars in today’s money.

And all because of a single sentence penciled into his journal:

He who gives back at the first repulse and without striking the second blow despairs of success has never been, is not, and never will be a hero in war, love, or business.

“The sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, drink at my well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges,” penned Henry David Thoreau as he watched Frederic’s men harvest the ice on the famous Walden pond.

His ice melted, but not his impact.

The same could be said for you. So don’t give up on your crazy ideas.

Even when people say your idea is stupid.

Even when people tell you to back off, to be reasonable, that it’s okay to “move on”, that “it wasn’t meant to be”.

Even when people tell you “no”. Even when they tell you “no” a second time. And a third time. And a hundred times after that.

Keep fighting. Do the next thing. That ice-cold determination to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes is exactly what it takes.

Whatever you do, don’t give up.

As Frederic Tudor so boldly wrote: “He who gives back at the first repulse and without striking the second blow despairs of success has never been, is not, and never will be a hero in war, love, or business.”

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.