How to Make Your Vision Come True and Convince Others to Come Along

summarized by David DeWinter
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Bruce Smith – CEO & Founder, Hydrow

The 3-Sentence Summary

There are 8 things you need to do to bring people into your vision: (1) build genuine trust with others; (2) own how you articulate your ideas and your vision; (3) know your why; (4) don’t be afraid to fail; (5) assume the best intent; (6) stop your haters with kindness; (7) stay optimistic; and (8) nurture your first few followers as equals to build a movement. Hydrow is doing all of these to bring the magic of rowing to every non-rower on the planet.



0:57 Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

  • Remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equal, making everything about the movement, not you.
  • Be public and easy to follow.
  • Leadership is over-glorified. The best way to make a movement is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

5:55 Introduction

  • Built a couple boathouses in Chicago.
  • Involved in the founding of Lincoln Park Juniors
  • CRI Institute for Leadership
  • Grew CRI from $800k to $7M in revenue
  • Lots of fundraising experience: $30M+ for rowing, $200M+ for business
  • Coached club, high school, D1 collegiate, and World Champs

8:38 It’s not just me; it’s a movement of people.


10:37 A lot of stuff failed: IRL canceled, Lincoln Park Juniors stopped offering universal scholarships, one medal in 10 attempts at world champs, etc.

12:46 Why don’t good ideas work?

  • Money is never the problem
  • IDEAS + COMMUNICATION + TRUST = Movements which solve problems and raise money
  • It takes years to build trust

Succeeding at Change

17:07 How to make change

  • People want to grow
  • Simon Sinek and the Diesel Engine: Know Your Why – if you know your why, you can always keep going
  • Assume the best of people
    • They do understand, and if they don’t, then it’s on you to explain it better
    • You have to build bridges and bring people into your vision.
  • Own the communication of your ideas:
    • You don’t gain anything by keeping it secret
    • If people talk to you about your idea, they’ll help you make it better
    • There’s a chance they’ll support it instead of arguing against it because they’re involved
  • Influence doesn’t matter
  • Kindness wins, no matter what people say about you.

27:20 My Why: Rowing is a laboratory for doing something positive in the world

  • Free (in the sense of “freedom”)
  • Healthy
  • Focuses attention on the environment
  • Training ground for helpful human skills

Opportunities in Rowing

30:34 Rowing and indoor rowing is blowing up right now.

31:28 Indoor rowing is also blowing up, and it can be fun (avoid the negative stigma we have in boathouses)

  • Early Adopters: Orange Theory, CrossFit, RowHouse

From Rowers to Non-Rowers

35:27 I believe the world is the way it is because people feel bad about themselves and don’t trust each other as much as they need to. Consequently, the decision-making we use in all parts of our life is diminished and broken. Rowing is the real thing when it comes to helping people feel better and learn to trust each other.

37:30 Beyond competition, rowing helps us in so many other ways (physical health, mental health). It has this transformative power over people’s imagination of themselves and how they feel about the world.

40:21 Rowing can give you two things that we crave: whole health (86% of your body) and community (and fun!)

41:05 Rowing is growing 2x the rate of treadmills and cycling, but nobody advertises rowing in mainstream channels.


42:34 Digital doping will continue to be important for creating connected experiences for rowing. Machine data needs to be comparable.

43:30 Looking ahead, we need to be the architects of change to help people see the value of rowing as form factors evolve: virtual reality, the metaverse, etc.


44:38 Summary and contact info

  • Fail as often as you can: 10 no’s for every yes
  • Stay optimistic
  • Assume the best about everyone
  • Try hard

46:32 True leaders are not afraid to surround themselves with people who challenge them.


47:08 How is it you attract such high-quality people? How do you balance empowering them to do great things and ensuring they stick to the vision you started with?

The people I work with are radically good at things, and the best I can gather is that they want to do long-term good in the world.

50:40 Do you get any feedback on Hydrow users wanting to move to get in a boat?

We don’t have stats but we refer hundreds of people per month to local clubs.

52:30 How do we work together with Orange Theory, CrossFit, Hydrow, etc. to get people on the water?

  • Competitions are fun, so figure out ways to allow anyone with any rowing machine to compete.
  • 2Ks are great, but they’re not the end-all. Keep it fun and engaging.

57:45 We are actively adding new athletes to our roster to be more diverse.

1:00:16 Have you thought about how to tie Hydrow data to Empower Oarlock data?

Haven’t thought about it. Super interesting. 97% of Hydrow customers have never owned a rowing machine or rowed on the water, so think more about what do you love about rowing that you’d like to share with non-rowers?

1:01:23 Can I attach a fixed seat with your machine for adaptive athletes?

Yes, we are actively working on one.

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