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IS PERSISTENCE THE KEY TO SUCCESS?
Leon Benson @LeonBenson2: Was persistence the key to you being in the position you are in now?
In early 1994 I created my first website. In late 1994 I did my first corporate website. In 1995 I did my first website for money. I got $17,500 cash for a diamond wholesaler’s website. I went straight to the Chelsea Hotel and gave them the money and paid for my first room (of many) there for a year. I couldn’t believe how rich I was with that money. Stanley Bard, the owner of the Chelsea at the time, looked at the cash and said, “what are you, a drug dealer?” And I felt like one. I was selling crack, heroin, whatever. I felt high. I was so happy. I had made more money than I had ever had in my life. I would wander up and down the stairwells of the Chelsea Hotel hoping I would run into some drug addict who would have sex with me. That persistence never paid off fortunately.
In 1996, we finally incorporated the company doing websites for others. At the beginning of the year we had maybe two or three clients and two or three employees. But we grew. Everyone needed a website. I was still working my fulltime job at HBO but sneaking away for meetings and then hiding my suit before I got back to my cubicle. Finally in 1997 I had to leave HBO to do Reset fulltime. And in 1998 we sold the business.
Along the way I probably got rejected more than 200 times on sales pitches. And I messed up hiring, bribing, sales, investing, we got robbed twice, I messed up on follow-up (with J.P. Morgan, who desperately wanted us to do their website, I just dropped the ball), I messed up everything. I couldn’t get it right. But I felt like we were doing well (we kept growing every month) so I kept at it. In 1997 I tried to sell the company but nobody wanted it. But I kept in touch with everyone and kept sending all potential suitors monthly updates. For about a year, half my job was pitching new clients and half my job was pitching potential people to buy the company. Finally in August, 1998 the time was right and we sold the company. And, by the way, this was my third attempt at starting a company. The other two had failed.
I’ve read so many cases of authors who sold their books door to door for years until finally word of mouth spread and they became bestsellers. John Grisham being a great example. Eckhart Tolle being another. And how many actors spent 5, 10, even 20 years as carpenters, waiters, whatevers, before they got their first big role that put them over the top. Or Thomas Edison trying 9999 times to light a lightbulb before he got it right on the 10000th attempt. Eventually a water dripping on a rock will wither away the rock.
The only thing I will add: that water is inside of you, and the rock is all the constipated excrement that has curled up in your mental intestines from years of hypnosis by corporations, the government, your friends, your family. your peers, your bosses. You have to wither that rock away. The voice inside that constantly whispers “I can’t” needs to be silenced.
Persistence is not something you do with external goals, but it is something you do internally. It’s the fire you keep trying to start inside yourself until it grows and becomes bigger and bigger. Then everything you touch feels your magic, your presence, your power, your persistence. It is the persistence that comes with preparation.
You do this by every day checking the box: “did I improve physically”, “did I make my life better emotionally”, “did I make my life better mentally”, “did I make my life better spiritually”.Don’t get sucked into past failures. Don’t fantasize about future success. Just today: did you check the box. Did you ignite the fire.
Accepting that suffering is going to happen, and understanding that accepting that suffering ultimately leads to success, is the key to persistence, is the key to ultimate success.
I describe “The Daily Practice” here, which I view as the only way I was able to persist when times were so hard I felt like all I could was die in shame. I would turn on the TV and watch the news and wish I was the person who died in the horrible bus accident or the freak lightening accident. I be jealous of the people who had the courage to jump off bridges.
How many golf balls do you have to hit before you hit a hole in one? How many serves in tennis before you score an ace? How many different girlfriend/boyfriends before you meet the one you will marry? How many books do you have to read before you can say, “this is the best book I’ve ever read”? How many planets will we have to explore before we find another one with intelligent life? Persistence runs through every aspect of our lives.
We do something over and over again for many reasons:
A) We learn from every attempt. I’ve had several business successes, but several out of 20, 30, maybe even 40 attempts! Does that make me a loser to have failed so much? No, of course not. One success means you are…a success. At least I hope so. Then I blew it and had to start from scratch but at some point you know if you can do it once, you know the trick to make it happen again. And a big part of that trick is persistence.
B) Time management. For every attempt, you will become more and more efficient with your time. You will hire better (bad employees are the worst wastes of time), and you will learn how to pre-qualify customers better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten on a plane, traveled a thousand miles, made my impassioned pitch, everyone loved it, and then I returned home with nothing nothing NOTHING. It feels so bad. Didn’t they like me? Didn’t they like my idea? Didn’t they think it was important that I flew 1000 miles to see them on their home turf! Didn’t they!? I think it takes about 20 failures to really get time management down to a science.
C) Idea execution. Most of the time we have good ideas but have no idea how to execute it. We waste time thinking we need a lawyer to execute something (they will execute your idea, that’s for sure), or an accountant, or a partner, or a programmer, or a salesperson, or a venture capitalist, or we need to be living in Paris if we want to paint a good painting, or we need to be isolated for six months if we want to write a good novel or book. Or we need to meditate to be “enlightened”. Or we need to be educated to get a job. None of these things are true. They are just excuses. All excuses are myths, are lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves inside on a sunny day. With persistence you learn how to hunt, how to kill, how to eat.
D) BS Detection. I was at a dinner once to hear a pitch. It was with a fund I didn’t like so I should’ve known better. They said, “just listen to this guy”. He had a great pitch. He had a technology which would take steam coming out of factories that he would then recycle back into the factory so they would save energy and costs. He would charge only on what he saved the factory. Then he had another pitch. Strips that he would place on the highway that would absorb the energy of the cars driving over it and feed it right into the electric grid. “One day on the Long Island Expressway and I could power New York State for a month,” he said. He had more pitches. On and on. Finally, I was thinking to myself, “he’s going to pitch me a time machine.” The next slide…a time machine. I left the dinner. My business partner was laughing, “Did he just pitch us a time machine?” Eventually you get BS detection so you don’t even take those dinners. Much better to sleep.
E) Persistence gives you luck. A lot of times I’m playing chess online and I’ll win and someone will say, “you got REALLY LUCKY!” as if I couldn’t within without luck. And then we’ll play again and I’ll win again and then usually whoever said that will log off quickly without saying goodbye. There’s a saying, “only the good players are lucky”. How do you get lucky? I’m not the best player in the world. But I’ve put in thousands of hours studying and playing. And losing. Persistence is an intimate dance with loss and through that dance you find that that failure mated with passion produces luck.
F) Calmness. If every house you live in burns down, you begin to learn how to be calm in a fire. The more calm you are, the more lives are saved, the more possessions restored. Persistence gives you calm. Whispers what you should do in emergencies. Without persistence you won’t know to stay low and let the smoke rise over you so you can breathe.
With persistence, you learn that life is filled with change, and that the more accepting you are of the change, decay, and hardship that life is filled with, the more you will navigate them to find the treasure and wisdom that awaits that acceptance.
G) Giving up. You also learn when you should give up on an idea. Sometimes you don’t need to persist on one idea. Sometimes an idea is just bad. But through constant trial and error you will learn when to give up and move on to the next one. You will learn how to keep your expectations low. Low expectations improves your ability to make quick decisions that don’t rely on false myths, shame, and excuses. When you expect nothing, then suddenly you will get everything.
H) Strength. The world is divided into two people. The ones who blame and the ones who take responsibility. It’s the latter that ignite that inner fire. That seek internal improvement in all four bodies: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Every single day grow the fire. Jerry Seinfeld used to say when he would write down a new comedy sketch he’d put an X down on the calendar. Finally, he would have a line of Xs. He liked looking at the Xs. He didn’t want a blank. Don’t make a blank. Every day improve those internal fires.
I) Trust. If you know you are building that internal fire every day you will be content with what you have. You will trust that life will take care of the rest. You will never be left lacking. You will never be left wondering, “what if?” You will know the exact moment you need to step out of the way so abundance can force its way in like a tornado. You will trust deep down that it will happen.
That’s the key to persistence: improve the internal fire every day, do The Daily Practice to ignite it, and expect absolutely nothing so you will enjoy when you inevitably get everything.