In 1878 Thomas Edison patented the first ever light bulb. Already famous as an inventor, the development of the bulb launched him into being a national icon.
What few were aware of at the time was the difficulties and challenges he had before finally breaking through. It has been rumored that he had tried unsuccessfully over 10,000 different ways to build a bulb, each ending in failure. Even if this is an urban legend it seems likely that his attempts, however many there were, would have exhausted a lesser person.
Unlike other inventors, Edison was able to profit handsomely from his creations, thanks to an inherent entrepreneurial streak that saw him become a wealthy man. It would be easy to attribute his success to intelligence, and it seems of that he had plenty. But was it the deciding factor? Edison hadn’t been brilliant at school and there were rumors that his preference for direct current (DC) electricity was because he didn’t understand the alternating current (AC) alternative.
What separated him from others were three simple factors that ultimately made a difference:
1. He showed up. Edison’s first job was as a telegraph operator. It put him into a field that would be very much the basis of many of his inventions for years to come. That job became the backbone of his knowledge and his interest in his areas of pursuit.
2. He made a start. Edison volunteered for the night shift where his workload would be lower, freeing up time for his many experiments, which he did while on the job when no one else was around.
3. He kept going. Many of his ideas would fail, including attempts to make household items out of concrete and a process for extracting iron ore. Other successful ideas resulted from knowledge gained from multiple failed attempts. At the age of 67 his laboratory burned down destroying much that his team was working on at the time. His response was rumored to be a celebration that their mistakes were wiped out and they could start anew.
Studies have shown that persistence and perseverance are the most important factors in achieving financial success. People such as JK Rowling and Muhammad Ali have credited persistence as the main factor in their success. Rowling had 12 publishers initially reject Harry Potter before she was finally successful with having it published.
Too often entrepreneurs, athletes and musicians fail to climb the hurdles that lay across their path. Was Tiger Woods the greatest golfer of the early 2000s? Chances are somewhere, an even more prodigious talent either didn’t play golf, never pursued it seriously, or gave up when the going got too tough. This happens in so many fields – where true talent doesn’t shine through because the person concerned doesn’t have the persistence to follow through.
So, what has this got to do with your business? Chances are you face obstacles on a daily basis that can test your patience, your finances and your willingness to push on. Sometimes these challenges can appear overwhelming. The truth is anything worth pursuing will have its challenges. The road from here to there is seldom a straight line – along the way you will encounter potholes, roadblocks, landslides, and bad weather. You will most likely be let down by your fellow travellers and other motorists along the way. This doesn’t mean the journey isn’t still worth it.
You’ve got to follow the lead of Edison – show up, get started and keep going. The fact that others may give up doesn’t mean you should. The fact that they do means there is more room for you to manoeuvre, a better chance for you to take the lead.
Make a decision that you will always show up, get started and keep going. These three simple steps will see you in good stead regardless of the challenges you will face.