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Advice for Entrepreneurs, Editorial, Raising Capital

The Virtue of Persistence

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Calvin Coolidge once said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Aside from the fact that “Press On” has fallen out of common use (although the Queen has recently revived “carry on”), these words still ring true today. So much so that I have had this quote from Silent Cal posted above my desk for the past 15 years.I talk about the value and the virtue of persistence so frequently with clients, employees, and my kids, that I have developed a deep library of relevant analogies. For example, the number one obstacle to selling is the necessity of making sales calls. To this I say “the more at bats you have, the more opportunities to get on base”, or “Ted Williams was the greatest baseball player of all time, yet he only got one hit for every three at bats” (Actually, Williams’ career batting average was .344).     To my child who will attempt a new sport, and failing to excel after one day will threaten to quit, I say “it takes 10,000 hours to become great at anything” — and then I have to break that down into years (for those of you keeping score, a “full time” commitment of 40 hours per week would equate to 5 years of practice).Earlier today a friend posted the image below to on Facebook (credit: pic.twitter.com/iUL7Nah9t9)

It’s a rejection letter addressed to Paul Hewson, sent by RSO Records.   In 1979 the letter, a presumably now unemployed chap named Alexander Sinclair says Mr. Hewson’s band “is not suitable for us at present”.   Mr. Hewson, more commonly known as Bono, was the leader of an unknown rock band called U2, which ultimately signed with Island Records in 1980 and went on to sell more than 150 million records.

My advice to you, and to anyone who has the temerity to undertake that which is hard, is to be persistent. 10,000 hours requires persistence.  It took Ted Williams 7,715 plate appearances to get his 521 home runs.   And it has taken me a career of more than 20 years to write this Blog post.

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