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When people talk about business and success, they inevitably speak of perseverance and persistence. In the digital and non-digital worlds, there are many examples of successful cases of entrepreneurs who had nothing and today have everything. There are also plentiful examples of entrepreneurs who have reached the top of the mountain, result of their perseverance and capacity for resistance. Working more does not always mean achieving better results, this is a fact. But the reality is that when you work tirelessly in the pursuit of a victory or an expected success, the most certain thing is to get there.
As I recently said in my Facebook profile, big brands like Lamborghini, Louis Vitton, and others, do not advertise on traditional television for the simple reason that people who are sitting on the couch watching it will hardly be able to buy their products. Although it is a pretty harsh argument, the truth is that in 90% of cases this is what happens. Those who work the most, invariably earn the most. And those who earn the most, invariably work the most. It is a closed cycle that ends up generating results in one way or another. People who cannot look at their work as a way to professional enrichment and entertainment should leave their jobs and look for something that satisfies them. Or, start their own business.
The business world has changed tremendously since the internet has established itself as one of the main forms of communication of modern times. Unprecedented businesses have emerged, communication has become global and today it is possible to sell and contact customers all around the world without leaving home. Local businesses have been forced to adapt to changes and seek to reverse the downward trend with premium offers, adapted to the new reality.
These changes have also brought about significant transformations to the existing social and business paradigms. Let’s take a look:
And there are many other examples to be told. This means that the mindset and the way you build successful businesses today are very different from the way it used to be. It is necessary to rethink the creation, the goal and, mainly, the means. Adaptation needs to be prompt and fast paced. Because the internet has evolved tremendously over the space of 20 years, business has already begun to change. And all those who resist this change will be driven by the wave, as strong as a tsunami.
Over the last decade, I have studied and analyzed various successful stories of startups and companies. I read books, articles on the internet, looked for information, etc. The great majority of them are fruit of the persistence of its founders, some are result of luck, and others are the offspring of Silicon Valley’s ecosystem, etc. Invariably, they all succeeded and today are recognized as disruptive companies, and have created new market niches never explored before.
One of the most popular cases is the one about Angry Birds. The famous birds game, which gave rise to the Finnish company Rovio, was created by three entrepreneurs (Raine Mäki, Harro Grönberg and Mikko Häkkinen) after 51 failed attempts. That’s right: fifty-one failed attempts. Logically, the vast majority of entrepreneurs would have given up, as would be plausible in such situation. Failing is also part of it. But the fate wanted these 3 entrepreneurs to try a last game:
The case of Rovio and the creation of Angry Birds is not the only example of how an idea can make all the difference in the digital world. There are several other examples of successful stories that are the result of the persistence and perseverance of its founders. Pinterest, for example, is an excellent case study. The story behind Pinterest began with the frustration of a job at Google, which simply made its founder Ben Silbermann unsatisfied. In search of a better opportunity, he created, along with Paul Sciarra, an application called Tote, which turned out to have no success at all. When they started building a new site to add things and content, Evan Sharp, the last of the three co- founders of the current Pinterest, joined them. In addition to being rejected by multiple risk investors and having created more than 50 different versions of the site, they successfully launched the project in 2010, and in 2013 it reached the milestone of 25 million users. Pinterest is today the 31st most visited site in the world, with more than 500 million visits per month.
Of course, besides Angry Birds and Pinterest, there are lots of other successful stories. Instagram was another of those great perseverance and persistence stories of its founders, as well as Airbnb, which has filled a tremendous gap in the area of tourism and hospitality industries, offering anyone the possibility of being able to rent a complete apartment, or a room alone, for a fraction of the price of a hotel room.
Of course, for every successful case there are dozens of failures. The world is not only filled of positive histories. As expected, all successful stories have a lot in common: namely perseverance and persistence, hard work, thinking out of the box, among many other characteristics that turn out to be fundamental factors to the success of an entrepreneur and a business.
For example, did you know that one day Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg invited 5 people to his Harvard student accommodation to talk about a business opportunity? Of those 5 people, only 2 showed up. Those two people are Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin, who now have fortunes valued at $6.5 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively.
This story illustrates the number of opportunities that come our way throughout our lives, which are often not worthy of our attention for a variety of reasons. The reality is that what we often call failure is not directly linked to what you did or are doing, but rather to the opportunities that passed in front of you and you did not even notice. And many of them might as well have been your way to success.
At other times, what we regard as an unsuccessful attempt is often only a more turbulent path until we actually reach the goal. Albert Einstein, for example, did not speak until he was 4 years old, and did not learn to read until he was 7. One of his teachers classified him as a “slow” and “reduced-minded” student. The reality is that Einstein had a very peculiar way of thinking; years later he would be recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Henry Ford, for example, had a very complex route in his early years as an entrepreneur. His first car-related business went bankrupt. He himself abandoned his second company because of incompatibilities with his partner, and his third company was also unsuccessful due to sales decline. Yet, Ford was one of the greatest visionaries in the world and is considered one of the greatest achievers ever in human history. To this day his name is perpetuated through the Ford Motor Company.
Oprah Winfrey is another example of how success often requires persistence. The acknowledged multi-millionaire American television hostess was fired from her job as a reporter for being heavy weighted and not being elegant to appear on television. Today, she is possibly the greatest and most recognized television presenter of all time; the queen of the North American talkshows.
James Dyson, became famous for his brand of Dyson vacuum cleaners. Dyson is today the largest manufacturer of vacuum cleaners in the United States and one of the largest in the world. But James Dyson was unsuccessful at first. In fact, James created 5126 prototypes of his first vacuum cleaner, spent all of his savings accumulated over 15 years, but none of these projects worked. The first functional prototype of Dyson was, in fact, the prototype 5127 created by James Dyson.
One of the most incredible stories I know is Elon Musk’s. The current founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City was one of the co-founders of PayPal, the popular and well-known online payment platform used by millions around the world today. Right after the success of PayPal, Elon Musk decided to sell his part of the company, pocketing around $180 million dollars. Elon Musk then decided to put $100 million into the creation of SpaceX, about $70 million in the creation of Tesla Motors, and finally $10 million in the creation of Solar City. The funny thing about it all is that Elon Musk made an all-in in creating three distinct deals, and eventually had to borrow money to pay the rent. All of his money was invested in setting up these companies. Today, Tesla Motors is valued at 27 billion dollars and Solar City at 4.2 billion dollars. SpaceX is not listed on the Stock Exchange yet, but it has made a number of progress that will certainly bring the man back to the Moon and possibly Mars through his space expeditions.
When I started working as a digital entrepreneur, I worked in a cafe. I preferred a public place where I could discipline myself to get up early on a daily basis, to meet and set goals. For several years I worked in this cafe until I managed to create my second company. In only 7 months I was forced to look for a new place because it was growing at a fast pace. But since the first day I started working on my own and setting my own priorities, I knew perfectly well where I wanted to go and what I wanted to achieve. I still do it today and will continue to do so.
Success is not an immediate thing. Unless you live in Silicon Valley and make a million dollar injection into your business, it is hard to say that success happens from one day to another. Success actually means persistence, insistence, perseverance and stubbornness, plus a whole other bunch of big words that basically mean you will have to work hard and set goals for your professional life. And if you stay on that path, one day you’ll probably get there.