Very little about what we see and hear about entrepreneurship in the media says anything about the long term. There is some talk about being relentless, but that has more to do with a short-term pain or project than the promotion of a timeless, foundational principle.
What got me thinking about this was reading a book about houses and their foundations. I went further and decided to do some research behind some of the most successful people in their fields.
I went ahead and conducted an extremely high-tech research method call GTS (googled that s#!%). I looked into the backgrounds and careers of the top titans of industry and found they shared a few rarely celebrated things in common.
- John Paul DeJoria: DeJoria co-founded John Paul Mitchell Systems with hairdresser Paul Mitchell in 1980. They made hair products. DeJoria had a hardscrabble childhood and was a foster child. He started his company while living in his car selling shampoo door to door. He told CNBC in 2017 that his No. 1 rule for success is to be always prepared for rejection.
- Steve Jobs: The Silicon Valley legend was ousted at Apple, the company he co-founded. He founded another company, which was then acquired by Apple, and then he went on to revive the iconic brand into what it is today.
- Andrew Carnegie: Carnegie was an autodidact who grew up in poverty. He started his career in the Pennsylvania Railroad company, made some shrewd investments and eventually became a major industrialist who built the Carnegie Steel Company.
- Benjamin Franklin: Franklin was another autodidact and self-starter whose formal education ended when he was 10. He got into the printing business, became a publisher and published the Poor Richard’s Almanack, which was published for a quarter of a century between 1733 to 1758. It became known for its witty sayings, which often had to do with the importance of hard work and frugality. For example, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” came from the almanac. He had a long and varied career and obviously got engaged in civic life and science.
- John D Rockefeller: He had a hard beginning in life, became a bookkeeper and eventually rose up to found the Standard Oil Company. For 47 years, he invested in the oil and gas industry, 40 of which was with Standard Oil. It basically operated until the U.S. Supreme Court found that it violated antitrust laws and ordered it to be dissolved.
- Walt Disney: Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper at 22 for “not being creative enough.” One of his early ventures went bankrupt. But he soldiered on.
- Oprah: I’m not sure anyone endured more than Oprah. As a poor African American woman, in a male dominated profession, she suffered poverty, ridicule, sexual abuse, racism and sexism. Not succumbing to that offense, she continued to rise above it.
You get the point. These are some pretty remarkable human beings. They accomplished some pretty remarkable feats. They endured some pretty remarkable hardships.
So, what are the commonalities? Each understood the power of consistency over time and didn’t let outside forces overwhelm them. Multiply that with passion and purpose, as each remained relentlessly focused on doing their work every day and steering clear of the “get rich quick” schemes that derail people and companies.
Each of them endured hardships but refused to allow those hardships to be a reason for their failure. Instead they worked hard and capitalized on their strengths to build their businesses on solid foundations, preparing them for any storm.
Statistically, it’s easier to fail as an entrepreneur than it is to succeed. But as Waverly Deutsch, clinical professor of entrepreneurship at The University of Chicago Booth of Business wrote in this fascinating analysis of startup survival rates: “For entrepreneurs, passion outweighs statistical odds. Even when facing the uphill battles of a bad location and a tough market, this entrepreneur needs to give it his all, so that he will have no regrets — succeed or fail. That resilience characterizes all successful entrepreneurs.”
In my opinion, “resilience” requires you to reject these traits:
1. Changing jobs often
2. Allowing yourself to be offended easily
The road to success is paved with rejection. Get used to it, and let it fuel your path forward.
3. Seeking out the shiny penny, the secret sauce or the magic bullet
This includes the snake oil marketers. They exist for a reason and they are very good at what they do. They exist to convince you that there is a better way, an easier way and that you would be crazy to pass on that opportunity. They will give you more, for less, and you will win in record time.
Coldwell Banker President and CEO Ryan Gorman was recently quoted as saying that Realogy was focused on “delivering on promises made” rather than following an industry trend around only making promises.
4. Not hiring a coach, or looking for mentorship
If you look at the top “professionals” versus “amateurs,” there’s one thing that separates them, and that is the presence of a coach. Amateurs typically go it alone, while pros nearly always have a coach. Just sayin’.
Every successful business man and woman I know has been in their craft for 20-plus years, has endured the struggles and hardships without allowing them to become a distraction, has been relentlessly focused on the daily work without allowing themselves to be sidetracked by “shortcuts,” and has had great mentorship to help them navigate the mighty sea of entrepreneurship.
If you look into the details of the professional lives of the titans of industry, they did too at various points in their careers.
Todd Conklin is the team leader in the Residential Services Division for Coldwell Banker Conklin & Company, specializing in high-end resort properties in the Wood River Valley in Idaho.