Persistence - the Secret to Success

“The most essential factor is persistence - the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.” James Whitcomb Riley


It seems like such a simple thing, but ask any successful entrepreneur to name the main ingredients for their success and it is almost guaranteed that persistence will be high on their list.

Those that carry on when the going gets tough, when the obstacles seem insurmountable, when everyone else is telling them that they won’t succeed are the people that come out on top.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” - Dale Carnegie

Success leaves clues and looking back at how some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have built up their businesses, one thing stands out - persistence.Famous entrepreneurs from Soichiro Honda, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to Richard Branson, Anita Roddick and Bill Gates all have a central theme of persistence running through their stories.

“Success is 99% failure” - Soichiro Honda

Soichiro Honda was a young man who had a dream of developing more efficient motor engines. He created a piston ring which he wanted to sell on to Toyota. After working day and night on his designs whilst at school, he took his piston ring to Toyota. They declined it because it wasn’t advanced enough for them.

When he returned to school he was ridiculed by his fellow pupils and teachers. Undeterred, the young Soichiro continued with his dream, working for two years with very little money to get his piston ring up to Toyota’s standards. Finally his designs were accepted. He could supply Toyota.

His next challenge was to build a factory to make his rings for Toyota. Japan was gearing up for war at the time and building materials were in short supply. No concrete was available, so he had to come up with a new way to make concrete just to build his factory.

His factory was up and running but soon disaster struck as it was bombed twice and destroyed during the Second World War. Honda decided to rebuild his factory but there was no steel available in Japan at the time. He found a way to use gasoline cans dropped by US bombers as raw materials for his factory.

Finally his rebuilt factory was destroyed by an Earthquake. Did Honda give up? No, he still persisted. He battled more adversity in post war Japan to turn the Honda motor company into the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Persistence even in the face of failure

Far from being the end of the line for successful entrepreneurs, failure seems to spur them on even more. Persistently failing is something that most successful business people go through despite it often seeming to the outside world that they have only ever been successful. Perhaps many more people would have succeeded if they hadn’t given up. They might never know how close they were to succeeding if they hadn’t stopped short.

Small failures are the seed of greater successes, if you can persist in the face of adversity, if you let nothing stop you from achieving your goals then you will eventually succeed.

Barack Obama summed it up nicely when he said:

“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”

Persistence comes from a strong desire

If you don’t have a strong desire to do something you aren’t going to persist at it when the going gets tough, which is why whatever you do you should have a passion about. The easier it then is to persist at it and achieve your goal.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” - Winston Churchill

To get a strong desire you have to make some decisions. You need to decide what is it you really want to do. Is money your motivator? Think about what you would do if you had all the money you needed. If you pursue something you are passionate about then you will probably find that money will come because you will love doing what you do and this will make you good at it.

Small steps first

Of course it’s not easy just to go and do something you love, you’ll have other commitments. The best way to start is to start small, start doing a little bit of what you like in the evenings or weekends and slowly build it up.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” - Lao Tzu