Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 5
What is persistence?
All my life I have heard it said, “Be persistent.” I tell every sales person I meet that “Persistence and determination are omnipotent.” But really, what does that mean?
Today I want to talk about long-term persistence. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to assume you have a good competitive product or service you’re selling and you work for an ethical company. If you can’t have these two things, you’re a jockey on a bad horse. Go find a good horse. If you have these things, then persistence and long term persistence can be your best friend.
Have you ever heard of Ron Wayne? Probably not. He co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Wayne designed the original logo, wrote the manual for the Apple I computer and drafted the original partnership agreement. He owned 10 percent of Apple, a position that would be worth over $40 billion today. That’s with a “B.”
He would be one of the richest men in the world. He sold his shares back within the first year for $300. If he would have hung on another six months, he would have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Long-term persistence wasn’t in his vocabulary.
When Wayne was recently interviewed, he said, “My whole life has been a day late and a dollar short.”
Wozniak, in his autobiography, describes his thinking upon meeting Ron Wayne as “Wow, this guy is amazing! He ended up playing a huge role in those very early days of Apple.”
However, Wayne didn’t have persistence and determination to finish what he started. In sales there are no get rich quick schemes. There are get rich slow schemes, and that’s what you signed up for.
Larry Ellison did have long-term persistence, he just kept at it. In the early days of Oracle, the company had to restate earnings twice and its value dropped 80 percent. It was on the verge of bankruptcy. Ellison faced massive lawsuits. His advisers told him to bankrupt the company. However, Larry put his chin on his chest and pushed through. He is now the fifth richest man in the world.
Mark Cuban got fired from his first sales job. He missed opening a Dallas retail computer store. When he showed up he was promptly fired. However, he didn’t get out of sales. He went on to build a personal fortune of over $3 billion and own the Dallas Mavericks. He had long-term persistence.
Richard Branson was dyslexic, which led to bad grades. His high school principal told him he’d “either wind up in jail or a millionaire.” He almost went to jail. At his Virgin Records stores he was accused of violating tax laws. He survived by paying back taxes and substantial fines. His mother had to mortgage her home to pay the debts. He struggled for years and had many failed ventures, but he didn’t quit. He was persistent despite adversity. Today he’s worth over $5 billion.
There is a lesson to be learned from these stories and from a song my mother used to sing to me:
“Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
So any time you’re feeling low
’Stead of letting go, just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.”
Indeed, remember long-term persistence is omnipotent.