I am delighted to welcome my guest for the week, Zackary Richards, with his pragmatic look at the reasons why some succeed where others fail.
I had a boss once who was truly a brilliant man. I asked him how he became so successful. He said, ‘If you want to be successful at anything, you need to figure out what it is you want, learn how to achieve it, then persevere until you get it.’
‘Or,’ he added. ‘Be lucky, because if you’re lucky all that other crap doesn’t matter.’
Over the years I have found those words to be one of the greatest truisms I have ever come across.
Recently I read that Frank Miller, the famous graphic novel writer and illustrator of the acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, went on a rant about the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Called them lazy whiners who needed to go out and get a job.
I have noticed this attitude in many of the successful people I know. They often go on about how, in the beginning, they put in 16 hour days, 7 days a week, never took a vacation and firmly believed that if everyone put in that kind of effort they would be equally as successful.
I have had the good fortune to have been in the company of talented people on both ends of the spectrum. Wealthy, successful people who have made their place in the world and poor, beaten down people, who, if their great talent is ever recognized at all, it will be after they’re dead. Both types are equally talented, worked just as hard, and persevered through unrelenting hardships. One group succeeded, the other didn’t.
Simple. One group was lucky, the other wasn’t.
How often have you heard the saying, ‘he was a man before his time’? Take the artists Vincent van Gough and Paul Gauguin, two of the greatest painters who ever lived. Yet both had their work ignored and dismissed during their lifetime and died miserable and penniless. Their paintings now sell for millions of dollars. Were they lazy, whiners who needed to go out and get a job?
Gregor Mendel, the now famous botanist and geneticist’s work was ridiculed and labeled nonsense during his lifetime. After his death however, his theories were proven correct and he is now considered one of the greatest scientists who ever lived.
I could go on and on about the multitude of personalities from all walks of life who worked hard, persevered and died broke and unappreciated, but I’m sure you get my point.
W.C. Fields was once quoted as saying, “If first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then give up. No sense being a damn fool about it.”
Was he right? Not if you believe that Henry Ford had 5 failed businesses before his success with his car company. Or that R.H. Macy had 7 failed businesses before hitting it big with his New York store. That certainly says a lot for determination BUT I’m curious as to where Ford and Macy got the money to finance all these businesses. I know businessmen whose businesses failed. And from what I’ve seen, it takes years to rebuild their credit and to dig themselves out of debt. So if Ford and Macy had so many opportunities, that wasn’t perseverance, that was just plain luck.
And in many instances perseverance can ruin your life. I know a man who is struggling to get a business off the ground whose time has simply passed. He loves it with all his heart and truly believes the industry will bounce back.
I’m sure many a blacksmith felt the same way.
But it’s not going to happen.
So I’m going to ask all my successful friends to remember that at one time, after years of hard work and perseverance, you just happened to be at the right place at the right time, met the person who believed in you and gave you the opportunity to run with the ball. And you did, which made you the success you are today.
And while you’re doing that I would also ask you to remember that there are many people who worked just as hard, sacrificed as much and persevered as long, who never made it to the right place at the right time, never met that special person, never had the opportunity to show what they could do.
So in conclusion I’d like to ask all the people out there who dream big, are hungry for the good life, have a passion for success, wealth and independence, just one question.
Do ya feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?
- The Early Failures of Famous Entrepreneurs (And What They Learned) (grasshopper.com)
- Whats luck got to do with it? (awovi.com)