Walt Disney coined a special phrase for persistence and determination; he referred to it as sticktoitivity. I reflected upon this recently, because I stumbled across 20 old business cards from previous business ventures and jobs I had been associated with over the last twenty-five years. Those old business cards certainly brought back a museum full of memories and mixed feelings. I had forgotten about some of those jobs that shaped my outlook as I pushed onward and upward. As I look back on all of those opportunities with the benefit of perspective and age, the one benefit I have derived is my own personal understanding of the concept of success and failure.
The majority of people are so petrified of failure that they paralyze themselves into inaction. The Japanese have a fascinating way of looking at success, …”Fall seven times; stand up eight.” A wonderful tribute to sticktoitivity! I have framed this statement for my office because it provides a fitting summary of the most important ingredient to succeed. Perseverance and Commitment.
Life constantly tests us for our level of commitment. As simple as this may sound it is the one ingredient that separates the winners from the losers. The one skill that winners acquire is an understanding that growth is only possible if you have the courage to change what you have been doing, if it is not achieving the result you desire. Sometimes success is learning how to fall and recognizing that from that fall you will learn to grow. And growth is what a fulfilling life is all about.
When I worked as an investment broker many years ago I found that the most successful traders I worked with often lost on 90% of their trades. Yet in spite of this terrible win/loss percentage their investments were incredibly lucrative. Might it be that they knew something about success that the rest of us only pay lip service to? The one comment that I recall these superstars reiterating was that it’s not how much you make when you are right but rather how little you lose when you are wrong. Imagine losing on 90% of your trades and still being wildly successful. Imagine if you can, a perspective that says you will be wrong 90% of the time but if you push through you will be wildly successful. That is a fitting example of sticktoitivity!
My best teachers have been my failures. My failures taught me that I was so petrified of failure that unfortunately failure became my focus. Not experiencing failure is quite different than experiencing success. My focus for years was on not experiencing failure…. although I would’ve argued differently!
The most important lessons that I have learned from successful colleagues are that the road to success is often a path of experiments and tests. If someone is more successful than I am, the only reason this is so is because they have experimented with how to accomplish the objective they desire more often than I have. The inverse is also true, that those who are not successful have been too scared to experiment. My question is, where do you fit in this equation? What experiments have you been holding back on because of fear? How are you going to break the mold and reach your potential?
A good friend of mine has a business that he has worked diligently on for over five years. He knows that his business has the potential to increase sales tenfold. However to do so, he also knows that he has to probably break the mold that got him where he is today, and create a different blueprint. While many would envy his current success, try to imagine the courage it takes to step into the unknown to pursue a level of growth dictated only by the intention that you know it is doable. This is a committed philosophy of perseverance. Sticktoitivity!
Basketball legend Michael Jordan stated it this way in one of his shoe advertisements: “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” A fitting tribute to tribute to persistence. Sticktoitivity!
The one thing I can guarantee is that LIFE will test your resolve and commitment. It’s the way the universe works. Here are some examples of famous setbacks that demonstrated that they understood “sticktoitivity.”
· Decca Records rejected the Beatles claiming they didn’t like their sound and guitar music was on the way out.
· Fred Smith the founder of Federal Express received a grade of C on his senior thesis outlining the concept for Federal Express. The professor claimed the idea was not feasible.
· When Thomas Edison was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything.
· F.W. Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21, but his employer would not let him wait on customers because he "didn't have enough good sense."
· Western Union rejected the telephone when Alexander Graham Bell offered them the rights of manufacture and distribution. They considered the technology as having too many shortcomings.
· Dr. Seuss was rejected by numerous publishers who claimed that verse and fantasy would not sell.
· A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had no good ideas.
· Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.
· Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school his sophomore year. He was persuaded to come back and placed in a learning disabled class. He lasted a month a dropped out of school forever.
· Albert Einstein had such poor grades in school that his teacher asked him to quit telling him that “he would never amount to anything.”
…”Fall seven times; stand up eight.”
Have you ever defined “success” or “failure” on your own terms? I highly recommend doing so. It certainly creates a sense of understanding, focus and purpose in your life. Sometimes success is learning how to fail. Sometimes success is overcoming the obstacles that define failure. Sometimes all you need to succeed is sticktoitivity. The only failure is not learning anything from the experience.
Here’s to you standing up on the eighth time!