Why Tenacity Is More Important Than Brilliance for Entrepreneurial Success
Lots of people are smart enough to succeed as entrepreneurs, but few have the tenacity to work through the inevitable failures.
Entrepreneurs succeed in proportion to the number of problems they solve. So if you’re an entrepreneur, or think you’re destined for entrepreneurial greatness, you’re pretty much a professional problem solver.
“But I’m not part of Mensa!” you might say, as your frontal lobe quivers with the thought of full-time problem solving. It’s a reasonable knee-jerk reaction. But entrepreneurship doesn’t require you to have a higher IQ than 95 percent of people. You just need more tenacity than 95 percent of people. And tenacity is a skill you can learn.
Albert Einstein famously said that there was nothing so remarkable about him except for his curiosity, which is another word for tenacity: The man stayed up for days at a time solving his mind-bending equations. Nothing could stop him. Ditto for Edison -- his thousands of failed experiments before lighting the first bulb is the definition of tenacity. Fast-forward to modern times and we have JK Rowling, who was rejected by at least a dozen publishers before Harry Potter became a bestseller.
Tenacity is the thread that binds all innovators, entrepreneurs and problem solvers to one another. And if you want to join their ranks, this is the one eight-letter trait you’ve simply got to master. Here’s how the most successful entrepreneurs do it.
Love what you’re doing.
There is no room for lukewarm entrepreneurs because there are far too many people who are so inspired by what they do that they’re willing to endure failure after failure after failure in order to solve their problems and see their dreams come to fruition. Doesn’t matter how skilled or qualified you are: Love comes first.
That’s what Melissa Ben-Ishay will tell you. Before she founded her famously successful cupcake company, Baked By Melissa, the eponymous owner was fired from her job as a media planner. Her own words: “Clearly they saw that I wasn’t passionate about the job.”
But, within a month of being canned, she was selling thousands and thousands of cupcakes -- despite her missing any culinary credentials -- because she absolutely, friggin’ loves baking cupcakes. One of her biggest frustrations as a business owner today is that she has to spend so much time doing everything associated with the business, when she really wants to be making magic in the kitchen -- she loves what she does. And that’s what makes her a tenacious problem solver. (See how she handled a massive holiday sales crunch in episode 20 of Entrepreneur's Problem Solvers.)
Put yourself in a position to fail.
Zig Ziglar, arguably the most successful self-improvement figure of our time, had a wife, kid and ramshackle apartment before he gained any fame. In one of his talks, Zig described when his wife called him at work because the utilities had been cut for lack of payment. Uh-oh.
Though it seemed like the end of the world at the time, this threat actually spurred Ziglar to work more tenaciously than ever before to not only break back into black, but become the number one salesman in his company. When the fire of poverty was lit under his butt, Zig really boiled. But would we have ever known Zig Ziglar if he’d been living with his parents?
If you’ve been comfortably dependent on your parents or loved ones, or if your main job has kept you from really devoting yourself to your business, now might be the time to cut away your safety nets and go all in. Because nothing inspires tenacity more than the threat of failure.
Eliminate your distractions.
Imagine for a second that you check social media, email and texts a grand total of 50 times throughout the day. (Considering that the average person spends 5 hours on their smartphones per day, this isn’t a ridiculous figure. And if right now you’re huffing because you think that’s definitely not you, I challenge you to keep tabs tomorrow. You’ll be surprised.)
Back to the point: If you sleep eight hours like a good boy or girl, you’ve interrupted yourself on average three times every waking hour. Even if your total checks are around 30, that number still hovers around two distractions per hour -- well more than enough to turn “tenacious, ass-kicking, problem solving entrepreneur” you into a godforsaken wannabe. So get real about your distractions.
General rule: If it’s not giving you tangible value, don’t do it.
Most people -- even for the busiest salespeople -- find that email and text checks needn’t happen any more than three to five times in a day. Five or ten minutes is more than plenty for these check-ins, which should be scheduled as independent goals in your daily planner. As for social media, my coaching clients find the greatest benefit from completely eliminating the habit for a week and then reintroducing it only in scheduled doses. That way it no longer interferes with their focus, their tenacity.
Tenacity is the one trait that separates bona fide success stories from the wannabe entrepreneurs. Practice it every chance you get. Better yet, make it an all-consuming lifestyle by chasing your passion, giving yourself the opportunity to fail and eliminating your distractions.