There’s a common phrase in entrepreneurship. “I never gave up.” It turns out that dogged determination is just about the most important virtue of all because getting your idea off the ground almost never comes easy. From restaurant kings to world-famous journalists, all of us have started somewhere; with an idea, and a burning passion to make it work.
But making it work is the hard part. Once you set out on your career path, you’ll discover obstacles at almost every turn and success stories like Gordon Ramsay and Arianna Huffington weren’t born overnight. It took resilience and passion to get there, and here are five key points to keep in mind the next time you face disappointment.
Rejection is a part of life
Once upon a time, Arianna Huffington was a lowly-paid writer who was struggling to get her second book published. A staggering 36 publishers had come and gone and Huffington thought about a career change.
But then she took a loan from the bank and, in her words, “kept going.” She decided failure was not the opposite of success, but a stepping stone instead. And today, she has published 15 works with a media empire to go along with it.
Even the best get fired
When we think about him today, Steve Jobs is eulogized as an entrepreneur who could do no wrong: who was always ahead of the curve and to do as he pleased. Back in the 1980s, Jobs was fired from his own company by John Sculley and forced to pick up his bags and start again.
Despite the ignominy of this exit, Jobs decided to stay true to his mantra of relentless innovation and targeted the schools market with NeXT. NeXT was a stepping stone for Jobs, who was later situated within Apple again to turn around their fortunes.
Sometimes people with power don’t share your vision or are gunning for you to fail. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
Of course, you can be wrong too
A word of caution. There’s a fine line between passion and stupidity. Setbacks are one thing. A disastrous idea that no one likes? That’s another.
Failure is part and parcel of life, but repeatedly failing at one thing is probably a sign that you’re on the wrong track.
Test your business idea/book/project/dream on outsiders and gauge their feedback. Don’t talk to family. They’re never entirely honest.
Then, try and stay as objective as possible. Sure, you might be working on a passion, but too much unhealthy optimism will prevent you seeing the reality of your situation. There’s nothing worse than an entrepreneur who sinks their life savings into something no one else gets.
Patience is a virtue
Good entrepreneurs are impatient to get work done but cognizant of the long road ahead. And it is a long road. Almost every success story has had to endure the grind. Look no further than world-famous comedian Ricky Gervais. The pioneer of The Office was 40 years old when he made his name, and that was after a lifetime of setbacks, including a short-lived foray into music with a band named Seona Dancing, a mind-numbing desk job (material for The Office) and a formative stint on radio, where he me writing partner and future collaborator Stephen Merchant.
Be a sponge, even if it means working for someone else
Born entrepreneurs might recoil at the idea of working for a boss, but it’s not the worst plan of action and it teaches you valuable skills, like what knits teams together, and what morale can be like on the other side of the fence.
Restaurant owner and TV personality Gordon Ramsay stresses the importance of “gaining knowledge.” Don’t go where the money is, Ramsay cautions. “From the ages of 16 to 30 - [those are] fourteen years of [being] a sponge.”
Ramsay learnt the ropes working for notoriously volatile chef Marco Pierre White before heading to France to learn the cuisine first-hand (and brush up on his French at the same time). Armed with these tools, and an appreciation for hard work, he went on to start his own empire.
In the end, setbacks make us better. Disappointment thickens the skin and separates the passion projects from the fly-by-night whims. If you can endure disquiet to make a dream a reality, there’s a good chance you’ll succeed.