Persistence – extract from Live What You Love
When asked to contribute to this special LinkedIn Influencer content edition – I knew I had to share some of what I have written in my about to be released book “Live What You Love” I headed it up “Best Advice: Get in the driver’s seat”
Some of the best advice I was given was simply: “Don’t give up – if it was easy everyone would do it.”
However it is important to know the difference between persistence and pig pigheadedness. I had heard the famous quote from Winston Churchill as a young girl – and whilst I understood that he was talking about war time – I never forgot the power of his words:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
? Winston S. Churchill
In 2001 when I decided to launch an online business it took me eight months to prepare. On the launch date nothing happened. I was so naive. I somehow thought if I built it they would come. I had spent our family savings on the first RedBalloon website and I had no money left to promote it. I got so desperate that I would tie balloons to my briefcase and walk through the city hoping that someone would see the name of the business printed on the balloons, they would then come to the website and success would flow. How wrong I was.
The agony of waiting for the first sale was excruciating. Every day I was questioning whether I could do it. Every day I was willing people to buy. It took two months and four days for RedBalloon’s first order to arrive. Years later I have been asked many times why I didn’t give up. The truth is, it just never occurred to me. Everyone (meaning my friends and family) was telling me what a wonderful business idea it was, what a great name, how clever. But no one was buying. As people told me how great it was going to be I thought, ‘But why don’t you buy something?’
I knew my passion and what I was doing, even though I was almost overwhelmingly swamped with things I needed to do. There were suppliers to woo, a look and feel to create, a website to test, email marketing to undertake (we launched before social media; even Google was in its formative years then, and it was two years before LinkedIn started). There was copy to write, packaging to design, distribution partners to engage, accounts to be set up, banking arrangements to be established. I had a long ‘to do’ list and it only got longer — yet no customers were bashing down the door.
But I was focused, committed and relentless. I remember my husband pleading with me to come to bed. ‘When are you going to give up on it?’ he asked. ‘Seriously, it has taken over our whole life.’ I just looked at him, exhausted, thinking, ‘It will work soon.’ I never questioned ‘if’ it would work. To me it just was about ‘when’. Sometimes it was one step forward and ten steps back, but then at other times a little light would appear at the end of a long, long tunnel which would keep me focused on the possibility of what could be. And then I would just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
In many ways that period of my life is now a blur. Not because it was painful — in fact, quite the contrary. The excitement of a few small wins would keep me enthralled. It kept my dream alive.
It helped that I am thick-skinned and can take a bit of grief. Indeed, this quality of pigheadedness has served me well. I’m completely self-made. A strong work ethic is a quality I respect. I’ve always had jobs. I’d do anything to turn a dollar. Even when I was 13, I was earning money. I had to lie to my employer and say I was 14, which was the minimum working age. That first job was in a toy store stacking shelves at Christmas. But I’ve worked in plenty of other shops, and I’ve done manual labour in a laundry. I’ve waited on tables, done data entry, sold dresses in boutiques. I’ve never shied away from hard work; in fact, I think it has been the making of me. Without all those life experiences I may not appreciate how difficult those jobs are.
I could go on… and in fact I do if you want to grab a copy of my book…
When people ask me ‘Does this make a good business?’ It might or might not – the most important thing is – will they stick at it – when others would give in…