Failure doesn’t mean you stop trying

October 2, 2011

There’s one horrible trend that I see in a lot of entrepreneurs and it’s simply that they quit very easily.  This is especially true when it comes to marketing, hiring, and their sales process.  Now I know what you are thinking…  Most entrepreneurs you know are the kind of people who never quit.  They never give up and they will fight to the death to make their business succeed.  While that it is true on the surface, this article will dig a little deeper into this epidemic.

This all starts from a recent conversation I had with a lawyer client of mine.  I asked him about what marketing had worked in the past and his answer was, “nothing”.  Seriously???  So I dug deeper and asked how he got his past clients.  The answer, “I did some networking, some post card mailers, and a couple of ads in the paper”.  So as I was scratching my head with confusion, I asked this, “So if nothing worked for you, how did you get those clients?”  His response, “well it worked once, but it hasn’t worked since”.  My response was simple, “so how many times do you think you’ve tried it that it didn’t work?”  The answer was kind of funny [to me, not to him].  His answer, “at least once or twice”.  Wow…  So I guess that’s a good reason to stop trying.

Follow my train of thought here.  You may not remember when you learned to walk, but I’m guessing you tried it more than once and I’m guess you failed several times along the way right?  What if you had just stopped trying to learn to walk the first or second time you fell?  You’d be in a wheelchair right now!  What about this major milestone in every person’s life, learning to successfully use the toilet.  Did you get that right the first time?  What about the second or third time?  Probably not.  It probably took weeks if not months of trying to get it right.  Imagine your life without learning this little skill…  I don’t care how smart you are, how talented in sports you are, or how charismatic you are, if you are 30 and still going in a diaper [because you are lazy and don’t want to learn to do it right] no one is going to hang out with you!  And that’s a fact.

One of the sad facts here is that learning to walk and going potty are probably the last times in your life where you were encouraged to keep trying NO MATTER HOW MANY MISTAKES YOU MADE!  Am I right?  Maybe riding a bike ranks in there with these, but then it stops there.  What if your networking skills stink the first dozen times you try it?  What do you think is going to happen?  Someone is going to come along and give you this pearl of wisdom, “why don’t you try something else?”  And of course that will make sense because networking is hard for many people and your brain goes into protection mode and says, “look, this yahoo said you should try something else.  That sure would make you happy.  Let’s just quit?”

Sometimes we just need to smack ourselves for listening to that little voice in our brain that is trying to hold us back.  It reminds me of the cartoons when I was a kid.  You know, the one where Sylvester the cat has the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other.  That voice in your head is the devil saying to take it easy.

Back to my Lawyer client….

So I asked him this, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how good do you think you are at networking, marketing, etc.?”  His answer was a 2.  So I fired back with this, “Do you think if we worked on those skills and got you to a 5 or 6 out of 10 that you would be successful using those strategies to get customers.”  He answered with a resounding, Y-E-S!  So here’s the magic follow-up question, “How long do you suppose that it’s going to take to get from a 2 to a 6?”  He thought about it for a minute and said, “At least 6 months.  Maybe more.  Just depends on how fast I catch on.”  That was a brilliant answer.  You see, you can’t possibly the know the answer.  It depends on many factors like how fast you learn, what learning style works best for you, if you are an intellectual or if you are more hands on, how much knowledge you already have in this area, and your mindset or beliefs around the skill.  Another question I asked was, “if it will take you 6 months to get to a 6 out of 10, how long do you think it will take you to fully MASTER this and be a 10 out of 10?”  He thought for a minute and said, “probably a couple years.”  Again, right on the money…  A couple of studies I’ve read say it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to MASTER something. Which would take you just under 5 years if you practiced 40 hours a week.

I had one final question for my client…  “Are you committed to just 6 months to learn this or however long it takes?”  You see you have to be committed to however long it takes.  In his case, he said he was committed to eventually being a master at it.

Simply knowing what you are getting into at the beginning is an important step in maturity, but also success.  You see if you know going in that there will be mistakes, but that each one is a milestone that gets you one step closer to success, you treat the mistakes much differently.   When inventing the light bulb Ben Franklin made over 1,000 failed attempts.  His famous quote was, “I now know 1,000 ways it won’t work and just need to find one way to make it work.”  Are you willing to fail 1,000 times to get to success?

Let me leave you with this final point.  Each time you try, you INCREASE your percentages that your next attempt WILL WORK!  This not only applies in marketing and that sort of thing, but in prospecting as well.  I tell all my clients that you have to keep making calls, sending emails, and direct mail to your list at a minimum, 20 times.  Anything less and you’ve wasted all your efforts.  Yes, some will take action right away, but most people need you to keep reminding them about your business until they buy.  My famous line is, “I’m going to keep after them until they are a client or they get a restraining order.”  My clients and I always have a chuckle at that, because I would never cross a line that would cause something like that, but the point is real.  I keep after and just don’t give up.  As a result, I need much fewer prospects than the average person because over time I close 6 times as many.

Got a story of how your persistence paid off in learning something?  Please share it…