In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of a man named Edwin Barnes, who made up his mind that he was going to go into business working with Thomas Edison - whether Edison liked it or not.
Despite having no money and no relationship with Edison, Barnes hopped a freight train and managed to get an audience with the famous inventor.
Hill recounts that first meeting:
Mr. Edison said, "He stood there before me, looking like an ordinary tramp, but there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after. I had learned, from years of experience with men, that when a man really desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win."
Barnes had no money to begin with. He had but little education. He had no influence. But he did have initiative, faith, and the will to win. With these intangible forces he made himself the number one man with the greatest inventor who ever lived."
It should be noted, it took Barnes five years of nonstop effort, hustle and tenacity to get his chance to finally work side-by-side with Edison.
Edwin Barnes and Thomas Edison
Barnes did not say, "I will work there for a few months, and if I get no encouragement, I will quit and get a job somewhere else." He did say, "I will start anywhere. I will do anything Edison tells me to do, but before I am through, I will be his associate."
He did not say, "I will keep my eyes open for another opportunity, in case I fail to get what I want in the Edison organization." He said, "There is but one thing in this world that I am determined to have, and that is a business association with Thomas A. Edison. I will burn all bridges behind me, and stake my entire future on my ability to get what I want."
He left himself no possible way of retreat. He had to win or perish! That is all there is to the Barnes story of success!
Salsa and The Secret to Success
That type of tenacity makes for a great story, but let me ask you: How many people do you know (including yourself!) who are willing to work that hard and risk that much to achieve something?
I ask because I often struggle with it too. That ability to go all-in, to harness an inner drive and determination ... why is it so elusive?
I discovered the answer hiding in a bowl of salsa.
I was sitting inside a Mexican restaurant the other night with some of my old college professors. We've stayed in touch off and on over the past 20 years, talking trash about our favorite sports teams over email and grabbing the occasional drink or lunch.
I asked one, who is now in his mid-50s, what's changed most between today's generation of students and my era of the mid-to-late 1990s.
"The biggest thing I see in today's students is entitlement," he said. "It's like they arrive in my classroom and sit down with an attitude of, 'I am entitled to an A in this course until you can prove otherwise.'"
This professor is one of my favorites - he's a loudmouth who grew up in the no-nonsense neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the 1960s and 1970s.
"I tell them, 'Actually, no, you are not entitled to anything in my class,'" he said, grabbing a chip and dipping it into a bowl of salsa. "'In fact, you are starting with an F in this class until you prove otherwise!'"
In today's business climate, entitlement is the enemy of success.
Hustle, humility and a refusal to quit are what make today's modern-day success stories a reality.
In fact, it's been that way for a long time - just ask Edwin Barnes.