Everyone loves a Cinderella story. They love hearing about those unlikely people that beat all the odds and dug in deep to overcome uncommon obstacles and achieve great feats. But the reality of being that Cinderella is another story. Especially when it comes to being a business owner.
According to more than 150 entrepreneurs I've interviewed, perseverance is the number one key to success. To get to the glamorous and sexy parts of building a business, you've first got to fight your way through all the slammed doors, failures, and sometimes years of toiling away in obscurity with few results to show for your effort.
Being an entrepreneur isn't an easy road.
And at times, from the outside looking in (and sometimes from the inside looking out), the rational thing to do would be to call it a day, and go do something else.
But if you want to be a successful entrepreneur you've got to be a little irrational.
Why being a successful entrepreneur requires faith
Faith is described as "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen."
In my life, I've often thought that operating in faith made me look a bit silly. In the moment, it often doesn't feel good to believe in what you're doing, especially when all the visible signs are telling you the path you've chosen doesn't work.
But the more I dig into the stories of entrepreneurs who've built businesses that thrive, the more I see the common thread of irrational faith fueling their success.
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia talked about the insane effort that went into making him the household name we know today:
The concept around one is better than zero is simply a call to action to do. It's understanding that one view is better than zero and that humility and patience is the foundation for success...that's how I built my career. It's the patience and willingness to do 500 interviews and conference calls and meetings over coffee that never turn into anything...I did wine library TV shows everyday for an entire year before anyone said a thing!
Dorie Clark is an in-demand marketing consultant, speaker, and author of Stand Out. She noted that she invested years publishing her ideas before it bore fruit:
I tell participants in my Rapid Content Creation masterclass that it took me 2-3 years before I started to see inbound inquiries as a result of my blogging. Now, they come almost every day - but building up to that took extreme patience, and faith.
And Josh Dorkin, founder of the real estate community Bigger Pockets told me ignoring all sense and reason enabled him to build the business he has today:
In the early years when it was somewhere between a hobby and a lifestyle business, I probably should have shut the business down. Because I had to work 80-100 hours in order to sustain it, and I didn't have the resources to hire people...that business at that time probably should have died. That said, that really stupid thing that I did, which was ignore all sense and reason, and work through that...it allowed us to get past those really difficult, I was operating upside down moments, to become a business where now we're thriving and profitable and growing, and changing hundreds of thousands, if not tens of millions of lives.
How to keep from quitting when you want to give up
Building a business that thrives requires an uncommon type of perseverance. But it also requires you to know when to pivot.
There is a bit of nuance associated with knowing when to stay the course, and when to try something different. This is especially true when you find yourself in those moments when you are deep in the trenches, maybe even a little delirious, and struggling to see daylight.
The key to knowing when to stick, versus when to adjust or even quit, is to make the decision about what you will be able to endure in advance (most of us can endure more than we think).
In his best-selling book The Dip, Seth Godin provides this anecdote for knowing how to answer the question when it pops up.
Here's a quote from ultramarathoner Dick Collins: Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to stop and drop out. You don't want to be out there saying, "Well gee, my leg hurts, I'm a little dehydrated, I'm sleepy, I'm tired, and it's cold and windy." And talk yourself into quitting. If you are making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.
You can build your dream business. You can make an impact on millions of people all over the world. But it will take faith and perseverance to get there. And being a bit irrational.