This week's American Inventor introduced us to Darrell Fertakos, a determined twenty-eight-year-old claiming to have 300 inventions in his big green book. The first product he claimed would save lives was a set of sweatbands that he said would inflate upon impact. Not counting the standard encouragement from Foreman, Fertakos received a round of rejection, but then persevered. He showed another idea and another. After too long of this, Jones dismissed him and any of the rest of the inventions he planned to offer. Fertakos said, "I just don't want to give up." Croce responded, "Don't give up, but today you must."

Let's ignore the rest of the episode--Cato and her fantastic backless bra knocking out Caudill's $300K toy racetrack and Elmer's justified life, the totally predictable and overly affectionate "enginerds" with their "overinvented" bike claw eliminating the deaf woman's musical vest and the young man with the next great creep machine. Let's focus on persistence.

All of these rejects have one trait in common: persistence. They identify an opportunity, a problem with no current satisfying solution, and they toil on creating a physical representation of how their minds' eye have envisioned a better way. This past month, our reporting staff has been consumed with putting together the Inc. 500 list, which requires over 500 conversations with founders and CEOs of the fastest growing companies from coast to shining sea. It's like speed dating. We talk to them about their companies and try to discern why they've grown so fast so that you can learn how to do it, too. But we also learn a lot about what brought them to the business in the first place, what challenges they're facing, how they've overcome obstacles in their industry, and about their plans and goals for the near and distant future. The illuminating part for me has been hearing the same from these successful entrepreneurs that I see in these aspiring entrepreneurs on this silly reality show.

You hear "no." You hear it like a broken record from banks and private investors and maybe from your boss at the big corporation that employs you. Your heart is deaf to the rejection, though, and you keep knocking on doors and opening your suitcase and making your pitch. One day, you wake up, and all of these judges who once said no to you are now knocking on your door. Hard.

Maybe. Or maybe your idea isn't that good but you really believe it is. Your heart is blind to the deficiencies of your own brainchildren. How will you know the difference?