I just started watching The Men Who Built America, which is a fascinating look at how the industrious and innovative businessmen of the 1800s laid the foundation for what the United States was going to become.
Heading into watching it, I didn’t realize that it was actually very entrepreneur-focused. While the show features many dramatizations of historical events with actors, it also splices in comments and interviews from famous businessmen who are still living today. As an entrepreneur, I have become completely sucked into it.
Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is an incredibly successful businessman, and you have to at least respect that much about him. I don’t agree with much of what he does, but he is a very smart man, and he has a good business sense. He’s made a lot of money, and even when he used to be watchable on The Apprentice, he had interesting insights and great stories to share about his rise in business.
In the first episode of The Men Who Built America, one story being told is that of John D. Rockefeller, who worked hard and became an oil magnate – and the richest man in America – by the time he was 33 years old. During this, Trump said:
“You have to be smart, you have to have vision, you have to have all of these different things, but most successful people are the people that had the right idea but never, ever quit or gave up. The people that really succeed in life are those that don’t quit.”
Throughout history, we see it. As much as we want to believe in “overnight successes”, there really is no such thing. Success is built out of consistently working on something over a long period of time, even if life knocks you around a bit.
Rockefeller was 33 when he became ridiculously wealthy. But he started working on it when he was 24. That’s seven years of working on the same thing – nights, weekends, free time, family time, and every other time in between.
Opening Up My Journal
I want to share with you what I wrote in my journal on Monday, January 7th, 2013, at 4:55pm.
It was the end of my work day. Over the past couple of months, I’ve struggled to pull in any kind of income. It forced my wife and I to make some difficult financial decisions, especially in the face of the Christmas season.
But this past Monday, I came to a verbal agreement with an investment research company for them to bring me on as a copywriter on a contract basis. They will send me a certain amount of work every month, and I will be paid a monthly retainer, plus a royalty, for my efforts. It’s the biggest moment of my young business.
As I leaned back in my office chair last Monday afternoon, I wanted to capture the thoughts going through my head, and as I wrote, I began to realize how much blood, sweat, and tears led up to this moment.
Here’s what I wrote:
Five years of trying to find a niche.
Five years of doubting whether I picked the right career or not.
Five years of dealing with low-hanging fruit just to get by.
Five years of chasing down invoices.
Five years of unanswered emails.
Five years of working for “exposure”, experience, testimonials, and “opportunities”.
Five years of false promises.
Five years of scrambling to pay bills.
Five years of stress and perceived failure.
Today, I cemented numbers on a contract with a new client: [contract details redacted]
I am ashamed at how many nights I spent during the last 5 years doubting God and His plan for me. He’s been with me every step of the way, whether I saw it or not.
Lord-willing, today marks a huge new and exciting chapter in my career and in our lives.
I’m looking forward to it.
Why You Have to Struggle
I’m not writing this post as an excuse to brag about all the money I’m going to make, nor am I including it to demonstrate that I actually used a hashtag in a journal entry. It’s about a valuable lesson that had hit me. For all the false starts and changes in mindset, I always came back to copywriting. And it took 5 years to pay off.
As Trump, and countless other successful businessmen have said, it comes down to not giving
I believe that I didn’t just struggle because that’s the way the chips fell, but I believe that I struggled so much because I had to.
If you have a goal in mind, and especially if it’s a business, you need to work long, thankless hours. You have to put more time in than the money you get out of it, for a very long time. I think that there’s a specific reason for that: God wants to know that you want it.
Think of all the great ideas we’ve had over the years. It doesn’t just take an idea to become a success. If success came that easy, then it wouldn’t mean anything. You would give up anyway, because you wouldn’t have ingrained in you the persistence and stick-to-itiveness to really invest in it and do a good job. That’s why you have to work on an idea for a long time before you see it become a success.
Struggle is good for you. It builds character. It also builds emotion into what you’re doing. Once you’re emotionally invested, you’re that much more driven to win.
After the Struggle, Keep Going
If you study successful entrepreneurs, you’ll also notice that they’re always trying to do something else. They’re always working on something bigger and better. Richard Branson is really known for this. And that’s because they have seen the bottom. They know how hard it is. So they are always diversifying, always improving, always growing.
This contract I signed? As long as I don’t screw anything up, it will guarantee that I make much more money than I made altogether last year. It also gave me 80% of my initial income goal for 2013.
So I went back into my goals, and raised the income goal. I changed my mindset. Now, my goal for 2013 is a number that I thought was years away from happening, and I intend on making it happen this year.
This client is but one name that came out of a spreadsheet of 144 companies. I still have 143 to contact every week. And I’m going to add more to that list – to contact every week.
And I’m working on building an affiliate base for TV Without Limits. And I’m going to write a book this year.
I’m not stopping, nor am I slowing down. It’s not for greed. It’s not for “comfort” or “financial security”. It’s not so that I can brag here.
I’m doing it because I’ve seen the bottom. I’ve lived at the bottom for 5 years. I don’t ever want to be within spitting distance of the bottom ever again, for the sake of my loving and supportive wife, and for the sake of our future children.
Consistent effort breeds success over time. So if I want to keep being successful 5 years from now, then I have no choice but to keep going.