Monday, May 28, 2012

Seagulls and Persistence

A couple of winters back, I spent the season in Miami. One afternoon, I grabbed a lunch and sat outside on a bench near a walkway that that bordered Biscayne Bay. While I was eating my lunch, I watched some sea gulls circling the water in front of me. They circled and circled. Every once and awhile they would dive close to the surface of the water, but they never caught any fish in the near hour I was watching them.

I wondered how often, they actually caught a fish. The seagulls all looked healthy to me, so I guess they managed to catch fish often enough. But the circling fascinated me. Evolution, I thought, sure programmed seagulls to not get frustrated and give up easily. I thought to myself that if I ever ran a telephone salesroom, I would set a camera right where I was sitting and film the seagulls circling and circling and circling until one dove and actually caught a fish. I would then get a big flat screen television and put it in front of the salesroom and play the seagulls just circling and circling and circling until that fish was caught. I would play the video over and over again, day after day, hour after hour, to try an ingrain in the salespeople that persistence pays off.

I personally don't have a problem with persistence. My first job in New York City many years ago was with a stock brokerage firm. I was part of a bunch of trainees. We were all given the same thing a phone book and a telephone with two lines, an out going line and a line for incoming calls. Since I had moved to NYC for the job and didn't know anyone in the city, I very quickly came to the conclusion that I better start making a lot of calls if I wanted clients. After two or three weeks of calling on the outgoing line, a call came in on the incoming line. It was the switchboard operator, she asked me if there was something wrong with the other line (my outgoing line), she said the red light on that phone was almost always on at her switchboard. I was too embarrassed at the time to tell her that it was because I was always calling, trying to develop clients, but then I thought about it for a minute and wondered why the lines weren't on all the time for these other guys.It was a big board room, about 60 guys. What the hell were they doing?

After the six month training period was over, I was given a prestigious gig, in a top office. When I asked why it was offered to me, the senior manager told me, "You open the biggest accounts". I had no idea. My circling and circling and keeping the red light on paid off. If I called someone and they weren't interested, I just moved on to the next call, but I never stopped. I heard other guys grumble that you couldn't close an account because of this or that. They had stopped circling. I never did.

Persistence iis important.

Here's James Altucher on persistence:
In early 1994 I created my first website. In late 1994 I did my first corporate website. In 1995 I did my first website for money. I got $17,500 cash for a diamond wholesaler’s website. I went straight to the Chelsea Hotel and gave them the money and paid for my first room (of many) there for a year. I couldn’t believe how rich I was with that money. Stanley Bard, the owner of the Chelsea at the time, looked at the cash and said, “what are you, a drug dealer?” And I felt like one. I was selling crack, heroin, whatever. I felt high. I was so happy. I had made more money than I had ever had in my life. I would wander up and down the stairwells of the Chelsea Hotel hoping I would run into some drug addict who would have sex with me. That persistence never paid off fortunately.

In 1996, we finally incorporated the company doing websites for others. At the beginning of the year we had maybe two or three clients and two or three employees. But we grew. Everyone needed a website. I was still working my fulltime job at HBO but sneaking away for meetings and then hiding my suit before I got back to my cubicle. Finally in 1997 I had to leave HBO to do Reset fulltime. And in 1998 we sold the business.

Along the way I probably got rejected more than 200 times on sales pitches. And I messed up hiring, bribing, sales, investing, we got robbed twice, I messed up on follow-up (with J.P. Morgan, who desperately wanted us to do their website, I just dropped the ball), I messed up everything. I couldn’t get it right. But I felt like we were doing well (we kept growing every month) so I kept at it. In 1997 I tried to sell the company but nobody wanted it. But I kept in touch with everyone and kept sending all potential suitors monthly updates. For about a year, half my job was pitching new clients and half my job was pitching potential people to buy the company. Finally in August, 1998 the time was right and we sold the company. And, by the way, this was my third attempt at starting a company. The other two had failed.

I’ve read so many cases of authors who sold their books door to door for years until finally word of mouth spread and they became bestsellers. John Grisham being a great example. Eckhart Tolle being another. And how many actors spent 5, 10, even 20 years as carpenters, waiters, whatevers, before they got their first big role that put them over the top. Or Thomas Edison trying 9999 times to light a lightbulb before he got it right on the 10000th attempt. Eventually a water dripping on a rock will wither away the rock.
Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. J.Altucher... story appears to be 4-paragraphs
    repeated three times... is this a self-referencing example of "persistence"...