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The Reluctant Entrepreneur: The power of persistence

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18 August was Never Give Up Day. If this factoid has passed you by, don’t despair. It was news to me too.

Having learned this, it feels appropriate to offer the next rule of thumb for budding changers-of-the-world:


Given the imperative voice, perhaps it should be written: “Persist”, for persistence is an imperative.

A good friend said to me once, “persistence pays the bills”. If you’ve been hounded by suppliers in the past, you’ll realise this adage works literally as well as metaphorically.

Without a pathological doggedness, you’re unlikely to make it up the slippery cliff-face of business development. There are too many falling boulders and boiling oil to make any business-building a doddle.

Take Joe Wicks, the face that launched a thousand push-ups. He maintains that his ‘overnight success’ took ten years.

Similarly, Eddie Izzard maintains that she took 12 years working gigs, including 10 years at the Edinburgh Fringe, before she got a break.

Within medicine, there are examples of persistence verging on recklessness.

Australian doctors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 2005 for their work discovering Helicobacter Pylori, the organism which causes stomach ulcers.

The concept of a stomach-dwelling pathogen was so dogmatically rejected by the medical establishment that Marshall eventually experimented on himself, swallowing a sample of the bug to show it caused ulceration.

It took them 10 years – and a near-pathological persistence from both men – before their life-changing research was accepted.

More frivolously, there are plenty of persistence records in the Guinness Book of World Records. One of my favourites is another Australian who typed out in words the first one million numbers by hand. It took him 16 years.

Perhaps a more extraordinary feat of persistence – which sadly doesn’t qualify for a world record – is that exhibited by Graham Parker, a builder from Hampshire, UK who decided he would solve Rubik’s Cube entirely without help.

He succeeded. But only after 27,400 hours of trying and a near collapse of his marriage.

So, if your business is not yet fully ‘off the ground’ or, worse, appears to be in some sort of nose-dive, you should remember that success is almost always built on determination and persistence.

The world would be a more terrible place without the discovery of Jo Wicks, Eddie Izzard and Helicobacter Pylori.

You will only improve the world if you succeed – and success almost never came easy.

For my part – on World ‘Never Give Up’ Day – I was heartened and chastened by two documents that crossed my desk.

The first was an invitation for my healthtech company, CAREFUL, to join an accelerator with the very real possibility of reaching Series A funding within the next 12 months.

This is clear evidence that my team and I are, at last, succeeding.

The second document was a functional specification for the very first version of the app I tried to build. The document was dated October 2012.

Like so many others, it is very possible that CAREFUL’s overnight success will take us a full 10 years.

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