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  December 23, 2011
Elements of Success...


The NFL football season is quickly coming to an end.  The season started with 32 teams each vying for one of the coveted 10 playoff berths over the course of the 17-week season.  Each team had a plan.  Each team consisted of professional coaches and players who have achieved remarkable success in the past.  Each team carefully prepared each week for their opponent.  Each team played hard during their game.

At the end of the season there will be 10 playoff teams and 22 failures that will soon begin their preparation for the next season.

In business, there are countless examples of Fortune 500 (and dot.com start-ups) who spent tens of millions of dollars on research and development and tens of millions more on market research, packaging, advertising, building of production lines and creating inventory only to watch their new project fail miserably when it came to market.

There were some incredibly smart people who worked on these projects.  There was ample funding.  There was a perceived market need.  It failed nonetheless. 

Yet there were winners among the losers.  Why?

Why did Facebook succeed and My Space fail?  Why did Wikipedia succeed and Encarta fail?  What caused people to embrace the inferior VHS tape format rather than the Betamax tape format?

Big budget movies with big name stars and big name directors fail every year.  Some artists make it big while other wallow in obscurity.

Sometimes the product is truly great but the decision makers who control the distribution channels will turn it down...

John Grisham, Steven King, Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) together received hundreds of rejection slips before publishing a single book.

The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley were all rejected by record company executives, booking agents, and club owners and yet went on to become the greatest music icons over a span of 50 years.

There is no magic formula for success however there are a few common traits that all successful products, companies and people share. 

To begin with, they are incredibly persistent.  The success from failure stories are about people who believe in themselves, the idea, the company, and/or the product.  Initial failure just motivates them to try harder.  They refuse to take no for an answer.

An Episcopalian clergyman by the name of Richard Nelson Bolles wrote a book but was rejected by publishers so many times that he ended up self-publishing the book himself.  He spent three years driving from town to town throughout America selling a few books out of the trunk of his old Chevy Nova.  He did book signings at book stores and malls, talk-show interviews, and late night radio.  One night he was booked on a late-night radio show and wasn’t scheduled until 3am.  He considered canceling the interview because he still had a long drive to his next book signing in a town several miles away.  He decided to do the interview.  That night, Steve Katz, an associate producer for the The Tonight Show heard the interview as he drove home from a late night party.  He was so impressed with the subject that he immediately called the radio station and convinced Rev. Bolles to cancel his speaking engagement and come to the studio the next morning. 

Soon after, Richard Bolles was booked on the Johnny Carson show to promote his "new" book "What Color is Your Parachute?".  The book is now in its 22nd edition, has been translated into 7 languages and has sold over 10 million copies while spending 288 consecutive weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Richard Bolles was an overnight success...after grinding it out on the road for 3 years...

The second trait of successful people who had early failures is that they have an incredible work ethic.  They understand that failure is not an option and that success is a byproduct of hard work and continued efforts. 

I have known a lot of entrepreneurs who had some initial success only to lose it all because they got lazy thinking that their success would continue indefinitely.  People, products and ideas must continuously evolve to continue on the path to success.  What worked yesterday and today will not necessarily work tomorrow.  There are a lot of people and companies who have created a "one-trick pony" but eventually their idea gets old and they need to create something new and fresh.

They may have been extremely good at what they did, but the world, markets and people change.  The truly successful adapt to the changes and are always looking to create new ideas and products.  Big companies are constantly trying new things and introducing new products even though they know that most of them will not succeed.

The final element of success is sheer luck.  It was incredibly lucky for Richard Bolles to get an opportunity to be on the Johnny Carson show.  The same holds true for so many actors, writers, and artists.  A very few people win the lottery...while millions of others do not.  However, the odds of success can be increased with hard work, perseverance, creativity, discipline. 

If your business plan is to write a book and you hope to get invited to the Oprah show, then the odds are extremely long for the plan to work.  However, if your plan is to study really hard, go to college and then to medical school and then to dental school to become an orthodontist, then your odds for success might be a little better.

A final note about success...real success shouldn’t be measured in sales, making the playoffs, crushing your opponents  and/or building wealth share but rather how did your ideas, actions, and/or product/service help others (despite what Calvin thinks).

Something to reflect on as we enjoy our holidays and get ready for the upcoming year.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where our goal is to help make you more successful.

Jim Kalb

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