Executive Education

What separates successful entrepreneurs from the non successful?

As President and CEO of One One 7, I run one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world. Yet I know that without one key factor, I would not be where I am today. That key factor is perseverance.

Steve Jobs once said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non successful ones is pure perseverance.” I could not agree more with those words. Perseverance is not merely a good business principle – it is imperative for a successful and lasting career.

Perseverance is defined as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” This means that even when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel or the dollars in the bank account, we need to keep going. Here are a few key things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Don’t give up too soon. I learned this early on in my career. As a teen growing up in New Jersey, I fell in love with music. In high school, a few friends and I recorded our own music, then packaged and sold the product to our peers. This music proved a success, and we sold hundreds of copies a year. I continued to pursue music, writing and recording songs on my own. One of my songs soared on the charts to become an award-winning hit. At the time, I was at a rock bottom place in my life, broke and uncertain about my future. But I knew one thing for sure – I wanted to pursue my dreams. I had no idea if those dreams would materialize next week, next month, next year – or ever. But I did know one thing. I could not give up.

    Not giving up is key. I believe many people could succeed in life, but they simply don’t continue to try. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” The big break, the million dollar deal, the next major company or idea, could be just around the corner, but none of those things will take flight if one gives up too soon.

    Fueled by my desire to pursue music, I began brainstorming, determined to break into the music industry. I secured the names of some of the top executives in the biz and began calling around. After a few attempts, I landed the coveted invitation I’d been waiting for – a meeting with the Vice President of Sony Records. I grabbed my recorded music and headed to New York, ready to make an impression. The meeting at Sony was brief, but it was all I needed to get my foot in the door. I kept persevering, meeting with other top music executives, and soon, I gained a name for myself. I was able to spot some of the best talent in the industry and soon became a liaison between record companies and music producers. I eventually moved my business from New York to Los Angeles, where I continued my success, working with some of the hottest stars in the industry. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I’d given up before giving the music industry my best shot. Even when the world said, “You can’t,” I kept forging ahead. And my efforts paid off.

  1. Don’t stop when the going gets tough. Perseverance requires hard work. It requires a keep-going attitude in the face of adversity. Many people get off to a great start, but the minute they hit a rough patch, they panic and throw in the towel. Life is riddled with setbacks. In fact, disappointment and challenges are almost inevitable. The top athletes in the world know this more than anyone. Many experience major setback when they get injured and must work hard to get themselves back in the game. At times, it can feel easier to just give up.

    Setbacks can make or break us. Instead of running from adversity, we must figure out how to face – and even embrace – it. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world experienced such tremendous setbacks that they considered giving up and closing their doors. But they didn’t, and today, they enjoy thriving businesses.

    After a major life change years ago, I left Los Angeles and returned to New Jersey, where I started over from scratch. Life felt uncertain for a bit, the way it had before I’d broken into the biz. I had literally nothing – no money, no home, nothing. I could have thrown in the towel right then and there, but I chose to keep going. Today, I run a successful company with offices around the globe. But none of what I’ve achieved could have been possible if I’d thrown in the towel when life threw me a curve ball.

  1. Remember Your Calling. In order to persevere, one must be fueled by their calling. Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.” If a CEO or business owner does not believe their work is their calling, they will not keep persevering. Once they embrace that calling and become passionate about it, the sky is the limit.

    If you are struggling, remember what first inspired you. Take yourself back to your first vision, your first dream for your company or yourself. What fueled that vision or dream? What got you out of bed in the morning? What excited you when you thought or talked about it? What motivated you to keep going? If you feel stuck and tempted to give up, remember your early days and why you did what you did to get where you are. Remember how it felt when you made your first sale, how it felt when you first provided paychecks to your hardworking, enthusiastic employees. Remember the smiles on people’s faces when you told them your dreams. Remember that feeling when you hung your first placard on your office door. Many folks simply stop persevering because they forget where they’ve come from and where they are going. When you remember your calling, you will keep going, no matter what comes your way.

Perseverance requires effort, hard work and determination. Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison all faced criticism and adversity, but they did not give up. As a young boy, Thomas Edison’s teachers told his mother he was “addled,” or mentally ill, because his mind wandered. He then contracted an illness when he got older and became deaf. But he did not give up on his dreams. Instead, he went on to become one of the most prolific inventors in history. Today, over 1,000 US patents are in his name.

Steve Jobs faced obstacles early in life too. His biological parents gave him up for adoption, and his adoptive parents did not have money for college. Jobs took some classes here and there before starting Apple from his garage. Even after being fired from his own company, Jobs refused to give up. He went on to focus on other ventures, like Next and Pixar, before eventually returning to Apple. Today, he is remembered for his amazing accomplishments and one of the most successful companies in the world.

Leonardo Da Vinci also faced tremendous obstacles in his life. Born to an unwed peasant woman, he grew up poor, working random jobs before pursuing his work. Even in the face of adversity, he kept persevering.

Today, these three men are remembered as some of the greats of their time. As a leader of my company, I hope to follow in their footsteps, embracing the never-give-up mentality that’s brought me to success. Perseverance is not only a good idea – it is essential for success. We will fall on hard times and face unwanted challenges. We will feel tempted to give up at times. But when we keep pressing on and remember our roots, we will find the fuel to keep going.

By Jason Davis, President and CEO of One One 7.

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Jason Davis
Jason Davis is President and CEO of One One 7.