24 Jul, 2019 · 8 min read

Persistence beats Talent, Persistence beats Genius, Persistence beats Education

The most important skill that world's most successful people have mastered. Persistence of Elon Musk, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Ford and Michael Jordan.

Persistence most important skill

What is persistence?

In simple words, persistence is continuing doing something despite difficulty or opposition. You can call it a personality trait or a soft skill, but actually, persistence is a really hardcore skill. It's the drive which does not allow you to give up. It's that extra mile that you want and need to go. It's focus and execution towards your target. Calvin Coolidge beautifully put it together:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-Calvin Coolidge

Elon Musk decided when he was in College

During the college years, Elon Musk thought about the most important fields that will affect future of humanity. He came up with these five: sustainable energy, internet, making life multi-planetary, artificial intelligence and rewriting genetics. Since then he was persistently working on most of them. You probably heard about Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. What about Zip2? Let's start with the internet.

Being a part of the Internet

It was time where nobody was making money on the internet. Two brothers rented an office in California. They had a single computer which was a server during the day and it was used as a developer machine during the night. This is how Zip2 started. Elon Musk and Kimbal Musk were working on their product every night - seven nights a week, all the time. Since they were short on money they also lived in the office and even showered in YMCA. They were building yellow pages for companies on the internet so that local businesses would be present for anyone.

Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up.

-Elon Musk

After the company was sold Elon musk moved to the next big project - Paypal. Before Paypal paying for products or services on the internet was a hassle. Elon Musk was optimistic about the future success of money transfer via the internet and now we see the result - most of the online shops or companies having money involved support transactions via Paypal. Of course there are always a lot of other people working together for a greater good, but definitely, Persistency of Elon Musk played a vital role here.

Elon Musk

Sustainable Energy and Multi-planetary species

Currently, only under 15 percent of United States runs on renewable energy. But with Musk’s plan, that number could be 100 percent. Elon worked hard to create first electric car usable my masses, which should help a lot in moving forward towards sustainable energy. Anyways we will run out of oil and other fossil fuels at one point, right?

When Elon Musk started to work on Tesla most of the people said that electric cars could only be used in golf courses, but after tons of sweat and opposition, we have one of the safest, most comfortable, probably sexiest and fastest cars which are electric. Other car companies started to go the same path and eventually we will have only electric cars. How persistent you need to be to show everyone that they were wrong? From earth to mars persistent. This is where persistence is lifted up to the next level - space travel.

So many people tried to talk me out of starting my own space company - it was crazy!

-Elon Musk

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 - a private company with the intention to make life in other planets happen. This means the private company needs to achieve more than any other country could achieve with their resources, work power and budgets. Do you know why after going to the moon we didn't fly to Mars? It's so expensive that after finding it out people closed the file and never talked about it. This is where Elon comes in the picture. He thought that if we make rockets reusable it would save tons of money, but it was not possible at that time.

Persistence laughs at impossible. After failing three times to land a rocket for reuse, all the remaining resources was bet on the fourth attempt. And this is when it happened - rocket successfully landed and could be reused for the next flight - the first time in the history. How about that?
American heroes (and Elon heroes) that landed on the moon testified against commercial space flights in a way that Elon was doing. People working in rocketry business for decades said that Musk doesn't know what he is doing, but he proved them wrong.

You got to persist through failure, you got to persist through Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, Pressure.

-Richard St. John

Michael Jordan failure becomes his biggest success

Six times NBA champion, five times NBA MVP, two Olympic gold medals and countless other records and achievements in basketball. This guy is considered the best basketball player ever. But where does it start? It starts with a failure.

During the high school years, Michael was already playing a lot of basketball and tried to get a spot on the high school team. There were 15 spots in total and MJ didn't get one. As coach explained he was an average player and still not high enough. Jordan felt really embarrassed so he went home, locked in his room and cried. Basketball was everything for him. Instead of accepting the failure he converted it to the energy of motivation. It's not how you fail but how you handle the failure that matters. Michael started to work out harder and stronger.

Michael Jordan

Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I'd close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it and that usually got me going again.

-Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan developed a strict work ethic and persistently went towards his target - become the best. It didn't take long when Michael was the best player in his high school and then the rest is history. During the whole career, he maintained that attitude and determination from where he started. It was not talent it was not god given blessing, but it was hard work and persistence. Be better and better, press on, go forward and push the limits. Obstinately refusing to give up or let go.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

-Michael Jordan

Arnold Schwarzenegger found his dream in a magazine

Arnold's father wanted him to go to the military. During those times after second world war, Austria had a great downfall - depression, scarcity, and sadness. Arnold wanted to get out of there. And one day he found a magazine with a bodybuilder named Reg Park. He started to read how mister universe became Hercules and with huge interest went through all pages of the magazine. That was it. He found a whole plan laid down in front. Arnold Schwarzenegger found his path - he was determined to become the greatest bodybuilder and eventually become a Hercules and of course a terminator. From that moment he persistently focused on this goal that he envisioned.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

No matter what it takes - I need to reach that goal. That vision that I had - being world champion.

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Going back to the military, soldiers were doing hard workouts during the day - running 5 in the morning, climbing the ropes, crawling, cleaning guns, doing pushups and all other usual soldier routines. After hard day most soldiers usually drop dead from exhaustion until next morning, but not Arnold. He goes for a 3 hours workout before sleep and then wakes up earlier for more training. During that time bodybuilding was not a thing in Austria so there was no gym equipment - he had to use chairs and other stuff he could find for chin-ups, pushups, situps, etc.

Everyone said it was a wrong direction that I'm going, that I'm in a dream world or I'm useless. I said I'm gonna break through this.

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Escaping the Military to become a Champion

After rivers of sweat, he found out that Junior mister Europe Championship will take a place in Germany not so far from Austria. Now the question was how he manages to participate in the championship while he was in the military. It was forbidden to leave the place and nobody was giving him permission to do so. Laying in the bed he was fighting in his mind, doubting, questioning - give up on the dream and continue military service OR escape, participate and probably go to an isolated cell as a prisoner for punishment. During the sleepless nights, he envisioned himself on the stage and it became more and more clear - Arnold you need to go! And so he did.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

After escaping the military he took a train and arrived at Stuttgart. Since he left how he stood he didn't have even any gym clothing. Therefore he had to borrow posing trunks from a guy in a lighter category that was already done with the posing. Guess who won? Of course Schwarzenegger. It was his first big bang. Nobody knew him and nobody supported him, but that is not a problem when you have a goal, focus, and persistence of big black boar. Going back as a champion to the military he, of course, got caught, but since he won the punishment was not that strict. What goes after everybody knows.

Henry Ford changing American industry

He was a founder of Ford Motor Company, one of the richest people in the world, business magnate, industrial age genius and a person that made automobiles affordable for the masses. At the beginning of 20th-century cars were still a big luxury and uncommon asset. Ford Model T was the first car that middle-class Americans could buy. The first one that was not crafted by hand but in an assembly line. How poor and uneducated person could generate such success?

Henry Ford

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

-Henry Ford

To illustrate Henry's Ford persistence we can go back in history and observe how he managed to build the famous V-8 motor. So Henry Ford decided to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block. This was never done before. He instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. After the design was ready and placed on paper all engineers agreed that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder gas engine block in one piece. Henry's response was "Produce it anyway."

And they, of course, replied: "But it's impossible!"

Ford commanded: "Go ahead and stay on the job until you succeed no matter how much time is required."

And engineers went ahead since there was nothing else for them to do if they wanted to remain in Ford company.

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.

-Henry Ford

After six months there were no results. Another six months passed, still nothing. The engineers tried everything they could imagine to implement it but it was simply "impossible!"

At the end of the year, Ford asked his engineers if they had a result and again they informed him they had found no way to carry out his orders. Ford was persistent and determined on his dream so he said: "Go right ahead, I want it, and I'll have it."

Hence they went ahead, and then, a miracle occurred - the secret was discovered. Suddenly impossible was defeated and converted to possible - V-8 engine was created. Henry Ford determination and persistence had won once more! If you can catch what happened you can understand why Ford was so successful. It's persistence by the dictionary - obstinately refusing to give up or let go.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

-Henry Ford

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Elon Musk, Michael Jordan, Henry Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger - all of them were ordinary people that decided to become extraordinary. Focus, determination and enormous persistence made them the best in the world.

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