I was floored by this opening paragraph from a recent Economist article about Barack Obama:
Eight years ago Barack Obama was thoroughly humiliated at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. He had recently lost a congressional primary in Chicago, and both his political and personal bank accounts were empty. The rental car company rejected his credit card. He failed to get hold of a floor pass and ended up watching the proceedings on a big screen in a car park. He returned home with his tail between his legs before the week was out—and left the celebrations to the people who mattered…
Imagine that: Obama’s credit card was rejected and he watched from the outside. And yet today he is in the middle of it all. How do you go from the parking lot to the center stage in just eight years? There is much suffering in life, and also the potential for great happiness and accomplishment, and often the difference between the two is a matter of persistence. Luck plays a part, but by exerting energy toward a goal, you can make your own luck.
This is what Dan Pink means when he says that “Persistence trumps talent” in his book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. Persistence trumps talent. In other words, all things being equal, those that try are more likely to be the ones who do. Here’s an excerpt from Obama’s acceptance speech from this evening that echoes that sentiment:
And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.
Someone who would agree with Obama on these points is Oprah. And, as you know, she has. I have to thank Dan Pink for introducing me to Oprah’s magazine in his book A Whole New Mind. I’m avid reader ofOprah magazine. I find it to be a reliable monthly source of a good kick in the pants. It’s a monthly reminder to be think big and to be persistent. I’ve been reading it for about four years now. As an aside, I’m mildly tickled to tell you that I’m briefly mentioned (and only by first name) on page 307 of the September issue of Oprah. Check it out.
But I digress.
In life, pick where you want to go as much as you can, work like hell to get there, and be persistent. Learn all the time. Do good. Engage everyone around you by pursuing your passions. Help others. Do good work. Bring cool stuff to life. Above all, start.