Persistence Alone

My grandfather grew up in a small apartment in Lawrence, Massachusetts with fourteen older brothers and sisters. His mother stayed at home to watch after the family, and his father worked in a dry goods store.

His parents came from Italy to Ellis Island with no money. He grew up poor.

When he was ten or so he began to work at the dry goods store as well. His job was mainly to run into the rat infested basement and get tins of spaghetti to bring upstairs. He was allowed to keep a portion of the money, but most of it went to his parents.

Later he trained to be an accountant, and was good at it. He worked for a number of companies, including 3M, doing their books.

One day at 3M he was told that the company was going to sell off a small branch that created microfiche. Microfiche is an old way to store lots of data by shrinking it down and putting it on transparent paper. I’m sure there’s more to it, but that’s the gist of it. To prepare for the sale he had to go over the balance sheets of the division.

“I think I’d like to buy it.”

His boss was shocked. The division was losing money and had significant liabilities, including a lease on office space. His boss agreed to make him an offer.

My grandfather refused to tell me how much he paid for the business, but I know it was a pretty paltry sum. After he sold all of the extra furniture and equipment in the offices, he had already made a small profit.

Next to his typewriter, which he still uses, he taped a small business card. Instead of having someone’s name on it, it had five lines of text. It was his favorite quotation.

And then he buckled down. He and my grandmother worked tirelessly and turned the business around. Soon it was flourishing and they bought another business. Ten years ago they retired (although he still does the books for the second business) and built a house.

They live alone, but their house has four extra bedrooms, one for each of their children. The fourth floor is a large playroom for grandchildren. Outside they have their own pool and tennis court.

When I was thirteen or so, my grandfather gave me a small card. He told me that it was a copy of the one he had taped to his desk. He told me that it was the most important thing I could learn.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent.
Genius 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.

I taped it to my monitor and completely ignored it. For my whole life people had told me how smart I was, so I knew that I didn’t have to work hard. I didn’t put much stock in the “Genius will not” portion of the quote.

I struggled through school. Actually, to say that I struggled would insinuate that I cared, which I didn’t. Homework was hard work, and I was too smart for that. I knew that I would inevitably become rich and famous.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually studied for a test. That seems like an exaggeration, but I believe it’s true.

I remember distinctly five years ago or so when my father was helping me. We tore the closet out of a bedroom in the house I had just bought, drove to Houston to buy some seats, and built a screen. We built a movie theater.

We built risers so that the seats would be “stadium” style, and were almost finished tacking the carpet down.

“Hey dad… I think it’s good enough now.”

My father is a carpenter. He works hard every day, but would still make time on the weekends to help me with my crazy projects (which he often advised against). From what I gather being a carpenter isn’t an easy job, but despite raising his rates every year my father is always booked up months in advance.

He ignored me and kept working.

I couldn’t understand it. What was he getting out of this? If I thought it was good enough, what did he care? In fact, he was ALWAYS like this. I felt guilty and slightly sad that I didn’t understand this thing that drove him.

He told us not to buy the schoolbus, but when we did he would always help us when we got stuck. When we gave up trying to cut the backpack racks from the ceiling, he drove back to his house to get a different saw and try it again. It worked.

I was awed by this work ethic. It was something I couldn’t understand at all – I had no way to relate to it. But it seemed impressive.

It’s a testament to my stubbornness that it has taken me this long to finally get this into my head. I was raised around people who all understood the power of persistence and hard work, but I thought I was too good for it.

Now I get it and I’m humbled. And I don’t mean that I “see it”. I mean that deep in my core I FEEL it. I KNOW it now.

When I lived in Hollywood I was making a lot of money through gambling. I didn’t have to do any other work. I started doing workshops and made a good amount of money with Mystery. Real Social Dynamics was struggling back then, but still making some money. Thundercat was just starting out, and was one of the brokest guys I knew.

Here’s a quick breakdown of where they are now:

Mystery – Rich
Style – Rich
Thundercat – Rich
Real Social Dynamics – Rich
Me – Not rich at all

I’m overjoyed for every one of them. One by one I’ve seen them break into the stratosphere of wealth, and it makes me happy every time. What do they have in common? They all HUSTLED.

Mystery was constantly working on new pickup stuff. He lives it. He can’t wait to talk to you and tell you about his new discoveries.

Style worked so much that I think we only went to clubs together maybe a dozen times. He knocks one project out of the park and then hits the next one with even more force. He’s a high quality producing machine. I can’t imagine him working on a project that isn’t successful. The Game was a way bigger hit than he expected, but we all knew the magic of what he was creating.

Thundercat was ALWAYS working on something. He’d take any job in pickup and get it done. He ghostwrote books, had a blog that was updated daily, and was interviewing everyone he could get his hands on.

Tyler from Real Social Dynamics is insane. He’s more focused than anyone I’ve ever known. I haven’t seen his newest product, The Blueprint, but I’d bet my fortune that it’s the best pickup product on the market.

And me? I’m not rich. I haven’t focused. I could have made so much money from gambling that I wouldn’t have to work ever again. Some of my gambling friends did. As soon as I could outsource it, I was out of the office and business suffered.

I’ve jumped from project to project, never once giving one of them more than 20% of my attention.

And now the results are clear. I had every opportunity those guys had. I was in the same business and I was good at it. I was as smart as they were. But… I flitted around and never committed or hunkered down and worked.

I’m not trying to totally dismiss myself. I’ve obviously done ok for myself since I now travel the world full time, but my success is nowhere near these people’s. I’ve also totally transformed myself in a lot of ways, so I don’t really have any regrets either.

In fact, I’ve fulfilled every goal I’ve had other than making money. I’d be surprised if there was a human being on earth happier than me. I’ve made friends with so many awesome people. The level of self respect and awareness I’ve cultivated is incredible. I’ve developed many super important habits that will serve me for the rest of my life.

The reason I’m interested in this and focusing on it is because it’s CRITICALLY important for the future. Not just mine, yours too. Maybe I’m getting overexcited, but I feel like I’ve discovered the key to life here. Or my life, anyway… the BIG CHUNK that I’ve been missing for my whole life.

When I started writing Conversion Doubler, it was a mess. There’s still a file in the project called “setcookie.php” which was the first file I started writing. It’s called that because I had no idea how to program and I wanted to try to learn how to set a cookie.

I was writing it for myself. I called it TynanTrack at first. I needed a way to test different things on my site and measure my results. When it came time to figure out how to actually route the traffic through my program, I came up with a very clever little hack.

Then I spent 5-6 months writing the program around this little hack. The whole project hinges on it. Without the hack, nothing works.

And… you can guess what happened. After six months I realized that it didn’t work. It worked on my server, but for 50% of the people out there, it would crash their entire site.

The piece of code in question was four short lines long.

I was shocked. Was this the end of my program? I worked for seven days on those four lines. I tried EVERYTHING I could possibly think of. Nothing was working.

Finally on the seventh day I had a random idea that I tried… and it worked! It required some modification, but I had it running in a day.

I continued work on the project. During this period of time I had begun to understand the importance of hard work, so I was working 8-16 hours per day. As soon as I got up I’d start, and I wouldn’t stop until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I took two breaks a day for food, and would occasionally see my friends.

Four days ago I was done with Conversion Doubler. I keep saying I’m done, but then I add more features. It’s my masterpiece. Two friends went to install it.

It crashed on BOTH of their sites.

I investigated the problem and once again realized that the hack wouldn’t work. This time it was for good – there was a fundamental problem that just couldn’t be overcome. The software would work on most sites, but not sites where people had a blog or any other complicated PHP software running.

“I think you’re going to have to assume that some people’s sites just won’t be compatible with CD,” said a friend.

Man. That’s not acceptable. I’ve put SO MUCH into this software. It’s SO good. Sometimes I freak out for a split second when I see it as I realize the scale of what I’ve created. It seems so impossible that I’m responsible for it.

I decided to scrap the hack. I spent hours thinking about what I could do instead. Finally I came up with a solution that would actually be better than the hack. It would require a ton of coding and I’d have to rework every single one of the 65 files I’d written.

The silver lining was that it would work on ANY site and would actually be faster.

I started working on it, and then after a while realized that the FTP library built in to PHP is disabled on a lot of servers. I was relying on it.

So I started writing my own FTP library from scratch, manually connecting and specifying every single character sent to the FTP site. Obviously this is something I’d never done before. I even had to build my own web based FTP client for the installation process.

Finally it’s done. I still have a few loose ends to tie up with the new installation process, but I’ve tested everything extensively. Conversion Doubler lives on and is better than ever.

Will I find more problems? I don’t think so, but I didn’t think so before either. I don’t care, though. I know that I can handle anything now.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Same goes for my program.

I can’t imagine anything stopping me now. I used to TALK, but not ACT. Now I spend all day producing excellence. I do things right and I do them thoroughly.

And here’s the thing – if **I** can be like this, then you can too. I was the biggest slacker. I did nothing. If I did ONE productive thing in a day I’d consider it a day well spent.

Shipped ONE package? Good day!

Went to the bank? Success!

Seriously. When I dropped out of school I had a 2.01. At a 2.0 they would have kicked me out anyway. I’d say that most of my life was spent in the bottom 5% of America in terms of productive output goes.

Here’s the progression of success as best I understand it:

1. Get an idea
2. Start working
3. PAIN PERIOD
4. Success

1. Getting an idea is easy. Everyone has ideas and thinks they’re so smart for coming up with them (myself included, of course). The thing is, the IDEA is probably the least important part. Why is Jay-Z a great drug dealer and a great rapper and a great clothing line creator? Is it because these are great ideas? NO. It’s because he’s a hustler (baby).

2. Start working. This is the fun part where you have 99 parts of your project, 50 of which are fun and easy. You work on those and feel great.

3. Pain Period. This is where I ALWAYS used to give up. Things stop going perfectly and it’s time to batten the hatches and start rocking. It’s time to put your WANTS aside and focus on the NEEDS of your project. THIS IS THE KEY PART! If you get past here, you succeed. If you don’t, you don’t succeed. Period.

I could write about 10 posts about this alone. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about how his one skill is pushing through the pain period. And look! He’s a successful body builder, actor, and politician. Good ideas? Natural talents? NOPE. Just pushing through.

4. Success. This is the holy grail. People think that what you’ve done is easy once you get here. “50 cent is a crappy rapper. If I got to work with Eminem and Dr. Dre I’d be as good as him.” Yeah, but you know what? He PUSHED through the pain period of getting there and now enjoys success, which is a lot easier. You see the result, not the process.

What’s that phrase about weak links? You’re only as strong as your weakest link? SAME HERE. If you’re never going to punch through the pain period, why even start? If you don’t do it this time will you do it next time? NOPE.

“Oh, I wasn’t successful, but I learned a lot.”

I hate that. I hear that so much, and I’ve probably said it too. It’s TRUE on one hand because you always learn when you’re DOING. BUT.. what do you need to learn about? Punching through the pain period! And the only way to learn about that is to DO it.

Here are some ideas that helped me a ton:

  1. I realized that I could change. For a long time being a slacker was part of my identity. In fact, a lot of my friends may not even believe that I actually work as hard as I do, because they’re so used to me not working. All of a sudden I realized that there was NOTHING but will power stopping me from being a hard worker.
  2. You get in the business of GOAL REACHING, not GOAL ATTEMPTING. There is no question in my mind whether Conversion Doubler will be a huge hit. I’ll do everything possible to get it there. I’ll make it so incredibly good that people will get made fun of for not having it.

    It’s the difference between DOING THINGS and having things DONE TO YOU. One accepts failure, the other doesn’t.

  3. Roadblocks are NOT bad. They just are. They’re the bouncer that separates the worthy from the unworthy. You’re the one who decides which you are, though. There are a finite number of roadblocks between you and success, and each one you smash brings you one step closer. Think about it… there’s an infinite amount of work you CAN do, but there are only so many roadblocks you NEED to break before success.
  4. Everything you do is either moving you TOWARDS success or AWAY from success. Which direction is movies and tv? How about blocking every worthless site you read on a daily basis and quitting them cold turkey (I did that)?

    Obviously you need some balance. You don’t want to ONLY work because then other areas of your life will fall out of balance. But treat them the same way and work towards your goals

    Eat healthy, work out, and spend time with your friends. When you’re taking time off, make it count. That’s why I’m on Life Nomadic. When we take breaks we do things like take a road trip to the interior and experience Carnival.

  5. Most importantly, realize that it is ESSENTIAL to do this. Unless you’re willing to bet your entire future on some random one in a billion chance that you’ll get super lucky, you WILL NEED this habit of insane persistence. If you want to reach the top level, you must give it 100%. If you don’t, someone else will.

    This was probably the most important realization for me. It suddenly occurred to me that I would NEED to get this down, and if not now, when?

I want to keep writing about this forever. It’s so important and means so much to me now that I want to write in all caps until every single person reading it realizes how important it is. I wonder if people read posts like this and do something about it, or if they read it and then go eat cookies and watch friends.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent.
Genius 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.

Published

18 comments

  1. Welcome Ty!

    Hard work is a much more predictable path to success than luck.

    I’m very glad to see you taking the right steps. If you need any assistance working through some part of any project you have, let me know and I’d love to help you with it.

    Glad to see you’re taking the smarter path now. 🙂

  2. Who are you? What have you done with Herbal? We don’t negotiate with terrorists. Give us back Tynan and no one will be harmed. Ty, can you hear us? CAN YOU HEAR ME? Have they hurt you? Are you okay? Do not worry, I have the President on the other line… I have Al Gore on the other line. Everything is going to be fine.

  3. Wow, this really speaks to me. I have to say that I’ve always been in a similar boat as you. Tons of ideas, tons of unfinished projects, tons of dreams of future success but no follow-through.

    I have a blog that I only post to 2-4 times a month, a 10 page screenplay I’ve been talking about for the last 5 years, about a dozen unfinished business plans, and several notebooks filled with a gazillion ideas. All of these have one thing in common, a lack of focus.

    I think if I would just pick one of these things to push through the pain period, I could achieve great success. Perhaps it’s finally time to buckle down.

    Great post!

  4. Inspirational post mate. You should write an allegorical autobiography, collect all these posts into one volume. These stories are so hilarious and/or inspiring, and deserve to be put into print.
    – Nate 😀

  5. This is EXACTLY what is happening in my life right now. You are so right Tynan. This is probably one of THE BEST things I have read in a long time.

  6. I really like that what you say in this post flies in the face of the “outsource it as soon as possible” crowd! I sometimes wonder how well their businesses really do.

  7. Last time I tried to post on another one of your posts (it involved homeless people?) it didn’t let me.
    But this is exactly where I am in my life. Lots and LOTS of ideas. And projects. I’ a dreamer. I’m optimistic about life. Thing is, I have this trait where I don’t finish things. I’ll just keep chasing new things. When people say “stick to one thing and see it through” they have a point. I struggle with that. Guess it’s part of my ADD personality. Doesn’t mean I can’t change it though. What I like best about this post is how you reference your grandfather and how persistent he was.

  8. This article really resonated with me. I often give up at that third stage right before success. I give my self too much credit for having great ideas. I need to stop talking and just start doing. I will definitely be reviewing your grandfather’s quote frequently for inspiration.

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