[Image courtesy of Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror]
Success is about a lot of things, but without perseverance none of them matter. Being smart really helps, but it doesn’t guarantee success. Many very brilliant people can’t successfully start companies, and many not so brilliant people have runaway successes. Luck can help, but it can’t stay with you forever. You can only be lucky for so long.
Honestly is there any other one single thing that can help you achieve success as consistently as perseverance? NO! Everything else, luck, money, intelligence, can help, but none of them will be as powerful as perseverance.
Learning to be successful takes time, effort, and energy. It’s the ability to keep on going through thick and thin. It’s the ability to not abandon when most other people would. It’s the ability to learn from your mistakes and continually improve. Or to use my favorite quote from Eddie Cantor “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.”. I couldn’t agree more.
A great example of overcoming perseverance comes from the company Harmonix, makers of the wildly successful and famous video game Guitar Heroes. It took Harmonix 10 full years of development and improvements to build this series of games and achieve success. The graph at the top of this post really shows you the perseverance the folks at Harmonix had to keep pushing on. Sure they had revenues, but they also had negative profits. It would have been very easy to quit, but they kept on pushing.
If you ask most people today about the Guitar Heroes series, they’ve only learned about it in the last while with the release of Guitar Heroes 2. That’s when it really started to get some traction. And recently with Guitar Heroes 3 and Rock Band going mainstream, just about everyone knows about them. How many of you played, seen, or even heard of the original Guitar Heroes (version 1) game?
As a side note, Harmonix developed Guitar Heroes 2 for RedOctane, but not the latest Guitar Heroes 3 game. Without getting into the details, Harmonix was acquired by MTV in 2006, and as part of its first project it developed the other major competing game to Guitar Heroes 3 called Rock Band (Guitar Heroes 3 was developed for RedOctane by another company). Rock Band of course became a large success. A major part of their success with Rock Band was because of all the knowledge they had acquired over their years learning how to build Guitar Heroes, Dance Dance Revolutions, and so on. In other words, because of their perseverance. Perseverance really pays off!
I’ll give you another great example, my own company LandlordMax. If you look at the graph just above, it’s a 12 month moving average of our sales revenues (with the first 12 months missing to be able to get the first average). As you can see, we had almost no growth in 2005 according to this graph. Although I could’ve sworn we did, it tells me otherwise (a moving average graph acts as a way to smoothen the data points).
In other words, it basically took us two years to really get LandlordMax going. Sure it’s not nearly as long as ten years for Harmonix, but how many of you would keep at it for 2 years before seeing any significant growth? That’s with 3 major version releases (not counting the initial 1.00 release).
Perseverance is the key to success! It took us a while to get the “right” features into LandlordMax, to fully understand what our users really wanted. It took Harmonix many years to get the “right” music software, the “right” polish. Once they understood it though, it didn’t take them very long at all to create another completely new game (Rock Band) and achieve the same success with it. Learning how to succeed takes time and perseverance. It takes commitment and effort.
As the movie Run Fatboy Run asks, what will you do when you hit the “wall”? Will you push through it or give up and go home?
PS: If you haven’t already read it, I recommend reading Jeff’s somewhat related post Living the Dream: Rock Band. It’s about the importance of putting the user’s goals at the forefront of your business. And it’s also the inspiration that initiated this post.