"Monday 5 Things" with D. Paul Graham


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Photo: D. Paul Graham

Monday 5 Things….. Persistence and Belief…..

I could see the pain in his eyes and hear in his voice the strain of the difficulties he continues to face. By all means of logic, his company should have been bankrupt two years ago. I have seen lesser men throw in the towel and walk away from their business with far less adversity. Yet here he was, fighting another day to keep his company alive. Despite his fears, failures and setbacks, –  many of which he had no control over – he continues to get up every morning for his family, his employee’s families, his suppliers and his customers; with a dogged and tenacious persistence, and belief. In his faith, his dream and his vision. Today’s M5T looks at others who have lived their persistence and belief.

1. Ten Thousand Ways

He grew up in the Midwest and was home schooled by his mother because of a serious hearing impediment. He loved to dream, to tinker, to invent. His 1,093 patents continue to impact our lives today. He failed many times along the way, yet was persistent, and believed in what he was trying to accomplish. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb, but he was the one person that was able to create a lightbulb that lasted many hours. He in turn created the electric utility system that powered all those bulbs. “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Thomas Edison.

2. Adriannnnnnne!

Growing up, he struggled emotionally and academically, resulting in being expelled from a number of schools. He sold his dog for $25 to pay his electrical bill. He was rejected time and time again by over 1,500 agents that said he talked funny, walked funny and couldn’t act. He slept in a New Jersey bus terminal for almost a month as he tried to save money to afford an apartment. At the lowest point in his life he wrote a movie script about an underdog boxer who literally fought his way to achieve his dream. At the age of 30, Sylvester Stallone was offered $325,000 for the rights to the movie – with the caveat the he would not act in the movie. He turned down not only that offer, but a second, richer, offer because of his persistence and belief that he should play the role of Rocky Balboa. He finally accepted an offer for $35,000, and a percentage of the film’s sales, and took on the role of Rocky. The film has so far grossed over $200 million. And his dog you may ask? He bought back his beloved bull mastiff, Butkus, who also appeared in Rocky. “Dreams cost nothing. They are free. The hard part is just keeping them going.” Sylvester Stallone.

3. Two Wheel Dream

At 15, with no formal education, he left his small village to head to the big city to find work. He found a job at a small auto repair shop where he worked for six years. In the middle of the depression, he pawned his wife’s wedding ring to start a company to produce piston rings for a company called Toyota. His company failed. But he never lost his vision of creating a better piston ring, and two years later was supplying his piston rings to Toyota. His factory was destroyed in WWII when it was bombed. He rebuilt the factory. The second factory was leveled by an earthquake, but he still didn’t give up. He had tinkered for years with the idea of a motorized bicycle. Soichiro Honda’s persistence and belief lead to the start of the Honda motorcycle. “There is a Japanese proverb that literally says, ‘Raise the sail with your stronger hand’, meaning you must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.” Socihiro Honda.

4. A lot of Kisses

He left school to apprentice with a local printer, only to lose his job after accidentally dropping his hat into one of the machines. He was 14 years old. He then went to work for a candy company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and continued on to start his own candy store close to Philadelphia. That business failed. He left Pennsylvania, wandering from New Orleans to Chicago, but couldn’t find the right opportunity that he envisioned. He went to New York, where he took a job with another candy store, quitting there to sell candies on the street. That didn’t succeed. Dejected at failing again, he returned to his family farm back in Pennsylvania where he began to experiment with chocolate and milk. In 1893, at the age of 36, Milton Hershey started the Lancaster Carmel Company, which he sold seven years later for one million dollars. That capital provided the means to start the Hershey Chocolate Company. His persistence and belief in himself built one of the most famous candy brands in the world. “In this world when you have an idea and you know you are right, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.” Milton Hershey.

5. Lines of Assembly

At 28, while working at the Edison Illuminating Company, he decided to become an engineer. He rose to chief engineer at the age of 30, and around the same time began to experiment with gasoline engines. In 1899, when he was 35, he raised some money to design and build a ‘self-propelled vehicle’ and started the Detroit Automobile Company. Production and design methods at the company were inefficient, and two years later he wasn’t able to pay back a loan from two brothers with the last name Dodge. The company filed for bankruptcy. Raising more capital, he started another automotive company. It failed. In total, five of his companies failed, leaving his reputation in tatters. Still, with persistence and belief in his automotive vision, at 40 years of age, he convinced Scottish coal magnate, Alex Malcomson, to invest a total of 28 thousand dollars that allowed Henry Ford to start the Ford Motor Company. Interestingly, the Dodge brothers were given 10-percent of the company to supply production materials. Ford’s assembly line process revolutionized production of the cars, reducing time, money, and labor needed to build his cars. The Ford Model A sold for $750, forever transforming automotive production, and created an entirely new market for cars. “One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their greatest surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” Henry Ford.

 Here’s to a week of tenacious persistence and belief in yourself, your dreams, and your visions.

© 2019 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.

You can find M5T each Monday here on www.southmag.com and by friending D. Paul Graham on Facebook. Paul is also a contributing photographer to South Magazine. His photographic work can be found on Instagram @dpgraham and at www.imageGRAHAM.com. Your feedback is always welcome. Email Paul at dpg@imagegraham.com