Jason DeCrow, Jason DeCrow/Invision/AP
Editor’s note: Harvey Mackay is one of several presenters at the June 19 Rocky Mountain Leadership Conference, sponsored by Utah Business Magazine. Utah Business has provided this column as insight into what Mackay will present at the conference. To learn about the conference, go to utahbusiness.com/rmlc.
In 1935, Charles Darrow brought his board game invention to Parker Brothers. The experts at Parker Brothers rejected the game, Monopoly, for “containing 52 fundamental errors.”
The persistent Charles Darrow spent the year after his rejection demonstrating the potential success of the game by selling numerous editions of the board game himself. Ironically, in 1936, Darrow was well-received by the embarrassed Parker Brothers, which eventually helped make the unemployed heating engineer from Germantown, Pennsylvania, a multimillionaire.
Since that time, over 100 million copies of Monopoly have been sold in 31 countries. Each year, Parker Brothers prints more than $40 billion worth of Monopoly money — more than twice the amount of money printed annually by the U.S. Mint. Monopoly's success has produced 3.2 billion of those little green houses, enough to circle the globe.
Charles Darrow was hardly the first or last person who showed persistence and had a strong belief in his product. Many famous Americans have packed up their products and sold them out of the trunks of their cars.
Phil Knight, founder of Nike, sold his first shoes from the trunk of his green Plymouth Valiant. Curt Carlson, founder of Carlson, owner of the world’s largest travel company, Radisson Hotels and TGI Fridays restaurants, sold his first Gold Bond trading stamps out of his car.
Wayne Dyer wrote his first book, “Your Erroneous Zones,” in 1976. He told me that when his publisher didn’t want to promote the book, he decided to sell it himself. Dyer purchased the remaining copies and drove from New York to California, stopping at bookstores along the way and sleeping in the car. He also did as much media as he could. One night while doing a 2 a.m. radio interview, one of the listeners was Johnny Carson. He booked Dyer on “The Tonight Show,” and the rest is history. Dyer has since sold more than 35 million copies of “Your Erroneous Zones” and written over 30 other books.
Few people had as difficult a time getting their inventions accepted as Alexander Graham Bell. Even U.S. President Rutherford Hayes said of the telephone in 1876, “ Who would ever want to use them?”
Chester Carlson, another young inventor, took his idea to 20 big corporations in the 1940s. After seven years of rejections, he was able to persuade Haloid, a small Rochester, New York, company, to purchase the rights to his electrostatic paper-copying process. Haloid has since become Xerox Corporation.
Bette Nesmith Graham, in the 1950s, began using white, water-based tempera paint and a thin paintbrush to cover her typing errors. She sold her first bottle, originally called Mistake Out, in 1956. Graham later patented the office product. After starting out with just 100 bottles a month in sales, Liquid Paper was selling 25 million bottles a year when Graham sold it for a reported $47.5 million in 1979.
In 1927, the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School instructed student Lucille Ball to “try any other profession. Any other.” I wonder what would have made him say “I Love Lucy”?
Buddy Holly was fired from the Decca record label in 1956 by Paul Cohen, who was known as Nashville’s “artists and repertoire man.” Cohen called Holly “the biggest no-talent I ever worked with.”
Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot, threw up all over the back seat on his first flight as a passenger. He vowed never to go back up again, but eventually he reconsidered. Then he became the first man to break the sound barrier.
These are all examples of ordinary people with extraordinary persistence. None of these folks was famous or rich or even particularly successful before their big breaks.
We’ve all heard it before, but there really is no substitute for persistence. In fact, persistence is sometimes as important as talent. It must come from within. You either want it or you don’t. Giving up is not an option.
I remember when I was first starting out and asking a colleague I respected how many sales calls he would make on a prospect before giving up. He told me, “It depends on which one of us dies first.”
Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
Don't be discouraged. It's often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.
Mackay’s Moral: A flower has to push through a lot of dirt before it can blossom.