Jan 8

Against all odds….

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Against all odds….

What does it mean to be really driven by success? We often hear people talk about career success using words such as drive, focus, passion and commitment. We should also acknowledge for many small businesses attributes such as dedication and self-sacrifice are part of the landscape. But what is reality?

In a Sunday Times article last year, there was a joint interview of James Dyson and his son Jake. Jake recalled how, when his father was developing his bagless vacuum cleaners, he built 5127 prototypes before he got the concept right. Yes, 5127! Can you imagine the long hours and the challenges of trying to fund this work as well as deal with a young family?

When he had a product, he then had the challenge of creating a market for it. The established vacuum cleaner businesses made all of their money out of replacement bags, so were hardly wanting to embrace paradigm changing innovation. The last hurdle on the road was that when he eventually found a partner to manufacture the machines, after 9 months they terminated the arrangement and brought out an exact copy of his machine. Dyson won his case for copyright infringement and never looked back. Today, his net worth is over £3 billion and he owns more land in England that Her Majesty the Queen. Along the way there were some hard lessons, to this day Dyson (the company) do not outsource their product manufacturing and are held up as a great example of an innovative design company.

This is not a unique story, noting Thomas Edison became famous for what he said about his invention of the light bulb – “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.” (Source: Forbes 2011). In these terms James Dyson therefore found 5127 ways not to make a bagless vacuum cleaner.

Lets go back to the four words I picked out to describe career success earlier, namely drive, focus, passion and commitment. James Dyson and Thomas Edison are great examples of positivism and determination. However it is also clear that determination of itself was not enough. To keep going through the many thousands of iterations required to get to the right end result requires very strong self-belief and a vision for how things could be. In fact Dyson was once quoted as saying that he kept on going with the prototypes until he had the design and implementation 100% right and he had not been prepared to go to market until he was at that point.

How would you describe yourself? Driven, focused, motivated, committed? How do you think your determination would compare to James Dyson’s steely determination against all odds? Do you have the right focus to deliver on your business vision? By the way, you have to be yourself and not James Dyson, so this is about thinking about your progress towards your future life. It is valid to conclude his lessons in life don’t apply to me at all.

It is always useful to take time to reflect on the challenges of life. Are you accomplishing what you wanted to for yourself? Do you have the right work life balance? Do you really have what it takes to be successful “against the odds”? I often review these types of thoughts with clients in my coaching practice. If you are not living the life you want, I’d recommend investment in coaching. One last question – if you are not prepared to invest in yourself, then why should an outside investor?


This post was originally posted by Peter Duffell on LinkedIn.

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