These words are easy to say, but not always so easy to do. Nowhere is this truer than in your fight to invent something new or grow a prevailing business. As you strive to bring your vision to life, you will face countless obstacles and barriers to success. These obstacles can take on many different shapes and forms. Whether it is someone stealing your ideas, business partners flaking out, or even loved ones leaving you behind, the life of a creator is an ongoing test of wills. Can you learn to see the beauty in struggle and persist toward the life you desire?
The world of literature offers an inspiring example of what this attitude means in practice. In the groundbreaking novel “The Fountainhead”, readers meet an architect named Howard Roark. A few years into his career, Roark is alone, struggling financially, and consigned to working in an obscure rock quarry while his corrupt colleague basks in fame and prestigious assignments. While these circumstances are enough to reduce anyone to hopelessness and despair, Roark heroically refuses to give up. His reason?
“Throughout the centuries, there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing with their own vision. The great creators – the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the main of their time. Every new thought was opposed, every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won.”
By staying true to his vision, Roark persisted through his temporary hardships and ultimately triumphed in his chosen field. If you want to keep going, you need to become a man of unborrowed vision yourself. But how can you do what Roark did? It’s one thing for a fictional character to inspire us to great things. It is another for a real flesh-and-blood person to actually do so. Fortunately, history is filled with strong-willed men and women who have done just that. Their larger-than-life stories offer us both wisdom and encouragement to keep going when we know that we should.
One of the most inspiring stories of all belongs to Steve Jobs. Most of us know Jobs as the high-flying founder of Apple, the man who brought us the iPod, iMac, and every movie to come out of Pixar’s studios. But in 1986, Jobs was anything but. Exiled from the company he started, Jobs found himself alone and for the first time in his life, without a purpose. Jobs offers a rare personal glimpse into this dark period of his life in a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005.
“I was lucky; I found what I wanted to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years, Apple had gone from just the two of us in a garage, into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I had just turned 30.”
If we stop the story there, many of us would envy Jobs. How many people can say that they found the work they love and achieved that type of success at such a young age? However, the story does not end there. Jobs continues:
“And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew, we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me. And for the first year or so, things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge, and eventually, we had a falling out. When we did, our board of directors sided with him. And so at 30 I was out – and very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I didn’t really know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down, that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with the board and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the valley.”
Here, we see Jobs at rock-bottom. The fruit of a life’s labor gone in the blink of an eye. A gaping void where a beaming pride and sense of direction once was. Against such crushing odds, a lesser person might have simply given up and resigned to failure. Not Jobs.
“But something slowly began to dawn on me: I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I’d been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next 5 years I started a company named NeXt, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXt, and I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXt is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laureen and I have a wonderful family together.
Sometime’s life’s gonna hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
Like Roark, Jobs was a man of unborrowed vision. Cast off from all of his material success and legacy, he retained what no outside force could take away: his intransigent love of what he did. There is a lesson here that every person should learn. It is not your social status, possessions, or professional ability that makes you who you are. They are important, but they are only effects, not causes. They are the just rewards of an attitude, of the refusal to let any hardship tame the fire of your passion and hold you down.
So, if you find yourself staring down impossible odds, keep going. Don’t give up.
Eric Corl is the Founder and CEO of IdeaBuyer.com, the online marketplace for intellectual property that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.