William Feather on “Perseverance Rewarded”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Quotes, skmurphy

In “Perseverance Rewarded” William Feather offers some good advice for getting started. Many folks succeed because they don’t realize how hard it is to accomplish what they have set out to do (of course several orders of magnitude more fail).

Perseverance Rewarded

“Too many of us wait to do the perfect thing, with the result that we do nothing. […] No one gets anywhere until he gets rid of the idea that his first effort is going to startle the world.

The way to get ahead is to start now. If you start now, you will know a lot next year that you don’t know now and that you wouldn’t know next year if you had waited. While a lot of us are waiting until conditions are just right before we go ahead, others are stumbling along, fortunately ignorant of the dangers that beset them. By the time that we, in our superior wisdom, decide to make a start, we discover that the fools, in their blundering way, have traveled quite a distance.

Every man who makes unusual progress seems to have been something of a fool, by which I mean that he undertook things no solidly sensible fellow would attempt. I hear startling confessions from men who quit good jobs with sure pay to tackle insecure jobs with uncertain pay. Men go into business ventures with little but hope to sustain and feed them, and twenty years later you hear they have been ordered by their doctor to take a trip around the world.

None of these men would dare to live their lives over again. Success hung on too thin a thread. In retrospect, they know the dangerous passes through which they traveled, but in the excitement of the chase they were spared all doubts. They simply plunged forward, protected by their very ignorance and assurance.

[…]

The men who, ten or twenty years from now, will be the envy of the rest of us are this minute beating their way through the brambles of the world’s indifference. They are not doing much, but they are doing something, making a little progress each day. Out of the experience they are gaining they will someday do the perfect or near perfect thing, and thus command the world’s admiration.”

William Feather in “The Business of Life

There are several good insights here:

  • Getting started in an exploratory mindset, or at least a balancing a certain amount of planning and reflection with tinkering, experimentation, and opening yourself to serendipity is more likely to find a way forward.
  • Making small bets you can afford to lose but which can teach you things about the market or possible solutions allows you many chances at figuring out how to succeed.
  • You are more likely to stumble over something in new surroundings or in conversations with strangers than have a flash of insight in familiar surroundings with old friends.
  • There is a fair amount of chance and uncertainty which means you have to budget for multiple attempts that don’t work or make a small step forward.

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Comments (7)

  • SKMurphy

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    […] I think many entrepreneurs are motivated as much by self-sufficiency, either at a personal or family level, as a higher calling. I think you elevate your goals, similar to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” as more basic motivations are satisfied. Bronson seems to be rejecting Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” but I think what he is really saying is that  pure doing is not enough–whether it’s writing code, writing books, sculpting, painting, etc.. I have to balance my obligations to myself, my family, and my community. This is at the heart of Tim O’Reilly’s three rules as well. “If you do not have the capacity for happiness with a little money, great wealth will not bring it to you.” William Feather […]

    Reply

  • SKMurphy

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    […] Another excerpt from William Feather’s “The Business of Life” From page 262, an entry entitled “A Conservative Club.” More than forty-five years ago a group of men…organized a club for men of common intellectual interest. It was agreed that the membership would be limited to thirty, and that twelve meetings would be held each year in the fall and winter months. In rotation, each member would read a paper. Sole expense would be the price of a modest dinner and a fine of twenty-five cents [1949 dollars] for an absence, the revenue of the latter to pay the expense of sending notices of meetings. […]

    Reply

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