Monday, April 17, 2017

Horse Sense

Part 1 of a 3-part series on business strategy.

As the plethora of podcasts on the topic proves, freelancers' and entrepreneurs' craving for business advice is insatiable.

Those seekers of commercial know-how could do no better than Mercator's 10-part series, "Business: Reasons of Failure and Roads to Success."

It's not a podcast, but a series of articles that ran in the British trade journal Saddlery and Harness between August 1892 and June 1893 (the author took December off).

Who Mercator was remains a mystery; but that hardly makes his advice―tips on everything from advertising to time management―any less sound.

On the subject we'd call "focus," Mercator's advice is as pointed as any you'd hear from Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk:

"Amongst the answers given by businessmen to the question as to the chief causes of failure occur the following," Mercator says. "'Unwillingness to labor and wait,' 'lack of perseverance,' 'haste to get rich,' 'undue haste to accumulate,' 'drifting,' 'unwillingness to achieve success in the old-fashioned way,' 'waiting for opportunities,' 'unwillingness to work persistently,' 'lack of appreciation for the opportunities of life,' 'unsteadiness of purpose,' 'lack of persistent application,' 'unwillingness to begin at the foot of the ladder and work up.'"

All these causes of failure, he says, amount to one thing: disdain for details.

"It is a common thing for us to speak of our great men as genii, and to suppose that a genius is a man who from his birth inherited a superiority of brain which was bound to carry him to excellence, when he took up the line of life he was especially gifted for," Mercator says.

"To a certain extent, and in certain cases this is undoubtedly true; but what definition did one of our greatest writers and scholars—Carlyle—give of genius? He said genius is nothing more or less than 'the capacity for taking infinite pains.' This, indeed, is the secret of the success of the most eminent men in all times.

"Take Newton and all the most celebrated astronomers; take Stephenson, Brunel and all the famous engineers; take Watt, Edison, and all clever inventors; take Sir Robert Peel, Gladstone, and most of the principal politicians and prime ministers of England; take great poets, artists, warriors, and all the men who have risen to eminence in the world, and you will find that they have almost all been famous for their industry, their patience and their perseverance."

Sound too quaint?

In 1995, Steve Jobs told Computerworld, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
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