Ray Kroc was the billionaire founder of McDonald’s, he revolutionized the business of eating in America and change our lives forever. There were no franchises before Ray Kroc – he changed every street corner in the nation in half a century.
Winston Churchill. Fearless leader of Great Britain during the darkest hours of World War II. Without his vision, courage, and ability to communicate strength and confidence England would not have endured. His tenacity and wisdom saved a nation.
Yes, these are some tremendously successful men. They have impacted so many of us in ways we can barely understand. But, to stop there is to miss a crucial lesson to be learned from each of these men. The most important fact regarding each of these men is that once upon a time they were “losers!”
Yes LOSERS!!!! These guys did not walk into success. They did not follow a linear trajectory to leadership in their fields. They were dreamers. Often scorned. Often abused for their pursuit of a bigger future, for their passion in following their hearts and for their lack of success along the path.
Before regular guy Kurt Warner became NFL Superstar Kurt Warner he was an undrafted quarterback from the University of Northern Iowa (not a football powerhouse). He was a third stringer until his senior year. He had moderate success as a starter. Not the stuff that NFL dreams are built upon. He received no outside encouragement to pursue football. He took on work stocking groceries and playing in the Arena League (football Siberia) for over four years. Then the NFL called. Then he became Kurt Warner. How often do you think he was told to quit and get a “real” job? I bet the St. Louis Rams are glad he didn’t!
Ray Kroc was a 55 year old traveling salesman. Just making a living selling shake machines when he met a couple brothers who had a killerhamburger stand. He got a crazy idea in 1955 of buying their concept and selling it to other people all over the country. At an age most of us give up and commit to watching Wheel of Fortune and wasting our days away he started worked tirelessly until he “struck it rich.” For deeper insight into the efforts made by the “old” man to build an empire, read Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonalds, a great play by play in the slow growth to success (Regardless of your opinion of the sludge sold by McDonald’s, you have to acknowledge their effectiveness is impacting the world, even if it is for purposes of poisoning people for profit).
Harrison Ford landed in Hollywood in 1964. He became Han Solo in 1977, at the age of 35. He was working as a carpenter and doing odd jobs to feed his family. Why did he stick to it? As he states in Success Magazine:
I chose acting primarily because it is a place where I found a sense of purpose and I had the ability and the agility for it, but it was a long time before I was successful at it. I had an ambition to do what I ended up doing, and persisted when others said I couldn’t do it. There were a lot of people who gave up. But I prevailed and tenacity was a big part of the reason. I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit.
How many of us have the vision and strength of belief to commit 13 years to our dream in the face of a certain flood of “advice” to throw in the towel?
Winston Churchill was a political outcast before the outbreak of the war. He spent the 1930’s as a ridiculed has been – spurned, dismissed and irrelevant. But he remained true to himself philosophically, politically and socially – he did not change to suit the turning tides. In time, the tides turned again and the times demanded his exact qualifications.
This is a great challenge for us all – to balance our core values and beliefs against the tides of change – political correctness, corporate agendas and the whims of our culture. It is hard to remain true in the face of relentless opposition, even if you are right.
So when is a loser really a LOSER? In hindsight we admire, envy and emulate each of these men. Had we bumped into them before they achieved their current status, we may have snubbed our noses at them, ridiculed them and shamed them for their “lack of ambition” and unwillingness to “grow up.” How many people walk the streets today with dreams in their hearts – those they have surrendered because they were afraid of being called a loser? What is the world missing out on because we hate dreamers – until they prove us wrong.
Mid-life is filled with obstacles to success. The greatest being our own desire for “security” and fear of pursuing what burns inside us. We hide behind alcohol and fantasy football – laughing and plugging along, trying to convince ourselves of our own happiness, while the emptiness grows. We want to be “successful.” We measure this “success” by how we match up with those around us – car, house, vacations, kids, promotions – as the saying goes – we work and spend to buy stuff we don’t want, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.
We are stuck. The bar keeps rising. Everyone around us seems to be so happy (just look at their Facebook) so we keep doing what they are doing, even though we are miserable – we think its us. So we keep going.
What if you did something else? Pursued your dream? What would happen?
This is the sticky wicket. The pursuit of success has no set path, no guarantee of success and no timetable for fulfillment. The most difficult element is that you may be the ONLY person alive who has a clue as to what you are trying to achieve and why. Most people will think you are out of your mind – until you succeed – then they will call you a genius.
So, I ask again, when is a loser a LOSER? Someone who is working to become a writer, artist, musician or to build a business is thought to be a supreme fool when they are struggling. They are called loser, bums and deadbeats – scolded for not having a “real” job – told to give it up and join the “normal” folks on the train. Forget their silly dreams and “grow up.”
In response I leave you with four names and two quotes:
Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in. – Winston Churchill
Forty is the old age of youth,fifty is the youth of old age ~ Hosea Ballou
Do not throw in the towel! Do not commit to spending the rest of your life tracking your prescriptions, charting your medical ailments and bitching about the government. Do something great, unique and true to YOU!
Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.