A Lesson in Tenacity, Welcome Back Absolute Piano

absolute piano now in harlem1By Rapheal B.

Absolute Piano just opened their new store in Brooklyn after their store was destroyed by the gas explosion in East Harlem on March 12th of 2014. It was a bittersweet for me because I wanted them to stay in East Harlem since a store like Absolute Piano was a perfect fit for our community, providing us with pianos for the performances at our theater and gallery. However, seeing that they are rebounding, willing to put in the large amount of time, money and effort to start from scratch filled me with joy and hope. No matter where they go I will continue to do business with them because they are not only excellent at what they do but they have a passion for doing it no matter what the odds. We will continue to patronize their business regardless of the distance because they have taken care of us as they do with all their clients and we appreciate their hard work.

As an entrepreneur myself, I know that the demands of running a business today are incredibly challenging. Daily, entrepreneurs are exposed to a barrage of new issues and circumstances that we must quickly grasp to meet ever present deadlines. This unrelenting process can be even more difficult when put on top of financial difficulties and other personal problems. In most cases, only one thing separates those that succeed from those that close – tenacity. Tenacity is found in all people that succeed. Those that have tenacity will not quit when confronted by obstacles or when failing. In business or in life, tenacity wants to win, and tenacity lives by the credo, “Accepting failure is not an option.” When failure is imminent, tenacity is the inner voice that declares, “I will not be denied!”

Whether it is known by its other names (as willpower, determination, or persistence), it has been shown time and time again to be the key to success. It is the fire that pushes us to our limits because it will not accept anything less than our best. In the end, people with tenacity will win or break themselves trying. The reward of tenacity is that even if you fail in your first attempt, after giving it your all, you have grown.

The importance of tenacity is stressed by those that have studied success. The American author Napoleon Hill spent twenty years studying success and was a pioneer in the field. Hill determined that persistence was a key factor in achieving success. In his monumental book, Think and Grow Rich, Hill states, “Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure. Moreover, experience with thousands of people has proved that lack of persistence is a weakness common to the majority of men”. Hill goes on to say, “One thing we all know, if one does not possess persistence, one does not achieve noteworthy success in any calling”.

Anthony Robbins has built a multi-million dollar empire by teaching people how to be successful. His “Ultimate Success Formula” is the essence of tenacity. First, the tenacious must define a goal. Second, they take action to achieve the goal. Finally, if what they are doing is not working they adapt their approach until they reach their goal.

Anthony Robbins tells the story of Colonel Sanders to prove the value of tenacity. Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, did not begin creating a chicken franchise until he was a sixty-five years old retiree. Deeming his Social Security checks too small, he looked for something he could do to bring in more money. He had a great chicken recipe and believed a restaurant would use his recipe and give him a percent of the profits from the recipe. It seemed absurd to business owner that would share profits with this man when they already had a chicken recipe they used for free. The idea was not an easy sell. But Sanders would not give up. He was turned down 1,009 times before a restaurant made a deal with him. Had he stopped at ten, or one hundred, or even one thousand rejections he would not have reaped the rewards from his not-so-crazy idea.

Sylvester Stallone has a similar story. When he was interviewed recently by David Letterman he shed light on how he got into the movie industry and it was not a smooth ride. He wanted desperately to break into acting. He was rejected repeatedly and was told he would never be an actor because it was difficult to understand him when he spoke. However, he has that internal fire. He knew what he wanted and would stop at nothing to get it. Instead of giving up, Stallone wrote the movie Rocky, with the stipulate that he would have to be the lead. And yet again, he faced rejection. Eventually, a producer agreed to buy the rights to Rocky for $256,000 as long as Stallone was not the star. The money could have gone a long way for Stallone, who was nearly broke at this point, but it would not have fulfilled his dream. Instead, he agreed to $75,000 and ten percent of the net profits so he could be the star. Through his tenacity, Stallone attained his dream and look where he is today

The French scientist Louis Pasteur frames tenacity nicely when he says, “Let me tell you the secret which has led me to the goal. My only strength resides in my tenacity.” Ultimately, the level of one’s tenacity determines the level of success one achieves in life. Whether it is because of faith, love, or a deep sense of purpose, people that have tenacity will live a more fulfilling life than those that collapse at every obstacle.

I have to make the point though that tenacity alone does not guarantee success and many times the tenacious lose – but there is something to be gained by not giving up. You gain a tremendous amount of discipline, and the ability to hold nothing back as you pursue your goals. These traits will help you as you confront the challenges of business and/or life so that the next time around your chances of losing get lower and lower.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that tenacity needs to be taught in school across our nation. I read about a teacher in Philadelphia who teaches her students the concept of tenacity when working in small groups in the following manner: She gives each group two plastic cups, one green and one red, and advise students to keep one inside the other in the center of their table (or adjoining desks), with the red cup on the outside when a group needs your help and the green on the outside when it doesn’t.

I love this simple, yet elegant idea for a few reasons. First, it lets teachers a chance to see from anywhere in the room which groups need help at any given time. Second, it’s a concrete way to promoting independent and interdependent learning by only helping students if they’ve exhausted all other available resources including each other. Best of all, the cups help students develop important non-cognitive (or character) traits/skills such as self-determination and collaboration. At first, for example, some students are quicker than others to give up and reach for a red cup. But more often than not, one (or more) of their fellow group members will protest: “Hey, change that back to green.” Over time, this I’m-not-ready-to-give-up-and-ask-the-teacher mentality becomes contagious, and students are more persistent. They’re also more motivated to reach out to each other for help. Who would have thought a couple of plastic cups could inspire such tenacity and teamwork?

Seeing my friends today when visiting at Absolute Piano can serve as a lesson for all of us and especially my fellow business owners: Determination and care for our customers is the essential formula for success in our businesses and in our lives.

Good luck to Mark and Ms. Muramatsu. You have taught us that adversity is nothing more than a part of life…

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