Friday, November 09, 2007

Perseverance Pays

I'm not sure where we ever got the idea that things should come easy in life. It's true that some times people do 'luck' into great success. That can't be denied. Far more often, however, success comes from hard work and perseverance. Two of my favorite quotes from Thomas Edison are:

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!” and

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

So often we give up on things because it doesn't come easily. We assume the difficulty means that 'it wasn't meant to be.' It is probably one of the biggest mistakes in life.

I was recently reading about the history of the Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. I know there are issues of controversy surrounding their treatment of chickens, etc. These are important issues and are a sign of the times in terms of how we live in this new modern age. Setting aside those issues for a moment, I want to focus on the origins of this business.

Harland Sanders (the man who would become 'the colonel') was operating a gas station in the midst of the depression, when he got the idea to put his cooking skills to work to feed hungry travelers. He actually started feeding people at his own dining room table. He had learned to cook as a very young man, when his father was killed and at age 6 he took over most of the cooking responsibilities for his family.

He was 40 years old when he started serving meals at his gas station in 1930. He worked on the chicken recipe, and adopted the use of the pressure cooker when it was introduced in 1939. He pioneered the idea of complete 'meal replacement' which was revolutionary at the time.

He begins trying to sell franchises for the KFC chicken recipe in 1952. He sets up his first franchise in Utah, with a handshake deal to receive 5 cents for each piece of chicken sold!

In 1955 Sanders sells the original gas station that he owned at the same time that he received his first social security check from the government. He is almost completely broke at this point in his life. This is 25 years after he started working on his 'chicken' idea!!

It is 1960 before he finally starts to see the fruits of his labor! He has 190 franchisees and 400 restaurants in operation by this time.

By 1964, there are 600 restaurants open and the business is on its way to world wide success. Colonel Sanders sells his interest in the company for $2,000,000. (Which would be about $10 million dollars if adjusted for inflation).

It took 30 years for the 'idea' to become a financial success for Harland Sanders. He was 74 years old when he finally saw the benefits of his many years of hard work and perseverance.

I find tremendous encouragement and inspiration in stories like this one. So many of us expect things to just happen to us. Or, we set out with a goal and start to hit the bumps in the road and feel defeated. We give up long before any positive results could materialize.

Regardless of what we think of fried chicken or KFC, we can all take a lesson from the Colonel and Winston Churchill who said, "Never, never, never, never give up!"

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