Nobody Sees the Hard Work of Success

Imagine an iceberg. Drifting out in the middle of the ocean, its magnitude, mass and power leaves even the bravest of sea captains quivering in his boots. With its great size and strength, floating there in all its frozen glory, it’s capable of damaging any ship which stands against it. Little does the sea captain know, though, that for everything the iceberg appears to be, it is so much more beneath the surface. In fact, as technology has expanded and deep-sea expeditions have gone deeper, we’ve discovered that the iceberg we see above the water is only 10% of the total giant, leaving a full 90% of its mass still lurking in the darkness beneath.

In many ways, this iceberg represents business. Ninety percent of the work and effort you put in lies beneath the surface, which people don’t always understand. Meanwhile, the 10% above the water line—the actual results of all your efforts—is what people do recognize. Then, when they see the 10%, they think, “Wow, how amazing. You did it.” However, what they don’t realize is the vast amount of hard work, the persistent effort and the immense patience it took to take an original idea from conception all the way to the final 10% results for people to see.

As a small business owner, I am convinced there is no recipe for life. Technology continues to expand and grow exceptionally, all within a very linear pattern. But that’s not necessarily how people work. It’s definitely not how life works. Life is not linear but follows a series of inexplicable patterns and roads that criss-cross, stop suddenly and seem to drag on forever. And this concept of linear growth is not how ideas work, either. Ideas are not linear or exponential. They’re messy and difficult; they change and adjust; they pivot and take sudden steps backward or forwards.

So when it comes to pushing ideas forward and creating new things—expanding life and people—it’s a pretty daunting task. Building a business on an idea is challenging, grueling work, which requires the perfect balance of patience and persistence. This patience reminds us not to respond emotionally during challenging times. As Inc. author Eric Holtzclaw says, “The greatest attribute a small business leader can have is the patience to allow progress to happen in its own time.” On the other hand, persistence encourages us to stick with our idea, to put one foot in front of the other, to not give up on our vision, but to continue to drive it forward. Justin Sachs, from Forbes, writes, “If we look throughout the world in every industry, in every culture, there’s one consistent trend among successful individuals, and that trend is the ability to persevere.” Combined with a disciplined process, a little bit of courage and an ideal vision, the balance between patience and persistence brings us through the 90% others never see.

In his book Die Empty, Todd Henry writes, “An ounce of preventative discipline today is worth a pound of corrective action later.” One of the keys to making meaningful contributions in business is falling in love with the process, not just the outcomes. Passion is an integral component of business, so it’s important to find a niche where you love the work as much as you love the outcome of the work. We should thrive in the practice, the study and the knowledge of what we do—not just in the prosperity it brings us. We should love the 10% of success as much as the 90% it takes to get there. Success revolves around a disciplined process, so falling in love with the process of patience and persistence will bring you the outcomes you want.

During the process, there’s also the challenge of discomfort. No one grows in their comfort zone. You must be willing to embrace discomfort and disrupt yourself. Our greatest growth lies outside of the comfort zone, thus we must learn to be okay with being uncomfortable if we want to grow. Sometimes the most courageous decision we can make is just to keep going when we’re outside our comfort zone. The smallest step can be the most courageous step if it’s a step in the right direction. If you want to build new ideas, grow new things and push innovations ahead, you have to embrace patience and persistence outside of your comfort zone, and use a  little bit of courage to keep moving forward.

As we learn the balance between patience and persistence, the most significant success we experience doesn’t appear in flashes or bursts, but through a gradual process. Only then, through this disciplined process of patience and patience—through building up the 90% of our iceberg—can we cast vision for what the last 10% will include. Vision is the most powerful tool for leaders. Our ability to see a picture of a future that’s worth working for, which pushes people towards it, is the most important thing as we work through the other 90%. Vision inspires us and keeps us aligned with patience and persistence, as we drag ourselves through the 90% to the other 10 across the finish line.

We need patience and persistence in business when things do not go well, or stop working all together. We need them both in order to keep moving forward. However, there’s a specific balance between the two that is critical to success. If we’re simply patient, life can beat us up or pass us by. But, if we’re too persistent, we can push people and opportunities away. Under pressure, it’s easy to lose either one or both of these components. It’s as simple as losing our patience with a situation and reacting emotionally. We might be angry, lash out or even quit all together. If we lose our persistence, we either give up when things don’t move quickly enough, or we get too persistent, and drive others away.

If we want to build success, we must keep patience and persistence in balance. We cannot be fully patient without any persistence, because opportunities could pass us by. However, we cannot be fully persistent without any patience, because we will push opportunities away. Step by step, we must keep these two characteristics in balance. We must learn the dance between the two of them, and become experts every step of the way.

Which brings us back to the iceberg. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you know everything that lies beneath the surface of your success. You understand the discipline, patience and persistence you put in long before anyone saw a glimpse of your accomplishments. We don’t always understand all of the hard, dedicated work which goes into pushing ideas forward, but we can recognize the success we see in others isn’t just that. It’s all of the amazing work and effort we don’t see—the 90% below the water line. And when we find the perfect balance between patience and persistence, we build an iceberg of a business.

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