How patience, effort, and learning support a
sustainable business legacy
By Dan Coughlin
Dan Coughlin’s audio
version of this article is
available for download
Some people dig for gold. Others dig for oil. I like to dig for habits that people use to achieve success over an extended period of time. I’m interested in how Warren Buffett started with 10 dollars and built a fortune worth tens of billions. I’m interested in how Ayn Rand and Mark Twain wrote great
novels over a period of several decades. I’m interested in how Steve Jobs dropped out of
college because he didn’t think his parents should have to bear that expense and ended up
building extraordinary products over four decades. I get excited any time I learn about a
person who has achieved greatness over a long span.
Three common denominators I have found among all of these intriguing examples are
sustained patience, effort, and learning.
Every long-term success story I’ve ever studied has patience at its core.
No matter how much an individual seems like an overnight success, there is always a
period of preparation where that person struggled to find his or her way and master the
art of what he or she was doing. The same holds true for organizations. Everywhere I turn
I’m reminded of this idea.
I went to apple.com to look at what Apple is up to these days. The iPad 2 is a mind-boggling product. It is the latest reminder that Steve Jobs’s vision from the late 1970s has
come true over and over and over again. He set out to make amazing products when he
was very young, and he has done so on a consistent basis for four decades.
My wife, Barb, and I took our kids, Sarah and Ben, to Hannibal, Missouri, for a quick
two-day getaway over spring break. (Barb won’t let me call it an official vacation.) I loved
it. Hannibal is about 85 miles from my house and is the childhood home of Mark Twain.
As usual, I didn’t fully understand the treasures we have so close to home until I went and
looked at them as an adult. Mark Twain was the first great American novelist who wrote tru-