Three Feet from Gold — Never Give Up

“Never, ever ever ever, ever give up.” — Winston Churchill

When I was thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, my father recommended I read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. That book changed my whole life, as it gave me the courage and knowledge to harness the power that was in my own mind. Hill is, in fact, the man who coined the well-known phrase “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, your mind can achieve.” And since reading the book (and becoming a startup founder), I’ve never doubted this is so.

Amongst the many life lessons taught in the book, Hill describes the core tenets if you are to succeed in life as follows:

1) Have a definite major purpose.

2) Maintain a positive mental attitude — believe you can do it.

3) Determine your specific plan to carry out your definite major purpose.

4) Build a mastermind alliance to cover your knowledge gaps and harness the power of the minds of others, who are willing to put the aim of the definite major purpose of the group above all else, working towards a common goal.

5) From your greatest failure will come the seed of an equivalent benefit, which will become your greatest success.

6) Back yourself with everything you’ve got and BELIEVE that the universe is designed to bring success to those with a burning desire for it. (This is otherwise known as “applied faith” in “infinite intelligence”.)

The part of the book that stood out to me the most was the anecdote “Three Feet from Gold”. A man named R.U. Darby had traveled to Colorado during the gold rush days in the American West. Finding a vein of gold, Darby quickly enlisted his uncle to finance the machinery necessary to mine gold and were successful miners for a time. Alas, disaster struck. No more gold was forthcoming. After drilling day after day, the promise of gold which had so enticed them was nowhere to be found. Finally, after searching for what they believed to be a futile exercise, Darby and his uncle both decided to quit. Seeking to salvage some of their investment, they quickly sold their expensive mining equipment at a fraction of the cost to a common, uneducated junkman, and returned East.

But the “junkman” to whom they sold their equipment was no “common man”. While he lacked the education of the upper-crust, aristocratic customers who quit when the goings got tough, he possessed definite major purpose and a positive mental attitude. The “junkman” was smart enough to know what he didn’t know. Rather than melt down the machinery for scrap metal for quick cash, the junkman assessed the situation, and, not convinced that the mine had no gold, hired a mining engineer to get an expert opinion. The engineer’s discovery was astonishing — he found the vein of gold ore that Darby and his uncle had been seeking, just three feet from where they had stopped drilling!

Astonishing to everyone, that is, except the junkman. He knew enough to seek expert counsel and look at alternatives. He persisted when all seemed lost. Where lesser men gave up mere inches away from riches beyond their wildest dreams, the “junkman”, much less educated than his ne’er-do-well predecessors, followed his gut instinct, persevered, and reaped the benefits.

As for Darby, he learned from his mistakes and eventually became a millionaire later in life, attributing his tenacity and persistence in doing so to this event. Indeed, his motto became: “The most common cause of failure is quitting.”

As a startup founder, I think about this story every single day. Don’t get me wrong — no one wants to delude themselves. Part of the reason we obsessively test our theories in startups is because we want to make sure we are doing the right things that customers want, and to make sure there are enough customers to make the business financially successful. But if you have tested your idea and believe it to be a viable business; if you love what you do so much that you jump up out of bed every morning ready to make your dream a reality; if you refuse to take “no” for an answer because you know in your heart, mind and soul that you’re on the right path; if you keep your definite major purpose front of mind and maintain your positive mental attitude and refuse to quit when times are tough; if you 100% commit yourself to hard work seven days a week, sacrificing holidays and time off, and (at times) your sanity, because even though it’s such hard work and you’ve never done it before and you know that you’re not the smartest person or the toughest person and you’ve continually made a sh*tload of mistakes but you will NEVER give up because you KNOW that the universe brings to those riches to those who truly BELIEVE it to be so?

You just might make it so.

I’ve done loads of things the wrong way — chose the wrong co-founders, struggled with focus, wasted time worrying about things that didn’t matter at the expense of moving the business forward. But the one positive, successful trait I’ve maintained since diving head-first into the startup world is having the foresight and the humility to admit and know what I don’t know. I don’t have all of the answers. I may stumble and fall (and scrape my knees and possibly cry) along the way. But what I WON’T do is give up when times are tough. I try very hard not to protest when someone questions my ability when I know deep down they’ve got a point. I’ve had to grudgingly admit that I shouldn’t be even remotely thinking about making tons of money before I’ve finished refining my product offering. The power of my mind, however flawed, is all I have. And I am backing it — and myself — with everything I’ve got, because that IS all I’ve got. I won’t quit when times get tough, because they always will be in a startup. I won’t give up. And because I’ll never give up, because I’ll continually recognise and work on my flaws to make myself better and develop myself as a founder, because I’ll never be satisfied with just being “good enough”, I WILL succeed.

If you believe in yourself, if you allow yourself not to get caught up in all of the bullshit around “metrics” and “data” that may change as your business evolves, and you trust your instincts and your gut not to quit when you’re three feet from gold, you will succeed too.