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The day after September 11th, I was watching television when an official came on air to comment about the economic crisis that was about to unfold when the stock market opened.
“We know that when the market opens it is going to be very bad. We also know that some of the greatest fortunes in a generation will be made over the next few weeks by people who have faith in our economy.”
Over the next few years, I started reading all sorts of stories in financial publications about various people who had bought stock after the market crashed and while the chips were down. Some of these people made hundreds of millions of dollars—and others even made billions. I remember these same people also talking about the concept of “faith”—faith in the economy, the financial system and the companies they bought stock in.
Years later, when the financial crisis of 2008 happened, Warren Buffet invested a great deal of money with Goldman Sachs. He used the same word to describe the reasons behind his investment: “faith”. He also did incredibly well with his investment.
Over the years, I have heard countless people use the word “faith” to describe their success. In contrast, I have heard others use doubt and cynicism as their reasons for not taking action and not succeeding. Most people do not have faith.
There are very few people out there that genuinely and truly have faith in themselves and others when the chips are down. In fact, the quality of all great leaders, entrepreneurs, and religious figures is the ability to inspire faith in others where it is not present.
One of the defining business stories of the 1980s was when Lee Iacocca turned around Chrysler. He was brought in to lead the company at a time when the company was about to go out of business. Prior to his job at Chrysler, Iacocca had been fired from Ford where a series of his proposed compact cars had been rejected. He went to the United States Congress and asked for loan guarantees to save the company. Then, to incredible success, he launched a similar series of compact cars that he had proposed when at Ford. These cars ended up saving the company, and Iacocca paid back the loans and saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. Throughout the 1980s, he appeared on dozens of commercials promoting the company’s vehicles and stated things like “The pride is back” and his trademark phrase: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
What made someone like Iacocca so remarkable was that he was able to have faith in a company when the chips were down and articulate a vision for its return to profitability and success. At the time, no one had faith in the company; however, he did. This is what made him so remarkable and such a strong leader. Leadership of companies—and of your own life—is all about having faith.
Faith is the ultimate resource and an extremely powerful tool. Faith is the precursor to all achievement: All success only comes about through faith. People having faith in us is also an extremely important ingredient in being successful. You cannot start a business without faith. In fact, there is not much you can do without faith at all. If you do not have faith in yourself, very little is possible.
Years ago, I had dinner with someone who was getting ready to go to college. He had been in and out of a series of high schools and had recently decided to go to college. He was getting ready to travel from California to a small East Coast college he had been accepted to.
“I probably won’t last more than a year there,” the person told me. “I never follow through with anything.”
Sure enough: Six months later, he was home. You need to have faith in yourself and everything you do. Whether it is starting a new job, going to college, starting a business or raising a family: Faith is the most important ingredient of success.
When you believe that you can do something, you look for reasons all around you that support the fact and your belief that you will succeed. You see the world differently, try harder and are more inspired to give it your all and go the extra mile. Faith is the ingredient that makes it all possible. Without faith in yourself, you are effectively doomed. Nothing is more important than having faith in your potential. A lack of faith keeps people down. Faith is what opens doors.
When people are down, having faith that things will improve and get better is what helps drive them forward. In fact, faith is something that can make your life better no matter where you feel you are, or what you believe about yourself. Think about what you could do with your pain if you had faith in yourself?
Just about every religion out there talks about faith. In fact, every religion makes the idea of faith central to its teachings. Everything serves you when you have faith.
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do? Every great leader—whether it is Iacocca, or a great religious figure—generally starts by taking an unpopular position that goes against the status quo.
It is the ability to see possibilities when other see obstacles and darkness that makes great leaders. Most people are not leaders, however, because they are stuck in fear. They fear that they cannot achieve what they want to achieve. They fear what others will say if they try—or if they fail. This fear keeps most people completely paralyzed and weak.
Faith is based on emotion and belief. It is a philosophy that guides and controls your life. Faith is an underlying strategy that guides everything you do –
These are decisions, and they are based on faith.
Great leaders are great leaders because they have the ability to have faith and find reasons to believe when others do not. They use the resources they have to transform people and the environment around them. They do not see the present (or past) and the future and are able to articulate a different version for the future than what exists today. Being able to see a brighter future requires faith, and this is the reason that great leaders are rewarded so much – whether it is Iacocca, Steve Jobs or an entrepreneur like Elon Musk with the audacity to believe people can drive electric cars, or a private company can launch cargo into space.
In your life, the missing ingredient that is holding you back from doing everything you are capable of is faith. Is order to have the career and life you are capable of, you need to acknowledge the present and the way things are, but then create a vision where things are better for you in the future.
Having faith that things will work out and you will reach your goal will get you there.
The second ingredient required for success is massive action: One of the laws of nature is that the only way you reach your goal is through massive, massive action. Think about sperm reaching an egg, or an acorn falling off a tree. How many acorns does it take to create one giant tree? It may take a tree 50,000 or more acorns before a seed ever takes root. It may take millions of sperm for one child to be born.
I have started numerous companies and some have gone on to be quite successful and others have floundered. The ones that have floundered have always been the ones where I did not put massive, massive effort into them. I worked on them – but not 100%. I did some work on them, but not enough. I put some staff and effort behind them, but not enough.
The reason the most successful doctors, lawyers and others make so much money and are so successful is because of all the action they must take to get where they are. Very few people are willing to take all of this action – or even have the faith that they can get where they want to if they take the action. The few who take this action are the ones that society ends up rewarding.
You need to have faith in your goals and then take massive action. Not some action–massive action. This action needs to be focused, consistent and deliberate, and the more action you take, the farther you will go. You need to articulate a vision for where you want to go.
Every leader in history has talked about a “promised land” of some sort. That land, however, is only reached through faith and massive action. Think about the massive effort that goes into establishing large religions, companies and other endeavors. It requires massive, massive action that never lets up. That is why great companies, religions, and people are so rare. Very few people are willing to take the long-term and concerted action necessary to reach a goal.
One of the fantasies many people have is that they can start a great business, or achieve great success, doing something that does not require a lot of work over an extended period of time. People are always coming to me with various business ideas that they think can make them rich and asking for my advice and help. They generally make statements like “It will be easy! Once we get it going, it will be hardly any work.”
The truth is it is always a lot of work. A ton of work.
When I first started practicing law, I joined a law firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, that was comprised of about 45 attorneys (it is now over 1,000 I think) mainly of people who had graduated at the top of their class from Harvard Law School and had come from one of the top two or three New York law firms. You would expect that people with these qualifications would not need to work that hard, right? You would think that with the best pedigrees around, they would have it set.
This could not be further from the truth. They were in the office by 8:00 am or so each day and regularly there until midnight or later. They were there on holidays and on most Sundays. They certainly did not have time to use the gym in the office—it was always empty. They did, however, often use the shower in the office.
I have never seen harder working people in my life. A few years ago, I read that this law firm had the second highest paid partners of any law firm in the country. They deserve it. The amount of effort and action and commitment that went into the work they did was incredible. This commitment and vision the leader of the firm pushed drove them straight to the top. This is what it takes.
In contrast, most people put in a mediocre effort and do not have a tremendous amount of faith in where they are going or in themselves. These people have lives that are far below what they could expect to have if they had faith and took massive action. All great achievement requires massive action.
What is your vision and what action will you take to get there?
The truth is you can become almost any sort of person and achieve just about whatever you want to achieve if you have faith and take the action needed to get there. You can only get there, though, when you give it your all. Regardless of how things look, if you keep trying and never give up, the odds are in your favor. If you have faith and take massive action, you will eventually get where you want to go.