As part of Think and Grow Rich study with Paul Martinelli, I am practicing persistence by reading the same chapter for many days. The wisdom that Napoleon Hill put on the book keeps coming with every read.

I was used to believing that persistence is something that already in human being. We either have it or we don’t. However, this is a wrong belief. Dr. Hill pointed out that persistence is like any other quality; it can be cultivated. Rethink about past experiences and see for ourselves how persistence helped us succeed. My experiences have been that my successes had the silent power of persistence and my failure often came from not having it.

To develop persistence, follow the following formula:

  1. Have a definite purpose backed by a burning desire. As you really want something, you will keep working to get it. The questions to ask: what do you really want? What do you want to create? How much money do you want to have? What will you do if money is not an issue? What prevent you from wanting something so badly?
  2. Have a definite plan expressed in continuous actions. There is no overnight success. You have to want something badly enough so that you will do it at all cost. You will do it, not just one time, but day by day till you get what you want.
  3. Have a mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences. You are the master of your soul. You are the only one who knows what you really want. You are the only one who is capable of getting what you really want. Influences from others will only distract you from being on your path of getting what you really want.
  4. Have a friendly alliance (mastermind) that will help you with both plan and purpose. You can only achieve so much by yourself. To achieve big, you must have a team. Having a team of like-minded people will not only serve your purpose but also help keep you accountable. You will develop persistence by having people to support and remind you of what you really want.

All successful people have one thing in common: persistence. Persistence to the character of man is what carbon is to the steel. Persistence is the silent power that helps man overcome challenges and terror barriers.

Let’s take Warren Buffett as an example. Warren Buffett was introduced to investing since he was 9.  He read Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis by Ben Graham in late teen. Warren Buffett picked up two principles from Ben Graham and he persistently applied them since then (up till now it’s been more than 60 years and more). The two principles are:

  1. Mr. Market, a moody figure, is there to serve you, not to guide you.
  2. Margin of Safety

At first, Warren Buffett was following Ben Graham’s investing approach: finding cheap companies at much cheaper prices to buy. He called this a cigarbutt approach as cheap companies are like cigarbutts. There is almost nothing left in those cheap companies except certain assets. Investors would not want to invest in those companies as they were dying. Hence the price of their stocks was cheap. As Ben Graham said, they could have the company for virtually no cost. Buffett followed this approach persistently and had great successes.

His enormous wealth was gained, however, by a new approach that he discovered later in his life. Instead of jumping into cheap companies at cheap prices, he would invest in companies that have good businesses selling at reasonable prices. This makes perfect sense since good businesses will survive and grow overtime while companies with bad businesses will be gone overtime. Buffett said it best: time is friend of good businesses and enemy of losing business. 99% of his wealth was earned after he turned 50, which was when he applied this new approach persistently. He still follows the two principles above persistently.

Warren Buffett’s persistence can also be seen in how he acquires his wisdom. He reads daily for more than 5 hours per day. Some article mentioned that he spends 80% of his time reading daily. Warren Buffett has read like this since he was very young. By the time he was 14, he already read all books in his local library.

Another example of Warren Buffett’s persistence was how he got the job with Ben Graham. Right after he graduated from Columbia University, he applied to Graham’s company. He offered himself to work with Graham for free. Buffett said that at the time Graham told him that even free would be too expensive. Buffett never gave up the idea of working for Graham. He just wanted to work for people who he admired. He kept in touch with Graham and kept asking about working for Graham even though he already got a job. When Graham finally said yes, Warren Buffett jumped on the opportunity. He did not care about anything else such as salary. He did not even ask how much he would be paid. He only cared about his dream of working for Graham becoming reality.

Applying Dr. Hill’s formula to Warren Buffett, we can see that:

  1. Buffett has a definite chief aim backed by a burning desire. He’s aimed to be the best investor by his own standard and the best compounder. His measurement has been to beat the major index such as DJIA  on average of 10% a year. His desire was constantly enforced by his continuous successes.
  2. The most obvious plan that Buffett revealed was that he would wake up everyday being smarter than the day before.
  3. Buffett was single-minded on his goal. He never listened to any tip. He follows what Graham taught that one would not be right if a lot people momentarily agree; one would not be right simply because important people agree. One can only be right if his facts are correct, his hypotheses are correct, and his reasonings are correct. Buffett often said that even if Alan Greenspan would tell him that interest rate would be up or down the next day, it would not make any difference to his decision.
  4. Buffett formed an alliance first with Ben Graham and his dad – two of his heroes. He later formed an alliance with Charlie Munger. The alliance with Charlie Munger perhaps has been the most important alliance for Buffett. He benefited much. Charlie Munger introduced him to the new investing approach that has made him super rich. Charlie Munger played a role of silence approval for tough decisions. They compliment each other and never have a fight though many disagreements.

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