Excuses, Excuses

Excuses, Excuses

Even during the worst of times, tenacity (and more) can see entrepreneurs through

The pandemic created opportunities for inventor-entrepreneurs Kym Gold and Anthony Peraino, who both showed adaptability.


Economic downturns. The pandemic. There will always be reasons we are afraid to go after our dreams.

But after working with startups for most of my 30-year career, I can tell you: They are all excuses.

Sorry for a little tough love, but you need to hear this.

If you are going to start a business, learn to adapt and find your way around outside factors that appear to be obstacles. Many times in history, businesses won—including the 1929 stock market crash.

The No. 1 quality of a successful inventor-entrepreneur is relentless tenacity.

One of my favorite quotes about this came from Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I’ve shortened it to this: “Privilege will not. Education will not. Money will not. Tenacity will.”

Don’t fear fear

Welcoming fear into our lives and learning to feel it is also key. Fears can seem very real, but for them to subside we must move through them—let them be felt.

Moving through emotions like this is another especially important skill for entrepreneurs to master. If we deflect it, it will only persist. Roosevelt said it so well: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Adaptability is another crucial quality. It can create a deep education process that will benefit every part of your life.

Adaptability is the one quality intrinsic to every living being that made us to who we are today. It is at the crux of evolution. Animals adapted to different environments and over time grew legs, wings, teeth and claws to protect them from predators.

Since the moment we were born, we have learned to adapt to our environments. As babies, we cried when we needed food or love and learned how to get what we needed without language. These urges are so strong that as we mature into adults, we become clear reactions of what we got/didn’t get as infants.

Many of us have witnessed the blustery person who walks into a restaurant and grouses loudly when he or she doesn’t get a preferred table. These people are used to pouting and demanding, turning into adults who are clear reflections of their past based on how they adapted—or didn’t.

Living examples

A couple examples of how tenacity, accepting fear, and adaptability can overcome adverse circumstances such as this pandemic:

Kym Gold, the cofounder of True Religion jeans (Inventors Digest January 2021 cover story), hatched a home brand called Style Union Home for the first time in her fashion career at the beginning of 2020. Though she was waist-high in product development and ready to launch in March, COVID-19 had other ideas.

Instead of quitting, she put her head down and focused more deeply than ever on product mix, perfecting the messaging and graphics for a great website. She took risks, hiring a marketing team to lay the foundation that she would need when it ended.

In terms of messaging, she discovered that what she was doing was more germane than ever because the world was at home and looking to beautify environments. The company is thriving.

No amount of planning could have produced that result, but her ability to adapt, be present and tenacious won.

Anthony Peraino had just heavily invested in quite a bit of marketing for his luxury skincare brand, CIREM, when the pandemic hit. One might imagine that attempting to sell a luxury beauty product at a time when people were losing their jobs and were threatened by the coronavirus was a death knell for a company like this. But no!

Peraino was one of the first entrepreneurs I saw pivot quickly by creating a hand sanitizer. As the company’s marketing agency, we at Brown + Dutch created a campaign to get that product, along with samples of his luxury skincare, into the hands of nurses in the five main hospitals in the company’s native Los Angeles. We built publicity and social media around it. The company not only survived but thrived.

Imagine how many companies pivoted to create masks, plastic partitions for retail, and how the grocery and take-out business exploded. Zoom’s business increased by 355 percent.

Entrepreneur is not a title you get because you start a business; it is an earned experience that’s heavily weighted on how hard you push, adapt and take responsibility for your success.

Heed Emerson

Speaking of self-responsibility, I have a recommendation. Read the classic essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance.”

Emerson is thought of as a poet, but he also was a deep and powerfully wise philosopher whose words in that essay ring through my being every single day.

Being an entrepreneur will be a massive proving ground for you. I’ve seen thousands of product ideas come across my desk. It’s never the product that makes for a success but the people behind it.

So when you see obstacles, you need to learn to build the muscle that says: “How can I make this into lemonade?”