The Key to Success

How many parents do you know tell their kids to go fail?

How many parents do you know tell their kids to go fail?

That's exactly what billionaire Sara Blakely was told by her father when she was growing up. She attributes that one principle to her success as a billionaire entrepreneur.

Let me tell you the story of Sara Blakely, founder of her privately held company, Spanx. She is said to be the youngest self-made female billionaire ever. Her amazing business success runs contrary to conventional thinking about business training and experience. Hard work, persistence, creative thinking and humility were some of the character-building attributes she learned from her father.

I recently heard Sara's story on CNN's GPS show with Fareed Zakaria. I came away with insights I believe we all need to apply in our own lives.

Blakely's initial claim to fame and fortune is a product that, in her description, makes women's figures look better. The idea came to her as she prepared for an evening out. Frustrated by how she looked in white pants, she took scissors to traditional panty hoses and created what has evolved into a popular range of "body shapers."

Today Spanx offers a rapidly-growing product offering that benefits from increasing use. Blakely believes those who use Spanx can end up feeling better about themselves.

The journey from initial concept to today's unlikely reality was a long and difficult one. Blakely faced many obstacles. She confronted a daunting string of early rejections and skepticism that would have probably derailed most others. She had very little money to support her entrepreneurship. In fact, she started Spanx with only $5,000 of her own money. She lacked any formal business training. Yet she managed to overcome all this, and shares a couple of great stories on her road to success.

Overcoming Rejection and Redefining Failure

She explains that she overcame fear of rejection by selling fax machines door to door for 7 years (that might cure me of that too). Secondly, through her upbringing and early employment, Blakely re-defined her definition of failure with the help of her father. He always encouraged her to go out and try things. If she failed she was met with a high-five and the words, "Way to go girl! I am proud of you for trying!" (he would regularly ask his kids at the dinner table about their failures, commending them for trying).

So, from her early experiences she learned that real failure was not trying as opposed to not succeeding. That removed the fear of failure from her mindset and freed her to experiment without fear of failure hanging over her head. Wow! What wisdom from that father!

One humorous story she shared was about trying to get North Carolina mills to take a risk on making her product. All of them turned her down except one. The owner of that mill happened to have three daughters. He shared the concept with his daughters who immediately responded, "Dad, you MUST make that product!" Now you know the rest of the story.

Perseverance is a key attribute for success in any endeavor in life. Peter shares with us in the following passage that perseverance as well as other attributes is a requirement for a successful life.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders and author of Change Agent and TGIF: Today God Is First, a free email daily devotional.

Visitor Comments (1)


Peter's encouragement is another form of encouragement in the fruit of the Spirit. One fruit with 9 flavours Gal 5: 22 - 23. However, we all need to be reminded of Gal 5: 19 - 21, which in reality, who isn't capable of? As even if we only think it or watch it (feeding our minds with whatever) we are participating in it, therefore, guilty Lord I am. Surrendering is a military term. Surrendering oneself doesn't come naturally. Verse 5: 'For each person will have to carry his own load.' Who give us these loads? World or God? Share My yoke for it is easy.

Going back to heading in NIV of same book of paragraph starting in verse 16 of Gal 5 'The Spirit versus the flesh.' Some how we always seem to measure things in the natural and in the flesh, where the real treasures are Spiritual. Can't really hold on to the Spiritual treasures or put a physical measurement against them. Yet in our hearts of hearts we know and move into the Spiritual and out of the natural measurement of things when we are blessed Spiritual. It's a personal thing between the Creator and His created person. Pretty neat God sharing in the here and now, yet the best is yet to come.

Work was ordain before the fall, 'Adam go work the garden'. Work has purpose, but what is behind that purpose. Pleased to read Fareed Zakaria's story of what is behind her work. May we all rejoice with her in being who God created her to be.

Thanks for forwarding.


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