Here’s What I Learned from Morgan Spurlock About Persistence

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Morgan Spurlock is persistent

Persistence is the most consistent tip you’ll learn when building a business – or building anything of value to you.

The Art of Marketing conference I attended last Tuesday in Toronto further drove this point home. The speakers were there to share their marketing knowledge with us. And what hit home for me was that tried and tested success, whether it’s through marketing your brand, sharing your messages, and creating anything for that matter is created with persistence (aka GRIT).

I was given the opportunity to attend this conference and, while I was happy to be getting away from my home office (because, let’s face it, working from home can be lonely and kind of hermit-inducing), I was looking forward to learning as a marketing professional. I was also excited to see Morgan Spurlock. His documentary, Supersize Me, was one of the first movies my husband and I rented from Blockbuster (RIP Blockbuster) together while we were still dating. He kind of had to convince me to watch a documentary over a chick flick. How he won that negotiation is beyond me. But we took the DVD home to our basement apartment, poured ourselves some wine, made ourselves a greasy snack, and snuggled on the couch to watch this dude I had never heard of get fat off of McDonalds and teach us about the deteriorating state of nutrition in America. Supersize Me was the first documentary I have ever watched in its entirety, and it stuck with me. I enjoyed it, and I learned from it.

So, of course, I was eager to see a man who could provide me with some nostalgia while teaching me some lessons in marketing. But, what I got out of the entire conference, was more than what I went there for. I learned a lot about mindset and building a business and a brand. The speakers weren’t corporate suits who threw out marketing jargon and classic “tips” that left us audience members feeling overwhelmed and bored. They were entrepreneurs who started out just as I have and you have and everyone else who wants to find success in business has. They’re down-to-earth people who only shared what has worked for them. Morgan Spurlock was fantastic. He’s that speaker that gets his audience members to laugh and then literally cry. He showed us his video, Fire with Fire, and, let’s just say holding it together was a challenge. He’s a great storyteller and he’s awesome at making movies that drive points home. But, back to persistence, he also shared what it took to make his films – all of which are controversial in one way or another. He told us how his movie The Greatest Movie Ever Sold almost never made it off the ground. The film was an experiment to see if it could all be paid for by brands, product placement and advertising. Brilliant idea but it took many corporations to agree to what he was selling. These corporations didn’t want to be a part of Spurlock’s exploration into how brands get their products placed in movies and on television. But, although it took nine months of calls and meetings and a lot of rejection, once one brand agreed the rest followed and eventually the $1.5 million budget for the film was paid for entirely by brands.

Morgan Spurlock is an example of how guts, persistence, and a bit of crazy gets you far in business. Adam Garone, the co-founder of Movember is another example I enjoyed learning about.

I didn’t know much about Adam Garone and the Movember movement before last week. Of course, I am very familiar with Movember. It’s hard not to be. Every year, we see otherwise clean-cut men (aka “Mo Bros”) sport moustaches in the name of prostate cancer awareness. It’s called the “laziest campaign” ever because all they have to do is grow facial hair. No big race or marathon required. But it’s an effective campaign – a campaign that has raised over $174 million worldwide since 2004.  It was tenacity that grew Movember from a simple light-hearted conversation about the next thing that should come back into fashion (the moustache) with friends over drinks into a true movement that would start in Australia and span to 21 countries worldwide. It took guts and commitment but these guys stood their ground and made Movember what it is today – an organization that’s getting the world talking about men’s health in a big (and fun) way. Never before have we focused on prostrate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health for men as we do now. These guys have made a vast difference in the way we approach the conversation around men’s health. If they gave up because people said no (including the Australian Prostate Cancer Institute no less!) or thought they were silly, they never would have helped as many people as they have so far.

Persistence is the single most important thing you need to succeed. Of course, you need desire first. You need to desire what you set out to do but you need to be persistent when you start building. You will come across many opportunities to give up. You will be faced with a lot of rejection. And you’ll be made to feel like a fool at times. If it were easy there would be a lot more Morgan Spurlocks and Adam Garones in this world. The fact is, though, that persistence isn’t easy. But it is necessary. Take a tip from these guys and carry on. Don’t give up because who knows where your idea will go.

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