“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”
Before Bill Gates put a computer in the home of every American, Henry Ford put an automobile in every garage.
Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company and spearheaded the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Ford’s introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry and transformed Ford into one of the richest and most well-known people on the planet.
At a young age, Ford created a massive vision for his life and actively decided to leave a giant mark on the world. However, the story of Henry Ford is not of a prodigy entrepreneur or an overnight success. Ford grew up on a farm and might easily have remained in agriculture. But something stronger pulled at Ford’s imagination: mechanics, machinery, and understanding how things worked. He was constantly developing as a leader while finding ways to develop leadership skills in others.
Ford harbored an intense drive that propelled him to greatness despite constant resistance. He was known for his defiant nature and his ability to force his plans through in the face of adversity. Here is Henry Ford’s guide to putting a dent in the universe:
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
Everyone has at least one great idea, but without action, ideas rot. Taking action is the only way generate confidence in your dream. At the age of 15, Ford constructed his first steam engine and, in his early 30’s, he built his first internal combustion engine. However, these engines were merely models. Ford’s reputation didn’t begin to grow until a few years later when he manufactured a working automobile called the Quadricycle. Until the Quadricycle, Ford’s tinkering had been purely experimental, or theoretical. The Quadricycle marked the starting point of Ford’s career as a businessman. No matter what your dream is, talking about it will not bring it to fruition. Achieving your goal relies on action.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
Learn to see the opportunity in everything, especially in situations that other people label as obstacles or problems. As with most great enterprises, Ford Motor Company’s beginnings were modest. In fact, the company almost went out of business several times in its infancy. Ford shipped his first Model A automobile in 1903, which required several improvements. Soon after, Ford manufactured his first Model B automobile. In 5 short years, the company had used the first 19 letters of the alphabet to name new cars. Then, in 1908, Ford began production of his now famous Model T automobile, which literally changed the world. Most people overestimate what they can do in a short amount of time and underestimate what they can do in a longer amount of time. Get some grit and learn to grind things out. By working both smart and hard, you can capitalize on your mistakes and continually improve in any endeavor.
“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”
Build an empire that betters the world and you will never have to worry about making money. You can drastically enlarge your dent in the universe by figuring out how to develop others in a way the improves both your life and their lives. The Ford Motor Company’s single greatest contribution to automotive manufacturing was the moving assembly line. By installing a moving belt in each factory, employees were able to build cars one piece at a time, instead of one car at a time. This principle, called “division of labor,” allowed workers to focus on doing one thing very well, rather than being responsible for a number of tasks. The line was incredibly efficient, helping the company substantially lower costs while surpassing the production levels of their competitors. In fact, the new system lowered costs so much that Ford decided to pass the savings along to his customers by dropping the price of the Model T from $850 to $290. That year, Ford sold 1 million cars.
“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.”
You cannot force people to be inspired. Due to the monotony of assembly line work, this innovation resulted in a monthly labor turnover of 40-60%. Ford met this difficulty by infecting his employees with a flaming enthusiasm for his vision, which he committed to by doubling the daily wage of each employee. Immediately, the best mechanics in Detroit started flocking to Ford’s company. This increase in human capital and expertise lowered training costs and raised company profits from $30 million in 1914 to $60 million in 1916. Inspiration is a key ingredient in business and entrepreneurship. Generate influence in your vision by showing your excitement for your dreams and staying engaged with others.
“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
Strive to make your work life and your personal life as simple as possible, but not simpler. Ford mandated that every Model T car off of his assembly lines be black because black paint dried quicker than other paint colors. Ford fervently promoted and defended this and many other simplification decisions. As a result, 15,007,034 Model T cars were produced, setting a record that stood for 45 years. Most people’s lives are flitted away with details that don’t matter. Allowing yourself too many options is often paralyzing. Instead, generate confidence in your decisions by practicing the art of decisiveness. Be bold. Very often, you can improve self confidence simply by making decisions faster.
“If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Ignore everyone and do things your way. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will be the only person that can see your vision. When Ford organized the Henry Ford Company in 1901, cars were extremely expensive and still being built one at a time. Ford’s vision was to incorporate the ideas of other industries, including the use of standardized parts, to make the process more efficient. This idea struck others in the field as ridiculous and, before long, Ford resigned in a dispute with his investors. Two years later, Ford founded the Ford Motor Company and doubled down on his plans to produce affordable cars. He was again labeled as a nut and lost his financial backers. In 1907, despite a complete and utter lack of support, Ford officially announced his goal to create “a motor car for the great multitude”. The only thing that sustained Ford’s vision was a blind, stubborn belief in himself and his dream. This kind of belief is critical to accomplishing anything worthwhile in life.
“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”
Like all great men and women, Ford had to deal with haters trying to hold him back. During World War 1, a Chicago newspaper published a number of editorials claiming Ford was “an ignorant pacifist.” Ford brought suit against the paper for libeling him and when the suit was tried in court, the newspaper’s attorneys put Ford on the stand to prove his ignorance. They asked Ford questions like, “Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” After a particularly ridiculous question, Ford leaned across the witness stand and said, “If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask.” Boom. Snap. Owned. The point is that haters are going to hate. Any second you spend defending yourself and your dream is a second you could be spending moving forward and achieving your goal.
“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
Sometimes leaving your mark on the world requires a spotter. If your dream is big enough, the opposition will be intense. The good news is life has a way of bringing one or two people across your path that will help push you past your sticking points. In 1896, Ford attended a company-sponsored convention in Manhattan Beach, New York. Thomas Edison was the guest of honor at the evening’s banquet. At one point, Edison sat down next to Ford and asked him a variety of questions. When the interview was over, Edison emphasized his satisfaction by banging his fist down on the table. “Young man,” he said, “that’s the thing! You have it! Your car is self contained and carries its own power plant.” Years later, Ford reflected on this meeting and said, “That bang on the table was worth worlds to me. No man up to then had given me any encouragement. I had hoped that I was headed right. Sometimes I knew that I was, sometimes I only wondered, but here, all at once and out of a clear sky, the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval.” Seek out encouraging people and let their words help you increase the size of your dent. Likewise, learn how to develop others and influence motivation positively so others can leave their dent.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”
You can never arrive, you can only move forward. The key to success is to keep developing as a leader and keep helping others develop leadership skills. When the Model T was first produced, it was less expensive than other cars but it was not attainable for the “great multitude.” Even though he was nationally recognized and had all the money he needed, Ford was still hungry. To keep improving, Ford led a research team that investigated other industries and found four principles that would further their goal: interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and a reduction of wasted effort. Inspired by a grain mill conveyor belt he had seen, Ford installed the first automatic conveyer belt in one of his plants. Next, he divided the labor by breaking the assembly of the Model T into 84 distinct steps. Each worker was trained to do just one of these steps. Finally, Ford utilized time and motion studies to determine the exact speed at which the work should proceed and the exact motions workers should use to accomplish their tasks. Instead of focusing solely on making money, try to see yourself, and your business, as an investment. Increase the value of this investment by increasing your knowledge base, your expertise, and your ability.