Patience – A Lesson from Herb Kelleher

I was listening to the How I Built This episode with Herb Kelleher last night and something he said leapt out at me.

Herb continued his law practice for the first ten years of Southwest’s existence, from 1971-1981. The first TEN YEARS. He did so to pay his bills and so that the company could hire the right people to run the airline at that time. Herb stepped in as CEO in 1981 after the prior CEO left. During that time, Herb effectively worked two jobs, one as an attorney and one as founder of SWA.

The same is true of many of the people interviewed on the podcast. Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bars, continued to work at a factory while he perfected the product. I also think of people like Jared Pelo of iScribes here in NC who continues to work as an ER doctor while running his company.

I thought about these in light of the current culture of having to go “all in” on an idea. Maybe you’ve felt that pressure and it’s held you back from starting your own company or launching your idea.

There are lots of ways to build great companies, and at some point you have to commit 100% to the path. However, there may be a reason for you to continue to do what you’re doing while you figure things out. And that’s OK.

You only have to answer to yourself and those who depend on you in the end. No one else’s opinion matters. Really.