THE STORY

When James was 9, his father died. He was packed off to a British boarding school and emerged a tough, determined young man. He studied design and engineering and came up with several inventions.

It was the 1970s, when vacuum cleaners lost suction as they picked up dirt, defeating their very purpose. Frustrated, James took his Hoover apart and identified the bag as the problem. He replaced the bag with a cyclone and… bam! A bagless vacuum was born.

In 1979 he pitched his invention to the board of his company, which he had started a few years back. “Surely if there was a better vacuum cleaner,” they said, “Hoover or Electrolux would have made it.” 🤦‍♂️ Later on, the board even fired him from his own company. A sad moment, but it also made him free to develop his vacuum.

Enter five long years of prototypes… in his shed. On prototype #5127 (!!!), he nailed it! But he still had to sell it, and debt had accumulated—he, his wife and 3 children were about to lose their home.

Then, breakthrough! A small Japanese company agreed to licence it. Afterwards, in 1993, James managed to get a loan to go it alone, then was able to get into big British stores. 2 years later, the Dyson was the best-selling vacuum in Britain!

Today, Dyson has one of the most iconic designs of the 20th century. Dyson also make hand-dryers and fans without blades. Oh, and Sir James Dyson is worth an estimated £10.1 billion*.

Sir James Dyson.

 

THE LIMITS OF DETERMINATION

Five years worth of 5127 prototypes before nailing it, with the risk of losing his home. Sir James Dyson later said that his extreme determination and stubbornness in the absence of any real evidence was beginning to look more like insanity. Indeed, stubborn determination is not the takeaway, even if it worked out for Dyson. Instead, one should be intelligently determined: knowing when to stop and when to push further, based on intuition, but also on tangible results and the worthiness of the overall project.

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© Story by Tarek Issa.

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