Nothing great is easy pickings. To build the tallest building on earth, you must start with the most challenging part; the foundation. When things get thick, most people give up and jump on something else. Nevertheless, as stories like Soichiro Honda’s prove, it is possible to start from nothing, endure challenges, and achieve your dream.
Soichiro Honda is the world-famous industrialist who built the Honda Motor Company. However, success was not handed to him on a silver platter.
Soichiro was born in a small Japanese village in November 1906. His father was a hardworking blacksmith with his bicycle repair shop. Soichiro often helped out at the shop, learning the value of hard work at an early age.
Young Soichiro received little formal education. When he was 15 years old, he left home and traveled to Tokyo to look for a job. He got an apprenticeship at a garage, where he worked diligently, grooming his skills and saving money. Six years later, he was ready to set up his shop.
Soichiro’s first automobile business
Soichiro’s plan for his new business was to manufacture piston rings. He invested a lot of time learning to make them and consistently reached out to Toyota for a contract.
Soichiro suffered more than 45 painful rejections from Toyota. He used the feedback he got each time to improve his piston rings. After what seemed like an endless cycle of disappointment, Toyota was pleased enough to extend a hand.
With his big new client, Soichiro’s business achieved steady growth.
Two consecutive disasters
Soichiro Honda was enjoying the fruits of his persistence when the second world war began. Most of his employees were recruited as soldiers, leaving his company grossly understaffed. Fortunately, he moved swiftly to fill the gaps with women workers and managed to stay afloat.
However, his fortunes turned abruptly when a warplane bombed his plant in 1944. He watched helplessly as his life-long accomplishment turned to dust in a few short minutes. Even before he could come up with his next move, an earthquake struck, flattening the few structures the bomb had left standing.
Devastated, he salvaged all he could from the rubble and sold the company.
An unlikely comeback
Many would have called it quits after these troubles, but not Soichiro. Despite lacking finances in a country ravaged by war, he was not ready to give up on invention and entrepreneurship.
One day, Soichiro’s wife was leaving the house to go shopping when he realized she needed a more practical and agile way to move around the city, which was in ruins. Recognizing this as an opportunity, he came up with the perfect solution; a motorcycle.
Soichiro’s motorcycle instantly became popular among the neighbors. He made more and more and ultimately turned it into a fully-fledged motorcycle manufacturing business, which he registered as the Honda Motor Company in 1948. His hope of building a successful automobile company returned.
“Hope made me forget all the difficult times,” Soichiro recalled.
Success in the motoring world
Thanks to Soichiro’s discipline and dedication, the Honda Motor Company grew exponentially in the 1950s. By the turn of the decade, it was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.
With the motorcycle industry firmly in his grasp, Soichiro turned his attention to vehicles. He poured his revenue into research and development and introduced the wildly successful Honda Civic in 1972. Ten years later, Honda was the second best-selling Japanese car brand worldwide.
Soichiro stayed at the helm of his company until he resigned in 1973. He died in 1991, having realized his dream.
The takeaway is this:
The story of Soichiro Honda demonstrates a relentless will to succeed, despite life’s challenges. If you are experiencing a rough patch financially, embody Soichiro’s patience, resilience, self-motivation, and push forward.
Soichiro worked hard for years. When he finally succeeded, calamity hit him in the face. He was battered and bruised, but he did not give up. He got back in the ring and achieved outstanding success.
“We only have one future, and it will be made of our dreams if we have the courage to challenge convention.”