Overcoming the Embarrassment of Effort – Lessons Learned from a Patent Attorney
The Patent Professor

The Patent Professor

Escaping Your Comfort Zone

Have you ever tried REALLY HARD to achieve something and fallen face first in the dirt? It is tempting to downplay our effort because "trying hard" is not cool. Success is supposed to come easy for those that are "meant" to be successful, right?


Recently, I checked some very large, longstanding goals off my bucket list. I was interviewed by ABC and CBS news and gave my second TEDx Talk, just to name a couple.

The experiences were amazing in themselves, but even more for the fact they taught me something I’d never realized before.

Think back to when you were in school and someone got an amazing grade on a difficult test. “I barely studied an hour!” they would proudly exclaim, as if that made the grade that much sweeter.

What about the times you’ve seen a coveted job won by a candidate that carefully drops hints that the company in question is the first place they applied?

A speaker starts out a presentation by stating she was approached by the organization and asked to present.

And how about the inventor whose product is solicited by QVC, or who is approached by a licensee anxious to commercialize the idea?

This is not usually how success functions in the real world!

And it certainly wasn’t how my achievements of the milestones mentioned above occurred either.

JK Rowling and patent process

Do you know that Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers before Bloomsbury took a chance on an unknown author named J.K. Rowling?

Sylvester Stallone was all but homeless, broke and so destitute he had to sell his dog so he could feed himself while he fought to get his script, about a down-on-his-luck boxer who fights his way to the top, into production. The script was for a movie called Rocky.

Sly and Patents

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination.”

Walt Disney Inspirational Patents

Oprah Winfrey was told she was too fat and ugly for television journalism.

Oprah and the power of patents

Nobody tells the bitter truth that true success in life almost never comes from being “discovered” by others. Sure, it happens, but you’re only slightly less likely to win the lottery. Most people find true success by pushing and making their own way in this world.

I’ve seen this in my own life and those of others that have shared their stories candidly.

TED did not come to me and ask me to give a speech. Amazon never approached me and requested that I write a book. Barnes & Noble did not really need an additional book signing at their store. Kevin Harrington did not request the honor of writing the forward to my book or endorsing it. I can assure you, ABC News and CBS did not run out of people to interview and come to me out of desperation.  

And nobody came to me, and asked to crown me The Patent Professor®, nor did YouTube come to me and request that I produce my channel containing 100 animated videos simplifying the patent process.

John Rizvi on YouTube

All of these are things that I did on my own because deep inside me I felt that I had something to share. These things needed to be said and shared, the same way I have to eat and breathe. They had to come out, because I could not keep them in any longer.

And I did them, fighting that nagging feeling of embarrassment so many people know only too well at every step. The fear I was asking for too much, putting myself out there too heavily, being conceited, cocky or even arrogant. The Patent Professor? Really? Exactly who do you think you are, John?   

The Patent Professor, John Rizvi

It’s embarrassing, and frightening, to have to ask for things.

A platform.

A stage.

Bookshelf space.

A few minutes on live TV.

It’s not easy or comfortable to spend your life working toward something and then find yourself in a position where you have to go to someone else, hat in hand, for permission to do the exact thing you’re already doing. It’s even more awkward when you see others around you reaping rewards which to say the least appear disproportionate to the effort they put in, like the kid in school who always got top grades without ever being seen to crack a book or the public figure who gets asked to speak so often they can afford to name their price and turn away opportunities.

But not all of us are so fortunate as to have photographic memories and near-perfect recall of information. Most of us do not run in the circles which assure we have the ears of the “right” people to help us on our way. And the vast majority of us certainly don’t have the kind of platform which makes our lightest word local news, never mind national or international! We have to ask for help, and hope

The experience gave me a new appreciation for just how hard it must have been for my heroes to pursue their own dreams, or for the inventors who regularly come to me for help getting their innovations into the public spaces where they can benefit others. Even though these are battles I’ve fought numerous times throughout my career, apparently I still have some lessons to learn. 

Overcoming the embarrassment of effort is a life skill.

I never realized that until recently, which seems odd when one considers just how often I’ve had to do it. It seems so obvious and self-evident that it shouldn’t even need to be said. And yet...

How many people will not achieve their dreams because they can’t overcome the embarrassment of effort?

Roosevelt Quote For Inventors - Escaping The Gray

How many people will settle into the “gray twilight” Theodore Roosevelt spoke of because they’re afraid to rock the boat?

How many people will try once, miss the mark and give up altogether?

That’s not how this is done, folks. Overcoming the embarrassment of effort, and the ancillary embarrassments which may come along with it, is something you must contend with daily if you want to get anywhere beyond the place you’re at.

You don’t have to be stuck. But you do have to deal with the fact you will certainly have to fight your own embarrassment that you’re not “there” already in order to get there. Don’t let gatekeepers, naysayers or your own mind stop you from going after your dreams.

After all, chasing them is the only way you can catch them!

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