7 Lessons on Life and Success from Sir Thomas J. Lipton – Inspiration from the Past
Brisk, Brisk, Brisk, Lipton Tea, a tag line that sticks in the memories of many was coined in the 19th century by Sir Thomas Lipton.
Known as the “world’s most cheerful loser” for his record 5 attempts to take the America’s Cup, the greatest prize in sailing, Sir Tomas J. Lipton, never gave up. He and his vessels, always named Shamrock, became loved throughout the United States and the entire sailing world.
Lipton had known great success in his life yet the prize he sought the most eluded him. Born into a poor Irish family that had escaped the potato famine to settle in Scotland where his journey to success and honor began.
He became a cabin boy at 16 and then stowed away on a ship bound for the United States where he spent 5 of his early years working his way across the country. Building knowledge that would serve him well in later life he worked as a farm hand, bookkeeper, door-to-door salesman and grocery clerk.
On his return to the UK he opened the first Lipton’s Market. Leveraging what he had learned in the U.S.A. he built a chain of over 300 shops and began the process of sourcing tea from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He believed in the farm to table concept eliminating the middlemen to drive costs and prices down so that the common person could afford to drink tea more frequently. Soon Lipton Tea was available in the U.S.A. and then throughout the world.
In the late 1800’s his shops and tea business in the U.K. were acquired by predecessor companies of Unilever. Pocketing well over 1 million pounds, a fortune in the day, while retaining the U.S. and global business. He then began his pursuit of the America’s Cup.
Lipton’s rags to riches story ended in 1930 with his death. His entire fortune was left to charity as the fitting end of the story for a man that had always sought to lift others as he had lifted himself.
Sir Thomas’s story teaches us 7 things about life and success.
1. “Never despair, keep pushing on!”
Lipton’s record 5 straight losses in pursuit of the America’s Cup, the greatest prize in sailing, were met by his desire to get on to the next race. He was known as the “the world’s most cheerful loser” by the Mayor of New York while in private Lipton could think only of what he had learned and how he would finally win the “auld cup”
2. Learn by doing
Not well-schooled Lipton struck out on his own early in life and set up his own learning program by doing. Salesmanship, accounting, merchandising, and the hard work of raising crops were all learning in the real world.
3. Follow your passion
Lipton’s passion for sailing, the sea, and fulfilling the needs of consumers everywhere inspired him work 18 hours a day and to keep working no matter what he faced.
4. Do what you have to do to keep yourself moving forward
We only need look at his early career and the continuous change that he brought to his business and to sailing.
5. Work should be fun
It is said that while sailing on his yacht Tomas put his feet up on the rail and proclaimed “work is fun”. While it might evoke chuckles from time to time, Lipton truly believed it.
6. Always strive for mutual benefit
The basic premise of his business success was based on providing high quality products and the best possible prices and it was that formula that lowered costs to the consumer while providing a profit for his business. He was one of the first to build on the farm to table concept by eliminating the middle man wherever he could as the surest tool to lower costs.
7. Don’t forget those working to lift themselves
Lipton’s philanthropy is widely known. His desire to help a many people as possible raise their living standards by providing good paying jobs while driving down the cost of groceries for those he served is the true measure of the man.