In 1953, a start-up business called the Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers. Toiling in a small lab in San Diego, California, they set about to create a “water displacing” formula for use in the aerospace industry. It took 40 attempts to get the formula figured out.
But figure it out they did, and WD-40 was born. The name stands for water displacement formula perfected on the 40th try. Imagine what would have happened if the inventors had given up after two dozen or so really solid attempts?
The story, and the point, of course, is bigger than trying hard and eventually succeeding. WD-40 was initially a product limited to special uses, an example of which was protecting the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. But that was just for starters. The product actually worked quite well for a variety of other uses–so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out the plant to use at home on more mundane tasks like squeaky hinges and rusty nuts and bolts. The product eventually became a household staple. By innovating and adapting to the market, this small group of entrepreneurs created something great.