Profit from persistence

I’ve recently focused on hope and courage as keys to progress. On top of those mission-critical qualities, you also need to be persistent if you’re going to reach your highest heights.

Things don’t work out the way you’d planned. Take my hairline, for instance. It’s moving progressively away from my forehead. Do you think I planned it this way? No, life is full of disappointments, challenges and obstacles.

History tells us that Abe Lincoln lost eight elections and went bankrupt twice, but he persisted.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was rejected by twelve publishers. Dr. Seuss got turned down by twenty-five. Even so, they persisted.

General Douglas MacArthur was rejected by West Point not once but twice. Elvis Presley got fired by the manager of the Grand Ole Opry and was advised to stop singing. They, of course, persisted.

What’s persistence look like? Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, wrote about how one man overcame his difficulties:

“Well, first, I try to go around it. If I can’t go around it, I try to get under it. If I can’t get under it, I try to go over it, and if I can’t get over it, I just plow right through it.”

That’s the spirit. If you’ve got a dream, tap into hope, courage and persistence – and push on! Keep reaching. It’ll happen.

Please comment. I dare you.



Look around you at the people and organizations that are making great things happen. How are they doing so well? Chances are, they’re great because they’ve been faithful and consistent for the long haul. Jim Collins (Good to Great) found that for great companies, the achievement of any phenomenal success “follows a predictable pattern of buildup and breakthrough. Like pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of effort to get the thing moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.” We don’t hear much about these organizations when they’re grunting it out, building concrete results. By the time they’ve hit their stride, they’ve been at it a while.

Not-so-great organizations and people tend toward a different pattern – Collins calls it the doom loop. Instead of gathering momentum through a consistent push in a single direction, they try to bypass buildup and jump right away to the big breakthrough. When they get poor results, they jump to the next big thing. It’s all froth – lots of back-and-forth action with little substance. They failed to maintain a consistent direction, and as a result, they didn’t go anywhere.

What’s working in your life or your organization? What are some ways you can focus more energy there – push more in that direction – to build up momentum?

If you’ve seen examples of the flywheel or the doom loop, please leave a comment.

It’s time to get started!

Do you put things off? Even the important stuff? I’m learning that sometimes procrastination is really a kind of fear. I’m afraid I don’t have everything just right…. See, I don’t have all the details figured out…. I’m not sure I’m quite ready.

Why is that scary? Because I might fail. I might look silly. So… I don’t move ahead. I don’t start.

That’s sad, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be that way. One thing that shoves me into motion is a simple question. It’s easy enough to ask myself this question, but it’s even more effective if someone else does. The question is: “So what?”

Here’s what it looked like when I was invited to a 5K Run/Walk a couple years ago. I’d never run before, so I knew I’d be one of the walkers. A few weeks from the 5K, the fear began to mount.

I’ll be stepping along with the old ladies and moms with strollers while the healthy young people zoom by.

So what? What does it matter if I walk and others run?

They’ll think I’m a fat old guy who’s out of shape.

So what? What does their opinion matter?

Well, I guess it doesn’t. But… I don’t have the right kind of shoes.

So what? It’s three miles. A guy could walk that far in his socks.

Yeah, I guess these shoes will work.

I ended up going to the 5K Run/Walk and getting caught up in the excitement. I actually ran the first mile or so. Then, after the paramedics revived me (just kidding), I walked the rest… with men, women and children of all ages. In all kinds of shoes.

When we got to the finish line, people clapped and shouted congratulations. It was a little embarrassing. They were cheering the walkers.

So what?

Well, we didn’t run the race.

So what?

I guess I would like to run one of these races.

So – what are you going to do?

I suppose I’m going to need to train for one. But the next race is in eight weeks.

So what?

I guess I’ll need to get started right away.

Whatever you’re putting off, maybe now’s the time to get started. You’ve got lots of excuses, but so what?