Persistence Is Genius

An excuse is an abuse of your potential.

Last week I talked about failure. I suggested that the way you respond to the inevitable failures in life will make or break you.

Unfortunately, a lot of people let failure, or the fear of failure, stop them from living. As Charles Parnell wrote, “Too many people are having what we might call ‘near-life’ experiences. They go through life bunting, so afraid of failure that they never try to win the big prizes, never knowing the thrill of hitting a home run or even taking a swing at one.”

That’s tragic. There is a better way to live. And there is a better way to approach the challenges at work. Try one of these strategies.

=> 1. Reset Your Date Rather Than Upset Yourself.

You may have some goals — such as making that sale, growing your business, or finishing a marathon. But what if you don’t achieve those goals?

Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved by a certain date, perhaps you can reset your target date. That’s better than giving up entirely.

That’s what Michael Angier did. He set the goal of losing 32 pounds between January 1 and May 21. He lost 14 pounds. He was disappointed with himself until he realized he hadn’t actually failed. All he’d done was miss his target date. So he reset his target date, concentrated on feeling good about the weight he’d already lost, and went forward.

Ben Stallings, a commercial service manager, learned to do something similar about the so-called “failures” in his life. He wrote to me, saying, “Dr. Zimmerman, I was locked in a comfort zone. And even though the situation was deteriorating, I held on, not able to pull myself away from over 20 years on the job. I remember when I truly loved my work, the people, and the company. Even on the busiest, most frustrating days I would leave knowing I wouldn’t want to do anything else. When things started to change, my attitude and spirit were crushed.”

“Then you came along. Your live presentation and your CDs helped me break the bonds of the past and move forward. In fact, the inspiration I got from your ‘Take Charge’ CD album transformed my attitude and my spirit. They gave me the strength to pull out of the comfort zone and go to new places. Thanks for all you do!”

=> 2. Persist.

Too many times people are right on the verge of success when they quit. And yet, right down the road, there’s a second wind about to come.

Runners know this. They know that when they run and their sides hurt, they want to quit. But they also know if they keep on running they get a second wind.

One of the most successful business people of the 20th century was John D. Rockefeller. He knew this secret. He said, “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Perhaps you remember the TV movie where William H. Macy played the role of Bill Porter. Even though Bill was a most unlikely candidate to succeed, his persistence makes him — and continues to make him — the top salesman in the entire Northwest for Watkins, Incorporated.

You see Bill has cerebral palsy. He gets up every morning at 4:45 a.m. to catch the 7:20 bus. He needs that much time to get dressed, but he leaves his cuffs unbuttoned, his wing tips loosely tied, and his tie in his briefcase. Some friends at the bus stop where he transfers do that for him.

Then Bill goes door to door selling Watkins’ home remedies and spices. Bill hits the streets for eight hours or more, telling himself the next customer will say “yes.”

One winter day a storm was forecast for Portland. Of course to Bill the weather report was good news. “Perfect for a door-to-door salesman.” he said. “Everybody’s home.” So he bundled up and made his rounds until he’d made his quota.

By then, the buses had stopped running because the roads were so bad. He had to hitchhike home, only to discover the steep driveway leading to his front door was a sheet of ice. He tried to get up it again and again but kept falling down. Finally he got down on his hands and knees and crawled to the front door thoroughly satisfied with his day’s work.

Bill Porter says, “There are no obstacles, only challenges.” He lives a life of persistence when quitting would be so much easier. He is living proof of Robert Half’s comment, that “Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite.”

=> 3. Act When The Idea Is Hot And The Emotion Is Strong.

Jim Rohn talks about this strategy. You’ve got to take some action as soon as you get a good idea. If you don’t, you fall prey to “The Law of Diminishing Intent.”

You may decide, for example, to get yourself in better shape. You’re all fired up. But if you don’t do something along those lines when the idea strikes you, and if you don’t do something when your emotion is high, the urgency starts to fade away. A month later your passion is cold. A year from now it can’t be found.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’ve given you some great news today. FAILURE IS NEVER FINAL. Just follow the three strategies I’ve outlined, and you’ll be on the way to your next level of success.

Action:  How persistent are you? On a scale of 1-10, are you a “10” that never gives up? Or are you a “1” that gives up as soon as a little setback crosses your path? Or are you somewhere in between?

Decide where you are and where you’d like to be. If you’d like your score to be a bit higher, write down two things you can do to be more persistent. Look at your written statements at least once a day to make sure you are doing more of what you need to be doing.