More often than not, genius comes disguised in persistence.
Warnings have come with the disasters of the last few weeks. We’ve been warned that times have changed, that our battles of the future won’t be like our battles of the past. And we’ve been told we can’t expect to win victories overnight or even in a short time.
That will be a huge challenge for all of us. After all, most of us want our successes right now. We’ve even been conditioned to think that it’s possible. We’ve watched thousands of commercials that fix almost every conceivable problem in 60 seconds or less. And so it’s hard to be patient.
The truth is–most victories on and off the job are the result of persistence. There are very few overnight successes in this world. Our greatest general, George Washington, knew that. He lost every battle but two, but he never gave up the pursuit of victory. And baseball manager Billy Martin echoed that sentiment. He said, “When you’re a winner, you come back no matter what happened the day before.”
The good news is persistence can be learned. In fact, if you’re persistent at work or at home, your success is almost guaranteed. Here’s how you get it.
First, DEVELOP A SENSE OF CALLING. In other words, there’s a lot more to life than going to work, collecting a paycheck, and paying off the mortgage. That’s survival, but it’s not a calling. I believe that everyone has a calling or a purpose. In other words, you’re here to make some kind of positive difference in the world. It may be in your family, your company, or your nation, but you’re here to make your world a better place.
What’s your calling? Have you even thought about it? It’s one of the topics I address at my two-day Peak Performance Boot Camp.
As soon as you figure out your calling, you’ll be amazed at how much extra peace, power, and performance will be at your disposal. As L. J. Cardinal Suenens said, “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”
One such person who experienced the power of a calling was Willem. More than anything else, Willem wanted to be an evangelist, but by the age of 25, he had already been an art dealer, language teacher, bookseller, and a failure in love. But more than all the paintings, words, books, and women, he wanted to devote himself to others.
This calling brought young Willem to the coalfields of south Belgium. Perhaps it was this young minister’s total selflessness that first captured the respect of the miners. During a mine disaster, scores of villagers were hurt, and no one fought harder to save them than he did. Day and night, Willem nursed the wounded, fed the hungry, and clothed the poor.
After the rubble was cleared, the dead were buried, and the sick made well, the townspeople turned to this Dutchman as their spiritual leader. Every Sunday the people packed out Willem’s services, to hear this simple man speak.
But then lightning struck. Some visiting church officials discovered Willem was living in a simple hut, dressed in old clothes, and gave away most of his salary to the poorest of miners. They didn’t think it was proper for him to take the Bible so literally, to look more destitute than the people he taught, and so he was fired.
Willem was devastated. The career that meant everything to him was suddenly gone. He went through weeks of despair, but one day Willem noticed an old miner bending beneath the weight of an enormous sack of coal. In that instant, Willem once again felt the desperation of those people, a desperation that he knew he would always share.
Fumbling through his pocket, the Dutchman pulled out a tattered envelope and a pencil. He sketched the weary figure that moved him so. The drawing was a crude one, but he tried to improve upon his sketch, over and over.
Beginning that day, Willem was to capture for the world the torment, the triumph and the dignity of the people he loved. And even though Willem was thrown out of the ministry, it did not cause him to throw away his calling. Even though he was not allowed to teach the people, he was able to reach the people through his art. And in the process, he immortalized them, and they immortalized him.
The man with a calling, the preacher who wasn’t to be, became the artist we know as Vincent Willem Van Gogh. It was his calling that gave him persistence, and it was his persistence that allowed his genius to come forth.
That’s what a calling will do for you. It will bring out your best. It will keep you going no matter what. Do you know what your calling is? I hope so.
Second, ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY. Persistence isn’t something that somebody else can give you. Persistence isn’t something you’re born with. Plain and simple, it’s a decision that you make.
In other words, you decide that nobody makes the decision to stay down or get up except you yourself. You may be at the bottom; you may land at the bottom, or you may have had others push you there. But you also know that if you stay at the bottom, that’s somewhat your decision and certainly your responsibility.
Birt Duncan tells it this way. As a cast off black in the South, he was bumped from foster home to foster home. He lived with more than 13 families from Arkansas to Mississippi. He fell asleep in school from a lack of proper nutrition. But now he has a Ph.D. from Princeton in psychology and an M.D. from the University of California. He says: “What’s really important is not what color your skin is–white or black. More important, what color is your thinking? Red or green? Think green. Think go! You cannot control the color of your skin, but you can determine the color of your thinking!”
Again and again, the first prizes don’t go to the most talented. They often go to the most determined. A great drive, a powerful determination, a consuming desire will easily compensate for little or limited talent. And how do you get it? As I said above, figure out your calling and assume responsibility.
Action: This week sit down and write out your calling. Actually write it out. Write and rewrite it until you really like it. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you end up with a sentence or two that passes two tests. First, your calling is so exciting that it turns you on, but second, it’s so important that you’d be willing to die for it.