Hanging On After Others Have Let Go

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
William Feather

You want to be successful? Well, who doesn’t?

After speaking to more than 2500 audiences around the world, I have yet to meet a person that says, “No, I want to be a failure. I want to be a loser. I want to scrape the bottom of the barrel and live at the bottom of society.”

Almost everybody wants to experience some degree of success, however that might be defined. The good news is … success, to some degree, is a science. It has been studied and researched as much if not more than any other topic on earth. So we pretty much know if you do certain things, you’re going to succeed. And if you do other things, you’re going to fail. It’s that simple … although not always that easy.

And on the list of things you’ve got to do to succeed is to PRACTICE PERSISTENCE. You’ve got to keep on doing your best at your job, at your marriage, at your exercise program, and at anything else BEFORE you can expect a breakthrough and experience the success you want.

As inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison proclaimed, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.”

Of course, you may be wondering how you develop a persistent personality when everything in you is telling you to give up, throw in the towel, and call it quits. From the job losses, economic setbacks, marriage failures, physical disabilities, death, imprisonment, suicides, and a host of other challenges in my life or the lives of my immediate family and my employees, I’ve learned five things that will allow you to PRACTICE PERSISTENCE.

1. Change your thinking and speaking patterns.

Some thoughts and some words rob you of power. They make it more difficult for you to PRACTICE PERSISTENCE.

For example, if you sound like you’re hedging, if you sound uncertain or wishy-washy, you’re telling yourself, in effect, that you can’t do something. And if you talk to others about your goals and plans and use words like “I think … I guess … Sort of … or … Maybe,” you’re broadcasting your lack of self-confidence.

That’s dangerous. After all, the basic premise of psychology is the fact that “you perform exactly as you tell yourself.” If you speak with a lack of conviction and confidence, you will actually kill off your ability to persist. So DON’T do it.

You need to change your thinking and speaking patterns so you are continually going UP the conviction ladder. Change your thoughts and comments from “I won’t do it … to … I can’t do it … to … I want to do it.” From there, keep on going up the ladder by telling yourself, ” How do I do it? … to … I’ll try to do it … to … I can do it … to … I will do it … to … Yes, I did it!”

Success researcher Orison Swett Marden said you’ve got to speak boldly and act boldly. As he wrote, “Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”

2. Appreciate your obstacles.

We’d all like smooth sailing. We’d like our lives and careers to just plain work without having to PRACTICE PERSISTENCE. And we’d prefer to have no obstacles whatsoever.

Well, that’s not only unrealistic but unhealthy. Obstacles can actually be good for us.

You see … life’s obstacles or God’s tests (choose whatever terminology you want) are seldom the ones you would have chosen for yourself. After all, they never seem to come at the right time and always seem to test you in your weakest areas. That’s because they’re not for the teacher’s benefit; they’re for your benefit!

The tests of life are designed to sharpen you mentally and strengthen you spiritually. When tests come … and they certainly will … you’ve got two choices.

One: you can act like a victim and complain that you’ve been singled out and treated unfairly. You can walk around feeling sorry for yourself, staying emotionally unfit and flabby.

Or two: you can use those tests to build your reserves. You can push against them. It’s like working out in a gym. The more you push against the weights and practice resistance, the stronger you get.

When it comes to success, it’s not just a matter of where you’re going but what you’re going through.

Alfred D. Souza had to learn that the hard way. He said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

So appreciate your obstacles. Use them to your advantage. PRACTICE PERSISTENCE.

Remember what master juggler Rob Peck says. When you have an obstacle, when you make a mistake, when you have an oops, Peck reminds himself that “WHOOPS” simply means “When Humans Overcome Obstacles, Providence Smiles.”

3. Give your feelings a vote, not a veto.

More often than not, failures fail because they don’t FEEL like doing what needs to be done. But winners win because they PRACTICE PERSISTENCE. Winners win because they have the determination to do what is necessary … whether or not they feel like it or they are in the mood. Winners do what has to be done, even if they find it unfair, inconvenient, or requires them to do more than others.

Certainly, your feelings have a vote in whether or not you decide to PERSIST, but your feelings are only your feelings. They come and go. So give your feelings a vote in the decision you make, but don’t ever give them a veto.

Charles Carlson had to learn that. He developed the process of photocopying in 1938, but he had to persevere for 21 years before the first Xerox copier was finally made.

Chuck Yeager, on his first flight as an astronaut passenger, threw up all over the back seat. He vowed never to go back up again, yet later on he became the first man to break the sound barrier.

And a woman once said to the great violinist Fritz Kreisler after a recital, “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you!” “Madam,” Kreisler replied, “I have.”

The professional baseball manager, Tommy Lasorda wrapped it up quite well when he said, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.”

4. Lighten up.

When people encounter obstacles instead of instant success, some people get all negative and depressed. And their negative attitude makes it even more difficult to keep on PRACTICING the PERSISTENCE they must have in order to succeed.

Lighten up instead. Find the humor in your challenges. Laugh about your difficulties. It’s good for your spirit and your persistence.

I found several examples of people who seem to do exactly that. In fact, they even put their whimsical thoughts on the bumper strips of their cars. A few of the bumper strips read:

* “I intend to live forever. So far, so good.”
* “Senior citizen: give me my da_n discount.”
* “As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools.”
* “If you drink, don’t park. Accidents cause people.”
* “Honk … if you want to see my finger.”
* “I used to be schizophrenic, but we’re OK now.”
* “Stop repeat offenders. Don’t re-elect them.”
* “Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.”
* “Two can live as cheaply as one … for only half as long.”
* “I’m not a complete idiot. Some parts are missing.”
* “Sometimes I wake up grumpy, and sometimes I let him sleep.”
* “I’m out of estrogen, and I have a gun.”
* “Incontinence hot line. Can you hold please?”

Persistence is never easy, but it’s always a lot easier to keep on keeping on with a good sense of humor and a positive attitude.

5. Don’t let failure stop you.

In other words, failure is a PART of life, not the END of life.

When you fail, refuse to give up.

* Be like R.H. Macy … who failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
* Be like novelist John Creasey … who received 753 rejection slips before he published the first of 564 books.
* Be like Thomas Edison … who was thrown out of school when the teachers decided he was incapable of learning and became one of the most prolific inventors the world has ever known.
* Be like Harry S. Truman … who failed as a haberdasher but became one of America’s most effective Presidents.
* Be like Bob Dylan … who was booed off the stage of his high school talent show but became one of the world’s most enduring rock stars.
* Or be like W. Clement Stone … who was a high school dropout but became the founder of an insurance company, and “Success” magazine, and one of the wealthiest people in the country.

The author of “Dances With Wolves,” Michael Blake says, “I tell people that if you stay committed, your dreams can come true. I’m living proof of it. I left home at 17 and had nothing but rejections for 25 years. I wrote more than 20 screenplays, but I never gave up.”

Let me remind you … and maybe you need to remind yourself … even if you fail, you are NOT a failure. Don’t let failure stop you. The biography of almost every successful person reads the same: he or she had some failures along the way, but they did NOT let failure stop them. And don’t let it stop you.

Action:  How much credence to give your feelings? Too much or too little? What can you do to give your feelings a vote but not a veto?