Saturday, September 19, 2009

Persistence or Stupidity

Regardless of what book you read about success or what successful person you listen to, they will always talk about the characteristic of persistence. The idea that you should never give up, keep going, don't get sidelined, and don't ever stop, is a prevalent theme when it comes to going after your goals.

We've all heard sayings like: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. But is there ever a time when you shouldn't try again? When you should - dare I say it - give up? Should you ever consider letting it go, changing course, pursuing a new direction or simply stopping.

If someone were to ask what it meant to be persistence, it would be fairly easy to give a definition. We may even admire certain people because of their ability to fight through any circumstance to ultimately get what they want.

Persistence has probably shown up in our own lives. Maybe it was sheer persistence that got you through school. Or maybe it was what allowed you to find a way/make a way to buy something you really wanted. Or perhaps it was the way you finally got the man or woman of your dreams.

But in reading Mentored By a Millionaire, by Steven K. Scott, he addresses the ugly side of persistence. The side where there is continued loss no matter how hard the effort. Loss of time, loss of money, loss of motivation, loss of family, loss of friends, or even a loss of self-confidence.

The question is, how do you know when you've ventured over into a level of persistence that is actually more detrimental to your well being? How do you determine when there is really no chance of you getting what you want?

Scott helps us figure it out by defining the critical distinction between what persistence is and what persistence is not.

What Persistence is Not: When failure is contemplated, persistence is not simply a matter of staying the course no matter what. When failure is experienced, persistence is not simply refusing to give up and then trying the same thing over and over again, but with more effort, intensity or frequency.

What Persistence Is: When failure is contemplated, true persistence makes the necessary mid-course corrections to reduce risk, and increase the possibility of success. When failure is experienced, true persistence analyzes various elements or factors that may have caused or contributed to that failure and then design and tries creative alternatives that might result in significant improvement and ultimate success.

In other words, he says successful people should approach each important project or goal expecting problems, setbacks and potential failure to block their path to success. Then utilize their partnering skills to draw on the creative input and resources of others to creatively persist through each problem until they succeed one way or another. If, after all of that, they discover that a project is a "three legged horse", they should "shoot it" rather than race it.

I love that last sentence. It means that you have to really analyze your situation to see if the path you're on will render you the results you want. And while some will say that you still shouldn't give up, you have to make the choice for yourself. For if you are relentlessly pursuing a goal that's a "three legged horse", it can be freeing to give yourself permission to "shoot it" and let it go.

That doesn't make you a failure. It makes you smart.

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Doreen Rainey is a Life Coach and Speaker who helps her clients Get RADICAL!
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  1. Ahhhh, there are so many facets to this topic. Simple "persistence" will not make you successful. Doing the same things over and over in hopes of a different result is just crazy. However, I think we all have been guilty at some point of doing something over and over-HOPING the outcome will change-but never really changing our input. I think your last paragraph is key--a person has to analyze their situation to see if they are on the right path--and be objective and honest enough with themselves to decide that either 1-they are going to take the steps they need to take to succeed (meaning, YES you need to do all of the hard/uncomfortable stuff that you have been avoiding) or 2-shoot that 3 legged horse and move on!

  2. You are so right.

    The key is to be objective and emotionally detached - especially in business situations.

    Had I followed this advice many years ago, I would have cut the cord on a business opportunity and saved myself a bunch of grief - and money!!!