Discovering Your Persistance Factor

Are you Giving Up on Perseverance?

Many professionals feel there’s a contradiction around perseverance.  The advice that we often read about from some business gurus and success superstars is how important it is to keep going regardless - until you get to your intended outcome.  This is compared with the opposite advice which is “when something isn’t working, do something different.”   It’s a tough call because there are pros and cons for both strategies.  The answer is probably partially around how long you may have been persevering in the first place, and one of the most famous long term perseverance stories surrounds the American Inventor, Thomas Edison.

When Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked if he felt like a failure in his light bulb experiments and that he should give up, a perplexed Edison gave his considered response: "Young man, why would I feel like a failure?  And why should I consider giving up?  I now know definitively over two hundred ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp."  Shortly after that, and over three hundred attempts later, Edison successfully created a working electric light bulb.  Perseverance had paid off.  It was very inspiring to many other inventors.  The actual facts pertaining to what number of experiments were actually conducted by Edison vary from 100 to 10,000, but the overall facts on perseverance speak for themselves.  Edison was not a quitter, he kept going and won through.  Had he stopped and not persevered, would mankind have benefited from electric lighting so early on in history?

In contrast, we have the Alan Turing story of how he advanced computer science in the Second World War by not persevering with traditional Babbage thinking and changed his approach entirely when things had failed once too often.  This flexible approach produced the all-important solution.  There’s no question that Turing made a massive difference to the advancement of computer science and, yes, he could still be considered as someone who persevered, but he did so by stopping what wasn’t working and looked in a completely different direction for the solution.  Looking at these two classic examples, what is abundantly clear is the need to persevere with your big picture outcome, but be ready to be flexible and prepared to change the methodology or approach if needed.

The caveat here is that your big picture goal should not be wildly ambitious to the point of impossible.  Of course, what does impossible mean exactly?  What is seemingly impossible to one person is highly do-able to another, but there is in built intuitive equipment that we all possess.  Edison probably had a strong intuitive feeling that what he was doing was possible even though it appeared fruitless to many.  If you’re pursuing something that feels entirely plausible to you then you should probably persevere, provided your heart and soul are up for the challenge.  Passion and commitment are also important factors.  The bigger the goal the greater the amount of courage you will probably need to get to the finishing line.

Assuming that perseverance is still what you’d like to know more about, here are some tips that may help you to persevere:

  • The bigger the goal the more you need a reminder about achieving it.  Usually at least once a day.  This could be written down somewhere.
  • Do consider a second opinion from others when things aren’t working, but choose positive open minds as opposed to skeptics who can curtail your perseverance in a single ‘blow’.
  • Have your next key steps mapped out and focus on the steps themselves first, the big picture second.
  • If you have tried a particular step and you keep failing, start to think of an alternative way to get the same result by revising the idea completely.
  • Know what motivates you and use it.  Normally we are motivated by Pain or Pleasure.  If you are not sure which is your driver, ask the opinion of someone who knows you well.
  • Always celebrate breakthroughs along the way.  Waiting solely for the ultimate celebration when everything falls into place is actually quite a negative approach that should be avoided.
  • When something doesn’t work always ask yourself the question: “What’s potentially good or useful about this unexpected result?”
  • The more actions you are prepared to take the more persistence you are demonstrating.
  • Consider getting someone formally, or informally, to coach you.
  • Also, do you need a mentor?  Someone who has experience in what you’re attempting to achieve?  If you want to write a book and have never done this before, finding another author who’s had to persevere themselves could probably be extremely motivating.

It’s also handy to have an immediate resource to give you a little nudge when all that seem to surround you are brick walls.  Nick Vujicic is a great example of human perseverance and mental flexibility.  Here is a man born without arms or legs by an unfortunate freak of nature, yet lives a life that many able bodied individuals would frown at.  His mission appears to be about helping others that he perceives as less fortunate.  Check out this YouTube clip: and then look at other clips about this amazing human being.  Comparison can be a powerful perseverance lever by comparing yourself to other people who have an even bigger mountain to climb.

There’s no doubt that at the centre of perseverance is a strong and committed mindset. Those who are essentially ‘weak minded’ rarely want to get to their destination and are much more likely to complain at every step of the journey instead.  So now give yourself a score out of 10 for your own ‘Persistence Factor’.  Scoring 10 means you are invincible when it comes to keeping going and you would never give up on any dream or plan you set until you achieved it.  How satisfied are you with your score?   In looking at such scores from others over the years, very few people are prepared to give themselves a 10.  Those that do have scores of achievements they can proudly refer to as evidence of the significance of perseverance seems to say it all.  The choice in life is less about how to persist and much more about whether we choose to do so in the first place.




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