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Persistence: The Commonality of Successful Business People

Updated 5 months ago.

Look upon history, and you’ll find that the notable quality that exists in all champions is persistence.

The path you walk will not always be easy, but you have to continue to persist. Even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, you must keep putting one foot in front of the other, because there are lessons to be learned along the way, all of which will support your success.

Whenever you confront an obstacle or roadblock, step back and emotionally detach yourself from the situation. It’s much easier to think of ways to go around, under or over the obstacle when you let go of the frustration. This may take some practice, but try this exercise: imagine a friend is the one facing the challenge(s), and you are simply providing ideas how to help them overcome the obstacle. When you are solution-oriented, you focus on the possibilities, not the impossibilities.

In truth, nothing is impossible, and change is inevitable. Knowing this, you can take persistent steps in faith, with the wisdom that nothing stays the same, and at some time in the future your current obstacles will dissolve.

Here are some quick facts about persistence.

 It took approximately 10,000 experiments before Thomas Edison successfully invented the light bulb. What does he have to say about persistence? “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

 Long before becoming the lead singer of REO Speedwagon, Kevin Cronin, was determined to make it big. At a young age, he went to go see an influential music producer, only to get turned away. Kevin was so confident in his talent that he didn’t let that producer’s rejection get to him for one second. In fact, he was convinced that the producer’s tape player must not have been working properly, because if it had, the producer would have recognized Kevin’s talents immediately. He kept pursuing his passion and eventually landed with REO Speedwagon, bringing the band into the mainstream music scene. Over the years, they’ve sold more than 40 million records and charted 13 Top 40 hits.

 When 19-year-old Rick Little wanted to start a program in high schools that would teach kids how to deal with their feelings, handle conflict, clarify life goals, and communicate effectively, he was turned down by more than 155 organizations. Finally, the Kellogg Foundation gave him $130,000, but that wasn’t enough. He was persistent and eventually received $65,000,000 in funding - the second largest funding in U.S. History - to create the International Youth Foundation. How’s that for persistence?

 In 1998, Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page approached Yahoo! and suggested a merger. Yahoo! executives politely declined and suggested they continue working on their “little school project” and come back when they were all grown up. Ten years later, Google is worth an estimated $140 billion! That surpasses Intel, Coke, McDonald’s, as well as other corporate moguls, including Yahoo!. Just for moment, think about how their persistence impacted the world of search engines as we know it.

What’s the lesson here? You should never, never give up. However, there are times when it may be appropriate to refocus your persistence in a new direction. How do you know when it’s the right time to change course?

If you absolutely cannot live without what passionately consumes you, then do not give it up. The problem is never your passion, it only the manner in which you are trying to make it happen. Try a different approach - think of a creative solution. However, if you can live without it, then passion is not is what is driving you. When passion is not driving you - it’s not something you really want. Perhaps you have trained yourself to want what someone else wants for you. Go back to your list of goals and reconnect with the goals that really drive you.

Old goals don’t match new priorities and/or values
We all know that people change. Where you are in life determines what’s important to you. It’s okay that you refocus your persistence on a new goal that is alignment with your new priorities or values. Don’t be afraid to let go of old goals that don’t resonate with your new evolution. Just be sure you’re letting go of them for the right reason. In other words, be sure you’re not letting go of something you really love just because you’re fearful it will never happen.

When your persistence is really stubbornness
To be clear, persistence is not the same thing as stubbornness. Are you being persistent because you really want it or are you refusing to let it go because you are somehow mistaking it for failure? If you don’t want it, let it go - that’s not failure.

Making room for new goals
You may have several goals in life, and that’s the way it should be, but which ones are the most important to you? It’s a good idea to first focus your persistence on the goals that carry the highest level of desire. As you achieve your most desired goals, you can reprioritize the remaining goals, delete them, or add new goals as it suits you. Scattering your focus among several goals will not allow you to apply persistence effectively. Periodically evaluate your goals list and reprioritize or delete old goals to make way for the new ones.

The most important thing to remember about persistence is to trust your own intuition. Don’t listen to the critics and silence the self-doubt. If you have a feeling that something is going to work, even if everyone says it won’t, persist in your goal until you achieve it. There is core genius in you - and that is the stuff that champions are born from.

"So, if you're tired of the same old story... oh, turn some pages."
-- Roll with the Changes, REO Speedwagon (1978)

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Aim for what you want each and every day!
Anne Bachrach
The Accountability Coach™
The Results Accelerator™

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Author of Excuses Don’t Count; Results Rule, Live Life with No Regrets, No Excuses, and the Work Life Balance Emergency Kit, The Roadmap To Success with Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard, and more.