Failure cannot cope with persistence. – Napoleon Hill
What does that mean?
To me, it is another way of stating that with some patience and a lot of effort, despite any number of failures, you will eventually succeed. It also helps if you can learn something from each mistake. However, if you keep trying, keep improving your methods and stay focused, you eventually will get past that obstacle.
Why is persistence important?
I don’t know, maybe we should just give up. Not really. persistence is the good side of stubborn, a refusal to accept failure. Not that there isn’t a time to give up, but it should only be after careful examination of all options and alternatives. And then, only when no practical way forward is possible.
But before giving up, I would apply a lesson I learned climbing trees and solving mazes: sometimes you have to back up a bit to be able to move ahead again. Examine why you are having problems moving forward and see if you might have made a wrong turn a step or two back. See? Persistence can pay off!
The flip side of persistence is summed up by a famous parody of an equally famous saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up!” How far would you get in life with that attitude? As a kid growing up in the Mid-West, we were instilled with the “Can Do” attitude. True, it might take time, effort and money, but it CAN be done.
A trip into space (a really big dream for young kids in the 60’s)? In five years, it will probably cost less than $500,000! At one time, airplane rides cost nearly as much, and you only went around your own town a few times before landing again. Today, we have jet airplanes circling the globe moving millions of passengers each year.
Become a published author? If you are willing to count the self-published route (and why not, William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, William Morris, and James Joyce all self published, they’re real authors too, right?), it can be fairly easy. Short runs are fairly easy to do, and can start at less than trans-Atlantic air fare. ( for a really neat intro and review of what to do and how to do it, read this article )
Where can I apply this in my life?
It’s list time again. This time, write down three tasks you are currently stuck on, and three you’ve set aside or given up on, but would still like to do. Check the three you have set aside and check to see if one of them is from many years ago. If not, add a fourth to the list, one that is from quite some time ago (ideally a decade or more). Got them? Good.
For the three that you are currently stuck on, list all the reasons why you are no longer making progress that you can come up with. Take a few moments and really think this out. Now examine the list and see how many of them have a common thread.
If you are like me, there usually is something in common, and that is the underlying issue to tackle. For me, fear has usually been my biggest holdup. I’m a control freak, and anything that would introduce randomness or uncertainty into my life usually gets moved to the bottom of my priority list. In my case, I have learned to embrace (in small amounts, and under controlled circumstances) a little chaos in my life. I have also learned that while change will happen, it doesn’t have to be random, if you do your research and are properly prepared.
What can you do about your common thread? What underpins it? Take a little time to see if there is a common emotion, action or situation which helps to explain your reluctance to move forward. If you have one, see how specific you can be. Mine was fear, but a specific type of fear. Specificity will help you help yourself.
Assuming you are still working on the program, let’s brainstorm on what can be done to help deal with reluctance. I was able to reduce the uncertainty, and therefore reduce or remove the reluctance. This might not be the easiest assignment, but it does have some serious possibilities, so please try to complete it. Done? Does it look like persistence will pay off? I hope so. Now, on to the older issues.
For the three (or four) which you would still like to do, but have set aside for the moment (note that I don’t say “gave up on,” words have meaning, be careful with your dialog with yourself), let’s start with the one from the ancient past. The reason I want to start with something at least a decade old is summed up in one word: Progress. Much has changed in the last decade. Even (with diligence and a bit of luck) your finances should have changed for the better in the last decade.
What was the underlying issue for that item? If it was due to a technological issue, revisit it – is it now feasible? If it was due to a financial issue, revisit it – is it within your grasp, or close? If it was another issue, perhaps a skill or fear based issue, reconsider it – can you learn what you need, are you still afraid, can you overcome that specific fear? Perhaps you wanted to become a doctor.
Many people take a second career in their life, do you still have the drive to go the distance and get your MD? Or was the drive behind wanting to be a doctor the desire to help sick people? If so, there are other medical professions where you can get that satisfaction without all the investment required to become a doctor. Consider alternatives that satisfy, and you may find persistence pays off.
As an example of mine, I have always wanted to look at the Earth from space. For the longest time it was impossible. Then the Russians started making berths on the Space Station available, but for a price well beyond my means. Now, with SpaceX inspired industry, as long as you can pass the physical, Spaceflight will soon be an expensive, but possible, bucket list item. I can’t wait!
The other old issues may not be as easily solved by today’s technology, but what about tomorrow’s? My point here is that you should use the same techniques used in the present and distant past. If you still can’t get to the desired result just yet, put it on a list to revisit each year until you CAN get there.
Don’t give up unless you have really given it some thought and decided not that you can’t get there, but that you no longer have a desire to go there. The most constant thing in the universe is change. Things that weren’t possible a decade ago are common place today.
In the famous misquote of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never! Never give up!”