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Karl W. Palachuk
November 3, 2009

I received this in a recent email from Brian Tracy:

    Calvin Coolidge, a president who was so reluctant to speak in public that he was given the nickname of “Silent Cal,” will go down in history for his simple but memorable words on success. He wrote, “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

In other words . . . hang in there . . . stick to it . . . keep moving forward . . . Don’t give up.

Every successful person is persistent in pursuing a goal. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone who pursues a goal is going to be successful. But no one who gives up is successful.

Persistence is a necessary (but not sufficient) element for success.

These words really struck me because I’m a big believer in commitment. I don’t say I will do something until I’m ready to follow through. And I always try to project a time period that can be considered “giving it a fair shot.” In other words, if I try something new, I try to stick with it long enough to really see whether it will succeed or fail.

Many people say they’ll try something and then give up after one attempt. “I tried exercising but after a day my muscles were sore.” 🙂

Persistence is one of the most difficult qualities to pursue. By definition it requires constant, relentless attention. How many times have I started an exercise regimen and then “something” happened and I got off my regimen? Recently I broke a toe. So five weeks later I’m getting back to walking. Still hurts. But I have to get back to it sometime!

When people are ready to give up they frequently say “I’ve tried everything” or “I tried so hard for so long.” But that’s usually not true. It feels that way, but it’s not true.

The normal pattern of effort for most things is a big push followed by a diminishing effort over time. So early on they put in a huge amount of effort – and they remember that. As their effort diminishes over time, they convince themselves that they are continuing to put out a high level of effort because they view their effort as cumulative.

Eventually they get to the point where they believe they’ve put out supreme effort “forever” when they’ve really put out almost no effort for a very long time.

Persistence means continuing to put out a higher level of effort. You may have heard the quote from Woody Allen: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” There’s a lot of truth to that. But it’s not just showing up, looking around, and leaving. It’s showing up and putting in the effort. It’s really showing up ready to work.

One key element that helps me with persistence is to try a mental reset: I try to view things as current projects rather than one more step in a process that’s been going on for years. I’ve made a commitment and today I’m going to follow through. NOT: I tied this albatross around my neck and now I have to work at it again until it kills me.

Persistence is another one of those muscles of success: you exercise it a little all the time and it becomes a habit that propels you forward.


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4 Responses

  1. If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius.

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