If At First You Don’t Succeed


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Tips for Maintaining Your Perseverance in the Workplace

A Blog post from Ron Scheese, President & CEO

There is something inspirational in stories of accomplishments achieved through the power of perseverance.  I am frequently inspired through times of trial and tribulations from such inspirational quotes and stories.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. -Henry Ford

Automobile giant Henry Ford was known as a failed engineer. His quest for perfectionism prevented his ability to deliver for his customers, ultimately leading to the bankruptcy of the Detroit Automotive Company.  His early failures taught him valuable lessons which he implemented into a different design philosophy and develop approach for the Model A and ultimately the Model T, revolutionizing  the auto industry in the process.

My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know, but because of their insatiable need to know more. -Milton Hershey

Famous chocolatier and philanthropist Milton S. Hershey is recognized for overcoming early career obstacles and hardships.  The “Failures to Fortunes”  museum exhibit in Hershey, PA, describes his early days as he having “bounced from failure to fiasco before hitting on a winning recipe.”

When the world says, “Give up,” hope whispers, “try it one more time.” you have more potential than you believe you do.  Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened. -Dr. Seuss

World-renowned children’s book author Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) received twenty-seven rejections for his first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  Undeterred, publisher 28 took a chance and the rest – well, its history.  Where does one find the internal fortitude to overcome that much rejection?  How many of us give up after just a few unreturned calls or e-mails?
The common proverb of success:  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again, was penned in the 1800’s and inspired generations. Imagine a world without mass-produced automobiles, Hershey kisses or Dr. Seussisms.

I am reminded of a small Calvin Coolidge quote poster which hung on my bulletin board to remind me to Press On when the going was rough: “Nothing in this 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 will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Value the journey as much as the result.

While these stories and quotes serve to inspire us when the going gets tough, I recently saw a different motivational poster with a perhaps more philosophical ending: “If at first you don’t succeed, try a different approach.”  

I appreciate this twist from the traditional “try, try again.”  There is recognition that perseverance is important, but flexibility is critical in accomplishing our goals.  It provides room for remaining steadfast in the achievement of the desired objective, but allows for different paths to reach the outcome.  “Try a different approach” values the journey as much as the result.

How many of us attend a retreat or a conference,  get away from our problems for a day or two, get energized by our learnings and  new perspectives, only to be back to our usual patterns and behaviors within a week of our return.  Many acknowledge the challenges we face, but fall back to our routine, tried and true patterns of problem resolution.  We try, try again and again as if by pure brute force, by persistence alone, we could will a successful conclusion.  Frustration mounts and we ponder the same outcome time and again.

The urban dictionary definition of insanity is well-known: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Yet many of us seem to check our brains at the door when it comes to problem solving.  Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn notes “you must change your approach in order to change your results.” But many of us forge through life, expecting different outcomes from our daily routines.

How is that working for you?

Can’t you just hear television psychologist Dr. Phil asking that question “How’s that working for you?”

Ouch!!  That question is not about if what you are doing should work.  It’s not about whether you want it to work or whether you can will it to work.  The inquiry goes to the direct heart of the matter–if at first you don’t succeed, is what you are doing working?  If not, apply what you learned, adapt, and try a different approach.

Self-help and infomercial legend Tony Robbins reminds us to “stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach.” My Clifton Strengths-Finder profile indicates Learner and Activator as two of my top 5 talents.  I tend to view strategy and direction from a perspective of building flexibility and adaptability into my plan.  I activate to gather input, information, learn and adjust.  The earlier in a plan I can determine that something is not working out, the sooner I can adjust and try another approach – while simultaneously keeping the objective and end in mind.

What’s troubling you today?  Are you doing the same thing today that you did yesterday to solve the issue? How’s that working for you?  If at first you don’t succeed, try another approach.


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