The Value of Persistence

Finding Long-term Success

A blog post by Ron Scheese, President & CEO of Andesa Services

Earlier this year I penned a blog on perseverance entitled If at First You Don’t Succeed.  I’ve had a number of reactions and conversations about the subject of persistence and perseverance as a virtue.

One recent conversation was with a friend about leading transformational change and sustaining momentum, even in the face of mixed results. When faced with a transformational issue, one is confronted  with a matter of beliefs and values. The challenges cannot be solved but need to be navigated over the long-term.

Long Term SuccessThis can be frustrating for those of us who like to experience the results of our efforts, often on a short-term horizon. Transformational leadership can often be more in tune with the concept of planting acorns; you may see some progress along the way, but the big results are way in the future, perhaps never witnessed by the planter. What is critical however, is the daily tasks which must be sustained for the change to take hold and last.

In the bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcom Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour principle – a concept whereby the diligent, repeatable practice of a task or skill over a 10,000-hour investment of time creates mastery and expertise.

Providing the example of The Beatles, Gladwell notes how the Fab Four honed their craft and their sound by playing live for a period of four years straight in Hamburg, Germany.  By the time they returned to England in 1964, they had a unique skill, sound and style such that their success was predictable.

Persistence is challenging without immediate results

As my friend and I discussed the challenge of persisting despite the lack of immediately-verifiable results, we began to cite other examples where the ritualization of practices executed repeatedly can lead to long-lasting, sustainable improvements.

Investing:  The ultimate value of a person’s retirement account is dependent upon many things, including portfolio diversification and market performance.  However, two things one can control are how much and how long to save. The financial concept of compounding produces exponential versus linear growth in your savings. It is why so many advise investing small, early and consistently in a company 401k, with length of time as the best indicator of future wealth.

Weight loss and fitness:  Ever try a fad diet to lose weight, only to see yourself yo-yo back up shortly after the initial loss? How many New Year’s resolutions and January gym memberships are still active by February? As self-help guru and motivational coach Tony Robbins counsels, “Permanent weight loss is all about making small daily changes. Simple lifestyle changes are the key to success, because they are the only way to ensure that weight stays off” (emphasis added).

Sales:  Many sales training blogs and courses tout the power of a consistent approach and actions to achieve long-term goals. Successful sales people recognize that the result – the sale – is a lagging indicator of the actions which preceded – the calls, appointments, proposals. Focus on the daily habits and controllable activities are the best indication of long-term sales effectiveness.

Spirituality: The purpose of spiritual discipline is the development of our inner being – a transformation to a better state and relationship with the world. When prayer, gratitude, yoga, meditation, journaling, scripture reading or other spiritual activities become daily practices, they lead to greater spiritual maturity.

One day at a time

Addiction recovery:  Recovery from any addiction is personal and can take many pathways. A key principle in most approaches to recovery is the concept of “one day at a time” – a focus on the here and now – not on the past – not on the overwhelming thoughts of the future. Long-term recovery and healing can truly only be achieved and celebrated by the accumulation of many “one-day-at-a-time” accomplishments.

Athletics, Dance, Music, Painting, Writing, etc.:  Want to be a better writer – write daily.  Want to make more free throws – practice shooting daily.  Want to be a better dancer – dance daily. Michael Jordan, arguably the best player in NBA history, did not make the varsity team as a sophomore in high school.

He utilized that setback as motivation to practice throughout his career. Until his retirement, he was known to be the first one in the gym and the last to leave.  Whether Gladwell’s 10,000-hour concept is universal or not, the more time and attention one devotes to a task or skill, the more proficient one becomes.

Persistence is the key

So, as we contemplate what it means to achieve truly transformational, long-term success, keep in mind that persistence is the key!  It is getting up every day and consistently doing the small things well.  To quote personal development legend Jim Rohn, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

Do you have personal experiences or examples where persistence paid off?  If so, I would love to hear about them.

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