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 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. –Calvin Coolidge
When I first read that quote in Jack Canfield’s ‘The Success Principles’ (Which I would highly recommend to anyone serious about becoming successful.) it took me by surprise.Â I wasn’t a big fan of perseverance because I didn’t practice it as often as I should have.
If something was too hard or was taking me too long, I usually just gave up.Â There were always the usual excuses about how the task I was undertaking was much too difficult for a normal person to complete.Â Or perhaps I would justify it by saying that it simply wasn’t possible, or maybe I would think that only someone born of different circumstances from my own would be able to achieve the task that I had not been able to complete.
Sometimes I just thought: “This is too damn hard,” and I gave up.Â So, as I said:Â When I read this I was a little bit surprised– surprised and upset.
And yet now I cherish that quote.Â It’s one of my favourites simply because of how true it is.Â When I actually followed the advice that it suggested, it changed my life.
No matter what problem you’re having, I can personally guarantee that perserverance will get you through it.Â This is especially true if you’re trying to develop a skill, like playing the guitar or practicing your tennis swing.Â You’re going to… well… you’re going to suck at both of those things the very first time you perform them.Â In fact, a couple of months down the road you’re still going to suck.Â And you’re probably going to say to yourself: Man, I really suck.Â I’m just no good at this.Â That’s not true in the least.
In fact, if you persevere you can become absolutely phenomenal at whatever you’re practicing.Â Everyone sucks when they’re new, but the more they stick with something the better they get.Â It’s not a coincidence that the professionals in all fields have been toiling in their field for usually the majority of their lives.Â So it follows that it’s only with persistent practice that you’ll get better.
Easy, right?Â Just be persistent and you’ve got a winning formula for success.Â You can do that with your eyes closed!
Wrong.Â Being persistent and persevering is one of the most excruciatingly difficult things you will ever do when you first start.Â It sounds easy.Â All that ‘get back on the horse’ talk makes it sound like it’s very simple to just keep trying something over and over until you get it right, but it’s not so cut and dry when you actually try it.
And here’s why:
You have been trained to avoid failure
That’s probably not a shocking revelation to you.Â Neither is it a unique trait– most people are terrified of failure.Â There are a variety of reasons for this , the main one being school; but for the purposes of this post let’s just forget about the why’s and take it for granted that most people are afraid of failure.Â I’ll talk about the reasons of a fear of failure another time.
But the fear of failure is why it’s so difficult to persist in something you fail at again and again and again.Â The drive to avoid failure has likely been beaten into you over the years.Â By your parents, by your peers and co-workers, by the formal education process, by your bosses and by your friends.Â Failure is almost universally viewed as a very negative thing, and those who fail are viewed as, well… failures!Â The very fact that the word ‘failure’ is applied to someone as a negative trait should illustrate my point quite well.
Unfortunately, if you’re to surmount any large problem, or become extremely good at anything in your life, or survive in a relationship, you’re going to need to fail.Â A lot.
Failure is why persistence works.Â As a human being you will naturally learn from your failures over time.Â Your mind will adapt for mental problems and your body will naturally adapt for physical ones.Â The more you shoot that basketball the better your body is going to get to know when to release, where to aim and how much power to put into the shot.Â The more you fail to solve that killer riddle, the more your mind is going to look outside of the typical and obvious solutions available because you’ve already tried them.
So to be persistent, you need to be okay with failing.Â You need to face the fear of being wrong, or not completing a task in a way that meets your standards and you need to let go of perfectionism.Â I cannot stress this enough.Â You must fail in order to succeed.
Facing the fear of failing is such an enormous hurdle for me that it’s taken me my entire life to get to a point where I now feel like I’m being persistent more than I’m not, and I still struggle with it a great deal.Â So don’t get discouraged if you find that putting yourself in a place where you’re likely to fail many times over is difficult at first.
Fear of failure is not the only obstacle to persistence, though.
You need to be patient
Got the fear thing down?Â Great.Â Next up comes patience.Â This one is just as hard as fear, because those big tasks like becoming a doctor, running a successful business, becoming a millionaire, or finishing your magnum opus are going to take a long time.Â Being patient for two weeks is easy.Â Being patient for 10 years is an entirely different story.Â Some of the goals on your list of things you want to accomplish are going to require you to wait for years instead of only days.
It’s hard enough to remain patient when you’re dying to accomplish your goals or you’re waiting for something to happen, but it’s even harder to remain patient when you’re failing at something over the entire period of time that you’re waiting.Â Unfortunately that’s often the case when you’re trying to achieve a lot of the bigger goals in your life.
Unfortunatelier (Trust me, that’s a word.Â I’m an author.) there’s no easy fix for this.Â The real key to being patient is practice.Â There’s no secret trick that will help you become more patient without actually being patient and waiting for something you’re dying to have happen.
I can tell you that the more you do it, the easier it will become.Â It takes a while for the whole ‘being patient’ thing to sink into your brain but it will eventually.Â For a long while (For me it was around two years before I became used to being patient after I started pursuing some of my bigger goals.) you will be itching to have what you want arrive NOW.
Don’t beat yourself up about it.Â We’re all very well trained at being impatient, only instead of blaming the educational system you can blame the media this time.Â Advertising is especially guilty of this because the truth is that it works. A short waiting period with a reward at the end is the perfect method for motivating human beings and animals alike.Â So advertisements and corporations tap it, and consequently most people are used to getting a lot of what they want the instant the desire hits them.
Hence why so many people play the lottery.Â They’d love for the money to just appear on the doorstep without any of this patience, failure and perseverance stuff even though the odds of them becoming a millionaire by working for the money are astronomically higher than winning the lottery.
But I digress.Â My point is simple.Â If you want to be more patient, the only way you’re going to develop that ability is by repeatedly trying to be patient.Â So, to make this instruction the ultimate in irony, I will put it this way:Â In order to improve your patience, you’re going to need to persevere until that ability develops.
Back to perseverance
So, I’ve established that being someone who is persistent can be a rather difficult goal to achieve, and it’s also a very self-enclosed skill in that the only real way to develop your perseverance is to practice it, and to try again and again each time you fail.
I do have one method that will make achieving this holy grail of perseverance a lot easier:Â Forgiveness.Â If you forgive yourself each time you fail and each time you lose patience, you won’t be beating up on yourself and will thus be more apt to try again.
What helped me was remembering two things: I remembered what I would get at the end of my long road of perseverance, and I remembered that I had never, ever truly failed unless I gave up on my goal.Â Even if I stopped trying something for a month, if I realized I hadn’t been doing what I wanted to I would start again.Â Because by starting again, I wasn’t beating myself up for not accomplishing what I wanted to for the last month, I was succeeding. Succeeding by not giving up and not accepting failure.
Persist and any goal you set will be within your grasp.Â It may take you weeks, months or years to achieve it but you will always achieve it if you persist.Â No matter how big your problems seem to be, persistence will topple them in the end.