Ode to Persistence

They all said it was a stupid title, that nobody bought collections of short stories, that there was no edge — no s**, no violence. Why would anyone read it?
— Jack Canfield, talking about the publishers who rejected Chicken Soup for the Soul. The book was by rejected by over 100 publishers but went on to sell over 130 million copies.

As we enter the new year, it is a time when many people want to try something new, make changes, start over.  Of course, as a coach, I’m generally a big fan of this sort of thing.  Yet, it's also important to remember that just because you have not yet doubled your client base, or lost that weight, or created the kind of relationship that you want with your staff, doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong.  You may just need more time for the results of your efforts to start manifesting.  So, when is persistence worth it and when should you just go home and eat ice cream?

You first need to identify whether you are experiencing temporary setbacks or if there is a fatal flaw in your goal.

Fatal Flaws

Do you lack the requisite talent? This is not asking if you are the smartest or most talented, but rather do you pass the basic threshold of talent required to be successful?  If the answer is yes, then stop torturing yourself, your family and friends and give up already. Your talents clearly lie elsewhere, and you can always sing or play basketball as a hobby.

Are you lacking passion? If you achieve this goal will you be overjoyed?  Will you feel like you are being who you are meant to be in the world?  If the answers to these questions are “no” then it is probably not worth it for you to continue to in the face of multiple setbacks.  This could be the universe's way of saying "Dude, stop wasting your time.  Do something you actually care about."

Temporary Setbacks

Are you offering something new and different? I went to an entrepreneurs conference a few years ago and the research and development director of a huge technology company gave the keynote address.  He said that the products and ideas that actually make a difference, change the market, are the ones that on first glance most people would dismiss as stupid.  So, if you are offering something unique or unconventional you may just have to knock on enough doors until you find someone who can appreciate what you have to offer.

Is there a knowledge or experience gap? Making mistakes when you are learning something new is not really failure, though it sure does feel like it sometimes.  When you learned to walk you fell down a lot. When taking on a new role or acquiring a new skill it is natural and inevitable to make mistakes.  Frankly, it would be kind of spooky if you didn’t.  Therefore, if you are making mistakes but learning a lot, give yourself a break, keep going and consider finding a mentor, or reading more books on the subject to speed up the learning curve.

Assuming you decided that you are just dealing with temporary setbacks, you are probably thinking, “fine, but am I going about this the right way?”  “Should I revise my game plan?”  If you can look at your plan objectively and say, “yup, that is a good plan” -- maybe not perfect, maybe not the best, but solid, reasonable and appropriate for YOU, then you should stick with it.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, consistency is more effective than perfection.