• Danny Camm

The attribute of persistence

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent won’t; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t; unrecognised genius is practically a cliche. Education won’t; the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all powerful. " - Ray Kroc

Defining persistence

The Oxford dictionary definition of self-awareness is:

The fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

Persistence is an attribute that was mentioned in a conversation that I had with Jason Olaofe as part of an interview recording that has not yet been released. In referring to persistence, Jason was reflecting on his first attempt to move into a business partner role. At this point he didn’t really have the right experience to make him a good fit for these roles, which meant that he suffered a number of rejections. Jason continued his pursuit of a Business Partnering role and eventually succeeded.

Why is persistence important?

My old maths teacher, Mr Forbes, used to tell me that maths was “99% perspiration, 1% inspiration”. What he meant by this was that, in order to succeed at something you find difficult, you have to persist.

It’s very easy to give up when you repeatedly fail and things get difficult. However, the attribute of persistence enables you to achieve when the odds are stacked against you.

I don’t know for a fact, but I’m willing to bet that there aren’t many successful people in this world that haven’t faced setbacks at some point in their career. The attribute of persistence, to keep going when things got tough, is what allowed them to push through and make a success of themselves.

What does persistence look like?

To answer your question, “who is Ray Kroc?”, the man behind the quote that this article opened with, he was the founder of McDonalds.

The film, The Founder, tells Ray Kroc’s story far better than I can, but to Ray, persistence looked like this; it looked like a man who, diabetic, arthritic and having lost his thyroid gland and gallbladder to illness, continued to travel North America selling milkshake makers to fast food restaurants. A man who, at 52, might well have chosen to accept his lot in life. But no, Ray continued to work hard and continued to search for his big break. At 52, Ray discovered McDonalds, and with some hard work and even more persistence, the foundations were laid for what is (in my opinion) the greatest fast food chain in the world.

To Jason, persistence was refusing to accept no for an answer after repeated unsuccessful job applications. In receiving an offer for a Finance Business Partner role within a listed business, Jason’s persistence was repaid.

For me, persistence was struggling to match those classmates who were naturally adept at maths. With application, extra hours and determination, I was rewarded with the A* that I was looking for on results day.

Become persistent

Persistence, for me, isn’t really a skill that needs to be developed. I believe it is a decision; the decision being that you make a conscious choice to apply it. Everybody is capable of persisting.

I do agree that some people have natural character traits that make the decision to persists easier and that some people, in the face of adversity, have no option but to persist. Those that are competitive by nature, are more likely to exhibit a stubbornness to not be beaten. Others will have no choice but to succeed in order to feed their family.

So how can you make sure that you are best placed to apply the choice of persistence?

  1. Direction - Establish where you want to get to and what you need to do in order to get there. If you know that what you are doing now is going to get you to where you want to be, you will have a much better chance of sticking at it.

  2. A long-term lens - A good friend of mine has had to resit a number of exams throughout the course of his accountancy qualification, and is still going. He has been close to giving up a couple of times, but knowing his long term goals and the regrets he would have in future if he didn’t finish, has enabled him to persist until he passes. And he will pass.

  3. Positivity - When things are difficult, it is easy to focus in on the negatives and develop a defeatist attitude. We are literally programmed to be negative from an evolutionary perspective, so that we can better identify risks and avoid them. Make sure that you always make time to focus on what you have gained from your hard work, rather than what isn’t going your way.

Let me know your thoughts

If you found this article useful, or felt that there was something missing, go ahead and leave a comment!

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