Persistence: What are you doing while you are waiting?

In my last article, I shared my perspectives on the importance of patience in achieving excellence in business, career and life. While patience is waiting in hope, persistence is doing something while you wait. Patience and persistence are two sides of the same coin. The coin would be a counterfeit without one side. Doing something without waiting breeds frustration. Waiting without doing something is laziness. A former Managing Director of a big bank in Nigeria shared a story of how he visited the biggest oil and gas multinational in Nigeria 103 times before he eventually won the account of the company. What if he had stopped going there after the eightieth attempt!

Patience was believing and therefore waiting for the account to be opened. Persistence was following up by telephone calls, text messages, more physical visits, etc. until the transaction was consummated. The dog that wants a piece of the meat being cooked by the owner has to bark intermittently to remind the owner that she is in the cage. However, the dog would hurt herself if she decides to grab a piece from the boiling pot. The patient dog that doesn’t make noise will starve to death.

 Remember the story of blind Bartimaeus? Yes, he had faith that he could be healed. But he persisted despite the hindrances and obstacles. He made enough noise to be heard despite the admonitions from people around him. What about the story of the persistent widow who eventually got justice from a wicked and unjust judge because she persisted? None of these two people folded their arms and waited for manna from heaven.

 Persistence is about rolling up your seeds and doing something. The proof of your belief and patience is in what you do and how consistent you are doing them. Persistence is about consistency. A life of excellence is not possible without action. People who easily take no for an answer don’t leave any marks on the sand of times. How many times did Thomas Edison try before he invented the incandescent light bulb? The story is legendary that he tried 10,000 times before succeeding in creating his light bulb. If it were not for Edison’s persistence, we might all be sitting in the dark right now or using some form of a primitive light source. Remember what he said each time he failed? “I have not failed. I’ve just found one more way that won’t work”.

 Persistence in the pursuit of excellence in life means that we should develop the attitude that causes us to see every failed attempt as elimination of what would not work. Because, with each failed attempt, we are closer to discovering what will work. The more failures, the better; ultimately leading to a climax of success. Perhaps, the greatest example of persistence is Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown. He could have quit many times – but he didn’t, and because he didn’t quit, he became one of the greatest presidents of America. He didn’t wait for success to arrive on the post. He was persistent in its pursuit.

 President Muhammad Buhari of Nigeria contested for the office of the President of Nigeria four times and lost. However, he later won and became the President of Nigeria at the age of seventy-three. What if had stopped or given up after the third attempt when he lost woefully? Patience was waiting in hope and with the belief that he would be President. The energiser for the patience was that he believed he had a mission to serve Nigeria or pursue an agenda. Persistence was forming parties, creating alliances and campaigning vigorously.

Persistence is a product of a total conviction in your beliefs, mission, goals, aspirations, product, talent, service, etc. Persistence is fuelled by your eagerness to achieve your purpose. A salesperson who is totally convinced that his product or service will triple your productivity would do everything within his ability to make you see the benefits – no matter how long and how many visits it takes. A preacher that is fully persuaded that it is his responsibility to ensure that no soul goes to hell would eagerly and persistently preach to as many souls, and as frequently as possible.

 Persistence is also demonstrated by hard work and the willingness to go the extra mile. For the salesperson, it means one more prospecting platform, one more cold call, one more knock on a door, etc. For the athlete, it is one more stretch, one more jump, and ten more minutes in the gym. Persistence is the pursuit of perfection. It’s about meeting your set target and stretching a little more. Persistence is the never-say-no attitude that makes you try one more time. It’s about forgetting the last rejection and knocking on the next-door expecting a yes. And after getting the yes, looking for bigger ‘yeses.’

Persistence is a demonstration of your commitment to your purpose. It’s proof that you are devoted to achieving your vision, goals and aspirations in life. Life always rewards those who place a demand on themselves in the pursuit of excellence. Persistence is also about creativity. Persistence challenges you to seek and design more innovative and out-of-the-box options for dealing with obstacles and challenges. For the salesperson, it may be to think of an ingenious way of getting the prospect to see you. If you can’t break the protocol in her office, how about finding out the gym she uses and where possible enrolling in the same gym where you would have access to her without having to fill a form? For the preacher that needs to gain the attention of youths to be able to fulfil your mission, which ‘out of the normal way’ strategy have you conceived? For the person that needs to attract donors for your charity initiative, persistence may require that you go out of the regular protocol to attract attention.

“Ask, and you shall receive” means that the quality of your life is a product of what you ask for and how persistently you ask for it. The proper rendition of that bible verse is actually, “Ask and keep asking and you shall receive; knock and keep knocking and the door shall be opened to you; seek and keep seeking, and you shall find.” Consistent and repeated asking is not a lack of faith. It is actually a proof of faith! Your seven-year-old boy who keeps asking you to buy him a bicycle does not doubt your willingness or ability to buy the bike. He is actually expressing his belief that you can and would buy it.

Buhari asked for the presidency and kept asking until he got it after sixteen years of asking. Thomas Edison kept asking 10,000 times. Abraham Lincoln asked eight times over different elections before he received the presidency.

If you accept ‘nos’ too easily, you will attract more ‘nos’. However, if your mind and sub-conscious realise and get used to the fact that you would fight every no patiently, ‘nos’ will gradually flee from you. To achieve excellence in your business, career, finances, family, and spirituality keep going the extra mile; keep asking; keep knocking and keep seeking.

 “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.”– CALVIN COOLIDGE

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