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4 Reasons You Need Persistence To Succeed At Anything

Updated: Mar 28, 2023



One of the most important factors leading to success in any field is persistence but about 99% of people drop off on that road according to an Entrepreneur Magazine article titled 11 Things Very Successful People Do that 99% of People Don't. Most of us are pretty good at starting things, whether it be a new habit, a routine or a program, but then struggle with being consistent with it.


In the film "The Pursuit of Happyness" There's a scene when Chris Gardner (played by actor Will Smith) says "I thought I'd wear a shirt today - seeing it's the last day n' all." His boss replied, "Wear one tomorrow though okay, cause tomorrow's going to be your first day, if you'd like to work here as a broker." If you haven't seen the 2006 film, Smith portrayed a single, homeless dad who struggled against incredible odds to follow his dream of becoming a stockbroker and he succeeded because of his persistence.


Persistence is one of the most necessary ingredients to succeeding at anything in life and nearly every success story can be traced back to a person's ability to persist in the face of enormous obstacles.


People often attribute successful people with brilliant minds or unseen advantages, but that is rarely the case. In actuality, most times the difference between success and failure is that persistence keeps going when everyone else has dropped out of the race.


Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” So let’s examine four reasons that you need persistence to win in life by first reviewing some famous people that found success through the path of persistence.


1. Persistent People Push Through Obstacles

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television anchor job and told she was too emotionally vested in her stories. But Winfrey channeled her ability to emotionally connect into The Oprah Winfrey show that became one of the longest running and successful daytime talk shows. Today she is a leading media mogul, as well as a household name.


Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star and told he 'lacked imagination and had no good ideas' But this did not stop Disney. After experiencing multiple failures, he opened the Disney studios in California, created the Mickey Mouse character and parlayed him into cinematic and amusement park success.


After failing to make the 1968 Olympic figure skating team and a disappointing career as a fashion editor, Vera Wang began designing wedding gowns at age 40. At a time when most people would have quit she turned her passion for fashion into a globally known wedding dress design business..


Michael Jordan missed more than 9000 shots in my career, and lost almost 300 games. Before winning six championship titles and becoming one of the most legendary basketball players in NBA history.


All these people had opportunities to allow failure to become their stopping point. But each of them persisted in their dream and became leaders, innovators, and pioneers in their field. Without persistence it would have been impossible to reach such heights in their respective fields.


2. Persistent People Learn From Their Mistakes

As painful as mistakes can be, with the right perspective they can become powerful learning moments for growth by asking the following questions:

  • What went wrong here?

  • How can I fix it?

  • What did I learn about what not to do?

  • How can I make this process better?


Life’s best lessons are learned from mistakes and not successes. Mistakes reveal holes and errors in our processes that are otherwise hidden. This becomes the seedbed for additional growth and experience gained.


3. Persistent People Are Comfortable with the Mundane

The definition of the word ‘mundane’ is “boring, humdrum, tedious, and monotonous.” Yes, persistence and mundane are like the twin sisters of progress. It is those necessary behind-the-scenes tasks that no one sees. They are tedious and monotonous and can often seem unconnected and meaningless.


It’s like going to the gym. At first there are no immediate results but repeated gym sessions eventually produce big changes in your strength, stamina, and overall well being.


Typically, we read the stories of people that became an overnight success, But when interviewed we soon discover that their “overnight success” followed years of toiling in the unseen. So expect to have days when you don’t feel like repeating the same tasks or procedures. Recognize this is a temporary feeling - push past your emotions and keep going.


Persistence is a type of faith - the belief that if you continue to work the process, sooner or later it will lead to an expected outcome. In his book “Atomic Habits” author James Clear calls it compound interest. Compound interest is when small habits done over time create marginal gains that lead to huge long term gains.


4. Persistent People Are in for the Long Haul

They know that goals are not achieved overnight and are willing to put in the work and the time to take them in the desired direction. Persistent people know their journey is a marathon and not a sprint and are willing to wait as long as it takes to reach their goal.


I once did a 3-year stint in the military and spent the first 2 years bored to tears with my assigned MOS (military service occupation). I had always loved writing and noticed the local paper was looking for a writer and I decided I would try out for the role. But that position did not drop in my lap. I won the writer’s job after weeks of pestering my company commander on a daily basis.


Each day for weeks at precisely 9AM (following morning formation) I would rush into the commander’s office and petition him for permission to change my MOS. And every day he responded with a resounding “No!”


My daily trips to the commander’s office continued for about six weeks. Finally, the captain wearily acquiesced to my persistent requests with a ‘yes’. I will never forget that moment when he looked up and shouted, “Ok, alright, dammit, you’ve got my permission, and so help me God if I ever see you in my office again…!” Mission accomplished! Before long I was bouncing along inside Humvee's, and gliding the skies in a helicopter gathering stories with glee.


In a 1941 commencement address to the graduating class of Oxford University, Winston Churchill stood and pronounced these famous words, “Never, never, never give up.” And that is the very definition of persistence.


In conclusion, if the road to success is traveled in a vehicle called persistence and the drop out rates are nearly 100% then all you and I have to do to win is not quit - mostly!





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