Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people 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, 30th President of the USA
Yes, I've said it's a false belief to believe thats it's always true that you have to work very hard to be successful.
No, it's not true either that being lazy is going to get you success.
It's about working persistently on the right things.
It's about focus and working only on the valuable. I'm not talking about the corporate doublespeak of 'adding value to our customers/clients.' I'm talking about a complete shift of focus from let's do it better by increments to should we be doing something entirely else?
The pain of not doing the valuable is evident in the politics and infighting of nearly everything. For example, labourers in Australia have worked so hard, but are now trying to keep their jobs in car manufacturing plants, when it's fundamentally not valuable to do it here.
Big businesses that have eaten 'working hard but not on the valuable pill' include giants like IBM, Microsoft and Apple. Because while they were running hard up the mountain, someone moved the peak.
It really comes down to value per awesome. You can be closer to success if you spend your time on the value (awesome) work instead of the flurry of not so awesome work. Sounds simple, but in reality we go through a masochistic habit of doing painful things for little or not gain, working in jobs we might not like so much, surrounding ourselves with distractions. Then we tell ourselves stories about how it's what we do to live. The risk of this reasoning, is that you never really end up anywhere you want to be.
So if we've got the right goals now what?
The art of self discipline. It's not about being perfect, it's about being on mission critical 80% of the time. I learned a lot about persistence a few years ago.
In one year of work and university I put on 15 kilos. That's like carrying 3 bags of oranges, 15 bags of frozen vegetables or 74.6 Big Macs all the time. A 20% increase in my body weight, I was 1/5th more Richard. Something was wrong, and it was a mixture of sleep, nutrition and exercise. I had to have a plan.
- I ate nothing but oats for breakfast, yoghurt and nuts as snacks, and lean chicken with steamed vegetables for lunch for a few years. But once a week, cheat day, I would flip out and gorge. 10 chocolate self saucing puddings? sure why not...
- Scheduled gym time between lectures. Contracted in, no matter how tired I was, I would just turn up, change into my gym clothes and do it. To be honest, I think the biggest obstacle to exercising is a gym membership (I don't have one now).
The plan wasn't so simple to keep. But I ignored emotion, headfaked it. Persistence goes beyond emotion. It's all about the mission. Happy, sad, anxious, upset, tired, gym membership or not. It never matters. You just do it.
So what is persistence?
- Focusing and working on mission critical tasks only.
- Forgeting emotion, emotion doesn't get things done.
- Reflecting often on what mission critical is. Cut the distractions.
I dropped down to 78kgs, sometimes I falter, but never long.
I'd put a caveat here and say that, sometimes, work is a job, and if it lets you find freedom, pays the bills and can let you get on with the best bits in life, then it's well worth it.
Happy Easter, and press on... on the right things!
Flickr courtesy of lakshmi.prabala