“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, 30th president of the United States
Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.
-Louis Pasteur, chemist and bacteriologist
Persistence is hard when you "have persistence"
Can you solve this riddle? I am a very persistent person. And I have no persistence.
I am one of the most persistent people you will ever meet, but I don't have persistence. "Having persistence" is doing persistence the hard way. Having persistence means finding ways to get your Now to tolerate the process that may lead towards what your Next wants. It is the perpetuation of the war between Now and Next, with your Next somehow getting the consistent upper hand in being able to dominate your Now.
Do you have persistence to eat?
Example: if you're "persistent" in eating whenever you're hungry, we don't call that "having persistence to eat regularly." We call it doing what you feel like doing when you feel like doing it. The common idea of having persistence is that you somehow get yourself to stay in action even when you don't feel like, not when you're enjoying it.
You will find two reasons that I might be the most persistent person you'd ever be likely to meet.
Persistence flows naturally and easily out of Now-Next integrity
First, almost paradoxically, one reason I am so persistent is that I have no trouble giving up when I should give up. In fact, I feel proud of myself for choosing courage to give up, if that's what it takes. I'm partial to the W.C. Fields quote, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it." Just because you start something doesn't necessarily mean you should finish it, especially when unanticipated circumstances arise or you gain new knowledge that obsoletes your original reason for the commitment. You've doubtless heard the aphorism, "The eraser is mankind's greatest invention." Go to Giving Up to get the full scoop on this much-needed for you "doing life" toolbox.
Secondly, and even more importantly, if my Next has an idea or interest in going for some result, my first task (before any commitment is made) is to find a way for Dwight-Now to enjoy the process or processes that will be needed for Dwight-Next to get what he wants. I ensure that Dwight-Now and Dwight-Next have integrity regarding the intention under consideration. More specifically, I use one or more of the tools in the NNI toolkit to create that integrity.
Restoring integrity if it starts to drop out
Moreover, if I am in the middle of a practice or project and I notice Dwight-Now starting to resist or lose enthusiasm, I immediately return to putting integrity back in place between Now and Next (see The Primo Habit). To read an revetting (at least to me!) story about how this approach saved my book, go to How I finished by 700-page book.
If your Next thinks something is important to be persistent on (example: regular exercise), then the first question to ask yourself (again and again, if necessary): “In order to set up the conditions that will guarantee regular exercise, how can my Now enjoy the process of exercising regularly?” This, however, is just one (very important) approach to creating NNI (Now-Next integrity). For the full toolkit, go to the NNI toolkit.
Create Now-Next integrity first and then persistence becomes a piece of cake.