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Why Being Persistent Is Wrong: Part One

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You want to know what qualities are required for success? I can promise you that persistence is not one of them.

You might even spend a lot of time reading motivational books and articles in search for the elusive secret of what’s required for real success. When we read about the tools required to achieve success, very often we are told that if we really want to be successful, we must have persistence.

Persistence is the quality of not giving up when we encounter challenges. Of holding on to our dream as my friend Paul Martinelli says to “hold our image.” It’s about carrying on and refusing to be discouraged no matter what the odds and no matter what happens. It’s about learning from and adjusting to circumstances, but never ever quitting. When you read the life stories of very successful people, they will often tell you about all the hardships they encountered along the way. They will tell you about the discouragement they occasionally felt when they experienced failure, and about all the people who laughed at them along the way. They will often tell you that the reason they are successful today is because they were persistent. They persevered in chasing their dream, no matter what happened.

So if you have been facing a bit of discouragement while you pursue your dream, reading about these success gurus can give you the boost you need to keep on doing what you’ve been doing. After all, persistence is the key to success right? Almost everyone says so. Yet, in a way, all those people who encourage you to be persistent are wrong! Now before you scoff at this statement, consider this: when not applied in the right manner, persistence can lead to certain failure.


© Flickr user kleuske

Allow me to explain. What successful people leave out when talking about persistence is a factor too important to ignore. To better explain this, let’s get a visual from the following story.

For several years there had been a middle-aged blonde woman pacing back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a big building in the heart of the city. She always carried a large sign protesting something. She smiled and waved at all the cars that pass. Yet, none of the passers-by were sure exactly what her sign said because the words don’t really make any sense. There seemed to be something about an injustice that happened to her when her husband’s pension was divided up during their divorce. And there were a few comments about a government conspiracy to cover up the injustice that was done to her. Perhaps what she was trying to accomplish with her protest was an attempt to get her divorce decision changed.

Every day, no matter what the weather, this woman came out to walk back and forth for a couple of hours in front of this large building in the heart of the city and wave at all the people. Ironically her smile never failed. After the first couple of hours of protesting were up, she went to another place downtown. She spent another two hours walking back and forth, smiling and waving, in front of a different building a few blocks away. She has been doing this every day for at least seventeen (17) years. This lady is most certainly persistent.

All that persistence and pride in her work for so many years does not seem to be having any effect, but she does not seem to notice. Here’s the lesson: If seventeen years of her walking back and forth carrying this sign hasn’t had any effect, I don’t think that one more day of walking with this sign is going to change the outcome of her divorce. But she is persistent in continuing her protest.

Probably every big city has a few people like this woman, people you can see standing on the sidewalk. People who spend years holding some sign that doesn’t make sense. These people can teach us all about the real value of perseverance and persistence. These people are certainly very persistent, but usually they are not successful. When success gurus tell us that persistence is an important quality on the road to success, they are often leaving out something important:

They fail to tell you that before they were persistent, they had a goal and a plan on how to get where they wanted to go.

Intrigued? Go on to part two.

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Jack Klemeyer

Jack Klemeyer

Grow Your Business™ Coaching founder Jack Klemeyer is recognized as a preeminent resource and program developer as a business coach, consultant, speaker, trainer and facilitator of Mastermind groups for entrepreneurs, business professionals and companies of all sizes.
Jack Klemeyer


Proud American Patriot and A Certified John Maxwell Coach, Speaker and Trainer who is passionate about helping people grow their businesses!
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Jack Klemeyer
Jack Klemeyer

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