Persistence and overcoming adversity

So you’ve set a goal and you’re working hard every day to achieve. Things seems to be moving along well until…. Sometimes life has other ideas for us. It will show up and knock us off our feet. Push us back several steps. This is where the most important characteristic of success comes in. Persistence is the most important tool in your toolbox to achieve success.


“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.” Calvin Coolidge

What is persistence?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines persistence as:

“the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people”.

What this means is that we will keep going towards our goals regardless of the obstacles in our way. Its very much a mindset thing. Here’s an example. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the filament light bulb, tried 10,000 different times to create a working light bulb. 10,000 times! When he was asked why he kept going after 10,000 failures, he responded by saying he didn’t fail 10,000 times, he found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. Do you see the mindset? In his mind, there was absolutely a way for it to work. He would just have to put in the work and find it. It wasn’t a matter of IF he would find it, it was just a matter of WHEN. How many of us would have the persistence to try something 10,000 times to achieve success?

The story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree

The Chinese Bamboo Tree has the same requirements to grow as most other plants. It needs water, good soil and sunlight. The difference is in the way in which the Chinese Bamboo Tree grows. In its first year though, it appears as if nothing is happening. There are no signs of growth as nothing happens above ground. Again in the second year, there is no growth above the soil.

For the third and even the fourth year, it still appears as if nothing is happening.

Its not until the fifth year, yes five YEARS later, that something happens. And what happens is truly amazing. When the tree begins to sprout, it will grow to almost 80 feet tall in the incredibly short time period of just 6 weeks.

There are actually two lessons here. The first is that if took 5 years of patience and persistence before results could be observed. How many times do we stop before that time on the road to our own goals? We are tested over and over again on our goals. Doubt often creeps in when we don’t see the results we are expecting. Dieting and exercise for two weeks and only 1kg lost? Its easy to let that discourage us from the goal. But keep going. If you keep moving steadily towards your goals, you will make it. Look for ways to get small victories.

The second lesson is when viewing the success of others, we often only notice that part where the success happens and we think that they were an “overnight” success. It was a quick and easy path for them. The truth is that there is almost no such thing as an “overnight” success. We just don’t see the years of hard work that person did before their success was evident. Because of this we get jealous of the success of others. Don’t fall into that trap because you don’t know what they had to do to get where they are now.

The takeaway

The main thing to take away from this post is that we will all be faced with hardships, tasks that look like we can’t finish, bad days, and lots of other things to make us quit. The measure of success is how hard you are willing to work to achieve it. This is what separates those that win and those that don’t. Winners win and losers lose. Can you imagine the bamboo tree giving up in year four? All of the previous 3 years of work would be a waste. Set your mind that you are here for the long haul. You will finish your goal no matter how hard things get and then nothing can stop you.





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