Day 1: Composition
Perseverance is not an issue of talent. It is not an issue of time. It is about finishing. Talent provides
hope for accomplishment, but perseverance guarantees it. Playwright Noel Coward commented,
“Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in yo The one
and only thing that counts is: Do you have staying power";
What does it mean to persevere?
Describe a time when you persevered. What challenges did you face? Why did you continue your
efforts? What was the outcome?
Describe a time when you chose to give up. What was the outcome?
PRINCIPLES OF PERSEVERANCE
No matter how talented people are, there is no success without perseverance. World War I flying
ace Eddie Rickenbacker said, “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things
through—then follow through.” Many people like to think things through; few follow through.
If you desire to become a talent-plus person, you need to understand some things about perse-
1. Perseverance Means Succeeding Because You are Determined To, Not Destined To Green Bay
Packers coach Vince Lombardi said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not
lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of determination.” The greatest achievers
don’t sit back and wait for success because they think they deserve it. They keep moving forward
and persevering because they are determined to achieve it.
In which area of your life do you display the greatest amount of determination?
You can see this determination in successful people in every walk of life and in every age. Han-
nibal, the Carthaginian general who fought the Romans during the Second Punic War, lived out that
attitude of perseverance when he led an unexpected campaign that took him over the Alps to defeat
the Romans. He said, “We will either find a way or make one.”
Talented people who succeed today show similar determination. Joe Lanier, one-time chairman
and CEO of West Point-Pepperell, Inc., stated, “We are determined to win the battle. We will fight
them until hell freezes over, and then, if we have to, we’ll fight them in the ice.” That kind of
determination serves people well whether they are running an organization or pursuing a profes-
How do you spark determination? Where does it come from?
2. Perseverance Recognizes Life Is Not a Long Race, but Many Short Ones in Succession Have you
heard the saying, “Life is a marathon”? Whoever first said it was almost certainly trying to encour-
age people to keep trying when things get tough and to have a patient yet tenacious approach to life.
But I think whoever said it didn’t quite get it right. Life isn’t one very long race. It’s actually a long
series of shorter races, one after another. Each task has its own challenges. Each day is its own
event. True, you have to get out of bed the next day and race again, but it’s never exactly the same
race as before. To be successful, you just need to keep plugging away. Talk show host Rush Lim-
baugh observed, “In life or in football, touchdowns rarely take place in seventy yard increments.
Usually it’s three yards and a cloud of dust.”
Describe your current “race.” What is your motivation for finishing?
I’ve read that explorer Christopher Columbus faced incredible difficulties while sailing west in
search of a passage to Asia. He and his crews encountered storms, experienced hunger and depri-
vation, dealt with extreme discouragement. The crews of the three ships were near mutiny. But
Columbus persevered. The account of the journey written by Columbus said the same thing, day
after day: “Today we sailed on.” And his perseverance paid off. He didn’t discover a fast route to the
spice-rich Indies; instead he found new continents. But as he sailed, his focus was clear—making it
through the day. Winning each short race. And that’s key. Management consultant Laddie F. Hutar
affirmed that “success consists of a series of little daily victories.”
How does looking at life as a series of short races change your approach and attitude toward your
3. Perseverance Is Needed to Release Most of Life’s Rewards
At a sales convention, the corporate sales manager got up in front of all two thousand of his fir-
m’s salespeople and asked, “Did the Wright brothers ever quit?”
“No!” the sales force shouted.
“Did Charles Lindbergh ever quit?” he asked.
“No!” the salespeople shouted again.
“Did Lance Armstrong ever quit?”
He bellowed for a fourth time, “Did Thorndike McKester ever quit?” There was a confused silence
for a long moment.
Then a salesperson stood up and asked, “Who in the world is Thorndike McKester?
Nobody’s ever heard of him.”
The sales manager snapped back, “Of course you never heard of him—because he quit!”¹ How
many highly successful people do you know who gave up? How many do you know who have been
richly rewarded for quitting? I don’t know any, and I bet you don’t either.
It’s said that Walt Disney’s request for a loan was rejected by 301 banks before he finally got a yes.
The loan he received allowed him to build Disneyland, the most famous theme park in history.
Inventor Thomas Edison asserted, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how
close they were to success when they gave up.” It’s the last step in the race that counts the most.
That is where the winner is determined. That is where the rewards come. If you run every step of the
race well except the last one and you stop before the finish line, then the end result will be the same
as if you never ran a step.
4. Perseverance Draws Sweetness Out of Adversity
The trials and pressures of life—and how we face them—often define us. Confronted by adversity,
many people give up while others rise up. How do those who succeed do it? They persevere. They
find the benefit to them personally that comes from any trial. And they recognize that the best thing
about adversity is coming out on the other side of it. There is a sweetness to overcoming your trou-
bles and finding something good in the process, however small it may be. Giving up when adversity
threatens can make a person bitter. Persevering through adversity makes one better.
How have you benefited from persevering though adversity?
5. Perseverance Has a Compounding Effect on Life
Author Napoleon Hill says, “Every successful person finds that great success lies just beyond the
point when they’re convinced their idea is not going to work.” How do you get beyond that point?
How do you go beyond what you believe is your limit? How do you achieve lasting success? Do the
right thing, day after day. There are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile.
What does it take to do the right thing in your current situation? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Every day that you do the right things—work hard, treat others with respect, learn, and grow—you
invest in yourself. To do these things every day takes relentless perseverance, but if you do them,
your success compounds over time. Weight-loss expert and author Judy Wardell Halliday sup-
ported this idea: “Dreams become reality when we keep our commitment to them.”
6. Perseverance Means Stopping Not Because You’re Tired but Because the Task Is Done
Former diplomat and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Robert Strauss commented,
“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired—you quit when the go-
rilla is tired.” If you think about it, perseverance doesn’t really come into play until you are tired.
When you’re fresh, excited, and energetic, you approach a task with vigor. Work is fun. Only when
you become tired do you need perseverance.
To successful people, fatigue and discouragement are not signs to quit. They perceive them as
signals to draw on their reserves, rely on their character, and keep going. One problem of many people is that they underestimate what it will take to succeed. Enlightenment political philosopher
Montesquieu declared, “In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.”
When we haven’t counted the cost of success, we approach challenges with mere interest; what is
really required is total commitment. And that makes all the difference.”
How have you or how can you build up your “reserve”?
Review the goals you listed in Chapter 3. Are the steps for achieving these goals still accurate? What
surprises have you experienced? Rework your steps if necessary.
7. Perseverance Doesn’t Demand More Than We Have but All That We Have
Author Frank Tyger observed, “In every triumph there is a lot of try.” But perseverance means more
than trying. It means more than working hard. Perseverance is an investment.
It is a willingness to bind oneself emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually to an idea or
task until it has been completed. Perseverance demands a lot, but here’s the good news: everything
you give is an investment in yourself.
THE FIVE ENEMIES OF PERSEVERANCE
French scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My
strength lives solely in my tenacity.” Perseverance begins with the right attitude—an attitude of
tenacity. But the desire to persevere alone isn’t enough to keep most people going when they are
tired or discouraged. Perseverance is a trait that can be cultivated. And the initial step to developing
it is to eliminate its five greatest enemies:
1. A Lifestyle of Giving Up
A little boy had been promised an ice cream cone if he was good while accompanying his grand-
father on some errands. The longer they were gone, the more difficult the boy was finding it to be
good. “How much longer will it be?” the boy asked.
“Not too long,” replied the grandfather. “We’ve got just one more stop before we get ice cream.”
“I don’t know if I can make it, Grandpa,” the little boy responded. “I can be good. I just can’t be
good enough long enough.”
When we were kids and we didn’t follow through on a task, people often gave us a break. That’s
to be expected. Children tend to jump from one activity to another and to bounce from idea to idea.
Adults can’t do that and expect to be successful. Scientist L. G. Elliott advised, “Vacillating people
seldom succeed. They seldom win the solid respect of their fellows. Successful men and women
are very careful in reaching decisions and very persistent and determined in action thereafter.”
If you desire to be successful and to maximize your talent, you need to be consistent and persis-
tent. Talent without perseverance never comes to full fruition. Opportunities without persistence
will be lost. There is a direct correlation between perseverance and potential. If you have a habit of
giving up, you need to overcome it to be successful.
How many times have you given up in the last year, and how many times have you persevered?
2. A Wrong Belief That Life Should Be Easy
Debra K. Johnson tells about an incident with her seven year old daughter who wanted to take violin
lessons. When they went to a music store together to rent an instrument, Debra began lecturing her
about the expense of lessons and the commitment that would be required of her if she got her the
violin. “There will be times you’ll feel like giving up,” Debra said, “but I want you to hang in there
and keep on trying.”
Her daughter nodded and, in her most serious voice, responded, “It will be just like marriage,
Having the right expectations going into anything is half the battle. John C. Norcross, a clinical
psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton, has studied people and their goals, and
he has found a characteristic that distinguishes those who reach their goals from those who don’t:
expectations. Both types of people experience the same amount of failure during the first month
they strive for their goals. But members of the successful group don’t expect to succeed right away,
and they view their failures as a reason to recommit and a reminder to refocus on their goals with
more determination. Norcross says, “Those who are unsuccessful say a relapse is evidence that
they can’t do it.”²
How often are you surprised by the difficulty of a project? How can you rework your expectations so they are more accurate? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. A Wrong Belief That Success Is a Destination
The NBA’s Pat Riley has won many championships as a basketball coach. In his book, The Winner
Within, he writes, “Complacency is the last hurdle any winner, any team must over- come before at-
taining potential greatness. Complacency is the success disease: it takes root when you’re feeling
good about who you are and what you’ve achieved.” It’s ironic, but past success can be the fiercest
enemy to future success.
Write out your definition of success. Does it include a destination, or does it depict a journey?
In February 2006, I was invited to join some friends who were going to the Super Bowl on a pri-
vate plane. I sat next to Lester Woerner, the owner of the plane and a very successful entrepreneur
and businessman. He started investing in real estate when he was a teenager, helped build one of
the finest turf grass companies in the country in his twenties and thirties, and now in his forties is
the chairman of Woerner Holdings with investments in agriculture, real estate, and financial secu-
rities. Within minutes we were engaged in conversation, and one of the questions I asked him was
how he maintained success after having achieved it.
Lester described a day when he came to the realization that he had “made it,” and he started to
wonder what was next for him. “I started to change,” Lester explained. “I went from thinking why not
about every opportunity that approached me to thinking but why when an opportunity arose. I lost
When Lester stopped seizing opportunities, the opportunities began drying up. And he hit a
“How did you break out of it?” I asked.
“The first thing was to recognize that I was on a plateau,” he answered. “Once I did that, I was
able to take steps to change, to begin going after opportunities again.”
I told Lester that I found that people tend to celebrate and then to relax when they see success as
“It’s good to take a rest,” Lester responded, “but not for the rest of your life!”
If you think you have arrived, then you’re in trouble. As soon as you think you no longer need to
work to make progress, you’ll begin to lose ground.
Do you usually ask “but why” or “why not” when an opportunity arises? How does your attitude af-
fect your level of success?
4. A Lack of Resiliency
Harvard professor of psychiatry George E. Vaillant, in his book Aging Well, identifies resiliency as a
significant characteristic of people who navigate the many transitions of life from birth to old age.
He writes, “Resilience reflects individuals who metaphorically resemble a twig with a fresh, green,
living core. When twisted out of shape, such a twig bends, but it does not break; instead it springs
back and continues growing.”³
That’s an excellent description of how we must be if we desire to persevere through adversity and
make the most of the talent we have. We must not become dry, brittle, and inflexible. And we must
endeavor to bounce back, no matter how we may feel. We would be wise to remember the words of
former NBA player, coach, and executive Jerry West:
“You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days you feel good.”
5. A Lack of Vision
Everything that is created is actually created twice. First it is created mentally; then it is created
physically. Where does that mental creation come from? The answer is vision.
People who display perseverance keep a larger vision in mind as they toil away at their craft or
profession. They see in their mind’s eye what they want to create or to do, and they keep working to-
ward it as they labor. For example, years ago I read an account of an amateur golfer who played a
round with Sam Snead, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime
Achievement Award, and three time captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. On the first hole, Snead
shot a seven—three over par, an unusually poor score for a golfer of his caliber. As the pair exited
the green, Snead didn’t seem to be bothered by his triple bogey. When his amateur companion
asked Snead about it, he responded, “That’s why we play eighteen holes.” Snead’s vision of the big
picture helped him to maintain perspective, remain resilient, and persevere. By the end of the
round, Snead finished four strokes under par.
TALENT + PERSEVERANCE = A TALENT-PLUS PERSON
PUTTING THE TALENT-PLUS FORMULA INTO ACTION
Clearing away the five enemies of perseverance is a preliminary step to becoming a talent-plus
person in the area of perseverance. Right thinking always precedes right action. If you want to be
able to sustain your talent, then take the following steps:
1. Purpose: Find One
Rich De Voss, owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, remarked, “Persistence is stubbornness with
purpose.” It is very difficult for people to develop perseverance when they lack a sense of purpose.
Conversely, when one has a passionate sense of purpose, energy rises, obstacles become inci-
dental, and perseverance wins out.
If you want to maximize your talent as a talent-plus person, you need to find your purpose. That
is the only way you will be able to persevere even when facing the most difficult circumstances.
Review what you wrote in Chapter 2 when answering the three questions: What do you sing about?
What do you cry about? And what do you dream about? How can your passion be incorporated into
discovering your purpose?
Purpose gives passion, and passion feeds perseverance. What is your purpose? If you haven’t de-
fined it and written it, do so now.
2. Excuses: Eliminate Them
One of the most striking things that separates people who sustain their success from those who are
only briefly or never successful is their strong sense of responsibility for their own actions. It is eas-
ier to move from failure to success than it is from excuses to success.
According to Bruce Nash, author of a series of “Hall of Shame” books on sports figures, one
notorious person for making excuses was Rafael Septien, former placekicker for the NFL’s Dallas
Cowboys. Nash writes, “We’re all guilty of using excuses. When we do, we place ourselves in the
company of great sports heroes. Take Rafael Septien, for example.
Rafael Septien has no peers—when it comes to making up lamebrained excuses for missed field
goals.” Among the excuses Septien offered:
• “I was too busy reading my stats on the scoreboard.”
• “The grass was too tall.” (Texas Stadium doesn’t even have grass; its surface is artificial turf.)
• “The 30 second clock distracted me.”
• “My helmet was too tight and it was squeezing my brain. I couldn’t think.”
• “No wonder [I missed]. You placed the ball upside down” (said to his holder).⁴
If you want to maximize and sustain your talent, don’t allow yourself to offer excuses when you
don’t perform at the best of your ability. Instead, take complete responsibility for yourself and your
actions. And keep in mind the words of George Washington Carver, who said, “Ninety nine percent
of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”
3. Stamina: Develop Some
Former world heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali, called “The Greatest,” asserted,
“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside
them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last minute stamina, they have to be a little
faster, they have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” All peo-
ple who achieve and maintain success possess stamina. Truly, stamina is a key to perseverance,
and perseverance is a key to becoming a talent-plus person.
Stamina comes from expecting life to be difficult, from developing the habit of overcoming
adversity, and from taking one more step when you think you have nothing left. What recent
obstacle, failure, or setback that stopped you can you revisit and attack again with renewed en-
ergy? Take it on again. And when you feel like quitting again, push yourself to take one more step. Then reevaluate it and see if you need to take one more step again.
The number one characteristic of good leaders is the ability to make things happen. That takes
perseverance. That’s true no matter what your talent is or what skills you possess. Without perse-
verance, a talented person is little more than a flash in the pan.
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