Monday Mornings with Madison

USING PAST ADVERSITY TO FUEL PERSEVERANCE

Perseverance is a perfect word to describe what it means… it is a long word (12-letters) that means the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. Because it is an invaluable quality, there are many sayings that express the sentiment. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”  “He conquers who endures.” 

Perseverance is both a quality and a skill. Consider the perseverance demonstrated by American leaders and the military over the past decade in the search for Public Enemy #1. Long after the collective focus moved on to other challenges, crises and demands, intelligence officers persevered in the goal to find the mastermind of 9/11. It had to be daunting to continue to search even after so many stopped believing that he would be found. How did they persevere? It’s likely they drew strength from the painful memories of that tragic day nearly a decade ago. Often difficult trials and painful experiences serve as the fertilizer for perseverance. During the lowest lows, one can draw on strength from a past challenge to find the will to keep going during another tribulation.

This ability to ‘keep on keeping on’ is perhaps the most important quality for any business owner, athlete, or professional. In every business, competition or career, there are days that are sure to be challenging and difficult; days that draw into question whether to continue. To get through such days, it helps to draw on a past obstacle or challenge that was overcome in order to find the strength to continue. Everyone has had at least one such day; a day so difficult and challenging that it stands out among thousands of other days. Every person has had a day that threatened to overwhelm and yet somehow was survived and was perhaps even a shining example of the human capacity to rise above adversity. It is valuable to hold on to those memories, as painful as they might be. When faced with another challenge, think back to every tiny detail of that obstacle in all of its exquisite agony. The vivid recollection of a hardship overcome can serve up the strength to prevail over the next big problem. When things get tough in life, remembering other challenges will put things in perspective and fuel the will to persevere.

 Thus, perseverance is not just a quality but also a skill. It is a skill that is strengthened much like a muscle, through frequent exercise. The more one perseveres through adversity, the better one is equipped to persevere through another trial in the future. Perhaps that is why, as people age, they are better able to deal with all of life’s difficulties and challenges. They’ve flexed that perseverance muscle many times before. As Newt Gingrich once said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” 

In business, there are certainly countless examples of how individuals and companies have drawn strength from having overcome past obstacles to overcome new challenges. In 2008 and 2009, many companies went through a near-death experience. These companies overcame and are operating leaner and meaner than ever before. Of course, we don’t hear about the obstacles and adversities that organizations and businesses had to overcome to achieve their success. A study of history or business shows that every great leader and team had to persevere through adversity and challenges to define themselves and their success.

Case in point. While the Apple brand was recently assessed one of the most valuable brands on the planet – estimated worth at $153 Billion – once upon a time, Apple and Steve Jobs were down and out with Jobs fired from his job and Apple left for dead. Yet Jobs persevered to bring the company back from the brink to unprecedented global success. Another case in point. British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has spent the last 35 years building his Virgin Airlines brand into a global power house, had to overcome dyslexia – a learning disability – as a child. He never attended university and had two failed businesses yet persevered to become one of the world’s richest men. These people certainly drew strength from problems they overcame in the past in order to keep going. 

No one goes through life untested. While it is no fun to endure the pain of those difficult times, it can be a source of power in the future. Drawing strength from past trials can serve as the fuel to press on through future adversities. 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.”
Thomas Foxwell Buxton

© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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