I don’t mean ignoring all facts and common sense and spending decades half-heartedly pursuing an idea. That’s not what “persistence” means, at least to me, and not what cultivating this quality in yourself likely will mean to you. But there’s real value in rarely “Taking ‘No’ for an answer”, and that choice might just prove invaluable to your business success.
Perhaps I might more accurately be called “stubborn”, rather than persistent, but when I get a “No” from anyone, anywhere—from a grocery store clerk to a bank executive to a rejection letter for a writing proposal, I tend to redouble my efforts—even if only for a few more tries.
Here’s one, admittedly minor, personal example: The 0% interest rate on my credit card was just about to expire, and I simply couldn’t afford to pay interest on the balance I had accumulated. I called the company and asked if it were possible to extend that 0% interest rate for just a few months more. The first person I spoke with said “No”—they didn’t have that ability, and did not offer an alternative solution, so I politely asked to speak with a supervisor. And that supervisor also said they could not extend the interest rate, but he solved my problem nonetheless. He offered to remove all interest charges on my account for the next three months, effectively extending the 0% rate. I was thrilled this particular supervisor made a creative effort to please a customer, and in this case, it was helpful for me to not take the initial “No” as the final answer.
But rejection of your ideas doesn’t always come with the directness of the word “No”, and it can be about something much more important than a credit card interest rate. Sometimes it’s when a friend or trusted colleague doesn’t instantly rave about your idea for a new business venture, or you submit a piece of writing and it’s heavily edited, or your contract doesn’t get picked up for renewal. Unless you’re made of stone, you’ll likely think these scenarios are a rejection of your work, or worse, a rejection of you—and it’s easiest to just stop, because that surely puts an end to the rejection.
Here’s where belief in yourself and your idea translates into persistence, and persistence translates into success. As a writer, I particularly love to hear wildly famous authors tell stories of their stacks of rejection slips—often for the very same pitch or fully written novel. Think Stephen King, JK Rowling, and some other critically acclaimed writers like Rebecca Skloot, author of The New York Times bestselling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, who went through three publishers and ten years of work on this one book (now optioned for a movie by Oprah’s company, HARPO), and Jonathan Safran Foer, author of several novels including the New York Times best selling, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” that was made into an Oscar nominated film a few years ago. I heard Mr. Foer say at a reading that this novel was rejected by publishers 18 times before he finally heard a “Yes” on the 19th try. One “No” or 18 “No’s” does not equate with failure. And even if you have a personal or business failure, that should only help you evaluate your work and try again. But here’s the catch: You have to choose your extra efforts purposefully (pick your battles), and you should have a reasonable belief that your additional time and work will likely produce success.
The stories of persistence in the eventual success of entrepreneurial business ventures are legendary, too. Even Steve Jobs had failures. The Lisa computer, for example, was Apple’s flop, selling only 10,000 units. Both Apple and Jobs regrouped and apparently learned from their mistakes, because just a year later in 1984, Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer.
Yes, persistence (which has as its base, a belief in yourself and your ideas), really does pay. Or as one business consultant said: “Persistence is the fuel of forward motion.” How far have you moved forward today?