The Power of Persistence

hqdefaultYou don’t have to be good to be great but you must be persistent. Most people fail at reaching their goals because they lack persistence. The common response to failure and difficult situations is to quit. People that are truly successful don’t accept failure and realize that every stumbling block holds the secret to moving forward. The “stumbling block” just represents a strategy that didn’t work — don’t do that again.

I don’t consider myself to be extremely intelligent or talented but I sure am persistent. It hasn’t always been that way. As a kid I found it difficult to finish anything. I now understand my mindset — if I didn’t finish a project I would never fail. If I actually finished something and it didn’t work that would represent failure. Who needs that?

My dad was always quick to point out my shortcoming. I would start project after project and never finish any of them. Here’s my favorite example. I decided to build a large parabolic reflector to fry hotdogs. Okay, I’m laughing too but it was serious work for a kid. This contraption was created from a frame made of corrugated cardboard. The frame was covered with thin sheets of cardboard to form a bowl. It looked somewhat like a radar dish. The dish was covered with a thin layer of tin foil to reflect the sun’s rays. There was a rod right through the middle of the dish designed to hold the hot dog at the focal point. The idea was to point this dish at the sun and the sun’s rays would be concentrated to fry the hot dog to a crispy golden brown.

solar_cookerI completed this thing after spending a few days working on the project. It wasn’t easy. After I finished the project I looked at it and thought that it would never work. I never took it out in the sun. Never gave it a try. It wasn’t successful but I didn’t consider it a failure either because it might have worked.

Now cut to 1982. It’s not a novel idea to decide to create guitar lessons, advertise them in magazines, and attempt to start a guitar lesson business. I’m sure there were thousands of other guitarists that had decided to create the ultimate guitar course at the same time that I began working on the Metal Method. I was one of very few that was persistent enough to actually complete the project.

The guitar lesson business is no different today. There are thousands of 3 minute lessons on the Internet but very few structured courses. The biggest complaint I hear about Internet guitar lessons is, “there isn’t a step by step path.” It’s because very few instructors have the persistence to write a complete program. But I digress. This isn’t about how great Metal Method is it’s about helping you to realize the importance of persistence. As I’ve illustrated, you’re not necessarily born with this trait. It can be developed.

Why am I writing this? Yesterday a Forum Member, Rob Norris (a.k.a. Iluvlacquer on the Forum) asked me to write a motivational newsletter similar to the many that I’ve written over the past 29 years. I explained to him that probably wasn’t going to happen because I don’t have the time and I’m not really in that “mode” at the moment. I don’t dream this stuff up. I need inspiration and quite frankly, I’m not all that inspired. That was true until I read the obituaries this morning. Obituaries are a great source of inspiration! They’re kind of like judgment day – you were here for 80 years, what did you do that was exceptional? Then your life’s work is condensed into a few paragraphs. I read the Los Angeles Times which has a circulation of millions. You don’t make the cut unless your life was pretty extraordinary. Here’s the obit that caught my eye this morning.

Dick Wimmer died recently at the age of 74. He was a creative writing instructor and author. As the article said, “the best lesson for would-be authors may have had more to do with persistence than prose.”

Okay, first of all, can you imagine how persistent you would need to be to complete a novel? It’s easy to write a couple of pages but can you imagine completing a few hundred pages? Then the process of editing begins and this is a process that few people complete.

Mr. Wimmer completed his first novel, “Irish Wine” in 1964. It was turned down by publishers and agents 162 times over the next twenty-five years before actually being published. After the 80th rejection he decided to “streamline” the story in response to criticism. He obviously still had confidence in his work even after all of that rejection. Still, he would deal with rejection 82 more times before finding success.

After the book was finally published in 1989 he said, “I don’t want it to be a freak of fiction. I would like the book to hold up on its own merits.” It did, receiving rave reviews in both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

So just remember, these projects don’t start getting really good until there has been failure and even massive rejection. That’s when you have the opportunity to rise above the average. Persistence always wins.

– Doug Marks, Metal Method instructor

* reference: Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2011