Knowing When to Persist and When to Change Direction

Jul 11, 2012 | Business

A few weeks ago I posted a blog asking you to suggest topics for future posts. The response was exciting…and overwhelming. There were so many great suggestions that I wasn’t entirely sure where to start, but I finally settled on one for this week for two reasons:

  1. This is a question that I am asked often.
  2. The answer to this question helped me overcome one of the biggest obstacles in my career.

The question came from Charles T. Franklin, who asked, “How do you know when to persist and when to change directions?”

One of the cornerstones in my writing and speaking is the concept of “persisting without exception.” As you may know, it is one of the seven decisions in The Traveler’s Gift. It is also a principle that has defined just about every aspect of my life.

But here is a key distinction that needs to be made: There is a fine line between persisting without exception and banging your head against the wall. This is a lesson that I learned while trying to get The Traveler’s Gift published.

After experiencing rejection after rejection—it ended up getting rejected 51 times—I still persisted. Like I said, the seventh decision in the book is, “I will persist without exception.” So I really didn’t have a choice! I knew the content within the book had the power to change lives, so for a long time I didn’t understand why no one else seemed to be “getting” it.

Eventually, what I discovered was that the problem wasn’t with the manuscript. The problem was with the book proposal, which is the document literary agents present to publishers. Its very function is to convince the publisher to publish the book. You see, our proposal was keeping publishers from seeing the value in the manuscript. They weren’t even reading the manuscript because the proposal was lousy.

Once I changed the proposal, I changed the results.

Changes Ahead Sign Tag

And that’s the critical part that most people miss. Persisting without exception does not mean do the same thing over and over again. Have you heard the old

saying about the definition of insanity? “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It may not be medically and psychologically accurate, but there’s a lot of truth in it!

Persisting without exception means pledging to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal. You will overcome any problem, any circumstance, any obstacle that gets in your way. In order to do that, however, you have to be able to recognize and diagnose those problems. You have to think creatively and critically about how you could do things differently. So often, we are just one idea away from experiencing true breakthroughs.

You also must make sure you are committed. You have to be working toward something that is a burning passion inside of you, something that you literally can’t hold back, something that you would be doing even if no one would ever pay you one cent to do it. If you have that passion, then keep persisting. And if you have promised yourself to persist without exception, remember to keep an eye out for those roadblocks. Commit yourself to making the changes you’re going to need to make. Know that you will most likely have to change direction in some capacity at some point.

If you do all of those things, amazing things will happen.

Thanks to Charles for this great question! I’ll be referring back to everyone’s suggestions in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out!

And I’m curious…  What small (or large) change have you identified at some point in your life that, once acted upon, made a huge difference?


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