The Importance of Perseverance

I read in story in the sports section of my local newspaper. The coach of our Division One NCAA Basketball Team was talking about the importance of getting off to a fast start.

 

I read another article on the same page of the same paper about the local NBA team. That coach was talking about the importance of finishing strong. 

 

Is it possible they could both be right? Well, not only is it possible they are right they are in fact absolutely right. 

 

But here’s what’s more important than both starting and finishing strong: finishing period. 

 

Some successful people start strong, some successful people finish strong but the most successful people finish what they start….pretty much always. 

 

I wonder if by chance anyone reading this knows who won the 1968 Olympic Marathon in Mexico. I suppose not but you could always look it up. I have no idea who won either but I do know who came in last….way last. 

 

His name was John Stephen Akhwari, from Tanzania. Not long into the race John Stephen Akhwari got tangled up with some other runners and took a massive fall. He was pretty banged up and no one would have blamed him for quitting on the spot. But he made the decision to continue on. 

 

Long after the first place runner had finished, long after pretty much everyone had left the Olympic Stadium one solitary runner entered the stadium. He was limping badly from a seriously injured leg. He was bleeding from cuts to his arms and head and he was clearly exhausted and in severe distress.

 

The few hundred people left in the stadium realized what was happening and began to cheer this runner on. To the shouts and cheers of those straggler spectators John Steven Akhwari crossed the finish line more than an hour after the race had been won.

 

He was quite the spectacle as the few remaining media in the stadium surrounded him to find out what had happened to him. Most were bewildered as to why he persisted when the race was clearly over. 

 

His answer to their qurstions speaks volumes about the heart and attitude of true champions. He simply said that his country had sent him 5000 miles to the Olympic Marathon not to start the race but had sent him 5000 miles to finish it. 

 

And finish it he did!

 

Do you have what it takes to finish what you started? When faced with unforeseen obstacles can you remember why you started and re-dream the dream of success that motivated you to begin?

 

Can you muster the strength to continue when no one would blame you for quitting? Do you have the courage to overcome your fear of failure and the heart to persist when the voices of doubt whisper quietly “you can’t?”

 

Do you have an attitude of success? An attitude that says it’s not a question of “if” you can finish, it’s only a question of “how” you will finish. 

 

Success in any meaningful area of life requires that you overcome obstacles, many of which you may not have anticipated. That’s why all successful people have at one time or another demonstrated the character trait of perseverance. 

 

You really can’t succeed without it, that’s how important it truly is.

 

Every worthwhile endeavor comes with challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. But people with an attitude of success know that quitting is a choice, they also know it’s a choice that can quickly become habit forming. 


So don’t make that choice unless you absolutely have to and if you absolutely absolutely absolutely have to then don’t make it until you have another, better plan to begin again. 

What Do You Mean…Urgent?

ur·gent 

Function: adjective 

1 a : calling for immediate attention : PRESSING <urgent appeals> b : conveying a sense of urgency

2 : urging insistently : IMPORTUNATE

– ur·gent·ly adverb

     

Well, here is the definition from Webster’s.  I think I like the first one, but the second one isn’t too bad either.

     

I guess it really doesn’t really matter which one you prefer as long as you have one of these definitions that you can embrace as your own. 

     

Now when I say embrace I mean EMBRACE!  Really latch on to it and live the meaning of urgent, live it through your words and actions every single day.  I remember attending a Dale Carnegie™ Sales Conference about 25 years ago when one of the presenters was asked about his opinion on the most serious threat facing professional salespeople at the time.  I think his answer applies as much today as it did at the time: a lack of urgency. 

     

He believed, and I agree, that salespeople who go about their business as though a deal could wait another day are doomed to a career filled with limited successes and missed opportunities. 

     

Salespeople who lack a sense of urgency, whether it’s urgency regarding following up on a request for information, urgency to return a phone call, urgency to make that one additional sales call a day and urgency to do the things they know would make a difference, are what I call woulda, coulda, shoulda salespeople.  These are the salespeople who lament the poor business climate and challenging customers that the salespeople with a sense of urgency pursue, maximizing the market and reaping the rewards.

     

Which one are you?  Do you have that sense of urgency?  Or, do you “leave a little business for tomorrow?”  If you’re a woulda, coulda, shoulda salesperson, you had better hope your competition is too!  As of the date of this post there are only 27 or 28 selling days (depends on if you work December 26th) left in 2017. Will you press on with urgency or will you coast into 2018?

     

That’s not a question about your ability, that’s a question about your attitude. Successful people know that a fast start is important but the most successful people know that how well you finish what you started is the real key to continual success. 

Fake Leadership

There certainly seems to be a lot of news lately about fake stuff. There’s fake news, fake websites, and even fake, or at least disingenuous, people.

 

While much of the “fake stuff” is new and can be mostly attributed to the rise of the internet there is one fake thing that has seemingly always been around. That one fake thing is Fake Leadership.

 

Fake Leadership happens when someone gives the appearance of leadership without really leading. They may have a title or position that indicates they are a leader, they may make big decisions, say big things and even have great success in their careers. But they are missing one necessary characteristic of nearly all Authentic Leaders and absolutely all Authentic Servant Leaders.

 

They do not build people and they do not develop more leaders.

 

Fake Leaders may have tremendous business success but that only proves they were great managers. As I have written on numerous occasions there is a singular distinction between managing and leading….you manage stuff, buildings, inventories, budgets, and plans but you lead people. 

 

Leadership is about people and only people. Many people are blessed with both management and leadership skills but many, many more are not. Frequently when people possess only one of those skill sets the one they possess is management. 

 

A manager builds a successful organization mostly on their own efforts. They outwork and out-think most everyone around them. They are successful albeit a bit selfishly so. But here’s the thing, there’s really not all that much wrong with that, I’d rather be a very successful great manager than a not so successful mediocre leader. 

 

What is wrong with it is when that person claims the mantle of leadership. I don’t know if they are trying to fool themselves or the people they try to manage but either way, if they are not building people they are not a true leader.

 

While a manger builds a successful organization a leader builds people who then build the successful organization. In the case of an Authentic Leader they truly care about the people they build; in the case of an Authentic Servant Leader they may very well care more about the success of their people than they care about their own.

 

A strong manager’s organization will have success as long as the manager is present to ensure it. A leader’s organization will outlast their leadership so long as the leaders they built continue to build people who become leaders themselves. The success of an Authentic Leader can go on virtually forever, the success of an Authentic Servant Leader does go on forever.

 

If you want to know if someone is a leader don’t look at the leader, look at the people around them. If those people are not growing, if they aren’t involved in the decision making process, if they aren’t responsible for at least part of the success, then it’s safe to say that the person above them isn’t really leading. 


If a person isn’t leading, regardless of the title or position they hold then they are simply not a leader. If they say they are then you’ll know they are a fake.


What Were You Thinking?

Most people just don’t think about what they are thinking. They think something and then react to that thought with no additional thinking. 

 

That’s where stereotypes come from. That’s where misconceptions come from. That’s where poor judgment comes from. It’s also where failure comes from. 

 

Most successful people are not all that surprised by their success. They thought they could succeed and they set about doing it. Most people who could be described as less successful are not all that surprised by their lack of success either. There was, at least in the back of their mind, a thought that no matter what they did they really couldn’t succeed. 

 

Their actions followed those thoughts. 

 

I’ve always heard that it’s very important to “make a good first impression.” People say “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” I understand that but as I grow older I think the advice I’d give people is “don’t permanently judge people based on your first impression.”

 

What you think someone is, based on your first impression, is likely what they will be, at least to you. So be careful, very careful what you think of someone right off the bat. Wait, give them a couple of opportunities to make an impression before you start thinking about who or what you think they are. That first thought will stay with you a long time so don’t start thinking until you have enough exposure to the person to form an intelligent thought.

 

Thinking about someone without actually thinking can cost you the opportunity to have a diverse group of people in your life who you could actually form close relationships with. Just don’t be so quick to form an opinion of them.

 

But you really limit yourself when you think less of yourself than you should. Henry Ford once said “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” 

 

What you think you are you likely become. If you believe in yourself and think that you will succeed then you’re virtually unstoppable. If you don’t believe in yourself you’re virtually unstartable. (I think I just made another new word) 

 

Your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions. You should always be aware of what you’re thinking and stop yourself from thinking poorly about yourself. 

 

You certainly cannot simply think your way into success but you can absolutely think your way into failure. 

 

Think about what you’re thinking. The surest way to have a positive, successful attitude is to have positive successful thoughts. Every thought you think is creating your future so think of the future you really want and then go make it happen.


Think about that! 

The Lost Art of Thank You Notes

So, in my last post I wrote about saying “Thank You.” As powerful as a sincere verbal thank you can be it’s magnified tenfold when it’s written down. So I want to take my last post a step further and suggest that you do more than merely say thank you, I’d encourage you to at least occasionally write your “Thank You” down, like in a note, with a pen, handwritten. Just like the old days.

 

I know that seems really old fashioned to a whole lot of people reading this and it may seem like a huge waste of time when you can just send a quick email or an even quicker text. But I assure you, it’s anything but a waste of time. 

 

You may think taking the extra five minutes to hand write a card and toss it in the mail (for those of you who have never done this “the mail” is those blue kinda curvy topped boxes you see sitting on street corners here and there) is a waste of time but I’m betting big time that if you received one you wouldn’t think it was a waste of time at all. You would appreciate, maybe greatly appreciate, the extra effort it took the person to send it to you. 

 

There was a time when I frequently suggested to people that they send 7 Thank You cards a week. I used to do that religiously; I’ve somehow gotten away from that and it’s truly a shame. People used to comment to me all the time about how much they appreciated the thoughtfulness. 

 

I still send a fair amount of “Thank You’s,” I just do it by email and I almost never hear a word about thoughtfulness. 

 

So I just went and bought a box of Thank You Notes (it was nice to see they still sell them in stores) and a book of stamps. It’s positively retro! I’m going to start slow and commit to sending one a week, every week. I’ll try to do more but over-committing is a sure way to kill any momentum I might develop.

 

Will you join me in rediscovering this lost art? No one’s handwriting is worse than mine so don’t try using that as an excuse; like those Nike people say… Just do it!


My grandfather used to sell cards in his store, I still remember a sign by the cards he sold. It said “Costs so little yet means so much.” Those words still hold true today; make a difference in someone’s life today, drop them a note and let them know they matter.


Two Little Words

Sometimes little things can make a big difference. Sometimes, when combined with another little thing they can make a huge difference. Such is the case with two little words, thank and you. 

 

Now “thank” almost doesn’t sound right alone. About the only way it makes sense is when used in a sentence like “remember to thank someone” or something like that. We can add an “s” to the word which makes it far more useful but all alone “thank” just doesn’t accomplish that much.

 

As for “you” well that’s another matter. With just in slight change in the tone of our voice we can make “you” mean very different things. We can say it with a smile and a friendly look and it tells a person that we think they are someone special. Or…we can say it with a growl and a stern look and they almost instinctly know that whatever we say next isn’t going to be meant as a compliment. 

 

It’s when we combine the word “thank” with the word “you” that magic begins to happen. When spoken together with sincerity and conviction “Thank You” has the power to change someone’s day. It has the power to let them know that they matter, that the things they do are noticed, and that they are appreciated.

 

Authentic Servant Leaders seldom if ever miss an opportunity to say Thank You when appropriate. They do not take acts of kindness for granted. They do not take good work for granted. They do not take extra effort for granted. They do not take their people for granted. 

 

If you have not used those two little words together in the last day or so (maybe the last hour or so) then I can virtually guarantee that you have missed an opportunity to demonstrate to someone that you appreciate them. That you do not take them or their efforts for granted. 

 

Now, just to be clear, a little half-hearted “thanks” said in passing doesn’t get it done. Look the other person in the eye and in your strongest, clearest voice say “Thank You” and mean it…sincerely. 


If you’re truly looking you won’t have to wait look for your first opportunity to appear.