[ICYMI] On Persistence

“Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.” -Tom Krause

Monday, we asked a series of questions, borne out of experiences, conversations and observations that we have made as we have been building a business here in the Southern Tier of New York State.
We went from asking “why do we quit?” to “why do we continue?” With that in mind, let us take some time to talk about the opposite of quitting: persistence.
The dictionary defines persistence three ways:
  •  quality of persisting: the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties
  •  act of persisting: the action of somebody who persists with something
  •  long continuance of something: continuance of an effect after its cause has ceased or been removed.
Clearly there are some elements in these definitions that apply to building a business, building a marriage or building a diet program. But why?
Do we want to prove something to other people?
Do we want to prove something to ourselves?
When we continue steadily despite problems or difficulties, we may look on it as persistence not during the process of persisting, but after the fact of a positive outcome.
After the outcome is secured, and after the battle is won, in hindsight, not foresight, persistence is lauded from the tops of the mountains to the bottoms of the valleys.
When individuals continue steadily in spite of problems or difficulties, and the outcome is the opposite of the one that they intended or stated, others may deride their actions as failures, them personally as incompetents, or as individuals lacking in the foresight to “get out while the getting was good.”
Persistence, in these cases, becomes a virtue only after it is vilified by others as a vice.
  • Abraham Lincoln was only seen as persistent in a positive way after the Civil War was won and the South defeated.
  • Business owners are only seen as persistent in a positive way after they make a substantial profit or build a culture or brand that lasts.
  • Artists, writers, poets and creatives are lauded for their persistence (in this case continuance of an effect after its cause has ceased or been removed) after their efforts have been “recognized” when they are long dead.
The rarities who persist in efforts we would have long since quit at, become the Martin Luther Kings, the Jay Z’s, the Pablo Picassos, the Lady Gagas and the James Deans of the world.
So why should anyone persist in anything at all?
If individual, worthwhile efforts will not be sufficiently recognized, compensated or lauded while alive (or if the actions “fail” according to others’ estimation)…AND…If the applause for such actions deemed “foolish” by others, is only personal, and rarely public, what makes individuals, groups, organizations and even cultures, insist that persisting is the only way to accomplishment?
Could it have something to do with grit?
Originally published on July 24, 2013.Download the FREE E-Book, The Savvy Peace Builder by heading to http://www.hsconsultingandtraining.com/e-book-the-savvy-peace-builder/ today!

[Advice] On Grit

I hear that he is a man with true GRIT.” – Mattie Ross, True Grit, 1969

Grit doesn’t get talked a lot about in a society that prizes the easy and the compromising.

It is tough to be uncompromising in such a societal structure.

However, to paraphrase from the film Braveheart, it is easy to admire uncompromising men, without actually doing the hard work of joining them in their pursuit of doing the hard thing.

The definition of grit is clear:

  • Sand, gravel
  • A hard sharp granule (as of sand); also :material (as many abrasives) composed of such granules
  • Any of several sandstones the structure of a stone that adapts it to grinding
  • The size of abrasive particles usually expressed as their mesh
  • Firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger
  • Capitalized: a Liberal in Canadian politics

The fourth definition is the clearest one for our purposes here.

Grit has come to the forefront in the last few years as the idea of inherent talent has begun to take a beating from the likes of evolutionary biologists and post-post-modern philosophers.

In its clearest form, grit becomes a holdover from a simpler time, when talent was not as valued in the Western world. Instead, traits such as perseverance, persistence, courage and spirit were once lauded as virtues.

As the 20th century rolled on by, and as we entered the vaunted “Atomic Age,” grit became valued less and less.

And, with the rise in the latter part of the 20th century, of computing, analytics, the Internet, and other faster and faster methods of accomplishing what used to be slow, and grinding (like an abrasive piece of…well…gravel) grit was less and less talked considered as an important character trait.

But, my how the worm turns: As the holes in our education system have become more and more exposed in the opening years of the new Millennium, grit has made a comeback–becoming a touchstone for encouraging children to develop perseverance, resilience, persistence and to avoid quitting early.

But grit is still scary. Deep in our heart of hearts, we would rather succeed through ease of talent versus the scary, hard thing of work, taking hits and developing a thick skin.

The story we consistently tell ourselves about resiliency, persistence and grit is one of no fun, delayed glory and little riches.

In a world of instant connections and instant gratification, who wouldn’t quit and avoid conflicts in their lives if that were the alternative?

But maybe, that’s the only alternative that matters. Maybe the only alternative is to pick a position, be uncompromising, and grind it out.

Maybe the only alternative is to be a person with true grit.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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On Quitting


What makes people quit?
Now, this question comes directly out of several experiences that we have had over the last few months and weeks that have lead us to question the need for our business, the efficacy of our business model and what it all means.

However, every time we have discussed these thoughts, feelings, and emotions with others, the admonition of “Just don’t quit,” keeps coming back to us over and over again.

The majority of this support and tacit encouragement comes from close friends, some family members and people in the overall community who recognize the value of what we do.

But that leads us back to the question: What makes people quit?
Here are some statistics:
  • In the United States alone, the divorce rate among first marriages is 3.6 per 1,000 and among second marriages it is even higher.
  • A 1998 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also makes the pessimistic case – that 80% of small businesses survive their first year, 65% survive their second year and 55% survive their third year.
  • According to the BBC, US researchers found people typically lose between 5% and 10% of their weight during the first six months of a diet.  But the review of 31 previous studies, by the University of California, said up to two-thirds put more weight on than they had lost within five years.
So in some of the most important areas of our lives (health status, relationships, financial decisions), where we make momentous decisions, upend everything sometimes, we then turn around and we quit continuously and neverendingly.
But WHY?
  • Is the commitment to hard?
  • Is the time to put in too great?
  • Is the social approbation to heavy?
Or, are we all just lazy?
Is there a time to quit?  Probably not the time that Byrds were talking about in their apocryphal song, but nevertheless, is there?
In the military, there is an idea known as a “strategic retreat,” which is a euphemism for what civilians would call a retreat, a failure or just quitting.
And yet, we abhor cowardice, we hate “quitters” and we encourage people to persist, have grit, “grind it out,” and all the other things that we say, while we simultaneously think: “Boy, I would’ve quit THAT long ago.”
Maybe the question isn’t why do we quit relationships, military strategies, business efforts, ideas, or each other; but, maybe the question is instead:
Why do we persist?