The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.
We talk much about education and talent but too little about persistence.
Success as a manager or employee usually has less to do with your degree, your natural talent or even your intelligence. It has less to do with where you were raised and whether you were privileged. It has much more to do with your own personal level of persistence and determination.
Yes, a degree may be necessary for certain roles or licenses, and it never hurts to have every advantage growing up, including involved parents and excellent teachers. However, personal determination means more to your successes and failures than any other factor.
Give me a qualified and determined person over a highly educated person with low “give a hoot” any day.
Each inspirational story you see proves my point. These success stories are about people who overcame a challenge and made something work for them or others. Overcoming obstacles. Pushing further, harder and more often than the average person. Finding ways to go at it in different ways. Saying yes rather than no. Persistence.
Look no further than your own extended family or group of friends for talented people (maybe geniuses) who struggle to make their lives and work function. You also know someone with modest resources who worked hard and long to achieve his or her version of success.
Ask any manager why so many good ideas sit idle. Do you know employees who stop and rest at each hurdle, making a nest and setting up camp until dislodged?
Think of the last team meeting where more time was spent on the lunch menu than on tasks at hand, the reasons things did not happen, and why more time was needed to execute projects rather than enjoy incremental success from dogged determination.
Leonard Mlodinow, the author of “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,” helped me see the power of persistence another way. Because so many factors in the workplace and business are uncontrollable, unpredictable and even random, persistence increases the chance that a good idea (or good person) will take hold as conditions change.
Think of it like this: The job openings and available candidates at any point in time are fixed. The lack of a good fit today means nothing about next month, when the candidate pool and job openings have changed. Persist.
Success at work is influenced by many factors. It never hurts to have education, talent and other advantages. Sometimes unfair things happen. But the surest way to take what you have and maximize your effect wherever you are today is to double your level of persistence. Good managers recognize the power of determination and look for it in hiring and promotions.
In 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression, former President Calvin Coolidge said that persistence “has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” It is the one variable entirely within your control. Start with your role in your workplace and enjoy the difference it will make.