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The Role of Perseverance in Success


02Apr 2007

This week I have been reading Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth. I have always been intrigued with Franklin, and I also am personally committed to learning from successful individuals across history. Two of his key themes in The Way to Wealth are the interrelationship between the practice of frugality and industry.

To cite some of Franklin’s comments:

“It is important to realize that all a person has is the product of his or her labor. . . If we are industrious, we shall never starve. . . In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, it is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything.”

These thoughts combine with the repeated “drum” I hear in the marketplace from business owners and managers — that it is difficult to find employees with a good work ethic. In fact, a business owner lamented to me today, “I just don’t understand workers today. They don’t want to work — they want to be paid well but they aren’t willing to ‘put in their time’ to learn and work their way up in the organization.” Many times I hear managers talk of the impatience or short-time frame that workers have — they seem to expect to receive rewards (wage increases, promotions) quickly.

A third stream of thought that also weaves together is this. I have had the opportunity to interview numerous (50+) successful multimillionaire business owners across the country as part of my family business coaching over the past few years. One of the questions I consistently ask is: “To what do you attribute your business and financial success?” (and this is usually answered by the business owner and their spouse). One of the two most common responses I get is: perseverance. One businessman stated: “We just kept doing what we were good at and tried to serve our clients well. We worked long and hard — it wasn’t magic and it wasn’t easy.” (Just for your information, the other most common response runs along the theme of “we were in the right place at the right time”, or “God blessed us with an opportunity and we were able to capitalize on it.”)

So to tie it together: Franklin’s focused on industry as part of the formula for creating financial wealth; there is a perception that there is a dearth of workers with a good work ethic currently; and perseverance is repeatedly cited as a key component to financial/business success. So one conclusion I come to is — there are a number of people in our workforce that are probably not going to experience much success (either in the workplace or financially) if they don’t come to understand the importance and necessity of working hard and persevering.

I think a lesson for the rest of us who do work hard is to “hang in there”. Obviously, we need to keep focused on our core competencies and implementing the plan that we believe will bring success, but not to lose heart and give up. On the other hand, as a friend/consultant shared with me just today, the issue isn’t just “working hard”, the goal is to achieve results. Many individuals seem to focus almost exclusively on working hard, thinking that is the goal. But lots of effort without results (however those are measured) is, ultimately, futility. And it seems to me, the ability to determine what actions we should persevere in requires some business savvy, along with a measure of discernment and wisdom.

To close with a bit more from Franklin, he believed to “do well by doing good.” That is, if we choose to serve others and help others become successful, we will eventually experience the benefits of these actions.

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