Persistence Matters

Kyle Smith

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One of aesop’s best-known fables is The Tortoise and the Hare. The hare challenges the tortoise to a race, confident he will win by a long shot. The race begins and the hare gets so far ahead of the tortoise that he takes a nap. When the hare wakes up, he finds that the tortoise kept moving and won the race.

You and I can learn a lot from the tortoise. It may take a while to get where we’re going, but if we persist we’ll eventually get there.

There are times when you’ll feel like giving up on your creative goals. Maybe you’re writing a book, making a movie, or recording music. It’s important to be persistent and work through the problems that make it harder to reach the finish line.

Here are five common reasons we want to give up, and how to deal with each of them:

1. Fatigue. Your physical fatigue affects your mind and emotions. When you’re physically depleted you don’t have the willpower and the correct frame of mind to push through challenges.

Solution: Take care of your body and make sure you’re getting enough rest. (The average adult needs about eight hours of sleep per night.) Many people also find that a nap helps refresh them. I take a short nap almost every day.

  • In addition, cut down your intake of junk food and fast food. If you need to lose a few pounds, get on an exercise program. You only have one body, so treat it well.

2. Discouragement. Sometimes your problems seem to compound on each other and you just want to quit. It’s much easier to run away from your problems than deal with them head-on. It’s more tempting to veg out in front of the television or bury your frustrations in a week of binge eating than to do the hard work required for success.

Solution: Deal with your negative emotions in a healthy way. Go for a walk, write in your journal, or find other positive solutions to your problems. Running away from your problems will only make them worse.

3. Confusion. Have you ever lost your focus and didn’t know which way to go? If so, you’re not alone. Most people know what it feels like to become paralyzed by the stress of life and lose their direction.

Solution: Reconnect with your purpose and vision. Where do you want to be in one, two, or five years? Think about your long-term goals and the steps it will take to get there.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” When you get clarity on what lies inside of you—your purpose and vision—the way forward becomes clear.

4. Overwhelm. There are times when you’ve committed to too many responsibilities and you feel completely overwhelmed.

Solution: Prioritize your responsibilities. You can’t do everything. For nearly a year, I hosted a weekly podcast. Despite the massive amount of work I had put into it, I decided to end it because it wasn’t helping me reach my goals. Decide which things are the most important and focus on those.

Sometimes we are overcommitted because we’re afraid to disappoint others who request our time. You must become comfortable with saying “no” when you can’t fulfill a request. If you don’t control your time, someone else will.

5. Regret. If you are beating yourself up over mistakes you’ve made, you won’t be able to focus on the future. Regret can suck the life out of you and keep you from making forward progress.

Solution: Don’t dwell on the past because you can’t change it. Learn from your mistakes and apply those lessons to the present and the future. Focus on the one thing you can change, which is yourself.

Matthew Weiner, creator of the hit TV series Mad Men, knows a thing or two about persistence. He said,

It took seven years from the time I wrote Mad Men until it finally got on the screen. I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you have to have.

Hollywood is tough, but I do believe that if you are truly talented, get your material out there, can put up with rejection, and don’t set a time limit for yourself, someone will notice you.

It’s easy to get sidelined by problems on the creative journey. But you must persist and keep on doing the work you’re called to do. There’s too much at stake for you to throw in the towel.

Questions for Reflection

1. Which of the five areas listed above is your biggest frustration right now?

2. How much sleep do you get each night? Is it enough?

3. Do you feel clear about your direction in life? Why or why not?

4. Are you able to say “no” to others when their requests don’t line up with your priorities? Are you okay with disappointing them?

5. Do you tend to dwell on the mistakes of the past? What have you learned from some of those mistakes?

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I write about writing, productivity, creativity, and much more.

St. Louis, MO
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