PERSISTENCE is the act of persevering, continuing or repeating behavior. It is related to enduring determination, doggedness and tenacity. In a word… GRIT, which is one of my favorite words of all time.
As I reflect on my past, as both a child growing up and a young adult, I have come to realize persistence has been the key to being successful at anything. I am average in every way, yet I have been able to achieve many things people have gone out of their way to tell me I wouldn’t. (which is also why I can’t tell you where those people are today… I shed negative influences on my life like a snake does skin… they are dead to me.)
Persistence helped me catch a lot of bad guys during my service with my K9 partner Rogue.
Here’s a quick but memorable story.
I received a page in the very early morning hours asking me to attend the scene of a sexual assault. (yes kids… we used to get paged out from home before cell phones were issued)
A resident in the area heard a scream and notified police. There were a couple of units in the area which caused the assault to be interrupted, and the bad guy fled.
Rogue and I arrived on scene.
When you are tracking bad guys with a K9, the critical part is your starting point. It isn’t quite like the movies where you hold Sally’s dirty shirt up to Rover’s nose, and he locks the scent into his brain. You must have an origin point to begin.
Dogs track a combination of ground disturbance and skin raft, and we teach them to track the direction in which the scent grows stronger.
Sometimes you have a good last seen point and sometimes you don’t. You have to work for it.
As a team Rogue and I had spent a lot of time developing his skill to track very long time delays with difficult starting points.
This crime scene was already about 90 minutes old when we were called from home, so it was a good 2 hours time delay by the time we started.
Enter the need to be persistent and why it’s important to you which I will get to in just a second.
Now as 1 hour turned into 2 hours from the time we were on scene, members were getting impatient. They always want to break containment early. In the absence of some other pressing emergency, I would always ask them to hold tight.
I began to work some of the more obscure areas and that’s when it happened.
HIs head snapped to the left, with his nose hard into the small line of grass in the crack of a sidewalk.
We were on it!
As we tracked a few blocks up a sidewalk, we banked right through a parking lot and out the other side.
Just ahead were two parked cars and a dumpster. Rogue banked hard right on good pace which indicated to me he was getting closer as the scent was getting stronger.
We were running now and squeezed between two parked cars.
If you have ever gone fishing, imagine having a 70 lb salmon on your rod fighting and pulling against your line. That’s what it feels like when a dog is hot on the track of his prey… he is essentially a land shark.
We came from between the cars and around the dumpster, when the line went slack and I heard a blood-curdling scream.
Rogue had apprehended the bad guy by the leg. It was a 2 hour and 40-minute deployment which is a long time for a dog to continue to work the scent.
Why is persistence important?
Persistence has been shown to be the most significant predictor of success, in any undertaking. It will be key to reaching any goals you set in your lifetime.
Persistence is an extension of Mental Toughness. It refers to the kind of actions that you take in the face of performance plateaus, setbacks, injuries, and failures.
Persistence is a skill you develop over time by training specific pathways in your brain.
You can train yourself to be persistent because you can train your brain. The science of neuroplasticity is extensive. What’s exciting is the speed with which you can train your brain for the desired outcome.
Persistence is related to resilience and optimism. When you persist at something with intention, you believe you can change the result and improve your ability to repeat that action.
When challenged by obstacles that attempt to thwart our success, we need to train our brains to stick it out. The reason this is so important to understand is the Haitian proverb best encapsulates that… Behind that mountain is another mountain… meaning as you complete one challenge, another is waiting to test you.
The three keys to developing the skill of persistence are:
- Become Aware: What’s stopping you from taking action. Get in touch with the specifics. Is it fear of failure, or is it something that makes you uncomfortable because you have not fully learned the skills?
- Reset: Once you become aware, you are in a metacognitive state. You begin to have insight into what is causing your reaction while it is happening. From here you can change a pessimistic view to one that is optimistic! Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it possible to change this? Yes, it is possible to change virtually anything
- Will these feelings last forever? NO, nothing does. When you understand this, you have activated your optimistic outlook. Insight and an optimistic outlook allow you to engage the next critical aspect of being persistent.
- Reframe: What is the different approach? Remember, generally speaking, the same actions often produce the same results, so what can you do differently?
The daily practice of persistence can make this an unconscious way of being. Practice persistence by:
- Biting the bullet – by this, I mean doing the hard tasks first.
- Be regimented. Each day requires discipline where the need to be productive is paramount.
- Avoid negative people and distractions.
- Focus on your journey, not perfection.
4. ABL – Always be learning: surround yourself with those who are smarter than you. Get a coach or a mentor who can guide you. Live to your potential.
You want success and the sense of a life well lived, so you have the personal sense of accomplishment.
You must train your brain to stick to it. Persistence leads to catching more bad guys, or whatever prize you seek.