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Habit of Mind #1: Persisting

If the mother does not persist when the baby refuses to use her bottle, that child will never learn how to get food from anything else except the mother’s milk. If the mother does not persist with the baby when it only wants to lay down, that child will never learn the skills of sitting, standing, or crawling. If the mother is not persistent with the baby to give it the medicine when that baby is refusing it, that baby will never recover from fever.

Babies are not the only ones that need persistence. We all do. Persistence is the antidote to failure. Many people start a project just to set it aside and start a new one. If you can recall, haven’t you started writing a book and left it unfinished? And then you started writing another one, and another one, and ideas of new books kept coming. Finally, you have probably written unfinished books that could’ve made at least one whole book, but since you didn’t finish any, you have no book published years later. You have come to believe that writers are born and you’re not one of them.

Maybe your case is not about books. Maybe it is a business idea. You thought to start a motion film company, then you thought of retail, and then a staffing agency. Finally, you are exhausted. You think America or your country is not helping you be stable. In the meantime, people start businesses in your neighborhood every day, and they become household brand names. How do they do that?

Persistence is an energy that comes from the mind. It comes from the mind and it feeds the mind. It is what makes the mind keep on going indefatigably. So, when you leave your projects half-done, you are not helping your mind produce value.

 

Practically, how can you help your mind with persistence?

Finish your projects. When you start something, see it through. Do not leave it for later. My mentor once told that we finish one thing before starting the next. Think about this scenario. You hire a contractor to build you a house. He starts the foundations. After a while, he asks you to let him destroy it because he has a better idea. He convinces you that the new foundation will be the best and the house will cost you way less than the current plan. With a troubled heart, you give him a green light to go. Just as he is about to finish the second foundation, he runs right back to you and begs you to let him destroy that one also. Why? I promise to start a new crispy fabulous one. Would you sue this son of a gun for insulting your intelligence or would you genuinely let him fly and start a new foundation?

I’m sure someone is laughing, but that is exactly what we do when we are not persistent.

What does persisting do to your mind? Before we answer that question, allow me to tell you a true story.

A good friend of mine sent me a video recently via WhatsApp. He had shot a video of his children playing in the snow. I guess it is not very common for the snow to fall in the south, so, it did snow and the children were happy to play in it. The video was six minutes long. For six minutes, these children went from activity to activity, from project to project, and from idea to idea. Let me give you the exact sequence in which they proceeded.

 

The first project the boy got his baby sister to do was to make a snow angel. Within seconds, they went from the idea of making a snow angel to lying on their back, and without transition they landed on to the idea of making a snow man. Then the same boy shouted, “I just got a great idea!” He said it running to a white container about six yards away. He grabbed it and enquired if the container was open and empty. Then he announced his next idea. Guess what? Fill it with snow. Immediately, his sister and he started feeling up the container.

 

After three scoops from each of the two buddies, the boy announced he just got a great idea. “Let’s make a snow man” he said. Immediately they launched their idea. Then he decided to go to the back yard where they could have more space. On their way to the new site, they started a side idea: they were cleaning the concreate fence. It was exciting. And they continued their journey to the back. Then they found their bike buried in the snow and what excitement! The boy had another idea: he wanted to ride his bike in the snow. He started riding his bike as initially announced. Finally, he realized it was difficult to continue in his endeavor of riding a spiderman bike in the snow. Then he got his new idea. What is it? Bury the bike in the snow, which he did with his sister. As he lifted his nose from burying the bike, he saw a soccer ball. He announced his next idea: kick the ball. Then they lied down. And the dad reminded them of the snowman that never came. That is what children do best. They never finish their project because they are not persistent or consistent. They want to be pilots, they want to be scientists, and they want to be preachers. When they meet obstacles or distractions, they forget what they were going for in the first place. If you do this, you are a child in the body of an adult.

 

So, what does persistence do to your mind?

When you finish what you started, it feels good. When you earn that degree, you feel fulfilled. You believe in yourself, and you think you can do more than that. But self-doubt settles in when you can’t finish a single thing. Now therefore, take a vow with yourself today to finish one thing first before starting a new one. If while you are working on the first thing you realize it was a bad idea to begin with, then find a way to make it a good idea.

When Jack Dorsey came up with the idea of Twitter, he thought it would be a system of sharing text messages. The first tries cost the team hundreds of dollars in phone bills. One could’ve said, “you know, this was a bad idea. Let’s get out.” And they would’ve been in their right to do so. But being in your right to do something is not always right to do it. Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams chose to find Twitter a new platform. You don’t need me to tell you that the second version was successful.

Persistence is taking your projects to completion, but it doesn’t mean changing nothing to it. In fact, inflexibility is not a habit of mind. But sticking to your idea with a flexible mind is.

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