Last Saturday, I rode in the L’Etape du California. It was a grueling ride - 79 miles long, the last 25 being uphill. The ride involved over 11,600 feet of climbing with the last four miles at an average grade of 8.5%. It was a terrific event, well organized and supported, and challenging, so much that nearly 50% of those who started the ride never made it to the finish.
What impressed me most, however, was the drive that I saw in other riders who refused to let a 14% grade two miles from the finish deter them from completing the ride. They persisted, drove on and made it, even if it meant having to stop, walk or zig-zag across the road. Their sheer determination to make it to the finish got me thinking about tenacity, perseverance and determination and the role each plays in achieving success.
When I was racing my bike (all those years ago), I was never the most natural climber or the fastest sprinter on the road. What I had, however, was the desire and determination to not let anyone or anything get in the way of me being successful. I refused to let others define for me success and failure. To me failing was nothing more than a learning lesson, a setback on the path to success. I was determined to be a successful cyclist and put in the hours in the gym, on the indoor trainer and on the road, persevering when I encountered setbacks and staying focused on achieving my goals.
In late 1990, I said good bye to the Army and to competitive cycling and was immediately hired by a company in Stamford, CT. I will never forget what the President said to me one day as to why he hired me over more qualified applicants. He said, “You’ve been successful in everything that you’ve done and I’ve no doubt that you will be successful here.”
In business, one sales representative might earn two or three times that of another in any given year. However, that doesn’t mean that the former is two or three times better of a sales representative than the latter. It is more likely that the higher earning representative went about his job in a consistent, persistent manner.
Napoleon Hill devoted an entire chapter in Think and Grow Rich to the subject of persistence. He said, “There may be no heroic connotation to the word persistence, but the quality is to the character of man, what carbon is to steel.”
Nobody is guaranteed success. But, you can, through persistence, heavily influence your likelihood of success. And, in the words of the late great coach Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”