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Will it take Persistence or Perseverance?

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“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”  ~ Winston Churchill

In a recent LinkedIn thread, a discussion broke out around the one word to best describe the “Founder mindset.” The most common word cited was ‘Persistence’, with the occasional ‘Perseverance’ thrown in for good measure.

Persistence and Perseverance are often used interchangeably, and they are indeed similar concepts in many respects. But we think they are different in subtle but important ways, and understanding that difference is probably one of the most critical distinctions any Founder, or indeed anyone working in conditions of extreme uncertainty (which means all of us, at some point in our lives or careers) can make.

Persistence is a kind of dogged determination. It is about consistency and repetition, despite obstacles and setbacks. It focuses on the methods to achieve an outcome. Perseverance, on the other hand, allows for learning and adaptation. It focuses more on the outcome, not the methods. 

 You persist in banging your head against the proverbial brick wall. You persevere in trying to find a way past the wall. Certainly, if you are persistent enough, you may start to make inroads, and your head may indeed prove to be stronger than the wall. But there may also be some mileage in looking for a door.

There is a sense then, in which persistence is about bending the world to our will, whereas perseverance is about learning what works through experimentation and innovation. Sure, you’re still using your head, but it probably doesn’t hurt as much. 

Knowing when to apply each strategy can be transformational. Sometimes the consistency that comes from persistence is absolutely key, as anyone in marketing will know. But when the path forward isn’t clear, the obstacles are uncertain and the methods to overcome them are not well defined, perseverance is likely to be a far more productive approach. 

This week’s inquiry…

Where might changing your strategy from persist to persevere be transformational?

Dive Deeper…

Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

“Do you have the “grit?” to persevere?”

Whether your strategy is persistence or perseverance, you’re going to need motivation to succeed. If you haven’t read this groundbreaking book from Dan Pink, you’re missing out on the opportunity to learn about what truly motivates us.

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