By Seiki "Stan" Hirota
Originally published September 13, 2019 on LinkedIn
There are times in all of our lives when we just feel like giving up. Circumstances and challenges can conspire against us in a way that makes it difficult to continue to press on. For this reason, perseverance - the act of not giving up in the presence of adversity, difficulty, or lack of certainty – becomes critical for every leader to successfully achieving a goal. Perseverance means that we understand that the process is going to be difficult, the outcome won’t be guaranteed, and there will be a lot of self-doubt along the way.
But still, those that have the courage go for it anyway.
Perseverance is a requirement for any success that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight or without just luck. Earning the degree that you want to advance professionally, climbing Mount Everest, creating a successful company, becoming trilingual in language, winning a marathon – all require a focused dedication. To get there, we make perseverance our home base, the place where we revisit to refuel, recharge and to some degree learn how to enjoy suffering and uncertainty.
The Epitome of Perseverance
I was recently moved by the story of Tim Don, a three-time Olympian and world champion triathlete, who is the epitome of a person with true perseverance. While training and warming up in October 2017 for an Ironman triathlon – which involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run – Tim was hit by a truck. In a single moment, one of the planet’s greatest athletes went from setting records to sitting still, not being able to drive or bathe by himself, with the hope that a metal contraption, called a halo, could heal the broken C2 vertebra in his neck.
In the article that I read, Tim describes the halo: “They literally get four titanium screws and a torque wrench and tighten them into my skull with just a local anesthetic. Every time a screw comes loose, they screw it deeper into my skull. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.” In the midst of excruciating recovery and rehabilitation, Tim set his sights on the first step of his come back to participate in the Boston Marathon. He started training with his halo, had therapy, had discipline, but above all, he had perseverance. Little by little, Tim improved his situation and in six months after his horrible accident, Tim ran the 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon in just 2 hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds.
Tim Don didn’t know he would ever be faced with such difficult physical and mental obstacles, but when he faced this situation, he leveraged his “unstoppable determination” to change the situation. Tim’s perseverance is incredibly inspirational, and while his situation was extreme to many people, we can learn from his determination. How can you foster perseverance at work, at home, or in your personal life? Here are some tips that we can learn from Tim:
Get Grit: Understand and accept that things in life will never go as planned and that there will always be difficulties and major barriers in front of you. But do it anyway. Hunker down and just get to work.
Get Support: Tim admits that even for a strong person such as him, he couldn’t have made it through the three months with the halo without the enormous help from friends and family.
Set Realistic Goals: You have to know what you’re working toward in order to reach it. Define your end game, and break it down into manageable and realistic milestones. For example, you won’t get promoted to CEO with just one year of work experience, but in that timeframe, you can set your goal on how you are going to contribute to your team to earn a promotion or receive a recognition.
Celebrate the Wins: Along your journey, there are milestones and small goals you’ll need to achieve. When you clear them, take the time to acknowledge them. Not only is it good for morale, but the wins will also help sustain you during the losses.
Work Out Loud: If you put in efforts and work hard openly in a consistent manner, you will start to gain constructive feedback, collaboration, earn trust, and gain continuous support.
Tim’s story is a message to the world – about the power of courage, persistence, perseverance, and community. Yet Tim insists he’s no superhero, “There is no secret formula,” he says. “It’s just fighting hard.”