While perseverance isn't a guarantee of success, quitting is a guarantee of failure. It's the easy way out when the going gets tough. Few people quit at the bottom of the mountain; the prospect of making it to the peak sounds so glorious. It’s midway up when the breathing is hard, and the legs are tired, that people turn back. The ones who quit will never see the view, which is made all the better for the effort and discomfort experienced by those who got to the top. Unfortunately, too many people make the choice to quit.
To wit, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. When a friend who recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary was asked what his secret was, he gave a simple, two-word answer: Don’t leave. Similarly, roughly half of all businesses fail in their first five years. The most common reason given is running out of money. But is that really it? Great business successes from Henry Ford to H. J. Heinz to Walt Disney to Tony Robbins to Donald Trump went through bankruptcy or other major financial disasters. They would all have ended as footnotes of failure if they had quit at the nadir of their businesses, as many do.
So, what’s the difference? As kids we used to say Winners never quit and quitters never win. We said it so often as to be cliché, robbing it of its meaning and true profundity. The question is, how do we keep from quitting? The answer is character; not as it’s defined in the dictionary, which sounds more like personality, but in the sense of who we choose to be by the decisions we make. And we make those decisions in advance: When I am knocked down I will get back up and keep fighting! It’s really that simple.
Persistence and perseverance may not be the total answer to success, but they are a critical ingredient. When we make the commitment, put our backs against the wall and burn the boats*, that’s when the action starts.
*"Burn the boats!" is the order Hernando Cortés gave to prevent his men from deserting during his conquest of the Aztec empire in 1519.