Some times the difference between success and failure is the simple act of holding on: holding on to a dream, a goal or the effort. Success is not for the easy going or fainthearted. Be determined.
As Melbourne rolls through its fifth lockdown, everywhere I turn I am reminded of the imperative to hold on. Defeating a dangerous global pandemic takes commitment, capability, effort, but most of all time. In an age of instant delivery, instant opinions and ready satisfaction, waiting out a global threat can seem too much, too hard and too slow. We have already seen many suggest that the fight is pointless and that defeat is inevitable. We are already struggling with fatigue.
I am not one for career regrets. Life moves too fast for what might have been. The closest I come to regret in my career decisions are one or two occasions where I moved on from a problematic situation quickly and I now question whether greater persistence was required for others as much as for me. So much of success is not effort, capability or resources, it is the work of being still in the effort at the right time.
Whether you call it grit, persistence or endurance, whether you see the rewards of being a completer-finisher, whether you have resilience, stubbornness or an ornery sense of determination, there are times when it matters to be in the effort longer. You have to be in it to win it. Holding on to the next right time is an important component of success.
How on Earth?
In all this chaos, stress and pressure, how on earth do we hold on to what matters most?
Let’s digress for a moment into a story. As a kid, I did a bit of rock climbing on camps and other adventures. With poor strength, no technique and too much weight, I was terrible at rockclimbing Terrible looks like climbing a few meters gasping, arms aching, nerves causing shaking through my body then losing my grip, falling and slamming into the rock on my safety rope, an experience painful and embarrassing to me and annoying to the person holding the safety rope. I couldn’t hold on enough to get very far up the steeper grades. Hardly a task to stick at. It wasn’t until I came back to rock climbing indoors as an adult that I met an instructor who supplied two key insights that would have saved a lot of falling off rocks as a kid:
- Maintain 3 points of contact with the rock always: safety and security means never put too much stress on one point of grip
- Climb with your legs: use the big muscles in your lower body to push you up the rock when you can. Save your arm strength to hold on or when absolutely necessary.
Three Points of Contact
If you want to hang on in any challenge, you need to keep your three points of contact with the rock of your challenge:
- What you will gain from the effort?
- What success delivers for others?
- What you will gain from success?
These are the reasons you do anything. These are the reasons to hold on. When the opportunity cost of any one of these three is too great, you will let go. You will also be right to do so.
These questions are easy to ask but the answers are deep and complex. The answers aren’t measured in sales, dollars or any one metric alone. They embrace all the benefits of the work – social, personal, emotional, relational and financial. Nobody else can answer these questions for you. You alone need to be able to justify to yourself why you are holding on. Until you succeed, nobody else cares why you tried.
If you want to improve your commitment and determination, don’t chant buzzwords about grit and determination. Ask yourself these questions.
Climb with Big Muscles
Two human hands are weak. There are limits to what they can hold and do. The big muscles in any human endeavour are the social networks around you. If you want to stick something out, you need to be working these muscles into the task.
Success comes from your work to engage and leverage these big muscles and to have them help you to hold on to your work. Share your work, your goals and invite others to work on them with you. Do this especially when you are struggling and times are tough. Some times the context, the answers or the assistance that others can make is the entire difference between success and failure. If you retreat into your own circumstances, you will lose more than human connection.
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