Creative Leadership

Are You Willing to Stick With Something Long Enough to Be Successful?

One of my favorite Thomas Edison quotes is: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” I can confirm that in four decades of working with leaders, the single biggest reason they fail is that they get distracted. They aren’t willing to wait for success to happen.

In one case, a client wasn’t willing to stick with our media plan long enough to get a response. In another, a pastor  wasn’t willing to work unnoticed in the trenches long enough to get the experience necessary to have credibility. In another, a nonprofit leader wasn’t willing to take a long, honest look at her own gifts and talents. In another, a business leader wasn’t willing to do the groundwork to build his expertise and reputation.

Whatever the reason, they weren’t willing to stick with a plan long enough to see it work.

Perhaps my second favorite quote from Edison is: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Guess what? Those “10,000 ways that won’t work” involved decades of toil, frustration, insecurity, self-doubt, and most of all – criticism. But he didn’t give up. He pursued his dream, and his commitment literally changed the world.

It’s easy to get distracted.  There are plenty of things to turn to when our original dream hits a wall, gets boring, or starts getting criticized.

The question is how long are you willing to pursue your dream?

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7 Comments

  1. It is so true Phil that many seem to abort what they are doing because they have become weary of carrying the vision and nurturing its development until it is ready to be birthed. One of the tendencies that appears prevalent today is the presumption of entitlement that causes those who are starting out with their “thing” to expect that they can by-pass the process that has led to the success they see in others, especially their heroes. Destiny teaching is often very motivating but has one flaw in my opinion. It seldom calls for the challenge of respecting the hard yards that lead to ones goals.

    1. Well said Oliver. I’ve seen that sense of entitlement as well. Many CEO’s are reporting that many young people today are baffled that they can’t become company president within the first year of their employment.

  2. And conversely, this conversation is a good measuring stick for your next “big idea”- “how long am I willing to wait to see this into a reality?” People can get excited about something and get caught up in the moment, but if you don’t have long-term patience for it, maybe it’s not as big as you think! 🙂

  3. I’ve been at mine for 40 years, and am not about to quit now. Hey, Moses, Joshua & Caleb were all 80 and just getting warmed up!

  4. I’m helping to produce a feature film that began twenty years ago with my co-writer when she had a convo w then unknown actor Matt Damon. Robin Williams had just been attached to thei project and he was about to become a huge star. Damon and my co-wroter swapped stories at a Melrose dinner party, stories about the struggle of coming to L.A. and make it as an actor. Damon encouraged her to write about her journey as he and Ben had done, using real life characters and events and ficitionalizing some of it, as metaphor. I met her at church in 1999, married her in 2001. Although we parted ways in a friendly divorce in 2010, that story has kep us together. The main thrust of the script is exactly the point of your piece about sticking with it. But beyond that, addressing even suicide as a form of “giving up.” We give up in a million ways but God never gives up on us. http://www.tastemakercollectivemedia.com/#!7-Attempts-to-LA-interview-with-the-star-producerwriter-CeCe-Christian/crsj/55ff19910cf2a7bb74b20fbe

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