“A physician had an experience that occurred during her medical training. She received a low grade from her supervising physician. It took her by surprise because she knew she was one of the best interns in her group. She asked her supervisor for an explanation, and he replied that she didn’t know as much as the others. She knew from her day-to-day dealings with her peers that she was one of the most knowledgeable, not the least. So, she asked him what evidence had led him to his conclusion. And he told her, ‘You ask too many questions.’” First, wouldn’t you want a physician who was well trained and asked questions? And then…is that the time to change what you’re doing, throw in the towel or keep going? As a leader, perseverance is a quality that moves you from the IMpossible to the possible.
Personally, I have started and re-started so many times in my life, that I can’t even remember all the chances I have taken along the way. Let me share just some of the biggies. I started a new career in the insurance industry at the age of forty, as a single mom, knowing nothing about that industry. I came through the ranks of insurance agents as one of the only women, and I became an agency manager without ever having formal training or mentoring.
Our agency had no presence in North Carolina, and I was asked to build an agency there. For 47 weeks, I traveled each week from Connecticut to North Carolina to establish an agency before moving there. Two years later I was asked to move to Dallas to take a corporate position building sales training, not knowing a soul there. I resigned from that big position to jump into the unknown again. I started my company, Selling In A Skirt, at the age of fifty-five and branched waaaay outside my comfort zone. Perseverance seemed to be my middle name.
If I could do it all over, would I do it differently? No. Did I make mistakes? Definitely. Were the risks worth the rewards? Absolutely! Did I ever want to quit…let me count the ways…and I never did. For me, perseverance was my only option.
Since taking action can entail risk, asking yourself these three questions may help you assess whether you want to dive in or head for the hills.
- What might I gain by taking this risk?
- If I choose to take this risk, how and in what ways might this cost me?
- If I choose to NOT take this risk, how and in what ways might this cost me?
While it is easy to say, “no risk, no reward,” we all know that nothing in life is guaranteed. Even if you take a risk, there may not be an immediately obvious or sizeable reward. Of course, if you do not take the risk, there is zero chance of a reward.
So the question remains, do you move towards the risk or retreat?
Let’s consider these benefits of taking risks:
- Taking risks opens you up to new challenges and opportunities. Start small and work your way up to something bigger.
- Taking risks broadens your horizons. You will leave your comfort zone and enter bold, new territory. Once you are there, you are on your way to even more opportunities.
- Taking risks sparks creativity. New situations will require you to open your mind and find new ways to solve problems.
- Taking risks can result in something truly amazing. Perhaps even well beyond your imaginings.
There are 4 ways to deal with risk. You can accept it, transfer it, reduce it, or eliminate it. For example, you may decide to accept a risk because the cost of completely eliminating it is too high. Or, you might decide to transfer the risk, which is typically done with insurance. You may be able to reduce the risk by introducing new processes. You may be able to completely eliminate that particular risk by changing the way you do business.
Every person who experiences success, has also seen their share of failures. But those who are serially successful learn from their failures, figure out how to overcome them, and conquer their fears so they can apply what they learn and try again.
Here are some of suggestions about fear and perseverance:
- Write down your fears. Think about them carefully and be honest with yourself…no matter how silly they might be.
- Next to each fear, write down one reason not to fear this item. Then write down at least one action step you can take to move beyond that fear.
- When you are in a situation and feel fear coming on, breathe! Take several deep, slow breaths. Then take out your list. Read what you wrote to remind yourself why the fear is unfounded and how to move past this state. Breathe some more.
- Face your fears directly. Do the things you are afraid to do so you can cross them off your list. That will make you breathe even easier.
- Focus on this moment. Fear is often the result of our mind not focusing on the here and now. The past is done. The future is not here yet. Imagining worst-case scenarios is similarly unproductive. I love the saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”
As Josh Shipp said, “Perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose.”