Genius versus Persistence

world ay“I wish I could promise you genius but most days all I have to offer is persistence.”

I don’t remember who said it – I think I read it in an unsolicited email from someone, actually – but the point gave me pause.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘genius’ is a good thing. But the problem with ‘genius’ is that it can be pretty unreliable. It’s like it’s more like something that ‘just happens’ rather than something you can intentionally induce.

‘Persistence’ on the other hand, is totally within our control – and often yields consistently stronger results, if you let it. Consider:

  •  The salesperson, who, by following the company’s tried and true sales process on a daily basis, not only meets, but exceeds his/her annual sales goals.
  • The musician, who, by practicing a particularly challenging piece of music, each and every day, ultimately masters its exquisite beauty.
  • The burgeoning supervisor, who, by studying what works and does not in how s/he communicates with his/her staff, soon becomes a truly competent, respected, and influential leader.
  • The newbie coach, who, by dedicating his/her attention to the art, science, and practice of helping adults learn and grow, is soon able to coach on a professional, if not masterful, level.
  • The husband and wife, who, decades into their marriage, keep their love alive and vibrant by attending to the ‘little’ things in their relationship.

The challenge with ‘persistence,’ though is, well, being persistent about it. As a friend of mine calls it the ‘care gap’ – “Sure, you want to do what you know you should do,” she says, “but not enough to actually do it.”

  • I should go to the gym more regularly…
  • I should eat more healthily…
  • I should challenge myself to learn and grow more…
  • I should forgive myself more readily when I falter…
  • But I don’t.

Management guru Tom Peters provides a ‘concrete’ bridge over the ‘care gap’:

“To be a world-class performer [BZ: that is, to be what some might call a ‘genius’],” he says, “all you really have to do is do the very next thing you do in a world-class way.”

Do the very next thing you do in a world-class way. Genius? Perhaps, but game, set, and match, to ‘persistence.’

 

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