Is Your Success or Failure Just a Question of Persistence?
There is more to success than just doing the same thing over and over again. How can you improve your chances?
Are You Dancing?
When I was studying for my degree many years ago, every Friday we’d go to the college disco and settle into our groups and enjoy a good night.
The college I was at was in rural Wales, and in order to further college and town relations many of the locals came along to the discos.
One of the locals who attended regularly was a middle-aged chap, reasonably smart, but clearly not a student, who, every week, regular as clockwork would approach a girl, look them in they eye and hold his arms out in an offer of ‘Do you want to dance?’. No words were exchanged.
This happened every week, many times every night and as far as I recall no girl ever gave in to his tempting offer.
But the point I’m making is that he was persistent. Every week, he approached female students in the hope that one day, one of them would say yes. I don’t know if his strategy had gone beyond asking for a dance or if he’d have been thrown into a tailspin if someone had said ‘Sure why the hell not.’
But, nevertheless, he persisted. Week after week after week and always with the same result.
When we read sales books or writing guides, we are frequently told, it’s a numbers game; the more queries you send or the more articles you write the better your chance of success.
And to a certain extent that’s right.
But it’s missing one vital piece of a bigger jigsaw. What results depend on is not just the relentless, persistent shoveling of more of the same, one after another.
You need to be a reflective practitioner as well.
Going back to the chap at my college, what probably didn’t help his cause was that he didn’t adjust his approach one iota in all the time I was there. He was like an automaton.
At some point, he should have stepped back and gone.
‘Hold on a second. I’m getting knocked back 15 times a night here. What could I do differently? Maybe if I try speaking to them first?’
Try it, see if it works.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to our sales or writing success and truth be told the first thing to do is to jump in and see what happens.
If that doesn’t work, take a step back and evaluate your results. Did you get past the first call? Did you get a reply to your email?
The Wheel of Fortune
When I worked in financial sales years ago(before cold-calling was demonized) one of our managers came up with the ‘Wheel of Fortune’.
The wheel was a series of gradually decreasing circles, like a target, and as the circle size decreased so did the space for results.
So, the first circle simply outlined ‘Calls Made’ and had a space for 100 entries. From there, it went to ‘Appointments Booked’ which was 10 spaces and from there to ‘Sales Made’ with just 1 space.
The success ratio for cold calling was 1 in 100 calls.
The idea was, that when it was completed correctly you could see at a glance where your practice fell short. You either weren’t making enough calls, or you weren’t getting enough appointments or you weren’t converting the appointments into sales. Whatever it was, you could see where your weakness lay. It was a very simple method of reflecting on your practice and meant you could focus efforts and training in the right places.
My Parkrun Lessons
A few years ago, after some cajoling from a friend, I started doing the weekly 5k parkrun. I’m not a runner, not by any stretch of the imagination but I went along and my goals were, and remain to this day, ‘don’t stop’ and ‘don’t come last.’
I’m happy to say I achieved both.
But, what happened was that as I progressed with parkrun, I got better and my PB improved. I wanted to see how I could improve further. So, I set myself the target of running sub 30 minutes (I told you I’m not a runner) within 6 months.
Why did I fail?
Because I thought that in order to run faster all I needed to do was run more. Over and over again.
What I should have done was varied my training, done sprint training, done shorter distances but faster, done interval training ANYTHING but do the same thing over and over again.
So, the bottom line is that, while persistence is a sound and valuable tool to have in your armory, without the benefit of targeted reflection, you are probably not going to get much further than my friend at college, destined to ask girls to dance for eternity.