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When persistence equals insanity

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Persistence, no doubt, is a virtue and one of the ingredients of victory but it is not a guarantee of victory. Let me define the two key words in my title first before I defend this position.

Persistence is staying through to the goal or what a former boss called “stick-ability” (the ability to stick to something). It means not giving up in the attempt to get a thing done.

Insanity on the other hand has figuratively been defined as “doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. It means irrationality.

Sometimes, being persistent is insane when the persisting effort is directed at an approach that has not worked.

People often mention Thomas Edison when giving iconic examples of persistence with particular reference to his quote that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

The point in Edison’s quote which could have helped people understand what persistence really means but often underplayed is the fact that Edison was not persistent on only one approach that did not work, he experimented with thousands of ways before he eventually got the desired result.

It is foolhardy to be persistent on an approach that has failed to generate result. We can be persistent on our goals but not necessarily on the method especially when it has failed to produce the expected result.

Persistence equals insanity as we refuse to consider other approaches to our goals when the tried method has failed.

Have you gotten career goals that seem unattainable? You need not stop being persistent; you only need to change your approach. Stop hitting your head against the wall, take a step backwards and start afresh with an open mind.

Experiment like Thomas Edison until you find what works.

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