The art of perseverance: don’t forget your network
“Perseverance” is one of those long, solemn-sounding words that invokes an elderly person encouraging you to rake the lawn. We’re told that perseverance will get you through anything — persevere and you will overcome obstacles. “Persevere” is the know-it-all brother to “don’t give up.”
If you couldn’t tell so far, I have a touchy relationship with the concept of perseverance, even though it has pulled me through some tough times. My issue is the implication that it’s something you do alone, as if you got an extra merit badge for struggling through something in isolation.
“On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“Slaying the dragon of delay is no sport for the short-winded.” – Sandra Day O’Connor
“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.” – Mark Twain
What do the quotes you just read have in common? All of them are awesome but none of them talk about the importance of having supportive people in your life as a key to successful perseverance. I call bullshit on that.
For me, perseverance is something you do best with the support of a network and building a “perseverance network” into your life is much easier than you think.
Science has proven that “chronic over-secretion of stress hormones adversely affects brain function, especially memory. Too much cortisol can prevent the brain from laying down a new memory, or from accessing already existing memories.” What this means is that when you’re stressed — the time when you really need to persevere — it can actually be pretty frackin’ hard to succeed at persevering. If you’re having trouble recalling a time when you persevered for inspiration or comfort, or if you’re struggling with processing your own thoughts, persevering can seem like the most unattainable thing in the word. Enter your network to tag team into your stream of churning thoughts and help you make some sense of it.
Who is this network? In my case, it’s a combination of IRL and online friends. If I’m struggling with a problem (and depending on the urgency to solve it), I’ll focus my energy on making a list of five people to approach who can share some insight into the situation. It’s far easier and more productive to think of five friends, peers or acquaintances who can help me than to agonize over the same string of thoughts with no end result in sight.
You don’t have to go through it alone…
Try it some time: when you are under the gun and feeling stressed out about a problem and you MUST persevere, take ten minutes to make a list of the five people in your life you’ll approach to discuss the situation. Don’t worry about if they’ll respond or not — focus your energy on determining five people. Sometimes the one who is able to help you pull through is the last person you thought would be the one to assist you.
Perseverance assistance comes in many forms. It can be a quick phone call, gchat or private Twitter DM. It can be coffee with a friend, a call to your mother or a thread in a forum you initiate.
Don’t think for one second that you have to persevere on your own. Don’t let excuses such as “it’s confidential information so I can’t talk to anyone about it” keep you from asking general questions that can illicit feedback from your peers. And in the random instance that you have absolutely no one to turn to who you know IRL, don’t let that stop you from reaching out to people you admire online. You never know what could happen.
Perseverance is an act best completed through interdependence. Try it.
If you’ve used online resources to help yourself persevere through a tough situation, please share them in the comments.