In my last entry I talked about some of the key traits that an Entrepreneur needs to have, one of which was an ability to ‘relish the door slam’. Ironically shortly after I wrote that entry I received this week’s Harvey Mackay column (highly recommended) that spoke about perseverance in tough times.
While Harvey was speaking in general about the state of the economy and its effect on business in general, I think that the element of perseverance is even more important when it comes to small business owners and Entrepreneurs. Even beyond the ability to relish the door slam, Entrepreneurs require the discipline to stay the course when finances are tight, the work/life balance is hopelessly out of alignment, and when nothing seems to be going right for weeks on end.
This is not to say that Entrepreneurs should stick to their same routine when things aren’t going their way. Dr. Phil is famous for asking “how’s that working for you” and while I can’t say I watch his show regularly, the sentiment is pretty appropriate.
Perseverance on its own has all the tell-tale signs of insanity unless you are willing to apply some learning at the same time. After all, Mr. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! The key to success through perseverance is the inclusion of reflection and learning in your daily routine… yes you need to keep at it and keep your eye on the goal, but not at the expense of missing the forest for the trees.
The answer is what I would call ‘Intelligent Perseverence’ (originally defined by Plato in his Socratic Dialog). Intelligent perseverance incorporates the concept of courage and intelligence to counter the potentially harmful effects of stubborn perseverance. The key to ensuring that your actions aren’t falling into the ‘stubborn’ category, I’ve found that including time for reflection at the beginning and end of each business day works wonders.
I schedule 30 minutes each morning before the start of any ‘productive’ work to give myself a chance to review the outputs from yesterday’s work day and to make sure I fully understand the priorities of the current work day – what needs to get done regardless of duration, what would I like to find time to accomplish, who do I need to speak with today, and what are my opportunities for personal and professional growth. By taking 30 minutes to start the day I am able to set my focus at the start of the day and ensure that my priorities are set to accomplish my longer terms goals.
I also schedule 30 minutes at the end of each business day to compare my accomplishments with my plan, document things that still need to get accomplished, and check my progress against those longer term goals. I find the end of the day is a great time to check progress against longer term projects rather than the beginning of the day – at the start of the day I’m always more optimistic as to what I can accomplish in a single day – at the end of the day I have a more accurate ruler with which to assess my process to date and amount of work left to complete.
By adding reflection points as bookends to my day I give myself an opportunity to make course corrections, choose alternate roads to the end goal when the ones I’m on turn out to be dead ends, and identify areas where stubborn perseverance has crept into my routine.
Harvey Mackay points out that perseverance is responsible for many successes in our world –Michelangelo’s David, Henry Ford‘s Model T, Madame Curie‘s discovery of radium, and Benjamin Franklin‘s lightning rod (among others). But if you read the stories of these successes carefully you won’t find stubborn behaviours – you will find Intelligent Perseverance.
Do you have a method that keeps you on-track and helps you to incorporate Intelligent Perseverance into your day? I’d love to hear about it!
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.