Perseverance and Success

At school I was an average student. Unlike some of my highly intelligent classmates, I found it hard doing the homework that was set and often wanted to just give up. When Iworking at computer - compressed got to this point of “throwing in the towel” my mother would say to me “If you want to succeed then you must try, try and try again!” Recent studies show that her advice on being successful was spot on for the modern day workplace.

In the workplace, as at school, we tend to value people who are intelligent. The ability to understand and to deal with complex problems in a rational and purposeful way is, without doubt, an important business asset. These skills help us to deal effectively with the demands and challenges we face.

However, perseverance – according to a study by Duckworth et al.  - is just as important. Perseverance is the capacity to persist in the face of obstacles or challenges. It allows people to work hard towards their long term goals. People with high levels of perseverance work harder to overcome the obstacles they face and are more effective. Those with low levels of perseverance give up on the task earlier and so fail.

Perseverance is also crucial for learning new skills and so developing the agility to deal with a fast-changing environment. Intelligence is important for effective learning because it makes the process of learning much easier, but if you lack perseverance then it is unlikely that you will take the time necessary to practice these skills again and again so that you become proficient. This can lead to you being less successful in the longer run. This is particularly true where the skills you are learning are complex skills.

Interestingly, intelligence and perseverance do not always go hand-in-hand. Many highly intelligent people, especially if they have come from an over-protective home environment, have learned little about dealing with setbacks or facing difficult challenges. This results in them having very low levels of perseverance. The result is they may learn quickly on a training course, but they will not grow as much as the person who is less intelligent but has greater perseverance.

Managers and business leaders would be well advised to consider the quality of perseverance when selecting, developing and coaching people for promotion.