Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in

Persistence is better than BrillianceYesssss!

I was invited to play at a ‘retirement party’ in the city. Betty, a friend of my wife Linda, was finishing up with Dublin County Council. After long service, she wanted to mark the occasion by lining up some music on the night. A good ‘send off’ as they say (normally, at funerals). I agreed on one condition; there had to be at least one other person playing.  For sure, it’s possible to do a 1-Man-Band and excite the crowd if you have talent like Christy Moore. My talent is more Homer Simpson-ish! So, Betty lined up two other people to play and the ‘band’ were set for the gig of the century.


We arrived at about 8:30pm Some of the crowd in the pub had started drinking directly after work (5pm) and were ‘feeling no pain’ by the time we got there. When the speeches finished, we tuned up and started to play. These are informal sessions. There is no ‘stage’ and no playlist; you play whatever comes into your head or respond to requests. The trick is to play crowd-pleaser songs, shamelessly courting popularity and free Heineken.


Most of the gang just ignored us and kept talking; the music was a backdrop. At that stage of the gig it always seems as if we are interfering with the night and people would prefer to talk in peace. I said to one of the other guys: “This is hard going” but he was philosophical: “In Ireland, your best song is brutal at 9 and your worst song will be brilliant at midnight. Hang in”. It took a bit of time but the crowd slowly started to warm up. By the end of the night, they were singing like Welsh coalminers and dancing like Lady Gaga. In a couple of hours, we’d morphed from zero to hero.

Slow Burn:

Sometimes, managing follows the same trajectory.  In trying to improve organization performance, we search for the magic bullet solution, breakthrough thinking, the discovery of ‘oil’. But, most progress in organizations is made by stealth, a steady forward momentum. It’s not always exciting, particularly at the front end.  You just have to remember that results pay the bills. A tough process is forgotten when you eventually deliver. Pain has no memory. In my experience, managing is more often persistence than brilliance. Bill Bradley said: “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in”. In similar vein the UK’s best-known executive coach Dr. Catherine Sandler said: “We judge ourselves by our intentions; but others judge us by our behaviour”. In trying to improve your own performance or turn your organization around, the message is simple: don’t give up





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