The Power of Persistence

I went to bed last night with the news that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by American special forces in a secret compound near Islamabad. I woke thinking about the incredible effort and determination and focus that it took to reach this day. Ten years after the horrific events of 9/11, the world’s most heinous terrorist has finally met justice.

In a much more benign context, the significance of a decade’s persistence came up earlier yesterday, while I was attending a Boston writer’s conference. Author Ron Carlson, the keynote luncheon speaker at The Muse and the Marketplace, spoke of the importance of “staying in the room” as a writer—that it takes 10 years of steadfast practice to be able to write good stories.

Anything Worth Doing Takes Time and Focus
So it is with achieving any significant goal. We are bombarded daily with instantaneous information, instantaneous feedback and the constant pressure of making instantaneous decisions to keep up with the speed of global communications.

We have within our digitized universe a bounty of tools to inform our decisions, to help us analyze and be smarter about how to reach our goals. And yet, they are just that—tools.

Anything truly worth doing takes time, focus, determination, a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, and the fortitude to keep going despite the odds.

Whether the work is the highest collective priority of securing our nation from terrorist attack, or the solitary, personal pursuit of mastering an art form—or, the focus of this blog, defining how effectively to make your good work known to the people who would benefit from it most—persistence is key.

A Lesson from the President
President Obama epitomized that lesson in his eloquent, understated address to the nation last night. He told of the intensive, behind-the-scenes efforts to find bin Laden, the secret surveillance since last August of bin Laden’s suspected compound, the thorough fact-checking that led to the President’s decision to order the attack, and due diligence to ensure that it was bin Laden who had been killed.

All of this effort took place during some of the most embattled months of his presidency, in the midst of tumultuous mid-term elections and heightened criticisms of the sluggish economic recovery. But clearly, the President stayed focused on the critical task before him, despite a multitude of distractions and detractors.

We would all do well to learn from his example.


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