Persist without exception

Transform your life in 5 minutes a day

If you are doing Achieve in 5!, you know that one of the Principles is “I can quit (but I won’t). A while ago Robert and I watched a video with Andy Andrews. Neither Robert nor I had ever heard of him before we saw an ad for his video lecture on NetFlix. He looked entertaining, so we decided to rent it. Between the two of us we are pretty well-read in the motivational speaker’s genre, but we’d both somehow missed Andy. His topic was The Seven Decisions. He is a compelling speaker and story-teller. The two-hour talk flew by and left me wanting more. The topic was the Seven Decisions. Decision #7 was, “I will persist without exception.”

One thing I learned from my childhood, as loving, supportive, and caring as my parents were, one philosophy they held did not serve me…AT ALL. The philosophy was that I should not be forced to do anything I didn’t want to do. I should come into activities willingly and enjoy what I am doing. When the activities ceased being enjoyable I was encouraged to quit. The most I would hear on a rare occasion was, “Give it a try.” If I gave it a half-hearted “try” I had done my part. I quit a lot of things growing up. The list is long and my earliest memory of quitting, is ballet at seven. I never had visions of being a professional ballerina, but somehow I knew that I had quit too soon. I quit so many things, that I never became really good at anything that required effort.

In a program I developed over ten years ago called The Achievement System there was a lesson titled The Truth about Failure and Success. In that lesson I discussed persistence, perseverance, and not giving up. I even explained that there is no failure unless you quit, everything else is in progress. But for some reason when Andy Andrews said, “…persist without exception” it had a much stronger impact.

When pursuing something important or something big, it’s not just enough to persevere, there have to be no limits to how far or long you will go to ensure success. The only stopping point can be success (or death).

There are many sayings and famous quotes about not quitting:

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
  • If you fall off a horse, get right back on.
  • Fall seven times, get up eight. (Japanese Proverb)
  • It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. (Einstein)
  • To stumble is to move forward faster. (African Proverb)
  • If you are going through hell, keep going. (Winston Churchill)
  • We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough. (Helen Keller)
  • A jug fills drop by drop. (Buddha)
  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. (Thomas Edison)
  • Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. (Thomas Edison)

You get the point. There has been a lot of energy put into telling people not to give up.

If you have been doing Achieve in 5!, you may have missed a day here or there — eventually everyone does — but it’s not so important that you don’t miss a day. It’s not so important that you get everything you planned to get done in one day done. The important thing is that you persist and persist and persist until you reach the finish line. At times you will have to adjust and try a new strategy. I certainly have had to adjust my strategy many times.

I started writing the book Achieve in 5! in 2008. During that time, many life changing events took place some good, some not so good, but they temporarily derailed my progress; and still I knew that I would finish the book.

Even though I was derailed, it confirmed a simple, yet extremely important lesson. Never never never quit.

I’ll end with a poem that I have loved even since I was a kid giving up when things got tough, boring, or uncomfortable:


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is odd with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

– Author unknown

It’s not what you don’t want

The art of stating your desires
In 1989, Peter McWilliams wrote his book You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. I can think of no greater truth. Many times when people think about what they want to do, they state it as the opposite of what they don’t want.

“I want to stop smoking”
“I am tired of being fat”
“I have a hard time writing”

These statements may not seem so bad, but they create confusion in your mind. Your mind is very literal and only understands the words it attaches to a sentiment. For example, when you say I don’t want to be fat, your mind pictures fat and wants to help you achieve that. However, if you say I want to be trim and lean, your mind visualizes you as trim and lean and works to keep you at that state.

When talking to groups, I often use the following example in explaining this concept. I look at the group and point and say:

“At this moment, whatever you do, DO NOT think about a monkey climbing up that wall over there.”

Now if you are like most people, before I made that statement, you were not thinking about a monkey climbing a wall, but after that statement you might not be able to get the money out of your mind.

Your mind cannot understand words that negate an image or command. There are many examples that can be given to show how this works. If you have some extra time and want to drive someone a little closer to the brink of insanity, try spending a day giving directions that are the opposite of what you really want done. “Don’t answer the phone.” “Don’t turn right.” “Don’t pick up mustard when you go to the store.”

Actually, a lot of managers (and parents) give directions exactly that way.
“Don’t answer the phone that way.
“Don’t put the paper in that bin.”
“Don’t …” “Don’t…” Don’t…”

It’s no wonder many employees (and children) don’t know what they are supposed to do.

In her book and video, Seeing Red Cars, Laura Goodrich discusses the idea that we see what we think about. She uses the analogy of buying a red care. Before you bought the car, you didn’t think there were many red cars on the road, but as soon as you bought a read car it seems that half the cars are red. She says, “We get more of what we focus on.”

Now that you see how you attract what you think about, as you think about what you want to achieve, how are you going to state it?

5 Life Lessons I Learned from my Dog

Things we learn from unexpected Sages

cb smiling#1 Enthusiastic persistence can change minds
CB, our multi-poo (maltese, poodle, and probably a bit of shih tsu), might be considered a master of endearing manipulation. In the morning, generally about twenty minutes before I plan to feed him, he starts enthusiastically running between me, the kitchen, and his bowl in excited anticipation of the food he is about to receive. He does turns and hops and has a huge smile on his face. I give in after about three minutes of this act. Lesson: Enthusiasm and persistence is a winning combination.

#2 Being contrite when you make a mistake is important
cbOn those now rare occasions when CB can’t hold his bladder until he goes outside, if I stand and look at the location of his mishap, he slinks away as if his world is about to collapse. On one occasion I saw a spot on the floor, I #3 Simple pleasures are important
Anyone who has a dog knows that a toy and a dog are moments of pure joy. It takes very little to get the tail wagging, the feet running and lots of excitement. Lesson: Just taking a few minutes to enjoy life’s simplest pleasures is a sheer joy.

#4 A great personality is more important than a great look
CB w funny surprised look while playing w Sparky
Don’t get me wrong, CB is definitely cute. He’s got the sweetest face and those big brownish-black eyes are so expressive, but he also has the craziest snaggletooth that some might consider a bit funny looking. CB wins everyone over with his winning personality. Lesson: Focus more on your and others personality than physical beauty.

#5 It doesn’t take much to show appreciation
When CB is really happy and loves what he has been given he either spends a lot of time savoring it, or he grabs it and gobbles it down like he hasn’t eaten in months, or he just jumps up and hugs and cuddles to show how much I mean to him. All of his acts are pure and honest signs of appreciation. Lesson: It doesn’t take much to show genuine appreciation.

What lessons have you learned from your pet?

Is perfectionism holding you back?

tied-up_woman As I think about the people I know, most of them are fairly high achievers and have high standards and expectations for themselves; but many would say that they have a dream of a different life or lifestyle. Some have taken leaps to create the life they love while others talk about creating that life or are constantly working toward creating that life, but it seems something is holding them back.

In an email conversation with a friend, we were talking about Achieve in 5! and I shared that a few people told me they were quitting Achieve in 5! because they said they did not have the time to commit to it. If you remember the main principle behind Achieve in 5!, it is that you commit five minutes a day to move toward your goal. I shared that there must be more to it than not having the time. Not having the time is clearly an excuse if you can’t commit five minutes a day.

Her response was profound, she said, “Isn’t it crazy that five minutes is such a big deal? Part of it may be that they are “perfectionists” and don’t want to commit and fail to follow through. I feel badly that I’m not doing as well as I would have expected of myself. But sometimes a lot happens during the course of a day and one more commitment is over the top.”

I started thinking about it and realized that sometime our expectations are so high that we would rather do nothing than to risk not meeting our own expectations. Although perfectionism can be an admirable quality, it also sets us up for failure. There is almost no way that you can write the perfect book, have the perfect start to your business, have the perfect body (unless you are born that way), raise the perfect child, or cook the perfect meal. This list of things that are hard to be perfect at could become very long.

Being perfect is an unrealistic expectation to place on ourselves. What is this desire to be perfect? What does it mean? If you are less than perfect, have you failed?

In a program I developed years ago called the Achievement System, I discuss the Truth about Failure and Success. The lesson is a personal exploration about what failure means to you. If you don’t finish, have you failed? If you give something a try and it doesn’t work out the first time, have you failed? If you complete it but it isn’t as good as you know it could have been, have you failed?

If you suffer from the “If I can’t do it right, I’m not going to do it at all” syndrome, you will miss a lot of opportunities in life. Doing things right is a good thing, but doing the right thing takes more stamina, more insight, more wisdom, and more perseverance. Doing the right thing, might mean it doesn’t work perfectly the first time, but you know where you are going and have an idea of how to get there, you persist until in the end you succeed.

Do you think most musicians are talented when they first start playing their instrument? What about writers? Do you think most writers’ first draft of a book is published? Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s that I just stay with the problem longer.” Forget about being perfect. Pursue your dreams with passion and commitment. Know that you will succeed if you keep moving forward.

“Playing safe is probably the most unsafe thing in the world. You cannot stand still. You must go forward.” ~ Robert Collier

It takes more than 21 days to develop a habit

21 DAYSI am sure that you have heard someone say it takes 21 days to change a habit. I even used to tell people to work for 21 days on Achieve in 5! in order to make it a habit. I believe it was Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, who popularized the idea that it takes 21 days to make a significant change. However, overtime I noticed many people could sustain an activity for 21 straight days and after missing a day or two, they quickly reverted to old patterns.

Although the 21 day rule sounds good, it does not hold water. Yesterday, I ran across an article from University College London (UCL) that supported my observation. I have exercised far more than 21 days in a row only to miss a few days and notice that getting back on track was very difficult. It would have been easier to stay in bed than get up and go to the gym.

A 2009 post on PsychBlog, also out of the UK, stated an average of 66 days was indicated; however, there was a variance from 18 days up to 254 days to form a new habit. Maybe the 254 day adaptation time explains why it appears that some things never really seem to develop into a habit. It takes a constant reminder to continue on the path. Achieve in 5!. Although after a prolonged period of time practicing Achieve in 5! it will be much more comfortable to meet your five minute commitment than not, Achieve in 5! takes discipline. An important insight that the UCL article by Ben D Gardner Sood provided is that “habits are formed through a process called ‘context-dependent repetition’.” This means that if you do pick a specific time of day or context to do your five-minute activity, you are more likely to have it develop into a habit.

For me, I must complete my five minutes before I go to bed or I feel incomplete. It did not take long before I felt guilty if I did not Achieve in 5!; but I’m sure it was more than 21 days before I got to the point that I had to do my Achieve in 5! activity daily or I would not sleep well that night. Since writing is my Achieve in 5! activity, I have little excuse for not writing five minutes a day. Even if I had to use a napkin and pen, I should be able to scribble something for five minutes each day.

According to Sood, developing a habit a very personal and activity specific undertaking. You may develop a habit regarding one thing in a few days, while something else will require months. Are you up to the challenge of developing a new habit? If so, get out your calendar. Pick the habit you would like to develop and write down that habit. Pick a specific event your activity will follow (for example: you will exercise first thing in the morning right after you brush your teeth, or you will write for five minutes right after dinner). Daily check that you accomplished the activity. Do it for 21 days to start then record how you feel. Continue another ten days and record how you feel. Continue doing this until the activity become second nature and you do not have to think about it.

Good luck on developing a new habit and remember, there is no magic switch that is flipped with a specific number of repetitions. Your habit forming pattern is unique to you and unique to the activity.

The ebb and flow of motivation and energy

two-coffee-lattes-871288192606y7QALet’s face it; most of us are not constantly motivated and ready to tackle the world at every moment. We are not machines that have a steady pace and can continue at that pace for months, maybe years, on end. There are ebbs and flows to the motivation and energy we have. There are times when we might go weeks or months at a high speed, then the time comes when we need some downtime. If you become ill, stressed, or overworked in other aspects of your life, it can be difficult to maintain motivation for the things you ultimately want most.

The other most common time your flow moves to an ebb, is when you are butting up against your comfort zone. If you are making steady progress and then you hit an unproductive or uncreative wall, or you lose energy for the project, this can be a sign that you are about to make a major break-through. When you hit the edge of your comfort zone it is natural to get stalled. It is intimidating and can cause your motor to stall. You are venturing into unchartered territory. Or at least the territory is unchartered by you. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other is the best remedy for getting through those periods. At times like this, it is more important than ever to keep moving forward. Keep your five-minute commitment to yourself and to your project. If you are truly stuck, seek some supportive and intelligent outside advice. Do not ask friends and family who will support you in “resting” or quitting.

There is a definite need to rest and rejuvenate. However, relaxation and rejuvenation have a way of being both friend and foe. If you have a job and are working for someone else – a job that is bringing home a regular paycheck every week, or two, or month – then you probably have vacation time as a part of your benefits package. If you are like many people, you take a week or two of vacation once a year. And, if you are like most people, when you return from vacation after that week off, you are not ready to jump full-force back into your job. It takes a day or two to reconnect and readjust to working. If you didn’t have deadlines or a set of tasks awaiting you, it might take even longer, or you may lose focus and start on something totally unrelated to what you were doing when you left for your brief vacation.

Most people have natural ebbs on their jobs when they don’t have the energy or motivation to be as focused, work as hard, or give it their all. The same thing is true with your own goal and moving to reach your milestone. These are unrelated to vacation, in fact when you have one of these natural ebbs, you probably feel like you need a vacation. This is the same with your life goals and your Achieve in 5! process.

You will have days, maybe weeks, when you just don’t have the same level of energy and motivation that you have when you are really in the flow of your project. You may not even feel like you want to put in five minutes. Maybe you had a busy week at your day-to-day paid job, or you had a stressful week at home. Regardless of what the reason, it is more important than ever that you continue to steadily move toward your milestone with your commitment to work on it five minutes a day. Even if what you do during those five minutes does not seem productive; the fact that you are continuing and consistently working toward your goal is what is important. That commitment will get you through your ebb and have you ready to move at great speed when your energy and motivation return, which they will.

Cutting back on constant action isn’t a bad thing. Everyone needs time to rest and rejuvenate. The problem comes when the goal that you were so consistently striving to achieve becomes less important after the rest. You may lose interest in that goal, or you get an “even better idea” while you are resting. If you have been consistently keeping your commitment of working on your goal five minutes and maybe you have worked more than five minutes many days, then stick with exactly five minutes when you are in the ebb. Do not stop, stall or change course. Keep moving forward, five minutes a day.

Sometimes when I am consulting and have to prepare for a new workshop, I work late into the night and get up very early in the morning for days in a row. By the third or forth day the only thing I want to do when I arrive at home is to relax. The last thing I want to do is spend five minutes writing and thinking. But this is exactly when Achieve in 5! is most important. Continuing to do JUST five minutes a day keeps my mind focused, my milestone present in my mind, and it keeps me moving forward.

If you allow yourself to get stalled by a temporary ebb in your motivation, that temporary ebb can result in a total halt. Do not let this happen. Spend five minutes a day on your goal, even when you have neither the energy nor the motivation. You will be thankful that you kept moving forward, because when the motivation returns you will have stayed right on your charted course.

Reprinted from August 14, 2012