Persistence Jonathan Poland

Persistence is the ability to maintain motivation and effort over a prolonged period of time. It is a behavior or character trait that is essential for productivity. With persistence, individuals are able to overcome obstacles and continue working towards their goals, even in the face of challenges and setbacks. This trait allows them to persevere and achieve their desired outcomes, ultimately leading to success in both their personal and professional lives. The following are illustrative examples.


Persistence is strongly associated with a character trait known as conscientiousness whereby an individual takes their duty and role seriously. For example, an environment minister who actually tries to do their job to make improvements to the environment despite strong defense of the status quo by the rest of the government.

Work Ethic

Hard work is associated with persistence. For example, a hard working mechanic who solves the root cause of a jet engine malfunction where a coworker with a lower work ethic might just address the symptoms of the problem.


Persistence is founded on optimism whereby an individual continues to believe in what they are doing despite obstacles. For example, a gardener who plants orchids again despite having failed to grow orchids to maturation for four years in a row.


Ambition is a desire and determination to reach a goal. For example, a project manager who corners an executive outside their office to push them to clear an issue after the executive has repeatedly canceled or skipped meetings regarding the matter.


The ability to continue on without loss of diligence when you face stress. For example, a pilot who continues to work professionally to control an aircraft in extreme turbulence.


Persistence is tied to patience as it may require working for extended periods of time without seeing any results. For example, a software developer who doesn’t give up on an app they are writing even when it takes two years instead of the planned two months.

Failure is Not An Option

Persistence can have a negative side whereby individuals or organizations refuse to recognize the realities of a failure. For example, a military organization that keeps spending on a new technology when it is clear the concept or design is fundamentally flawed.

Fail Well

Persistence doesn’t necessarily imply an irrational approach to failure. For example, fail well is the design of things to fail quickly, cheaply and safely such that you can learn from each failure and continue to pursue your goals.


Perfectionism is the irrational pursuit of excessive perfection. This is a negative type of persistence. For example, a designer who spends hundreds of hours perfecting a project where the client has said they will only pay for 20 hours.


Refinement is the rational pursuit of perfection. For example, an artist who sets a very high standard for their work.


Mastery is an approach to learning and work that doesn’t progress to a new stage until the current stage is completely finished. For example, a student who doesn’t move on to the second unit in their math textbook until they understand the first unit.

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