Persistent – but off track?

Dan Miller —  January 29, 2013 — 27 Comments

I’ve always been a big proponent of being persistent.  We hear the famous Calvin Coolidge quotation:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

I see people who give up – just short of what would have likely been success.  However, I also see people who are “persistent and determined” but are off track in what they are doing.

If you’re losing money on each watermelon you sell, don’t be persistent and I Quitdetermined to sell more.  Stop what you are doing and change direction.  If you are miserable in your job, persistence may just get you more of what you are already experiencing.  Get a coach or attend a seminar.  Create a 48Days plan to be in a new position.  There is a wealth of information about “seeing” the new opportunities, but you have to go get it.  If you are an average tennis player, don’t just persist in your bad form; take some lessons from a pro to learn how to be better.  If you want a better marriage, don’t just persist – ask to be mentored by someone who has a great marriage.

Here are some examples of redirecting:

  • If your job provides nothing for you but misery and a meager paycheck, plan to quit and be gone in the next 48 days.
  • If you have been running your business for one year and after expenses it’s only netting you $500 a month, quit and find a new venture.
  • If you started a non-profit ministry and after two years you find that you are spending 80% of your time on administrative work and have no real economic model for continuing, consider linking arms with an established organization.

Winners don’t just persist.  They quit quickly and often.

Being persistent is a tactic, but not a strategy.  Make sure you have a strategy for the areas of your life where you want to see excellence.  Wikipedia defines “strategy” as a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.  Imagine you are driving a Ferrari at 80 mph headed straight toward San Antonio – but you really want to go to Los Angeles.  Accelerating to 120 mph may give you the sense that you are really making progress, temporarily.  But what you really need to do is change direction.

Be careful of being “persistent” in the wrong direction.  Right direction is more important than persistence.

  • MrTravisScott

    great message today! Sometimes it is a fine line…do you quit and move on to something else or do you stick with it and change your strategy (business model)?

    • Dan Miller

      Travis – The older I get the more I expect to see the long term results. But if those come into question I’m quick to pull the plug. As an example, I can’t imagine trying a business for a year without clearly successful results.

  • Jeremy Jones

    I think people confuse being off course with being off track. When we head toward our goals we may be able to correct our course along the way. It’s also important to know if we’re totally off track, I agree with you.

    • Dan Miller

      Jeremy – Yes, we’ll always need course corrections. We don’t need to go back to the starting point but just adjust if we are slightly off course. Thanks for your comments.

      • Jeremy Jones

        Thank you. A friend of mine Kimanzi has recommended your blog to me, o really enjoy your articles. I appreciate all the effort you put into providing so much great info here.

  • Raven Burnes

    I think it’s important to figure out what exactly one’s goals truly are. For instance, in your examples the person would have to ask themselves: is my goal to sell watermelons or to make money; is my goal to not be alone or is it to have a great marriage; is it to stay employed just to have health care and something to do or is it to lead a rich and fulfilling life expressing my true talents? Once you have identified your true goals then you can persist in a way that makes sense. For instance I have tried so many careers but my ultimate goal was to work for myself, find something I never wanted to retire from, and something I was truly gifted at. Now that I have discovered art as a career the next phase is to develop a workable economic model and, of course, to continue to hone my skills.

    • Dan Miller

      Raven – Clear goals are a must. Fuzzy goals can put us in a position where circumstances direct us. Thanks for your comments.

  • Mark J Cundiff


    Great perspective and wisdom! Seth Godin’s book “The Dip:A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (and when to Stick),” offers some good information on making wise decisions on whether or not to continue on in your current direction, “persist” or quit and change directions. He paints a great picture of how to go through the decision making process and determine whether you are in a “dip” or a “Cul-de-Sac” as he labels the two scenarios we often find ourselves in.

    Keep posting the great work! Love it,


    • Dan Miller

      Mark – yep, I love that little book!

  • DS

    Sometimes its hard to take that exit from the freeway, especially if you’re accelerating. Right direction is more important than persistence – a great conclusion.

  • TheDavidCreel

    Great post as usual. One slight problem though.. San Antonio and LA are both on I-10.. So technically coming from Houston, you would go through San Antonio on your way to the West Coast..

    • Dan Miller

      David – ha! You can tell I pulled that out of the hat without checking specifics. Much like I make most decisions.

    • Peter Katt

      Not if you’re starting from Colorado! So the right direction for one person would depend on where they’re starting from, and may be different than the right direction for someone else.

  • Brad McCullouch

    What a great comment Dan. I love the “being persistent is a tactic but not a strategy.” It’s so important to have a well thought out plan! However, I see so much of the time people who strategize so much that it paralyzes any action. It’s “paralysis by analysis.” Let’s make decisions (and clearly defined action steps), pull the trigger, and if things don’t work out we will keep moving forward! Great post!

    • Dan Miller

      Brad, Yep – I’ve always been a “ready, fire, aim” guy. I learn as I go – never waiting till I have all the details in place.

  • Terry Hadaway

    Great thoughts, Dan. I encounter people who are persistent procrastinators. They are waiting for something magical to happen before they pursue their dreams. What they don’t realize is that the pursuit of the dream often becomes magical. Anyone who writes knows that the best thing they can do is write something everyday. Genius is found in the creative process. It seldom accompanies passivity.

    • Dan Miller

      Terry – so true. Waiting has never been appealing to me. I’d rather be moving and have a 50-50 chance of something good happening than to sit still and be 100% sure nothing will change.

  • kimanzi constable

    Couldn’t agree more Dan, I’ve seen this so true in my life :)

  • Adam Rico

    This is such a great guide to business and life. Bob Goff says he quits something every Thursday in order to take on something else or create more margin in his life. What is your favorite quitting story from your business or life?

  • Kathy Brunner

    I thought I was inspired when I heard your story initially however, everytime I hear it, I feel more encouraged and inspired to live my passion. Thanks for sharing

    • Adam Rico

      Dan has a way of continually inspiring us Kathy. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Jim Carver

    Excellent advice Dan! I am still testing to see what works and what doesn’t. I can’t say enough about the support I’ve received from many of the fine folks at and yourself.Thank you for the superb thought-provoking article! Jim Carver

  • Vikki

    Thanks for this post. Very helpful!

  • Tom Dixon

    Dan – this is a good reminder to always evaluate what you are doing. I am only a few months into my career coaching blog, but have loved the experience ..but I can promise as soon as I don’t love what I am doing I’ll be changing course!

  • Joel Boggess

    Hi Dan,

    Love the analogy of the tennis player. :-)

  • Kerry Stith

    Dan, great post. The example of persistence here is in the persistence of fear.

  • Gerson Flores

    Perhaps the ideas of this book may also help concentrating on your passion: