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How to Persist and Press on When Things Aren’t Working Out for You



Life is filled with ups and downs. And if you are on a journey to achieving the success that you want, there is no doubt you will face some setbacks, challenges, and have to go through tough times. The difference between someone successful and someone who is not is what they do when things are not working out.

Successful people choose to persist, press on, and they continue to pursue what they want. Conversely, the unsuccessful often choose to give up and quit. The saying, “A winner will never quit and a quitter will never win,” is so true. The moment you choose to give up and stop, you lose. “Don’t give up,” is easier said than done.

So what should you do to persist and press ahead when the situations seem bleak? Here are 7 suggestions:

1. Understand that Setbacks Are Necessary

First, you need to understand that setbacks are necessary. There is no way you can be successful without going through some kind of challenges. A lot of people get it wrong to think that failure is the opposite of success. In fact, failure is on the same side of success.

When you are able to persist while the rest have given up, eventually, success can be yours.

You have to understand that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. When you study the success stories of extraordinary people, you will notice that setbacks, failures, and tough times are part of the game. You just need to treat your bad days as your character-building days.

2. Ignore the Naysayers

Next, ignore the naysayers. People can say whatever they want, and you can’t control what they are going to say. But you can always choose to not listen to them and ignore their words.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger decided that he wanted to be an actor, a lot of people told him that it was impossible for him to make it in the movie industry. Some said that his body was too bulky and some said that his name was too difficult to pronounce.

However, Schwarzenegger pressed on and chose to pursue his acting career. The rest as they say, is history. You don’t have to listen to what everyone has to say, especially those who have never created the results before.

3. Learn from the Successful

It is true that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers, but what about other successful people? Take advice and learn from them.

When it comes to investing in the stock market, do you want to take advice from your neighbor who has never bought a stock before or do you want to take advice from Warren Buffett? You know the answer. Thus, learn from other successful people. Ask them for advice and seek their help when you need it.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

4. Never Take Your Eyes Off Your Goals

Whenever things are not working out for you, you should focus even more on your goals. You shouldn’t take your eyes off the results and rewards that you want. Like someone once said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”

When you focus and keep on thinking about the problems, the setbacks, and the challenges, your fear will grow and stop you from moving forward. Hence, put your focus on your goals.

Always choose to think about the rewards and the results. After all, your goals are the main reason you started the journey in the first place. So when you are in doubt, think about your goals.

5. Remember Your Purpose

Napoleon Hill, the famous author of the classic success book, Think and Grow Rich, wrote in the book, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.” In other words, it is your purpose that propels you into taking action.

When your purpose is weak, your desire will be weak too. You have to understand that what drives you in the first place is your purpose. Therefore, remind yourself of why you want to do it when things are not working out for you. It is your purpose that keeps you going.

Most people give up when the tough time comes because they don’t have a strong enough reason that compels them to move on. When you have a strong and powerful reason to act, you will be committed and never give up no matter what happens.

6. Learn from Your Experience

So what do you need to do when things are not working out? One way to get ahead when everything seems bleak is to learn from your experience. Take time to understand why things are not working out for you. Is it that what you do is wrong? Is your strategy not working? Should you try one more time?

You have to use the feedback that you get and improve your method. Remember, success comes from good judgment. And good judgment comes from experience. But how do you gain experience? From the failures, setbacks, and challenges that you have gone through.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

7. Take One Small Step

The key to making progress is to always be in action. Whenever you find that things are not working out, you just need to take one more step. Even if it is just a small step, do it. After all, success is the accumulation of small victories that you accomplish day-in and day-out.

Thus, when you are taking action and do just one small thing, you are making progress. More importantly, you are building the momentum you need for the big success that you desire.

You just have to begin. Ask yourself what is the one small thing you can do to move forward to your goal. You will most likely have to try more than once to succeed. It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.

If you take a sharp ax and swing it at a large tree, eventually, the tree will have to come down no matter how big it is. The key to persist and press on is to keep taking action. Somehow, if you keep moving, you will reach somewhere.

Which one of the above perseverance suggestions resonated with you most and why?

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nakul Grover

    Jan 16, 2019 at 1:27 am

    Again a great post, Shawn I’ve been reading your works on this website for quite a long time. As you mentioned in point no. 3 that learn from successful people, I do not agree more. Though I think we can learn from unsuccessful people too. Learning is important. We can learn from every event or person we meet, irrespective of their status or profession. 🙂 🙂

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?



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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why



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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused



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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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Decision and Failure: Deciding That Failure is Not an Option



why failure is important
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Nobody likes wasting time, money or opportunities by making a bad business decision. We can certainly identify what “bad” looks and feels like, however we should be identifying what the “win” looks like too. Too often we focus on the bad, which puts us in victim mode that perpetuates a scarcity mindset which leads us directly into becoming frozen or stuck. (more…)

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