How to Teach Persistence

One of the key traits in becoming a millionaire (or indeed in any pursuit) involves persistence. Without it, you are likely to fail at earning or accumulating that much money.

As Thomas Edison said:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Calvin Coolidge reinforced that when he said:

“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.”

But can persistence be taught or is it one of those genetic, inborn qualities we are endowed with at conception?

I believe it can be taught. I believe my parents taught it to me. Here is how I believe they did it.

They instilled a moral value.

Often quoted at my house was the saying “Work before play”. Homework had to be done before I could go outside and play. Chores had to be done before fun stuff. This was so often reinforced that to this day, I have trouble pursuing pleasure if there is work to be done.

By reinforcing the accomplishments I achieved, they instilled a work ethic that became ingrained in me. My personal value became tied to the things I accomplished. I learned that being a productive member of the family, the school, the church, the community made me feel good about myself.

They let me have the gift of want.

Unless a person wants something badly enough, they are not going to put forth the time or effort to make it happen. By NOT fulfilling my every desire, they allowed me to thirst after a goal, which inspired me to keep at the tasks needed to get there. One thing I wanted was a two wheeler bicycle. They didn’t rush out and buy one for me.

They helped me figure out the steps towards getting what I wanted.

It’s one thing to have a dream, to be able to envision the end goal of what you want, and another to be able to figure out how to get there. Don’t assume your child can do it, help them discover the small steps that will lead them to what they want. I wanted to buy my first two wheeler. Mom and Dad helped me understand that to do that I needed money, I needed a way to find a used two wheeler, I needed to learn how to ride that two wheeler. They helped me figure out what a kid could do to earn money and showed me the way towards doing those things (like selling Christmas cards door to door).

They helped me learn how to track progress toward my goal.

People get discouraged if they work and work towards something and can’t see any progress. Show your children how to measure progress towards their goal. Help them add up the money saved and talk about how much it has increased and how close to the goal they are. Show them how to check off the small steps along the way as they complete those steps.

They rewarded progress as well as accomplishment.

My parents didn’t wait until I finished getting there to note my accomplishments. They praised me along the way. As I worked towards getting good grades in school, they didn’t wait until the report card came, they patted me on the back for solving the difficult algebra homework problem, or submitting an outstanding report and etc.

They demonstrated persistence.

They showed me, day in and day out, how to persist in accomplishing something. Dad wanted to be an artist. He sat at the kitchen table and worked through a mail order course on how to paint and draw. He took his sketch book on vacation and spent time sketching the scenery. Mom wanted to save and earn money. She showed persistence in that by having her own garden, cutting the family’s hair, giving me Tony home perms and by selling World Book Encyclopedias during the summer.

Do you think persistence can be taught? How would you teach it to your children?

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