Posted on October 12, 2020 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

Too many people often get started without commitment.  As a result, they waste valuable time and energy on pursuits that they will give up after a few months of haphazard effort.  Action without persistence is a waste of time.

It is useful to ask yourself what your level of commitment is to a project or goal before starting.  Measuring persistence is not easy.  The only true way to know your persistence level is to work on a project and see when you give up.  If you quit a goal after two years, your degree of persistence is two years.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have years of our lives to waste just to measure the level of commitment to a new project.  Although it would not measure up to the real thing, you believe there is a thought experiment that comes pretty close to pinpointing the actual value.

Are You Willing to Work Forever?

Pick any goal you want to measure your persistence for.  Now, ask yourself how long you would be willing to work on the goal, without any positive feedback.  How long would you be willing to work on a project, without being able to see any results from your efforts?

That length of time is a rough estimate of your commitment to a project.  Notice you did not ask how long you would be willing to work on a project.  Instead, you asked, how long you would be able to work in a vacuum, devoid of any knowledge that you were making progress.

If you want to get in shape, ask yourself how long you would be willing to go to the gymnasium every day, if you did not lose a single pound, did not increase at all in strength, or did not look any different.  How long would you be willing to last?

If you want to start a business, ask yourself how long you would be willing to keep experimenting and producing without earning a single ringgit of revenue.  Or receiving an indication that your business would continue.

Persisting Forever is Stupid

Obviously, working forever without any results means you are doing something wrong.  Either you have picked an impossible pursuit (try flying by flapping your arms) or your approach is completely broken.

However, as a thought experiment, this question is still valuable.  There are going to be periods in the pursuit of any goal, where you will completely lack positive feedback.  You would not have any motivational fuel to encourage you forward.  The question is based on how long you feel you can continue in spite of this total absence of results.

Avoiding Projects with Short Persistence Values

You should avoid starting projects that have low persistence values.  If you cannot honestly give a high persistence value for a project, do not bother starting it.

What is a high persistence value?  It depends on the pursuit, but the safest value is, “forever”.  “Forever” in the literal sense means an infinite amount of years, your entire lifespan, or some other unimaginably long period of time.  But in this context, it simply means that you are not relying on positive feedback to motivate you forward.  If you were able to continue towards a goal forever, without seeing results, you are in the safest position to pursue a goal.

Once again, this is a thought experiment, not reality.  Even if your persistence value for a goal is “forever”, that does not mean you do not expect to see results somewhere along the way.  It just means you would not give up, even if they do not appear.

Few of your projects will have such high persistence values.  But you should still think a high value is important, even if you would not devote your entire life to a project.  Steve Pavlina suggested that most online small businesses take 3 to 5 years to become successful. This means that if you are planning to start a website, but your persistence threshold is six months, do not even bother starting.

Similarly, you may believe the minimum persistence value needed for getting into shape is a year.  Although it is possible to make significant progress in just a few weeks, that is not always the case.  You might spend months at the same level as new habits are forming or you may reach a plateau in your conditioning.

Persistence is not Motivation

You may have a “forever” level of persistence (at least hypothetically) towards the most important areas of your life.  There is no time-limit where you would decide to give up on being healthy, having fulfilling relationships, or working for something you are passionate about.  More specific dreams have somewhat shorter values, but you try to make them as long as possible.

Having values of “forever” for some goals is not a matter of motivation.  Motivation is the urge to seek positive feedback.  Persistence is the ability to continue forward in the complete absence of any.  Motivation cannot push you forward in a pursuit you would continue even if you never received any positive feedback.

Instead, you believe persistence is a combination of patience and an intrinsic desire to do the activity.  Running a business for you is a near “forever” in terms of persistence.  You need to be patient in that you do not expect any immediate feedback for any business effort you take on.  In addition,  you may love writing, creating new products, selling, and being your own boss.  Even if you were forced to run these as a no-income hobby, the value would be high enough that you would be able to continue ‘forever’.

Video games are very popular because they supply near-constant feedback for actions.  Kill the enemy monster, get experience points.  Life is not a video game.  There are often huge gaps where there is little reward for hard work.  The longer and more difficult a project, the larger these vacuums can be.  Motivation is important, but it is also important to be able to persist through those seemingly infinite valleys.

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