Persistence vs. Resilience

We all have heard that in order to be successful you must be persistent.  Over the years, people have labeled me as such.  It is true, I don’t give up easily but I don’t believe my persistence has been the secret to my success but rather my resilience.

What’s the difference?  First, let’s compare the actual definitions:

Persistence – Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition”

Resilience – An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”

Where it is true, in order to be successful you can’t give up the minute the road gets rough or get discouraged by naysayers.  It is also equally true you must be able to adjust your vision based on reality and change as needed.

Many times I meet entrepreneurs who have a good idea but still they fail.  People who work hard and who are persistent and yet they fail.  Persisting and plowing forward is important – but what if it’s in the wrong direction?  What if there is no market for what you are trying to sell or not a large enough market?  What if, as they say in the marketing business, “The dogs don’t like the dog food?”  Stubbornness and factual blindness can hide in persistence.

If you study most successful businesses, what you will find is that the finished product was an evolution of the original idea.  Jimmy Liautaud wanted to start a hot dog business and got a $25,000 loan from his dad.  When he priced out all the costs; location, equipment and supplies he realized it wouldn’t work.  Instead he bought the supplies, set up tables in a friend’s garage and made sandwiches that he hand delivered.  Today you know that business as Jimmy John’s and you may have eaten at one of his more than 1200 franchise locations.

Was he persistent or resilient?  Both.  Which produced the winning result?  I believe it was his willingness to adapt his vision to the reality of his situation.

My personal love was retail and home furnishings.  I planned to open a furniture store but ended up with a chain of mattress stores known as Sleep Country USA.  Why?  Because I didn’t have enough money to open a furniture store.  In studying what made money in a typical furniture store, mattresses kept the doors open.  The start up costs and the market stability of a utilitarian product such as a mattress were more realistic and proved successful.  Did I sacrifice my vision?  Not really, I was always attracted to the aesthetics of home furnishings so I just made a pretty mattress store.

Are you being persistent when you should be resilient?  Are you heading forward even if you are heading for a cliff?  Should you stop and re-evaluate your plan, perhaps adapt your plan?  If you are not finding the success you envisioned, maybe your vision needs a reality check and realignment.


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One Response to “Persistence vs. Resilience”

  1. Robert Olsen, Sunny's oldest friend Says:

    Thank you, Sunny. Once again, you are giving advice that is relevant on a number of fronts. As I read this post, all I could think of was my little church. It was built in 1794 and has had a history of trouble; never has a preacher spent 20, 30 or 40 years there; they have had many stretches where they have had no preacher years at a time. This church has become my passion and I refuse to see it close. Right now, we have an average of 14 parishioners and no minister. I’m trying to change this. I have involved two ministers who are painfully aware of the church’s history. One of them commented to the other recently that this little church is nothing but resilient. As your post describes, I think it is both persistent and resilient, and I appreciate your post because I am now going to take it to them to incorporate into our ongoing conversation. Thank you.


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