I wonder when I became a persistent person. Was I born this way? If so, I didn’t notice it until somewhere along about mid-life. Humor me please as I turn back the pages of my memory in search of a day or an event when I might have evolved into it.

Back, Back, Back…

There’s evidence of this persistence in my writing. I haven’t devoted proper time to it very often in my life, but I peck away at my projects. I’ve been working on my current novel for over three years now, but it nears completion finally. My novel From the Beginning was started in about 1993 and wasn’t finished until 2013. I’ve knocked out many short stories, songs and scripts through the years. Part of my memoir was written concurrently with my novel Boundless Trust and took our memoir writers group to complement my own intention to get it done. Earlier in my life, I wanted to write, but couldn’t get around to it consistently. Some stories got a start, but didn’t make it to completion.

About a week ago, a group of my former co-workers from American Family Insurance had a reunion of sorts, as we tend to do every couple years or so. It made me think again about my primary career as an insurance adjuster. I started with that company when I was 49 years old and as the years passed in this high-stress occupation, I was building a pension and a 401K account with an eye on retirement at age 65. I was approximately 10 years in when the company changed. They stopped hiring new adjusters, which meant as employees quit or were terminated or retired, no replacements were brought on board. The remaining adjusters were forced to take on larger workloads. Other changes made it increasingly difficult to do the job with the care and attention to detail that translated to good customer service. The stress made the job less confrontable, less doable actually. I wanted to get out of there so badly, but I had a lot invested in time and retirement goals, some of which I would potentially lose if I resigned. I stayed on and did my best, drawing on my reserves of persistence just to keep going despite skyrocketing levels of anxiety. I had my first panic attack while working for the company. I hung in, though, until they fired me because I was not “a good fit.” It took 12 years for them to come to that conclusion, and this despite my winning customer service awards in these later years as an American Family adjuster.

For better or for worse, I’ve shown that when I get an idea in my head, I’m going to do what I need to do to carry it out. An example of this is when I decided I was going to travel around the USA for a year back in 1973. When the targeted time came, I was not going to be stopped. Maybe to my own detriment, I departed without enough savings, leaving behind a good job where I was appreciated and a relationship that was working better than any I had ever had. My car died two weeks into the trip, but I was determined to complete my trip. I did the rest without a car.

I may have first learned about persistence in paying my debt to society over the course of about 18 months. I landed in jail as a naïve kid, ashamed and afraid. Once I knew I was going to be there a while, I put my head down and lived a day at a time in many respects to get through to the other side.

How far back does this persistence go? I didn’t show it much in high school, nor in elementary school. So, maybe it came with the dawning of maturity. While that was unfolding, though, I was persistently holding on to my adolescence in many ways well into my 20’s. Funny twists and turns on the path.

A Boon to All Who Use It

For the person who sets out to accomplish a difficult or complex task, there will come times when it seems beyond their capabilities. Writing a book requires solid planning, determination without end and a propensity for problem solving. Making a business work calls for the same elements. Whatever the goal, when going gets tough, those who strive to get to the end must bear down, assess the situation and push on through to the finish line. That’s what it takes.

Persistence is a tool we all can use. There’s nothing to show it’s an inherited trait. It can be developed with our will power. If you want to rebuild a classic car or get a degree or mend a damaged relationship, you can start with a decision, fuel it with your will and refuse to give up. Time and distractions will scheme to pull you away, but if you stay strong in your resolve, you can complete anything you set out to do.