How much is 3 × 4?
How did you know that straight off the bat? Because you were taught calculus in school. But the teacher did not just give you a set of 100 equations to read once, you had to reread them again and again. You had to learn it by heart, it took a lot of time, arguing with your parents and maybe even crying. But you stuck with it and eventually succeeded.
When you were a child your teachers and parents persuaded you to persist because they knew it is for your own good. Now as an adult you also tell children to persist in their studies and work because you know it is good for them.
Most adults do this however when it comes to their own endeavours they try and give up. For example Google says 40 000 people search for ‘ways to make money online’ every month and most of them actually try to do it several times in the course of their life. But very few make it.
Why? Because they do not persist.
They try something and if they do not succeed after the first 3 attempts they give up. This trend is not present just in business but also in all other endeavours - fitness, relationships, even hobbies. Most people list watching movies as their hobby; Why? Because you cannot fail at watching TV and this is the reason why TV is so popular - it takes no effort to watch it, you cannot fail at watching it and it gives instant gratification. It is the exact opposite of persistence.
Persistence is exerting effort in order to achieve delayed gratification, in a situation where not exerting effort causes you to fail at that endeavour. This means persistence requires a certain amount of self control and taking a risk. These two go hand in hand because whenever you choose to persist at something you forego a smaller instant gratification for a bigger delayed gratification; but because the future is inherently uncertain you risk getting no gratification at all.
We - people - are hardwired to fear the uncertain future and this makes us unwilling to risk even something small such as is the instant gratification of ice cream. This fear of taking that risk is the reason why we do not persist. Even when we know that not foregoing ice cream will result in diabetes we still are unwilling to take the risk of foregoing the instant gratification, because the future is uncertain and our subconsciousness is is saying: ‘what if i don’t get diabetes, what if i will avoid ice cream for nothing?’
Most people only change after facing a serious illness or death because at that point they finally realize that they need to do everything they can now rather than wait for the things to become certain in some distant future. They realize that the future will be unavoidably grim if they do not take action now. Their mentality shifts from ‘the future is uncertain’ to ‘the future is certainly grim if i do not change it now’. This promise of great pain and discomfort acts in the same way as our parents disciplining did when we were children, hence we persist by foregoing a small instant gratification in order to avoid that big pain.
So far we have been talking about why we do not persist at our endeavours but have said little about why persistence is the key to success and how to obtain it. You know of all those popular rich figures who managed to make billions? They usually do not look worried or afraid about the future do they?
This is because humans are driven not just by the ‘pain avoidance’ mechanism but also by the ‘reward seeking’ mechanism. People in which the latter is predominant and who also have a strong self discipline usually excel in everything they do because they ‘’keep their eyes on the prize’’ and do not worry too much about failing. This does not mean that people driven by ‘pain avoidance’ cannot excel, on the contrary, they can climb just as high because they are always hustling to secure and improve their position.
In order to persist even when everything is against you it is important for you to know what drives you - fear of pain or the promise of reward. Use this knowledge strategically to move you forward. If you are by default pain avoiding then when you want to quit your endeavour keep thinking of all the possible bad events which will happen in the future if you do not persist. Likewise if you are reward seeking keep picturing that big payoff at the end of your goal.
The above works for most people, but when it comes to long term goals which require a lot of sacrifice the above method will fail in a matter of weeks. People using just the above method start on big endeavours enthusiastically and rigorously for a few days but then completely fall off the regiment - the new year's resolutions are a good example of this. The reason for this is that we develop a tolerance for the stress we create with the pain/reward system hence it ceases to have an effect on us if we use it constantly. This tolerance developing mechanism is not only psychological but also chemical just like with our tolerance to drugs.
All those small short pleasures we are missing are causing a perpetual drain on our persistence. They are feeding our fear that if we do not succeed at our endeavour, all the time spent on it will be royally wasted. It triggers an impulse in us which tells us it is better to quit now and cut our losses. This stems from our conscious or subconscious belief that we cannot really succeed in our endeavour, that failure is imminent.
You can spend a lot of time trying to figure out where this feeling is originating from but it is not really necessary because you can override it. You only need to take the feeling of futility out of equation and you will have won the war with all those small sacrifices, thus you can save the pain/reward method for when you really need it.
Unfortunately changing your mentality to stop believing things are hopeless is not as easy as snapping your fingers or clicking your heels. It is a process which again takes persistence but fortunately it does not involve sacrificing the small pleasures hence it is easier to stay with it.
First you must accept that the social constructs of luck, destiny and impossibilities are not real tangible phenomenons. They are just subjective explanations created by unknowledgable minds. Luck and destiny stem from religious dogmas while impossibility comes from unwillingness to consider things which we have not yet experienced ourselves.
Luck is nothing more than an event which has a low probability of occurrence. For example let us say that statistically 1 of 10 started businesses succeed, the other 9 fail. When someone starts a business and succeeds people say he was lucky because 90% of businesses fail, but they do not take into account that he has failed in 6 prior attempts - with each attempt his probability for success increased. Thus you can see how luck is just a construct of the mathematically illiterate. Persist and you will be ‘’lucky’’.
Destiny is the belief that everything in your life is predetermined and that you have no effect on the course of your life. When it comes to your endeavours it is the belief that your probability for a certain outcome is 1 versus infinite. As Albert Einstein noted only 2 things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity (and he was not sure about the universe).
Impossible is said to be just a big word thrown around by little people. Mathematically the definition of impossibility is again that probability for a certain outcome is 1 versus infinite. We know what Einstein said about infinity so we can say that if something is not violating the laws of physics than it is possible.
Now that you see that ‘luck’, ‘destiny’ and ‘impossibility’ are just constructs of the mathematically illiterate you can start to eliminate them from your thinking patterns. In the style of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programing) begin by avoiding those terms when you speak and think. Replace them with terms like ‘probability’ and avoid saying anything is impossible as we do not know what is and what is not possible - science is not all-knowing yet and even current laws of physics are subject to change.
Of course it is not always easy to believe something is possible but keep reminding yourself and eventually your mind will stop believing all the ney-saying hype you are surrounded with. Think of all the things that were supposedly impossible but we now take for granted - like flying. It is not difficult to remind yourself of this and it does not matter if you fail to do it every now and then. It is only important to keep doing it as much as you can and over the course of months you will see a gradual change in how you perceive things.
One very important thing to recognise and to keep in mind is that you are only 1 person with 1 voice. You are surrounded with over a hundred acquaintances and hundreds of media workers with their own voices which influence you whether you like it or not. As we have said in the beginning, most people have a very negative and defeatistic view of the world thus your endeavour to change will be made much harder by them. Some people combat this by moving to a completely new location free of acquaintances and family ties,others go into even bigger extremes and move to remote and desolate places like mountaintops and deserts and third seek help in stimulants and nootropics like caffeine powder and modafinil. Particularly nootropics are becoming ever more popular among the more ambitious people.