How to accomplish anything and develop an Extraordinary level of Persistence
In January of this year I attended my first ever Tony Robbins event, which was AMAZING. It was here that I was introduced to the story of and lessons from the life of Mel Fisher. Mel was just an ordinary man from the midwest in most respects. He was born in Gary, Indiana in 1922. He read fiction as a child. Specially, at some point before the age of 11, he read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson and a dream was born. Mel eventually attended Purdue university before serving in the Army, and eventually went on to work several jobs including teaching scuba diving, and even being a chicken farmer. Through the years though, he was never quite satisfied with any of these careers, and tugging at him all the while was the siren song of lost treasure.
Eventually he started to dabble in treasure hunting. He started out in California, then tried his luck in the Caribbean, making some minor discoveries along the way. Over the years he’d heard and read of massive Spanish vessels carrying tremendous hoards of precious metals and jewels that went down just off the coast of Florida, so finally, in 1962, he decided to move down there to find them. Like most things worthwhile, his path wasn’t an easy one. He and his family went on to struggle through decades of hard times. As described in a NY Times article - “He was known for his optimism despite skeptical investors, mixed luck in the law courts, a leaky houseboat-home, debts and far greater sorrows....” (http://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/21/us/mel-fisher-76-a-treasure-hunter-who-got-rich-undersea.html)
It is said that he was heartened by finding a single doubloon (a Spanish gold coin) in the water off the Florida coast in the 1960’s. Despite little to no evidence of progress or success for sometimes many YEARS at a time, Mel continued on with his search for the treasure. So while days turned to months and months turned to years, Mel continued to grind it out all the while convincing himself and his crew everyday that “today’s the day!” Well, in 1985, after over 16 years of single minded focus, that day finally arrived. Mel and his team had finally found the Atocha and it’s bounty of riches worth about $400 million!!!
What if life is like a treasure map and all you need to do to achieve anything is to figure out where the “X” is and then not stop until you get there? Where is your “X?”
Step 1. Know your outcome.
If you don’t know where you are heading, all the hard work and focused action in the world is just going to take you to an unknown destination FASTER. What is your desired outcome? In Mel’s case, this was the hardest part was figuring out where to search. For most of us, and most goals, it can be the easiest. Just DECIDE.
How do we get there?
Step 2. Take action.
Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Just get started. NOW. Just take imperfect action. Mel would NEVER have found $400 million without taking MASSIVE ACTION! This is also your greatest power and the key to achieving anything worthwhile. It takes hard work.
Step 3. Pay attention.
Learn from what is working and what isn’t. How could your action be improved to get better results? No gold here? How about over there? No? How about over here…?
Step 4. Apply what you’ve learned and repeat steps 2-4 until outcome is attained.
Wow. That sure seems easy. If it’s this simple, then why do so many people struggle in reaching their goals?
Well this is where Mel is most assuredly NOT the ordinary person. The ordinary person would have taken the year of no results and used that as “evidence” that there was no gold here. Or that they couldn’t / wouldn’t find it. Or that even if they did they probably wouldn’t find enough to make it worth their while. Mel decided to focus instead on the single doubloon that he had found and used that as all the evidence that he needed to persevere.
The 3 core beliefs required to have Extraordinary Persistence:
1. There is treasure here
2. I will find it
3. It will be worth it
#1, “There is treasure here” can be translated to “There is something (an outcome) I value here.” It could be financial reward, it could be your fitness goals, or it could be a relationship that you are interested in pursuing. Support this belief with “evidence” of your own and remind yourself often.
#2, “I will find it.” Notice that this doesn’t say I will “try” to find it. “Trying” is poisonous to persistence. Eventually it will lead to it’s death. Do. Not. Try. Period. If Mel had only committed to “trying” how many days would he have continued on before giving up? Trying let’s us off the hook - all you are committing to is to give it an attempt. Maybe even multiple attempts, but by definition you are setting yourself up to be able to quit. Not Mel, quitting wasn’t an option. Or he would have. Remind yourself of this often. Back this with evidence of your own as well. “If person X can do it then I can too” works well for me.
#3, “It will be worth it.” $400 million is enough to get most people out of bed. Make sure your targets are enough to get YOU out of bed. It’s tough to stay motivated and focused on goals that don’t excite us… Regardless of the exact target, it has to represent something that we really want. Again, back with evidence of your own and remind yourself often.
One last thing -
Bonus Power Multiplier - One additional key to Mel’s persistence was the fact that every day he would convince himself and his crew that “today’s the day.” This wasn’t just a half-hearted slogan - he really put himself in the state where he believed and FELT that “today’s the day.” Now, not all goals will be achieved in a day, but positive self talk of some kind is vital in terms of perseverance and in developing world class mental toughness.
... And we'll get into more about World Class Mental Toughness next time!
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