“God. You’re relentless.” He said after I introduced myself as the person who’d emailed him twice about a job in the last week. “No,” I thought. “I’m just on New York time, where things get done quickly or not at all. I’m eager. I’m ready. I’m hungry. I’m good for this.” But I didn’t say any of it. Instead I gave an “I’m sorry.” The truth was, I felt insecure about his comment. Instead of “nice to meet you” I received an observation of my relentlessness, which I accepted as criticism. But why? Aren’t I being a little quick to judge myself and this aspect of my personality, which is actually an inherent trait of many successful people? There are many many worse things to be called by a potential employer. It made me think- why are we afraid of going after what we want? Why not ask again? Is the key to success talent, luck, hard work, or is persistence really the key? Aren’t we all a little in need of the will to persist?
Whatever it is you desire for you life- weight loss, a new relationship, a job, there are a great many stories that will tell you that giving up is the first step to not getting what you want. At first, Music Mogul Barry Gordy didn’t want to sign two of his label’s most successful artists, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. Lady Gaga was dropped from her original label and is now one of the most successful recording artists in history. Angela Lee Duckworth gives an amazing Ted talk on Grit being the key to success. I think we are annoyed by the relentless because so many of us aren’t as relentless as we could be. We trade success for approval, and standing out for acceptance. Even more often, we are not clear about what we want. I think this is what kills the strongest ally we have in our path to success- our own perseverance.
It reminds me of this guy I went to college with. This kid I knew was nothing if not persistent. It was my freshman year and he pursued me with everything he had. He offered to walk me home after class to my dorm, asked me out to movies, tried everything he could to make me laugh, he even told his friends to convince me to go out with him. My mind wasn’t in that place at the time. I was focused on school and not willing to be distracted, or worse, hurt. I thought he was cute, but he wasn’t on my radar of what I needed in my life. He was like gum on my shoe that I couldn’t shake. This went on for about a year and a half. He was relentless. Slowly he began to take the hint. One day he asked me, point blank, if I wanted him to stop pursuing me. I said yes, exhausted and ready to be left in peace. The next day, however, I missed the feeling of the gum on my shoe. So I asked him out. He had sold me something I hadn’t even been meaning to buy. To this day, I can’t help but admire him as I reflect on his persistence, conviction, and sincere willingness to fail. He was committed to at least trying to get what he wanted, and he wasn’t about to give up easily. This is actually a really rare trait, and shows a lot of confidence and presence of mind. It’s attractive. That’s the kind of guy you marry. And so I did. He still applies this persistence to everything that he does. This is one of the many reasons my husband is my hero, because he has brass balls and a consistent work ethic, all the while wearing a smile and never afraid to fail. This is what we all must do to succeed. Instead of worrying that we are being pushy, or annoying, or relentless, we owe it to ourselves to use every door before giving up. Worrying about the reaction of others to our own actions is often the reason we stop pursuing what we want. I’m kind of over that.
Here are my seven steps to making your relentlessness work for you:
- Identify- What is it you want? Is it to lose weight? Commit to working out? Get that next job, or new business deal? Whatever it is, label it. Own it. It’s yours, if not in reality, in desire. It’s your goal. It’s your destination. It’s your teacher. It’s your success or failure. It’s your journey. Own it.
- Question-How possible is this for you? What can you do to get it? Are you being clear? What are your reasons for wanting it? Do you see the path before you, and a door to open? Although this is second to identifying, questioning must be done ALL THE TIME. Questioning is paramount to clarity of intention and confirmation of sincerity.
- Zone in- This is the preparation for the work. Like a bald eagle focusing on prey in the water, your proverbial eyes must focus with the sharpness of a tack. Your goal is like an opponent in a match, channel your inner Mr. Miyagi, and never lose eye contact.
- Research- this is especially important when going for a job. This is the fun part, especially in the age of social media. If there’s one thing that getting a BFA taught me, it’s that connections and networks are everything, and research can connect you to a great many people in this day and age. Do your homework, relentlessly.
- Advertise- that book The Secret got it right. It’s all about how you put out what you want. My husband shopped around and told everyone what he wanted. He even recruited friends to help. It’s important to let friends, family, and coworkers know about your goal so that you are accountable to your own self-commitments. If you want to lose weight- find your community. If you want that job- dream board it, whatever, call it into being. The Secret isn’t a secret at all. It’s just the way.
- Pitch- I don’t know a lot about baseball. But I know it must take a great amount of strength and energy to throw a ball as fast as the Delorean time machine. There’s a wind up, and the pitcher puts his entire life force into the pitch. It’s not called a Sales Toss. When you pitch, it’s your opportunity. Don’t underhand it. Make that thing soar. Make sure your aim is accurate, and give in 110% of your strength, energy, and love.
- Deliver- that guy from college didn’t know whether or not he could get me to go on a date with him. But he didn’t give up. His pitch, advertising, and zoning in were so convincing in persistence and sincerity that it was an offer I couldn’t pass up. Just like with everything, however, you must DELIVER when given the opportunity. There is never a time to let up, or not work, or stop trying. This guy has delivered on his promise to me everyday for the last 10 years. Be that kind of consistent. The identifying will give you drive, the advertisement will hold you accountable, the pitch will get you the gig, and the delivery is what the whole thing is about. Loving something enough to risk hurt feelings, or failure, and knowing you will need to work until you stop wanting it is real success.
I like to think my husband has rubbed off on me. I’d like to believe that his persistence, resistance, and insistence has become a part of my work ethic, too. I work to be more like him, in the way that he takes things as they come, and is not afraid to hear “no”. The next time someone tells me I’m relentless, I’m going to say thank you. Because it means I’m unrelenting on my goals, that I’m unrestrained by my fear, that I’m a happy fool who walks around saying “No, I think you want to give me a second look.” Because it means I’m like my brave husband who was once just a kid who wouldn’t take no for an answer. If you are never relentless, and you never ask for another chance, and you never hear no, and you never fail, you might miss out on the best opportunities of your life. Because more often than not, the best opportunities in life are the ones you create for yourself. And you can’t create for yourself if you are relenting to the limited vision of others.