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Leadership Thought #423 – There Is A Fine Line Between Persistence and Stupidity

February 15, 2013

On Perseverance – Persistence is admirable. Stubbornness is stupid. ... Quote by Marsha Hinds - QuotesLyfe

I am a firm believer in persistence and determination.  Many people give up just before things are about to break their way.  However, it never makes sense to go off a cliff simply because it is there.  Not every strategy is wise and not every course of action is worth continuing.  You need to pay attention to the signals the universe is sending you.  Trends either move up or down. They rarely remain flat.  Sometimes the objective evidence indicates you should try something different.

I work with many business owners.  One of the things I most admire about them is their levels of confidence and self-belief.  Most people are afraid to take the entrepreneurial leap and bet everything on an idea and their individual ability to deliver on a concept.  It’s much easier to leave the professional heavy lifting to others.  However, just because you believe you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it or keep doing it.  Business, like other parts of life, rewards smart, thoughtful, and proactive decision-making.  Sometimes the simple answer is to “stop” doing what you are currently doing before you inflict any more losses or damage.  Other times, this means trying a different approach altogether.

Results in business and life are usually straightforward.  We can try to put whatever spin on our outcomes we like, but the facts don’t lie.

  • If you go too long without making a profit, you will run out of cash and become too reliant on debt or other people’s money.
  • At some point, continuing to liquidate your own ownership stake doesn’t make much sense.
  • Contrary to what some thought leaders would like us to believe, the cost of doing business goes up every year and if you can’t increase your revenues to reflect these realities and/or make the necessary cuts, you  will become unprofitable.
  • You need to generate excess capital if you want to be able to invest in your future.
  • Good people require fair market rates of compensation. Ultimately, you have to be able to pay the going rate for talent.  They will figure out their worth.
  • If customers are not buying what you are selling, then you need to rethink your product/service offering before you run out of money.
  • If you can’t pay your business or personal taxes, then something is wrong.
  • Going for too long without taking a salary means your model does not work sufficiently to justify your efforts.
  • You shouldn’t force your company to subsidize a personal lifestyle that your business results cannot deliver – at some point the bank or other creditors will take notice and/or you will dig a hole too big to climb out of.


Hope is not a strategy, rather, an emotion that often leads to disappointment.  You can’t “will” yourself to succeed if what you are doing won’t work and/or can’t sustain the results necessary to maintain your business.  I have seen leaders evaporate a lifetime of savings in a brief period.  I know there are people out there who will declare bankruptcy and start over, but bad decision-making doesn’t just go away because you simply start over.  The courts are also making this option less easy than it used to be.  Mistakes tend to repeat themselves until you fully learn the lesson.  Moreover, screwing other people because of your own poor learning curve is not a very ethical or advisable way to live.  It is never “just business”, it is also personal for people who genuinely care about what they are doing.  All actions have consequences (good and bad).

Stubbornness is very rarely a leadership virtue.  Be persistent but also be smart.  “Know when to hold em’ and know when to fold em’.”  Don’t defend or rationalize bad decisions because of your pride or ego.  Strive to be intelligent and mature enough to absorb the data, ask and answer tough questions, learn the lessons, adjust your actions accordingly and move on.  If you are consistently not getting the results you planned to achieve then something is wrong…Please, avoid stupidity.