The Power of Perseverance

The Key

Ask any performer what is the key to her or his success and I bet a majority will say, ‘perseverance’.  They just stuck with it audition after audition until they reached the success they wanted.

Now, replace the word ‘performer’ in the sentence about with almost any other profession or activity. Then replace ‘audition’ in the second sentence with whatever that new profession or activity needs to do repeatedly to be successful.

  • Lawyer – litigation
  • Artist – drawing
  • Runner – race
  • Accountant – tax return
  • Pitcher – pitch
  • Baker – cake
  • Yogi – pose

You get the idea. What endeavor is it possible to succeed in without repeated effort in the same direction? None.


Now, take one of the professions above (or add your own if it’s not listed) and ask yourself what is the likelihood that each and every audition, litigation, drawing, race, tax return, pitch, cake, or pose will have been done perfectly every time on that road to success?  None.

What does that mean? It means that perseverance is not just about continuing to do something. It’s continuing to do something you are failing at. That you are no good at.  That others do better than you. That people criticize you for.  That you have no guarantee you will succeed at.

What does it take to have that sort of perseverance?  Belief that it is what you are supposed to be doing, in spite of what it looks like at any one moment.

A Little Help From Your Friends

Last fall I had a runner in one of my running groups who was training for her first marathon. She had some seriously hard training runs that wiped her out and made her decide she just didn’t have it in her to do a full marathon. She told the group via Facebook that she was bummed and was going to switch to half marathon training. The response was an outpouring of ‘oh, have I been in your shoes before!’ comments.  There was comment after comment talking about how she was bound to have crappy, hard times during a long season and that they knew she would be able to turn it around with a little tweak to her training, a little change in her mindset, a little prop up from her friends.

And she listened to us and stuck with the program. And 6 weeks later she ran her marathon and felt great about it. What was that? That was the way most people are able to persevere, with a little help from their friends.

Reach Out

So, if you are doubting yourself and your path but you really know you are supposed to be on it, then don’t be alone. Reach out and get that encouragement, that advice, that shoulder to cry on. Get whatever you need to keep going. Help is out there and it wants to help you.

Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman |

Quote by Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, English writer



The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Success #5

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When it is Good

There is a funny tradition in running. It is that when you run a race you can wear your medal all day long, no matter what you do. Go to lunch? Wear it. Go to the gas station? Wear it. Whatever you do, it’s cool. We also think it’s sometimes cool to bring your medal to show others, perhaps to work or school the next week, or maybe to a gathering of friends who you think might like to see it. Yes, it’s a form of boasting and us runners are ok with that. We like telling the world what we have done. Partly it’s for the ego strokes and partly it’s because we want to encourage others. When we have end of the season parties runners will often wear whatever medals they have won during that time period to show others. We will tell people how we did, good or bad. Often the ‘bad’ races make for much more interesting stories.  Sometimes there is a ‘humble brag’ moment. That’s where you tell how bad you did, but oh, by the way, you had a personal record in spite of that. All of it is fun, supportive and communal. We all get it.

When it is Bad

What we don’t do is wear our medals every single day. We don’t tell people we ran this or that race again and again and again. We don’t try to one up each other by interrupting a story to tell that we went faster than they did or farther. We don’t demean or diminish other’s success no matter if is greater than or less than our own.  We don’t try to make ourselves look better than we are.  We don’t ignore others when they tell their stories of success. We know that we are all rooting for each other.

When it is Ugly

It is not often this happens but when it does, it is ugly. That is when a runner is so insecure that they lie about their accomplishments. Worse yet, when they cheat to achieve them. That is why there is nothing worse in the running community than when someone takes a shortcut in a race to appear to have a better time.  That level of dishonesty and deception shows a deep level of insecurity and immorality.  That person has been poisoned with the delusion that appearing to be something makes it so.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is it makes you farther from being what you want to appear to be. It is ugly, it is hurtful and it is counter-productive to the progress of anyone who indulges in it.

More and Less

The same is true in any field. In politics, academia, business, creativity, etc. The more you obsessively boast of your success, the less success you will actually have.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Sir Arthur Helps, 1813-1875, English Writer – Interesting read about his life in this and other articles.


The Claims Upon You – Success #4

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In mining a person stakes a claim to a plot of land, registers it with the mining office and then mines it. What they find is theirs. In relationships some people do the same thing. The jealous boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse, the micro-managing boss, or the needy friend all stake their claim to you. You become entrapped in their claim and your life is no longer your own. You are doing what they want you to do how they want you to do it. It is absurd and maddening.

Society’s Claims

But there is another sort of claim made upon us that is harder to figure out. For example, this morning I heard a report about a woman who was complaining about her company because her boss made her wear high heels to work. She wore flats one day and got in trouble because the dress code called for heels. Is it an ‘absurd, maddening claim’ or is it a reasonable one?

Which is Which?

I work at Fleet Feet as a coach. They want me to wear their products when I am coaching, not the products from other stores. That is a fair claim upon my employment. However, if Fleet Feet required that I wear only short sleeve shirts when I run, even if it is freezing outside, that would be absurd and maddening, as well as dangerous.

The same is true of the woman in heels. If she works for a company manufacturing or selling high heeled shoes then requiring her to wear them would not be absurd. If she works for a company where everyone wears a uniform and that uniform includes heels for women then it might be ok or not, depending on how necessary the heels are, how harmful they may be to wear over long periods of time, etc. But if they are simply wanting her to wear them for no other reason but that some guy at the top thinks women look better in heels than in flats, that would be absurd and maddening. It is also sexist.

Fighting It

How do you fight it? The number one thing is stand firm from the very beginning of the relationship or job. That way you become known as someone who everyone else knows will resist allowing absurd and maddening claims to be laid upon you. Two caveats though; First, remember, not all claims upon you are absurd or maddening and second, if you are too serious or angry about it all the time then you will be seen as contentious and hard to get along with, even by those who agree with you. Having a sense of humor and a light touch in what you say and do can go a long way to both appealing to those who are claiming you and resisting them at the same time.

Then you will be a success on your own terms.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Christopher Morley, 1890 – 1957, American writer and journalist. “There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it.”


The House of Dumb – Success #3

The House of Dumb

Here are Dick and Jane,
Prince and Princess of their Domain.
They have fans galore.
They are admired and adored.

They travel the world in luxury,
Never stopping to think or worry.
Their servants take care of this and that
Even their crowns (which they call hats).

They went to school but learned not a thing
Of common sense or reasoning.
They didn’t have to because they told,
Their daddy had a big billfold.

One day they were marching right,
Loving being in the light.
When they ran into something they didn’t see
A sign that read ‘you’re lousy.’

Dick and Jane thrashed in rage,
Like animals in a terrible cage,
That the crowd and daddy had allowed
The sign to be in the way somehow.

They demanded it be taken away,
To an ugly field and burned today.
Their daddy did as he was told
And Dick and Jane, on they rolled.

They learned nothing from hitting the lousy sign,
And thought their life was simply fine.
But one day their money did go poof,
And where it went there was no proof.

Then their daddy died and went away,
And none of their fans wanted to stay,
Now that the money and glamour were gone,
On Dick and Jane they would not fawn.

Dick and Jane never knew why,
They were no longer adored to the sky.
All they knew was they were poor,
And had to open their own doors.

Dick and Jane got old and grey,
And never went out to march or play.
They died one day in mid-July,
Never knowing they lived a lie.

Writers told the story later,
Of Dick and Jane and all their haters.
They became known as being from,
The very last of the House of Dumb.

The End

Drawing and poem © 2017 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Bill Gates, 1955 – not dead yet, American businessperson and philanthropist.  – “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”


Finishing the Journey – Success #2

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My Achilles Surgery Journey So Far

Leaving the Port

I recently had Achilles Tendon surgery to get rid of some nasty bone spurs in my left heel.  It was 6 years in the making before I actually made the decision to have the surgery. It was actually pretty easy for me to not only decide to do it but to actually have the surgery. All I had to do was lay back and let it happen.

Leaving Sight of Shore

The time immediately after the surgery wasn’t that hard either. I went home, rolled around on my little knee scooter for 4 weeks in a cast. It was annoyingly inconvenient and painful now and then but it wasn’t really hard. Then I got out of the cast and got in a walking boot for two weeks. That was a bit harder because I was meeting resistance, I was pushing the heel a bit and it was not happy about it. It meant more pain and more worry. But it still wasn’t that hard. I was restricted by the boot in what I could do and the pain level was high enough that I could pretty easily tell when I had gone too far.

On the Open Sea

And now it is 10 weeks after surgery, the boot is off and it has become harder. Why? Because my willingness to actively work on the recovery is front and center. I have no external restrictions, only my own judgment of how far to push, when to pull back, when to push again.  It’s all up to me, even if I do have advice from a Dr. and help from a Physical Therapist. And what is helping me decide all this? Having my home port in mind. What is my final destination?

Entering the Port

My final destination is to be back to running healthy and run a marathon by the one year anniversary of the surgery. That is the port I am sailing for. That is how I will know if my voyage has been successful.  Now, the truth is I could be blown off course by something beyond my control and have to recalibrate that goal. That is always the case in any endeavor. But I am not overly worried about things I can’t control. What I am focused on is what can I control? I can control my dedication to reaching my goal and I can control the actions I take to reach them.

While every step is important, knowing your final port of call is really critical because otherwise it’s very hard to gauge if you are being successful in your endeavor or not.  It also becomes V]very hard to want to go through the pain and unexpected setbacks that are always apart of a substantial journey without a positive goal ahead.

So, set your sails and prepare for that journey you want to take. You can do it!

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-1887, Congregationalist Minister and Abolitionist



Believe It! – Success #1

Who do you think you are?  

Why do I ask this? Because you won’t ever become someone you don’t think you are.  Don’t think you are an artist? You won’t become one.  Don’t think you are able to start or run a business? You won’t start or run one.


So, how do you become something you are not? To answer that question you have to answer this one first, ‘how do you come to believe you can be that person?’ My first wife, Kathy, was never very confident about herself and her abilities. But by the time we had our three daughters and they were in or reaching school age, Kathy had received her teaching credential and had taught for a few years. She also had been around a number of families at our church who home schooled their kids for a number of years. The combination of the two experiences plus her own comfort with our children led her to believe she could home school our daughters, which we did for 3 years.

In other words, she had faith that she could get it done. She gained that faith by education, observation, and experience.  I think those three elements are the keys to achieving your great goal.

  • Education – In most, but not all, cases, learning is key to giving yourself the confidence that you can do or be something. It might be formal training or it might be you self-teaching online, but learning more and more about the area you want to explore always helps, if not for you, for those who you must persuade to trust you in a future endeavor.
  • Observation – When you look around you, you can see things being achieved. How is that happening? What skills, behaviors, attitudes and connections to these achievers have?  Being aware of what others have needed to succeed will help you do the same. While in much of life it is not good to compare yourself to others, it is good in other ways.  This is one of them. Now, you may find that the comparison is unflattering to you. BUT then again, you might find it is favorable, or maybe it is irrelevant.  The point is, do not be afraid to evaluate how you stack up to others in this endeavor.  Self-criticism and self-knowledge of where you stand is essential to moving forward.
  • Experience – Sometimes when we look at biographies of achievers it seems this step is skipped. For example, Cheryl Strayed walked the Pacific Coast Trail and wrote about it in her memoir ‘Wild’. She had ZERO experience hiking but she did it, right?  Nope. She actually only did one day without experience. The second day she had the experience of the first day under her belt. Yes, to truly do it right she should have had a lot more experience, but to say she had none for the journey is to ignore what you learn along the way.  So, yes it is possible to start with no experience. But it is impossible to get half way with none and certainly impossible to finish with none.  The key is to be aware of the experience as it happens, to learn from it so you can immediately apply it, sometimes within minutes or hours of starting on a task.

These three things are what you need to become who you want to become and to do what you want to do.

So, start gathering them up and go for it!

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman |
“Faith that the thing can be done is essential to any great achievement.” Quote by Thomas N. Carruther.

This original drawing or a print are available for purchase. Matte and frame are also available.

Success Generally Depends – updated 2017

I hope you are enjoying this selection of original napkins from 1998-2004 while I am on vacation. Comment when you are so inclined. I would love to hear any of your thoughts in these ideas.

The snake and the turtle have been buddies in my work since at least
the mid-1980s. They are often telling two opposite sides of the story
sometimes the snake being the antagonist, but often being the sweet
singing snake with no evil attached. The Turtle is more often a positive
figure, sometimes telling a needed truth, other times just saying something
wise or witty.

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