Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Persistence

with one comment

I’m gradually starting to understand the power of persistence. I tend to develop new interests quickly, and these can eat up available time, crowding out earlier interests. I had not thought much about the benefits of sticking with the old. But now I’m experiencing success not from intense effort, but from moderate effort sustained over weeks and months.

Quite a while back I realized that when people change it doesn’t happen with the speed of insight but at the pace of plant growth. Because of my interest in novelty, I’ve tended to overvalue insight—when one suddenly grasps an overall pattern or an explanatory connection. Insights are a great pleasure and quite useful, but they don’t get the job done. A friend who was a product manager for computer games valued a great game idea at somewhere around 2%-4% of the game’s worth. The idea is important, but 96%-98% of bringing the game to market and making it a success belongs to the effort to realize the idea: test the concept, design the interface, write the code, test everything, write supporting materials and develop a marketing campaign, etc. The idea amounts to less than the tip of the iceberg. There must be an idea to start the process, but—let’s face it—ideas are a dime a dozen. The value almost always in the work that transforms the idea into a real product.

I enjoy having ideas, but quite often my work in bringing an idea into practice has been interrupted by new ideas, making it difficulty to stay on task. And even when I could stay on task, I generally had in mind making a big push for a week or so: a sprint rather than going for distance and duration.

What I’ve experienced over the past year is that quite substantial changes can follow from a persistent albeit low-key effort. For example, my weight loss: it took one year to reach my current weight and, more important, my current habits and perceptions. Learning Spanish: It will take 18 months for three semesters of Spanish, along with a modest daily time investment (the Anki review each morning: once around 20 minutes a day, it’s now about 10-15, but it is indeed a daily exercise). Pilates I do twice a week now (though for a couple of months early on I did three times a week—I’m going to add a couple of sessions a week of floor exercises at home Real Soon Now.

But those three examples are enough to convince me of the value of persisting and the magnitude of what a persistent effort can accomplish even if the daily gains seem small.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2011 at 2:23 pm

One Response

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  1. I admit I’m the same way. You write like a man who’s read Alfred North Whitehead (novelty is the modern problem — we tend to seek newness, not meaning). The world is just too interesting and I want to know it all. Beyond a few highly developed skills (I’m a grammar nut, can read a book a day if I start early enough, and I’m obsessive about making things better, such as tuning the mower, improving tool design, and so on), I’ll spend two months reading everything I can on the history of financial crises, and then turn around and spend seven months studying a director’s films. I can pretty much guarantee part of next year’s obsession will be the second round of tablet computers. The Motorola Xoom just blows my mind and I have two very good uses for it.

    The other skill I have is to ramble on and on. Yikes!

    zaine_ridling

    19 June 2011 at 3:57 am


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