ALBERT EINSTEIN AND ANOTHER man were once
working on a scientific paper, and when they were done, they
needed a paper clip. They looked around and found one, but it
was bent out of shape. So they started looking around for a tool
they could use to bend it back into a usable shape, when they
came across a whole box of paper clips.
Einstein immediately took out a good paper
clip, and bent it into a tool that he then used to bend the original
paper clip back into a usable shape.
His partner said, "What are you doing
bending that paper clip into shape when we have a whole box of
perfectly good ones!?"
Einstein's reply was, "Once I'm set
on a goal, it becomes difficult to deflect me."
He said later in his life that this little
incident characterized him more than any other. It's a silly
incident, and a foolish waste of time to bend the paper clip
back, but the habit of staying on a track is extremely powerful,
and fully worth it even if sometimes the habit wastes some time
This world can easily be looked at as a
trap designed to take you off course, whatever course you're
on. The world is full of enticing temptations to pull you off
track. It's full of catastrophes and annoying circumstances that
tend to take you off track. It's full of people who want your
attention, your energies, and your money to go somewhere other
than down your track. Staying on track is a tremendous
test of will.
The chief obstacle is something inside
your body, something built into your genetic makeup a
curiosity that makes the human species the most successful animal
on Earth; a greed for what you don't have, what you haven't seen,
what you haven't done, what you haven't heard. A built-in lust
for novelty. Combine that built-in desire to gain pleasant experiences
with the free-enterprise system, and stir. What do you get? A
dizzying land of temptations and distractions.
The world is literally screaming for your
attention. Advertisers, salespeople, your friends, your enemies,
and your own mother want your attention. They want you to take
your attention off your goals for a moment and put your
attention on their goals.
Distraction is the chief obstacle.
It doesn't seem like an obstacle, and that's
why it's the toughest to overcome. What does it take to overcome
TO TRY AND TO FAIL
Gail Borden thought condensed meat was
the wave of the future. It was 1844 and people often died from
eating tainted meat. Before refrigeration, people needed other
alternatives. Borden experimented and found a way to boil 120
pounds of meat down to ten pounds, making it not only easier
to carry, but less likely to spoil.
When the California Gold Rush began, he
saw a ready market for his product, and he and his brother Tom
built a meat-condensing plant and started cranking out the product.
But of course, the Gold Rush didn't last
very long. After it was over, his main source of customers dwindled
down to nothing and his business went bankrupt.
"Don't infer I've given up,"
he told a friend. He knew the process of condensation was valuable,
and he was determined to convince other people of it. After several
more years of experimentation, he wrote in a letter to a friend,
"Every piece of property I own is mortgaged. I labor fifteen
hours a day."
The price of success. Often it doesn't
come easy, especially when you want to make a difference. He
wasn't just trying to make a living. He could have just gotten
a job. He had a vision, if you will: A big, shining vision a
hundred feet tall of the value of condensation. He knew it was
useful, and he was determined to bring his vision to fruition.
He said, "I mean to put a potato into a pillbox, a pumpkin
into a tablespoon, the biggest sort of watermelon into a saucer."
You and I may think this is strange. Who
can say why a particular person feels compelled to accomplish
a particular thing. But it is good that it works out that way
because many of the products and ideas and ways of doing things
we now take for granted and that contribute to our happiness
and ease of living were at one time weird little obsessions of
obscure people in the past. They knew their contributions would
be useful even when nobody around them thought so. Their contributions
were made because they persisted. Some of the contributions,
and this may include yours, would never have been made
by any other person if the visionary had given up.
Mr. Borden knew a lot about condensation,
but apparently he was condensing the wrong thing. He was persistent,
but he wasn't a blind fool. He didn't keep trying to give people
what they didn't want. What would they want? What could
he condense that would serve humanity?
He remembered an incident aboard a ship.
Cows were on board to provide fresh milk (again, this was before
refrigeration) for the babies on the voyage. But the cows took
sick and four babies died from the tainted milk.
Maybe condensed milk would be useful.
Gail started experimenting and found a way to condense milk without
making it taste burnt, and opened a factory.
Farmers, seeing this as a threat, started
a campaign against this "unnatural" form of milk. Keep
this in mind: When you are doing something that needs to be done,
even if it is all good, and even if your intentions are pure,
there will usually be someone out there who finds your new thing
a threat to an already existing status quo. They will try to
stop you. They will put up obstacles. What can you do to deal
with it? Stay on track. Continuous, unrelenting action
toward your goal is the only answer.
Gail continued, and almost went belly up
again. But then the Civil War broke out and the Union army thought
Borden's condensed milk was the perfect thing for a field ration.
His business was saved. After the war, public perception had
changed, and his business prospered. Condensed milk was indeed
useful, and his company has been providing Borden's condensed
milk for more than 120 years now.
On his grave, the epitaph reads, "I
tried and failed, I tried again and again, and succeeded."
Every obstacle eventually yielded to his relentless resolve.
Why? Because no matter what happened, he stayed on track. He
didn't give up. He didn't sell out. He was never diverted from
Robert B. McCall, Ph.D., of the University
of Pittsburgh and his colleagues have kept track of 6,700 people
for 13 years. Specifically, they are tracking people who were
underachievers in school people who, according to aptitude
tests, had a lot of potential to get good grades, but who, in
reality, had low grade-point averages. After 13 years, only about
15% of them had achieved a kind of career success equal to their
What do they lack? Two things, according
to McCall: "persistence in the face of challenge,"
and they are too self-critical. We deal with the self-critical
habit in other places, but the lack of persistence is simply
a missing thought-habit. This can be remedied.
You are persistent in the face of challenge
if you are in the habit of being persistent in the face
of challenge, and you are in the habit of persisting if you are
in the habit of thinking in ways that make you persistent. Being
in the habit of telling yourself STAY ON TRACK will help.
Other good thought habits (things to say to yourself) that can
increase your persistence are FOCUS CREATES POWER and
DO WHAT NEEDS DOING.
Persistence is an extremely important habit.
Think about it. You can't really develop competence at anything
unless you persist through the rough parts, whether it's playing
the piano or doing your job or being a satisfying lover. Any
task you undertake, if it's worth your trouble, will have some
challenge in it. Some part of it will be tough. No new abilities
can be created without persisting in the face of challenges,
even if the main challenge is suffering through the boring repetition
of playing scales on the piano.
Ability and therefore accomplishment require
persistence. It is probably the most important fundamental to
creating the life you want. Keep coming back to the basic fundamentals.
The fancy stuff, the nonfundamentals, aren't worth much if the
basics aren't in place.
Develop persistence. That is fundamental
to achievement. Very few successful people became successful
easily. Most of them had to exercise a good amount of persistence
to get there, and the same is almost certainly true for you.
For example, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published
in 1970. It had sold more than seven million copies in America
in the first five years, and it is still selling. But when Richard
Bach was looking for a publisher, eighteen publishers turned
down his manuscript.
For some goals, for the really good ones,
it will take everything you've got to accomplish it. As a matter
of fact, it will take more than you've got you'll have
to become more than you are now in order to accomplish it. You'll
need to learn more than you now know. You'll need to gain skills
you don't have yet.
Relentless resolve can accomplish what
seems impossible. In India there are what are called fakirs,
which doesn't mean people who are faking anything. They are people
who do something amazing that takes years to master, and they
do it as a spiritual discipline.
For example, there are some who hold a
particular pose, like a certain religiously appropriate position,
and they just keep holding it. This takes intense resolve, because
of course, it becomes uncomfortable after only twenty minutes.
So they go as long as they can, and then they rest. And then
they go as long as they can again, and they keep alternating
like this, getting it longer and longer until they are permanently
frozen in that posture!
They eventually can't move, even if they
wanted to. Their disciples have to wash them and force feed them
and carry them to the river like a statue to wash them off.
This is amazing. It shows the amazing power
of unremitting resolution. Personally, I think this particular
application of will power is stupid. There are so many worthwhile
things to accomplish in this world, and these guys have developed
their powers of resolve to an unbelievable degree and all they
have accomplished is to turn themselves into a vegetable! That's
really dumb. But it shows the kind of resolve anyone can develop,
and it shows that enough resolve can do things nobody thought
In the Millionaire Mind page-a-day
calendar, the authors, who have studied millionaires scientifically,
tell about one example of a schoolbus driver who was able to
send his children to medical school, private colleges, and graduate
school, and then he retired with a net worth of three million
dollars. How? Obviously you don't make much money as a schoolbus
driver. He was consistently frugal. That was important. But the
other part was that being a schoolbus driver gave him a lot of
free time every day, and what he did, consistently
staying on track year after year was read about investments.
He saved money by being frugal and then very intelligently and
well-informedly invested his money. That's how he did it. Not
with a supreme exertion but with staying on purpose no
matter what the temptations or distractions.
You will be taken off track again and again
until you learn to stick with your purpose. With practice, you
can get to the level of Einstein's concentration. And when you
can focus like that, you will be a laser beam, cutting through
obstacles and barriers with hardly a pause, flying strait to
your objective with power and speed.
Practice staying on purpose
no matter what distracts you.