Woody Allen famously offered that,  “80% of success is showing up.”  In my opinion, about 99% of success is “sticktoitiveness,” which is much about dogged persistence in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

That awkward non-word is one of the attributes that I look for in hiring talent and one that I’ve observed over and over again in the most successful professionals I’ve encountered.

People with sticktoitiveness are the ones who are unflappable in the face of short-term missteps and supremely confident that regardless of the obstacles, they will find a way forward. They are running a marathon, fully expecting to face wind and rain and uphill stretches that would force most people to give up long before finishing.  They gain strength from adversity and while at times it may look like they are moving backwards, internally, they are learning, adapting and processing on new ways forward.

We owe our country and freedom and almost all of the great achievements of society to people that had serious cases of sticktoitiveness.  Washington and Franklin had it. So did Lincoln and Churchill and Edison and Dickens and Michelangelo and countless other great achievers throughout history.

People with sticktoitiveness are the ones who are unflappable in the face of short-term missteps Click To Tweet

Businesses owe much of their success to people with sticktoitiveness.  Great salespeople have it, great engineers have it and the best product and project managers definitely have it!

Beware the Hidden Costs:

This wonderful attribute that results ultimately in so many hard-won battles also occasionally carries a hefty price tag.  Nothing in life is truly free.

While I doubt that the word ever comes up, I know many parents who worry about whether their kids have it. Some do, and you can see it work at an early age.  Others don’t, and the first sign of adversity is an opportunity to go do something else.  For a parent with a strong case of sticktoitiveness, discovering that one of your children does not have it, can be disturbing.

I’ve observed people with a bad case of sticktoitiveness forego almost everything else in their personal and professional lives at great emotional cost.  In marriages where one has it and the other doesn’t, resentment can fester and eventually boil over into divorce.  In business, severe cases of unshackled sticktoitiveness can result in escalation of commitment problems where organizations throw good money after bad rather than giving up and regrouping.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

In spite of the potential costs, I value my own innate sense of sticktoitiveness, and so should you.  While it may occasionally come across as stubbornness, I take pride in the sense of “anything is possible if I work at it,” attitude instilled in me by my parents.

Those of us that carry this gene are destined to an on-going struggle in life to do something.  And while it is occasionally nice to daydream about what it would be like to not be focused on achieving/completing/solving/creating something, if you wait a moment, that irrational fantasy will pass.  Now quit reading and start achieving!

text signature for Art Petty


Leadership Books by Art Petty