Why Persevering Isn’t Always the Answer

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The Sound of Music actress Julie Andrews said, “Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.” 

There’s something to be said for persevering when faced with challenges. But is there a time when it’s better to concede and move on than to continue pushing a proverbial rope?

Henry Ford is the founder of Ford Motor Company, the 6th-largest car company in the world. But building cars wasn’t his first venture into the automotive business. In fact, he failed several times and went bankrupt twice before finally succeeding at creating an empire. It sounds like the perfect story of perseverance, but part of his story is that persevering isn’t always the right choice. 

In 1902, instead of persevering through incompatibilities with his partners, Henry Ford left the first company he founded, Detroit Automobile Company. After his departure, they went on to reorganize as the Cadillac Motor Car Company without Ford. The next year, Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company that still exists today. 

Had Henry stayed at Detroit Automobile Company, there’s a possibility it would have succeeded still. But for Henry Ford, persevering at business relationships with people who weren’t likeminded was holding him – and them – back. 

When Not to Persevere

Everyone faces personal and professional challenges. Some have opportunity on the other side, and others are either insurmountable or not beneficial. The ability to persevere is a fantastic personal trait, but the wisdom of knowing when to change direction can be key to success.

If the benefits of persevering aren’t evident, stop. If you can look past your current struggle and can’t see success on the other side, there’s no reason to continue. Doing so would be foolish and simply about pride. 

If persevering costs more than it’s worth, change your course. Businesswise, the cost of pushing through a challenge needs to be worth the reward. If your personal relationships are damaged because you’re pursuing a secondary goal, ask if it’s worth the cost. 
If there’s an easier way to succeed, stop persevering. Like Henry Ford, changing his course was the smoother path to success. Doing it the hard way can build character but it’s not always necessary to succeed. 

Henry persevered to make Ford Motor Company a resounding success that exists more than a century later. He understood when to persist and when to step back, a lesson we can all learn from.