The Value of Stick-with-it-ness

Last Updated Jul 9, 2009 8:02 PM EDT

Stick-with-it-ness is one of those qualities that isn't on anybody's short-list for successful managers and business people, but it should be. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe because it's difficult to define. More likely because it's such a rare quality. Regardless, in my experience it's a pretty good indicator of business success.

What is Stick-with-it-ness?
Stick-with-it-ness, as I define it, means perseverance in the face of extraordinary competition, determination against long odds, optimism when everyone else has thrown in the towel, and standing up after being knocked down again and again.

The story of how I first heard the phrase is an embarrassing one. I was once whining about the shortcomings of a former CEO to a mutual friend and former board director. In response, he said, "that may be true, but he has incredible stick-with-it-ness."
I thought about it and realized he was right. The CEO in question once had his top two senior executives resign on the same day. Not only did he stick with it and survive, but years later he took the company public in a notably successful IPO. What's so embarrassing about that? I was one of the two guys that resigned.

What does that say about my stick-with-it-ness? That it's not one of my star qualities, but at least my sense of humility jumped a notch or two from the experience.

Anyway, success stories are strewn with heroes with stick-with-it-ness, and not just the business kind. Academy award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. spent some time living on the street before achieving fame and fortune. Kurt Warner bagged groceries before becoming a star NFL quarterback.

And I may not have the stick-with-it-ness gene, but my wife, who stuck with a compulsive "Type A" crazy person for 20 years, does.

Come to think of it, a conversation I had with that CEO I mentioned earlier was telling, although I didn't recognize it at the time. He was giving me an animated account of some famous person - I can't for the life of me remember who it was - who every time one of his business ventures went south would bounce right back with another bigger and bolder one. Nothing kept him down.

Indeed, how can you lose when you won't stay down? Figure out an answer to that one.