The Value of Persistence: 5 Things I Learned from a 6 Year Effort

By Richard Eaton posted 06-07-2017 09:56


“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Thomas Carlyle

After six, long years I’ve recently been credentialed by the International Coach Federation as an Associate Certified Coach. Within the context of the immensely broad, deep, fascinating and complex universe of coaching this is probably the Boston Marathon equivalent of making a New Year’s resolution to start a running program. Nevertheless, I am proud of this achievement, and very grateful to the professionals at Erickson International, as well as my inspiring clients and Berlineaton staff, who have supported me through this six year journey. Yes, I said six years. Like many professional credentialing programs, the ACC requires a commitment to complete a prescribed combination of formal training, practical experience gained through coaching engagements with clients, and a period of mentoring with a Master Certified Coach as well as a final exam. Given a reasonable amount of focus and time, it’s quite possible to complete this process within about a year or so. However, as you will no doubt agree, like most busy professionals with family and other commitments, scheduling the time and committing to the work has been the biggest challenge. On the upside, this experience allowed me to reconnect with one of those ‘oldie but goodie’ leadership values: Persistence.  

Modern management theory seems to trend towards promoting one form of glitzy new fad or another. Extolling the virtues of innovation, emotional intelligence, transformation and boundaryless partnering enabled via social media and other forms of emergent technology we, and by that I mean we management consultants especially, exhort others to eschew the old and embrace the new. Under ‘the old’ we tend to consign traditional leadership virtues such as permanence and perseverance, as well as the somewhat dour ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ or, in other words, persistence. From my experience with this most recent challenge here are 5 things I learned, warts and all, about persistence: 

Your ‘why’ has to be strong enough

Like any significant undertaking, to be successful, you have to want to do it badly enough to be able to answer the question “Why am I doing this?” When it comes right down to it, achievements like these depend almost wholly on your own, personal, internal motivation generator. What was my main internal driver? For me, it was to become formally recognized for a professional service that I had already provided to many clients over the past couple of decades, and to hone my coaching skills in line with current best practices. During the times when my motivation flagged, because it all seemed too overwhelming, I had to dig deep and reconnect with these two important touchstones, using the fire they built to build up a head of steam to power me along the next leg of the journey.

Quitting is an important part of finishing

At times I consciously, mentally, quit this project with a variety of the usual excuses such as “I’m too busy”. Giving myself permission to give up completely allowed me to take a look at the future without my ‘why’ answered. This created a level of dissatisfaction with which I was unhappy, causing me to once again move into action to get the thing done. Paradoxically, then, quitting the journey several times along the way helped me to finish.

An open mind can close the deal

As with some other educational and professional development challenges, I entered into the coaching certification process with a variety of assumptions. Foremost was my erroneous assumption that, as in the traditional education system, there is only one way to get credentialed and it goes kind of like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. I found this discouraging to say the least as the time and effort required would have been well outside of my ability to be undertake this challenge unless, of course, happened to be single, wealthy and unemployed. However, after reconnecting with my ‘why’, I was motivated to check around and discovered that there is a credentialing path available for those with previous experience, just like me. This ‘act of open mindedness’ turned out to be a metaphorical life saver, of course, and helped me close a personal deal to move forward with a stronger sense of purpose.

Fixed targets, flexible approaches  

Luckily for everyone, and most importantly our clients, professional credentialing institutions like the ICF are pretty ruthless. There are some clear and fixed targets, or standards, that you must hit in order to clear the qualification bar they set. How you clear it, though, is pretty much in your own hands. My approach? Being a trained rifleman in the infantry, and a pretty good snap shooter, I employed the ‘watch and shoot’ approach. Over the background of my annual work and life planning process was mentally templated the various courses and activities that I had to complete along the credentialing path. In many cases, it took 6 years after all, coaching requirements were cancelled out by more urgent/important items, you know, like work, kids and other pursuits. Over time, though, I was gradually able to snap off the various check boxes on the list until. One day, surprisingly, I found that the only thing I had to complete was the final 155 question multiple choice test, which I hit like a hungry dog hits a bone before something else came up.

Hundreds of helpers

Although not apparent at first, on looking back, hundreds of people helped me complete the credentialing process. Literally. The Berlineaton team were my immediate motivators. The dozens of clients I engaged with, hardworking, patient, inspirational people, entrusted me with helping them improve the effectiveness of their organizations and their own personal performance. The many staff and assistants with the Erickson International were invaluable in both delivering the training I needed to an amazingly high standard as well as, like Tania Walter-Gardiner, patiently coaching and advising me through the various stages. Scott Richardson, Master Certified Coach, was brilliant in leading me, and the rest of the Berlineaton team, through a highly insightful and productive coach mentoring process. And my family, of course, who never escape without some kind of involvement in my various personal and professional pursuits, and are always tirelessly supportive.  

The important thing to remember here, of course, is that these kinds of achievements are impossible without a sense of care, or outside of a community context, because as explained by Anthony D’Angelo “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”

About the Author

Richard Eaton is a co-founder of Berlineaton a management consulting firm that specializes in continuous improvement, strategy & execution, and leader development. If you are interested in finding out how your organization can improve its effectiveness, please contact Richard at 250-472-3767, or visit

A version of this post was first published here.