Early this week I had what passes as a moment of minor success at my workplace. I managed to secure an order from a customer. This may sound mundane and indeed it isn’t the greatest achievement ever. However I have been trying to win business from this customer for over 2 and a half years. I have lost count of the times that my phone calls and faxes went unanswered and usually emails too.
Most emails went unanswered whether they were speculatively sent out with sales pitches or uniquely and lovingly crafted in as more detail and uniqueness than any run of the email deserves. Once or twice I receive a polite “thanks but no thanks” and once I even received an intention to order but of course it never came to pass.
So this week saw a small step for my company and one giant leap for Stephen-kind when my persistence paid off and in response to an email of a few weeks early one morning I arrived at my work place with a purchase order attached.
This set me thinking on the importance of persistence, particularly when there is no guarantee of success even with repeated efforts but without it all hope is lost of achieving the desired goal.
Obviously persistence is needed by almost everyone to various degrees whether they be Olympic atheletes in training or a child learning to walk for the first time and trying repeatedly despite the numerous falls and scrapes.
Many people here have an interest in writing whether blogging or in writing a novel. This is one area where persistence as well as practice and luck is all important. I lost count of the dozens and dozens of letters I wrote to publishers and agents to get my first novel published and indeed these themselves were nothing in comparison to the 7 years spent writing the piece in the first place. Thank-heavens the sales made it all worth it, just about.
Some other people need to try, try again in attempt to woo their romantic partner. Happily I was spared that ordeal though I made up for it with the thousands of job applications I once made, mostly to no effect. Yes life is all about persistence unless you’re lucky enough to fall on your feet which I invariably am not.
One happier moment of persistence was on a backpacking trip which throughvarious ups and downs led me to Mount Sinai in Egypt. Despite the heat and a bug that had been bugging me for a few days I had been determined to climb Mount Sinai. Notwithstanding that when you get there, it isn’t immediately obvious which is the correct mountain or the fact that we had been on the road that day for 10 hours before we even reached the base, it was the culmination of years of planning and dreaming.
With 2 friends I trudged up the mountain with my backpack and photographic gear in the ever darkening gloom of evening. Over the course of the evening I fell over and cut both my legs on the rocks, lost one of my packs and suffered a worrying asthma attack due equally to the dust and the climb. Despite that I easily beat my friends to the top, one of which I’m not ever sure made it to the top. Whilst my other friend made it up in his own time and even got some sleep, my asthma meant that I was never in any danger of getting to sleep but I did have the unequalled pleasure of chatting the night away to strangers from all over Egypt and the world even though none spoke English I don’t make any claims on speaking much of anything else but it is amazing what a smile and a wheeze does for you as we waited for the hours to tick by in the freezing cold to watch the sunrise over the Sinai.
Perhaps my greatest victory of try trying again is an altogether less impressive feat though it is close to my heart. I am a chatty sort of person and I’ll talk to anyone. When I was 4 and 5 I used to sing to old age pensioners on the bus and sometimes I would get an apple or 10 whole pence as a reward. I will say hello to everyone apart from a few key people who I can’t stand in which case I make no effort at all.
When I was 8 years old we moved to a new area and on my walk to school every morning I would see a man either walking in the opposite direction of me or standing by the road-side waiting for a lift. Each morning I would smile sweetly at him and say hello but I didn’t get a reply or even an acknowledgement.
Now I am quite happy to show myself to be the better person even when just 8 years old so I continued to say hello or good morning to him and ignored the blank stares or looks of disdain. This continued all through my primary school and at least 4 days a week for 3 years I would see him and greet him and never get a reply.
The unfortunate but gloomy individual may have been counting down the days for me to move to secondary school but unfortunately for him I had to walk the very same route (plus an additional mile) every morning for 5 years and I continued to say hello to him and not once did I get a reply. My friends would even ask me why I bothered or whether I knew him. I knew him perfectly well, how many different suits he had, the days of the week he would have an orange instead of an apple in his lunch box. How often he cut his hair, even where he lived.
After progressing past school I went to college by bus but sadly for the chatterbox, the bus stop was 100 metres past his house so I continued to see and greet him almost daily but all to no avail. Finally I went to university and I only saw him maybe once a year. It was time to admit defeat, despite 15 years of near incessant friendly hello’s and mornings I had not once received anything close to a mumble back, not even a smile
After university I got my first job about 2 miles walk from home and in the opposite direction of where I had walked every morning for most of my life. After a few months though I saw a familiar face on-site. He was older but I recognised that chatty exterior from half a mile away. It was my old friend and nemesis. For a while I would see him once or twice a week from a distance and never get the chance to say hello though I did smile everytime I was in range.
One day in the middle of winter I was on an errand at work when I held the door open for someone who was leaving the building that I was entering. It was he! As if the last 20 years of rejection had never happened I smiled and said “Hello”. To my shock and gratitude to this day he said thanked me and said “Hello” back to me.
I had done it, I had achieved my ambition of getting a friendly hello back. A task I had been pursuing from the age of 8 until 28. I ran back to the office and everyone there immediately knew something amazing had happened. It must have been a lottery win or perhaps I had met Kate Winslet who was rumoured to be living in the plush apartments opposite following Titanic.
Many of the people in the office knew of this man I had been pursuing with my friendly hello’s for most of my life and they were all as astounded as I was, partly that I had been at this for 20 years when most people who have never spoken to him a second time if they had been ignored once but also they were amazed that fnally after all these years he had craced and said hello back to me.
There, that was it. It wasnt difficult was it? Why couldn’t he have just been nice to me 20 years earlier? I must have said hello to him more times than I have done to pretty much anyone else on the planet, maybe 5,000 times. Shortly after achieving my lfe-time ambition, the site closed down and we moved our separate ways. I never saw him again and so happily and poetically we ended our relationship on a real high.
That’s my tale of persistence but if you have anything similarly epic and mundane then feel free to leave a comment below.