“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas A. Edison
I could tell as I came into the parking lot that the semi was in trouble. Cab going one way and trailer in another… classic jackknife! As I got out of my car and walked closer I could see two legs sticking out from underneath the trailer. Cause for concern initially, but as I got closer I could see the legs kicking around, and the sound of ‘colorful’ language was aplenty. “Hey there – need a hand?” I asked. The reply, “I’m trying to get these chains on… the wheels keep slipping in this loose gravel!”
For the next 30 minutes on this very hot day he contorted his body and scooted around the big rig wheels on the gravel road, showing no sign of being deterred by any of the harsh challenges of the situation. Rather, he had a laser focus. One way or another he was going to get those chains on… one way or another he was going to get his truck out of this precarious predicament.
At one point, when in my humble opinion it looked like progress was not possible, I offered, “What do you think about calling a tow truck?” Without hesitation, and with no shortage of tenacity, he responded, “Not going to happen. Whatever it takes, I’m driving this rig out of here!” And in that moment, I felt a huge level of respect for this guy. His no-quit tenacity became very inspiring.
Tenacity comes from the Latin word tenax, an adjective meaning “tending to hold fast,” and is generally defined as an extreme persistence in adhering to or doing something; stubbornness or relentlessness.
And one of my favorite quotes around tenacity comes from Ken Lindner: “Desire, discipline and delayed gratification are the three D’s of decision-making. People who know what they want, have the drive and focus to go after it, and have the tenacity to stay the course and follow through with their chosen plan of action.”
Great leaders, and folks who have really made something significant happen, consistently demonstrate tenacity. And believe it or not, it doesn’t come from a place of grit, but rather a steadfast determination, persistence, and resilience. The other interesting dynamic is that these folks all possess an unwavering level of hopefulness.
I once heard the great civil rights leader John Lewis described this way: “From a very early age John Lewis used his heart, his mind, his soul and his tenacity to bring forth change.” That, I think, is the key to tenacity: it takes our heart, mind, and soul (and sometimes our body) to stick with what we want to accomplish.
“Hope in gospel faith is not just a vague feeling that things will work out, for it is evident that things will not just work out. Rather, hope is the conviction, against a great deal of data, that God is tenacious and persistent in overcoming the challenges of the world.” – Walter Bruggerman