Nothing can withstand the power of the human will if it is willing to stake its very existence to the extent of its purpose.
I recently walked on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, and it took me about 37 days to cover the 450 miles. In the 1,000 years of existence, this walk has been done by millions of people in homage to St. James, whose body is believed to rest in the Cathedral in Santiago.
While walking, I had plenty of time to think about how this experience related to business and found numerous parallels I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks.
The first critical thing I gleaned from my Camino de Santiago experience is that persistence is so important to walking or working—but should not be confused with stubbornness. While persistence in your job or business is valuable, being stubborn can be damaging.
Related Article: The Power of Persistence
While on the Camino, I encountered many fellow pilgrims with injuries of all kinds caused by the constant pounding your body takes. As I came across these individuals limping along, I would always talk with them about what had happened. So often, they told me that when their injury occurred, they went to a doctor in Spain whose advice was to take two or three days off. They did, but would then start walking again regardless of whether they were in pain or not because they wanted to get to the end of the Camino.
Admirable as their commitment to their goal seemed, they typically did more damage to their body by being stubborn and ignoring the costs of continuing before their bodies were ready. Their stubbornness caused further injury, which was a very high cost.
I, myself, suffered an injury during my travails one day. I heard my knee pop and had to make the decision to continue or not. I called my doctor and told him what happened. He said I could keep going as long as I was not experiencing pain while walking, but I should avoid going up stairs, as that tended to aggravate my knee. Thankfully, I was able to continue (and walked the remaining 200 miles), but I was ready to cut the trip short if the doctor told me to come home. The importance of achieving my goal of walking the Camino paled in comparison to the damage I could do to my knee.
While stubbornness can put you in harm’s way, persistence is critical if you are to accomplish your goals, both personal and business. In the framework of the Camino, persistence meant getting up every morning, greasing your feet, putting your boots on and walking regardless of the weather.
That decision was not always easy. The Camino threw a bunch of tough challenges at us, from torrential rains with winds of 50 mph to mud so deep you could sink to your ankle and never get your boot back.
Despite these trials, I never saw anyone give up. I never saw a hiker say, “I am too tired to walk today,” as most of us had been planning this pilgrimage a long, long time. I trained for more than two years. With so much invested, not finishing just was not an option. While on the Camino, persistence was not as much a decision as a way of life.
The only time I saw anyone quit the Camino was because of physical injury. Other than that, there just was no alternative but to continue on. Sure, our bodies might have needed rest, but we simply did not let our minds dwell on quitting.
Now go out and grease your feet, put your boots on and be extremely persistent with the goals and things you really want to accomplish.
You can do this!