Learning Business Tradeskill: Persistence is the Essential Business Skill

essential business skills

Keeping at it.

Let’s talk about learning business tradeskill; learning how to perform the elements of tradeskill, over and over, until they become ingrained in our lives… or until you decide that they’re not for you. We’ll start with a skill that will serve everyone well, regardless of what we do in life.  There’s no substitute for it, and there’s no workaround.  Anyone can learn this skill, at any age, and we can start today.  Today’s focus is on persistence.

Business tradeskill is a package of 5 separate  business skills:

  1. persistence
  2. facing the facts
  3. minimizing risks
  4. Learning by doing
  5. grasping numbers

Let’s start with the most important element, the single determinant to business success (or for that matter, success in any kind of challenging endeavor). There are times when nothing, absolutely nothing, beats persistence. And those times happen in every business.

“Persistence is applying yourself doggedly and relentlessly to the daily tasks at hand, knowing there are no shortcuts.”

Paul Hawken

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Edison.

Those are noble sentiments, but they’re not very helpful when we decide we want to be more persistent. We need the “how”, rather than the “what” or the “why”.

What We Need to Learn

Let’s tick off the qualities that make up the kind of relentless daily persistence that your business and my business needs:

  • start the job now
  • do the right job
  • do the job right
  • finish the job

Persistence is the one business tradeskill that you have to tackle all at once. Developing one of the qualities without the others is a surefire way NOT to persist. If we have to learn to do four things at the same time, lets start with something daily, and bitesize. And, since we’re learning persistence, we should pick something we don’t particularly enjoy doing. And let’s make this exercise really worth doing.

As an example I’ll pick something very valuable that we can all do. We can log our time. Our finished time log will put us in a great place to decide how we’re going to be more productive, more effective. It’s definitely worth the effort.

There’s no time better than right now to start learning to be persistent. If you prefer to work with paper (small, light, durable) you may want to download my simple time logging sheet. Here it is in pdf format.

If… and only if… you carry your smartphone with you everywhere, you can accomplish the same thing with aTimeLogger, a very simple and user-friendly time tracking app for either iPhone or Android.

Start the Job Now

In either case, why not set up right away and start time logging? There’s no time like the present to get into the habit: start the job now.

Why right now? Procrastination is one of the great time-wasters and stress-raisers. Inevitably it takes time to decide to delay, and even more time rationalizing about it. Then procrastination saps productivity by distracting us from our distraction.

Let’s start the job now. That’s the way to start every job.

Do the Right Job

Why have I asked you to start logging your time? In another post I summarize the main points of Peter Drucker’s the Effective Executive. His chapter on time management, Know Thy Time, is one of the best ever written for business people. He starts with time logging. Drucker recommends that business people log their time for several weeks a couple of times a year. It’s the foundation step for his purposeful approach to getting things done. So, by asking you to doggedly do a daily task to learn (make an ingrained habit of) persistence, we’re doing something that will make you more productive as well.

Do the Job Right

From hard personal experience, there are three things I know I must do to log my time. First, I choose small time increments; 15 minutes works out well for me. Second, I don’t leave gaps in my time logging; it’s just to tempting to repeat that small shortcut until it sabotages the larger benefits of my time log. Third, I’m specific about my activity. When I analyze my collected time time logs a few weeks from now, I want to know whether who I phoned, whether I talked business over lunch, etc. Since I’m going to use my log to decide about things to do, and not do, and when to do them, I want to end up with clear-cut advice to myself. Fuzzy time logging begets fuzzy time management… which leaves me right where I am now. But isn’t it like that with every shortcut? Do the job right; no shortcuts.

Reality check: Neither of us is perfect and this is an exercise in building persistence. Forgot to log? Go back and fill in the time. Got lazy? Ditto. Just don’t, don’t, don’t stop. We’re not going to use failure as an excuse to quit.

Finish the Job

We’re going to log time every working day for three weeks. Time logging isn’t complete until we can assemble an unbroken log of all that we did (or didn’t do), every 15 minutes of every day, for three weeks. Why so long? We need to average out the very normal “up” days and “down” days, the humdrum days and the crisis days, to get an overall picture of how we’re using time. That way, our analysis and advice to ourselves about managing time apply to our working life, not just to a select few vignettes.

Back to Persistence

We actually never left persistence. While we were setting ourselves up to manage our time better, we were learning persistence. Over three weeks we had literally hundreds of chances to do the right job the right way. Every time we made that decision we developed just a little bit more persistence. We were developing that habit of dogged, daily work, no shortcuts allowed. We were working to build that habit into our lives until it became reflex. We were learning the most important of the five elements of tradeskill

We’ll have another chance to use time logging to build persistence as a business skill in another few months. In the meantime, why not choose two other not-so-fun everyday activities you can use to develop even more persistence… and more tradeskill?

Honestly, I need to say this; just because I wrote, and you read, this post doesn’t make either one of us one bit more persistent. The only way we’ll benefit from this exercise is by actually logging our time. We’ll have to learn by doing. No substitutes.

Let’s summarize: To  do relentlessly,  daily, what needs doing: 
  • start the job now
  • do the right job
  • do the job right
  • finish the job



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