My daughter had her first track meet this weekend. We showed up to a field house at the local high school and watched as dozens of kids and hundreds of parents took their places. The competitions spanned from high jump to mile run. Fifty-yard dash to shot put. Watching these fourth and fifth graders compete was pure joy. We marveled at the speed and agility as the winners sprinted towards the finish line in the mile run. We held our breaths as the mighty pumping of legs and arms ended in a photo finish in the fifty-yard dash.
But what touched me most, was not the winners, but the will and strength of those who got left behind. I watched in awe as the last place competitors pushed through a wall to make it past that final lap. Rooted for the poor relay runner whose team was so far in last place, by the time she got the baton, the other groups were already finished. She held that baton tight and sprinted the last 100 yards with such pride and strength. And it made me realize, whether athletics, success or even personal finance, persistence is the secret sauce.
Look, I know it is easy to look at my blog and feel like I have very little to complain about. Heck, I have a good job, ample income, and financial independence. I am lucky enough to choose how I spend the grand majority of my time.
Yet, it is a mistake to think that my success is due to a particular skill or even luck. I have, in fact, failed far more than I ever succeeded.
Persistence has made all the difference.
My wife and I have probably made a hundred offers on properties over the last decade. Many times we got outbid, overbid, outclassed, and outsmarted so often that we only ended up closing on five. We zigged when we should have zagged. We turned left when we should have gone right.
Our first rental property had above average homeowner association’s fees and the rent didn’t even come close to meeting the one percent rule. There was struggle from time to time. We listed our properties too high and then they sat vacant. Sometimes we listed too low and accepted the first offer when the second would have been much more lucrative. We spent extra on a handyman when we could have brought a few tools over and taken care of the problem ourselves.
The only saving grace is that we didn’t give up. It turns out that persistence is the secret sauce. If you keep trying hard enough, something is bound to happen.
My current medical practice is my fourth iteration. I came out of residency and joined a hospitalist group and quit after only three months. The company I worked for was horrible. Jumping out of the fire pit and into the frying pan, I found a job with an academic medical group. The practice was great, but I wasn’t going to make any money there.
Five years later, I got my act together and became a partner in a private practice. My earnings were rising, but I ended up being joined at the hip to another physician who earned a high income but was broke anyway.
It was only in my fourth job after residency, that I found the true combination of joyful practice and economic prosperity. A full twelve years into my career.
There were many ups and downs. Each day I plotted out how to place one foot ahead of the next. Neither passion nor brilliance lit the way. It was persistence. Persistence was the secret sauce.
I like to write about lazy side hustles, my time as an art mogul, and being a landlord. You won’t hear me talk much about my short-lived career as a baseball card dealer, medical crisis management consultant, or a whole bevy of other failed attempts to create businesses. I’ve wasted countless hours and thousands of dollars on ventures that have gone absolutely nowhere.
I’ve side hustled myself right into the ground.
I ran a medical blog for greater than ten years that never made a cent.
I’ve failed over and over again.
Yet I’m still here.
You may not win this race
Persistence is the secret sauce. You may not win this race, but you will win a race. It might take weeks, or years. No one ever knows what the future holds. But if you keep going. If you keep on keeping on, success is likely to find you.
For most of my life, I have been that kid trailing far beyond the others as most have already pushed past the finished line.
But no matter what, I just keep running.
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com