Perhaps the only and one time, one must consider giving up is when after repeatedly doing some action, the result is the same, against the expectation of a better outcome. In such situations it is like flogging a dead horse, in fact, continuing with it, will tantamount to lunacy.
After spending decades in the management of business and human resources, inclusive of my own experience and involvement, I have come to realise that the fairy tales, the nursery rhymes, the anecdotes, the parables, the fables, the axioms, the idioms and the proverbs, we all learnt from kindergarten to say the Fifth standard, have within them great treasure of hidden meanings, which once discovered, lead towards better understanding of the human psyche. They have great practical implications, when used and applied in everyday life situations. They are relevant to individuals’ growth and broadening of the thinking horizon, as well as applicable to the management of resources, including the human resource.
From Cinderella, I learnt, how to remain positive in a highly toxic and hostile environment; from SnowWhite, what selfless service is all about, from King Thrushbeard, how important humility is in building long lasting relationship, etc. In the same vein, as a school going child, I was sitting with an Enid Blyton book in the veranda,(it was drizzling), whence I noticed an army of ants march pasting in a single line formation, from the floor they were heading towards the end of the ceiling -- one ant fell from the wall on to the floor, it rolled itself very quickly and rejoined the line, after a few climbs, it fell again; it went back to the line, this saga continued for multiple times, but finally it made it to the ceiling, from where it must have climbed out to its hideout -- watching the spectacle made me realise the profound importance of the proverb, that Re. Bro. Roberts had taught us, “Try, try, until you succeed”. No room to give up, was the essential lesson.
All men and women of success that gloriously appear on the pages of human history, have behind them, a story to tell -- one of resoluteness, difficulties, rejections and failure. Writers, poets, scientists, singers, composers, artistes, etc who acquired stardom status, did burn their midnight lamp; they strived for success. They were never cowed down by the unpleasant rejections of their works. Charles Dickens, kept churning out stories after stories that would be publishers kept rejecting. But he did not relent. More recently, J.K. Rowling was broke and bankrupt, living on dole money. The story of Harry Potter made no sense to any publisher. But, one day to one publisher, it made a lot of sense, because it is believed, he saw his eight year old daughter engrossed in reading its manuscript, she liked the story, so he (publisher) liked it too! He took a plunge, and risked his money in printing the book. Since then, neither Rowling nor the publishing houses have looked back, and what followed is history of resounding success. She did not give up.
Persistence and resilience are prerequisites for ensuring the success of any endeavour. The dictionary meaning of resilience is, ‘the capacity to recover fully from difficulties; toughness’. The American Psychological Association defines resilience, ‘as the outcome of successfully adapting to difficulty or challenge life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands’.
Hope and resilience mistakenly are taken to mean the same thing. They are not. Hope is more in the arena of a belief/faith based system that the future will be better than the present. Managers look at optimism as a tool that allows them to develop a thinking of “what is bound to happen, shall, regardless, of the effort you give’. This is surrender, without a fight. It is preferable to have tried and failed then not to have attempted at all. Hence, perseverance and resilience is trifle better than general optimism.
Tenacity and determination is a quality that no manager can ignore -- dispossessed of it, will surely render such as an incompetent manager. The river always wins against the rocks, not because of its strength alone, but by virtue of its persistence. Resilience in a supervisor must serve as a catalyst trait to overcome difficulties and problems of cognitive and non-cognitive nature that may confront a business. It is through the spirit of not giving up, that the sail is set for new directions to navigate, through choppy waters.
Managers and leaders have to adopt a character of non- negotiability on the effort to be made for pursuance of a greater objective. Setbacks should not be allowed to dominate future actions. When one Apollo spacecraft blew up, few minutes, after blast off, it did not deter NASA from future Apollo flights. They made deeper forays with greater determination of not letting loose their selves the sight of the greater end in the picture. For a soldier, his duty and sense of responsibility is supreme, nothing else matters to him. The combat individual cannot afford to give up what the company director orders him to do, he cannot afford to give up. And this thought is so well summed up in, ‘The charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Tenneyson, “theirs is not to make a reply, theirs is not to reason, why? theirs is but to do and die”.
Never to ‘give up’ is an attitude. Like many characteristics and personality traits, it needs to be recognised and nurtured. It is a habit to be acquired; a practice to be unleashed against any adversity. The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling, says Hugh Latimer, in the Second Sermon, before the King’s Majesty (1549).
Getting overwhelmed by challenges, circumstances, market pressures, peers pressure, and succumbing to supervisor pressure’s demonstration, indicates fairly well, that the absence of this trait will lead towards, giving up’ on an objective. “He who wills the end, wills the means.”
If the purpose of an effort remains a mystery to the executors, the effort will be boring, and unenthusiastic, shunned off emotions. It is imperative for making sure that success is had, each constituent knows what ultimately will be the result of their action. A technician on the assembly line of an auto industry, who is just ‘responsible’ to put the steering wheel, will do so, only better, if he has in mind, what the car would look like -- hence the car model design is displayed in the factory. The knowledge of end product gives meaning to the effort; the labor or HR feels that they are of relevance and importance to the entity. Once filled with this feeling of belongingness, no employee would give up on the tasks at hand, more likely is the effort will be more efficacious.
Those managers who believe in unrelenting pursuit of their business goals and objectives, if and when they fail in their effort, go back to the drawing board to re- do the action plan and to identify gaps for plugging. Once done with this introspective excercise, they relaunch with renewed vigour into achieving the desired results.
Leaders and managers who are blessed to possess the ‘never give- up’ attitude are more likely to accomplish any preset objectives, and therein lies the difference between a good wise leader and one who is soaked in tentativeness. Constancy of purpose gives credence and meaning to individual effort in any team. The pursuit is not about indulging, when challenged or confronted, it is all, about the ability to thwart the intimidating market or otherwise situations. Managers who ‘eschew obfuscation and espouse elucidation’ are the ones who remove the cobwebs surrounding an issue and in its place they bring about clarity, by the disposal of ambiguities.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. (Thomas Edison). Resilience guarantees success.
The writer is a senior banker