Stubborn or Persistent?

There’s a subtle distinction between stubbornness and persistence. It’s easy to mistake one for the other, both as a first-person doer and a second-person observer.

I remember watching a documentary on a real estate billionaire, David Siegel, who was building the largest and most expensive house in America, called Versailles; during construction, the financial meltdown of 2008 ruined his business and took his net worth to over -$1 billion dollars, immediately halting the home-building project.

What truly amazed me was in the midst of what most would consider an epic personal disaster, David’s absolute refusal to give up. His bankers, his attorneys, his family, his friends, his business partners– literally everyone in his life– was harassing him to cave in and declare bankruptcy, sell Versailles and give up. Yet he absolutely and utterly refused.

While watching this documentary, I was not sure if the outcome is actually what defines whether you are being stubborn or persistent but I realized that couldn’t be right; there are clearly people who do all the right things and fail. They were diligent and relentless but I certainly wouldn’t call them stubborn.

Stubbornness is the unwillingness to consider another course of action; persistence is the unwillingness to consider another course or action until you should. Stubbornness implies bull-dozing, while persistence implies agilityPersistence is often found in those who are naturally stubborn, but are backed by enough experience that they now know when any given avenue has been exhausted.

I see a lot of sales-driven companies that are just plain stubborn. They refuse to bow down and look to marketing to support their efforts because of pride. Seldom does one of these companies actually succeed at bull-dozing through their sales challenge. And so many of them come back around, but only after wasting another year before asking for help, realizing they have made a mistake and need to address marketing.

So, I would ask any of the companies that have refused to bring on a professional marketing agency to support them– are you being stubborn or persistent?

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