I have had a few opportunities to think about the meaning of persistence over the last few weeks. This week it was Adam Scott winning the Masters. A victory for persistence and resilience. Adam could easily have been scarred for life after being runner up in two majors. In the first, the Masters of 2011, he watched South African Charl Schwartzel birdie the last four holes in succession – the first time in Masters history – an incredible feat on such a difficult set of closing holes. At least Scott had some comfort that he hadn’t lost it, but been beaten by some unbelievable golf. Then last year at The Open he let a 4 shot lead slip – this time he did lose it, as Ernie Els slipped by him to pick up the trophy. Many a golfer in that situation will end their career not having won a major. An even less likely scenario? Here is one – that a golfer like Adam Scott could return to Augusta and break the curse of Australia’s 77 year drought at the most important golf tournament of the year. But that he did, and with remarkable composure he survived a playoff to win. So what is more important, the persistence Scott required to come back and win, or the resilience needed to forge through adversity?
In a different plane is the story of Rodriguez, an American musician who burned briefly and brilliantly in the early 70s. A recent documentary, Searching for Sugarman, plotted his history and the revival surrounding his music. The documentary investigated Rodriguez’s amazing popularity in South Africa, where his records were in every 70s record collection –probably a bit like Hot August Night in Australia. South Africans understood that Rodriguez had long since died, with famous stories of him burning himself to death while on stage. As it turns out, Rodriguez was alive and well in his home town of Detroit, working as a labourer, and playing his guitar in his modest family apartment. What follow sis the story of his triumphant return to South Africa, and a sold out tour, with his music being rediscovered all around the world.
I didn’t know much about Rodriguez until a friend mentioned his music during Easter. The next day I stumbled on the documentary, and found it compelling viewing. I bought the soundtrack, and the music was familiar, like I had grown up with it, but a revelation at the same time. It felt a bit like I had been ignoring the blindingly obvious. I then heard Rodriguez was touring Australia at that very moment. The next day I wandered in to a book store and Rodriguez was on in the background, and I realized that after all these years, clearly he had made it, and I was the one doing the catching up.
In Rodriguez’s case, it was certainly more about resilience. His music, clearly, is amazing, but in his time it wasn’t recognised. While he could have been bitter and twisted about a missed opportunity, instead he showed amazing resilience to continue his laboring work, raise a family and wait to be rediscovered, some 40 years after his records were first released.
For both Adam Scott and Rodriguez, disappointment has given them resilience, and the resilience has, I think, allowed them to persist to move to greater things. So I am not sure that you can separate resilience and persistence – they seem to move in step together. There certainly is a lesson in that for all of us. Who knows when it is your time, when you will finally be recognized for doing great things. Some times it takes 40 years, some times it takes two years. The great thing is – if you believe in what you are doing and you develop resilience so you continue to believe and persist in doing what you consider to be great things, recognition may come – it just mightn’t be at the time of your own choosing.