Friday, May 10, 2013

Persistence at—and before—school visits

Several years ago, I emailed Marjorie Cohen, a teacher at Cold Spring Elementary in Potomac, MD, introducing myself as an author who speaks in schools. I’d come across her name in the alumni magazine of our alma mater, Brandeis University.

I didn’t hear back. I tried again.

I didn’t hear back again.

In 2012, the school booked me through another channel. I had forgotten the Marjorie connection but she reminded me after I got there.

The theme of my standard school presentation is persistence. I don’t come in and announce this; I work it in gradually, stealthily, narratively. But the takeaway is clear: persistence (perhaps even more than talent) is essential to success.

After I spoke at Cold Spring, before the kids were dismissed, Marjorie stood up and asked for their attention.

Then she confessed.

She told them how I had emailed her and how she dismissed me twice. But now that she’d heard me speak, she admitted she should’ve paid attention.

I don’t fault her. Regardless of what we do, many of us are pitched a lot. We don’t have the bandwidth to fully consider each pitch.

She said she was glad I was persistent. She was glad I came. And now that she saw my focus, it all made sense.

In fact, it worked out better this way because Marjorie was able to reinforce my assembly-long message with a short, real-life anecdote. “The guy who just tried to persuade you to adopt persistence actually walks the walk—and it got him here, despite me.” (Paraphrasing, of course.)

It’s one of those spontaneous moments that make it all even more worth it.

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