By Dave Martin

One question that speakers at graduation ceremonies might ask audience members is “Do you want to stand out and distinguish yourself?” It’s a question that can be asked of people who are starting their careers, and it can also be appropriate to ask of those who have been part of the workforce for some time.

Two qualities that both exceptional leaders and employees need to have in order to distinguish themselves are (1) integrity and (2) persistence and perseverance. To put it simply, people must do what they say they will do, and they must have a consistent, productive work ethic.

Again, this advice is applicable not only for those starting their careers, but it is also relevant to individuals who want to set themselves apart from the competition and from peers. Education is no longer the differentiator; a person’s contemporaries can be equally educated.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2016 more than 3.2 million students graduated with a college degree. Of that number, almost 1.2 million received master’s or doctorate degrees. There is no substitute for education, but just being educated will not provide significant differentiation. No longer will creativity set a person apart; he or she needs a working business model.

A Working Formula

To stand out, the formula is simple: integrity plus hard-working tenacity. Half of this formula for success is based on who you are—your integrity. The other half is based on what you do—learning the importance of and mastering the practices of persistence and perseverance. It is vital to understand the difference between these two characteristics and then to see how they act fully in tandem. Once that understanding is reached, it is critical to put these traits into practice daily.

Merriam-Webster defines persistence as “continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” Persistence is directing a team again and again until excellence becomes ingrained. Persistence is working a plan even when you don’t see immediate results. Persistence is consistent effort, maintained daily.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Persistence is not giving up, or giving in, or giving way. Although processes and systems should be continually evaluated for improvements and for effectiveness, persistence is not reorganizing your structures every three months when you see someone else’s success and think you should emulate it.

The definition of perseverance is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Perseverance is continued persistence. Think of it like this: Persistence is the athlete, working out each morning in the gym. This athlete continues to get up, get to the gym, and work his or her routine, even when tired or when a schedule is interrupted. Perseverance is the lifestyle of working out week after week, month after month, year after year.

Steps to Success

To summarize, persistence speaks to continuing in a course of action even against opposition, and perseverance connotes longevity in that persistence. Together, these are the twin building blocks of success.

Do you have these traits of persistence and perseverance in your professional life? In some areas you most likely do. What specific discipline have you consistently performed week after week, month after month, year after year? One could be that you make a point to turn in important reports a day early.

Perhaps you participate in a new employee mentorship program. Perhaps you’ve taken on the responsibility of planning teambuilding exercises. You are persistent in this activity and your longevity has created perseverance. When you are persistent, you push through adversity, you stick with the project until it’s complete, and you don’t look for the easy way out.

Do you want to stand out? The formula is simple, and the rewards are boundless.

Dave Martin is a success coach, speaker, and author of 12 Traits of the Greats and Another Shot, Orlando, Florida (


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