Persistence – The 12th Button
By [Christopher Spiewak] Boulder, Colorado – March 24th 2011
Persistence is an amazing thing. It can last as long as you do. It can accomplish nearly anything. It can teach you, change you, shape you, inspire you. It can, through the very nature of its inherent desirous relentless resolve, transform you into the person actually capable of accomplishing that which you were not actually capable of accomplishing when you set out to accomplish whatever it is you set out to accomplish!
But persistence can also break you; Ruin you; Leave you lost, broke, homeless and hungry. It can lead you down a thousand dead-end paths. It can bring you face to face with your every weakness, sadness, sorrow and despair. And sadly, no matter how enduring, empowered or unstoppable, your persistence is no guarantee of anything. You can persist for a lifetime and never manifest that which you desire.
Yet as unlikely or impossible as your goal may be, the only real guarantee is that if you give up now, you’ll never know if your next step, your next call, your next day, week, year or decade will be the one that works. That’s what real persistence is all about, striving on because you believe in what’s possible more than in what’s not possible. I feel that way in my work lately, infinite dead-ends and disappointments but even more un-opened doors, un-made calls, un-searched buttons.
Buttons. Yes Buttons. Not a deeper human story of triumph over tragedy but a truly insignificant search for buttons that still inspires my inner persistence super-hero to this day.
It was 1999. Boston. For some insane reason, having never worked with fabric, or thread in my life I decided I was going to design and stitch my own curtains. I’d never even been in a fabric store before but the one I found had exactly what I was looking for, heavy earthy linen fabric and big wooden buttons. The only problem… I needed twelve of those buttons and found only one. When I asked the store clerk if there were more, she pointed (with a very grim reaper ghost of christmas future look on her face) to three gigantic 4’x8″x10″ button bins and said “it’s possible.”
Possible was good enough for me so I dug in and three hours later had found… two more buttons. Discouraging outcome but I returned the next day to keep looking. Five hours later I had found… one more. Ugghhh it seemed utterly hopeless. There must have been tens of thousands of buttons in multiple bins and no way to filter out what I had already searched through and worse, there was never a way to know if there was even one more button left to find. In fact with each button found, it was likely the last.
But somehow I kept at it. There were many days/weeks where I found nothing at all but the more i searched the more I didn’t want to give up. At some point I didn’t even care about the curtains, I just wanted to find the 12th button (let alone the 4th, 5th, 9th, 10th, 11th). Over the next two months I spent more time digging through buttons than I spent eating or sleeping. I can still remember the feeling of buttons spilling through my fingers as I scooped endlessly through the bins.
In hindsight I have no idea why I was so committed to such a truly insignificant task/project/effort but nearly two months later, as just “one more scoop” spilled through my fingers, for the billionth time, I found myself at last looking down on the significance of it all. Instantly clutching it with both hands I thrust the 12th button up to the sky as an utterly stupefied F#%!-Yes roar of smiling leaping ecstatically proud satisfaction took over me! It was totally ridiculous but such an awesome moment!
I still look back on it inspired. Inspired at the effort. Inspired at the commitment. Inspired at the persistence. Inspired as I strive to find the present-day “12th button” in a project of the deepest personal, professional and financial significance. And just like back then, there are no guarantees of success. No finish line assured. No absolutes at all. Just a belief in what’s possible that’s greater than in what’s not possible.
Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, that’s where the 12th button is found.