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 »  Home  »  Magazine Departments  »  Instruction  »  Wired for Winning - The Power of Persistence
Wired for Winning - The Power of Persistence
By Rich Molden | Published  10/2/2009 | Instruction | Unrated
Wired for Winning, The Power of Persistence

At this year’s Travelers Championship, I ran in to old friend and all around good guy Michael Allen. I told him his victory in the Senior PGA Championship had given me the inspiration for an upcoming column about the importance of goal setting and persistence. He stopped in his tracks and said, “You’re looking at the poster boy for persistence!”


Winner of the 70th Senior PGA Championship and self described “poster boy for persistence,” Michael Allen with the Alfred S. Bourne trophy.

Michael’s story is both interesting and indeed inspirational. I first met Michael during the mid 90’s when he took a hiatus from competitive golf and worked as an assistant at Winged Foot. To many, that sounds like a pretty good gig. However Michael will be first to admit that while he was thankful for the opportunity, much of his time was spent putting band-aids on other people’s slices as well as scrubbing the mats on the driving range.


Prior to this year’s triumph at the Senior PGA, a Champions Tour major, his last victory was at the 1998 Austin Open on the Nationwide Tour. His only other win came at the Scottish Open twenty years ago! In fact he went 0 for 334 on the PGA Tour and had the ominous distinction of holding the record for successfully completing PGA Tour qualifying school 9 times in 13 tries. Through it all he never questioned his ability to play competitively. Having won the Champions Tour season’s first major and leading the million dollar Charles Schwab Cup points race, Michael could have found a new and relatively cushy home on the PGA Tour’s senior circuit, but that was not the mission he set out on when put together his 2009 goals.


Michael’s story isn’t one of could have, should have, would have, but a lesson in the power of persistence. Never give up on trying to achieve your primary goals.  However, there is much more to this than is suggested in the old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.  The type of persistence that top performers like Michael have mastered does not involve simple repetitive actions.  It has been said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the true definition of insanity.  Individuals who are top performers have mastered an ability to be persistent in pursuing their primary goals, but still be flexible in their thinking about what methods and vehicles can be used to reach those goals.  They never stop learning – mistakes and “dead end” action plans are viewed simply as opportunities to learn what does not work or what is not right for them, and they adjust their approach accordingly.  That is, if one approach or strategy that initially looked very promising turns out to be a dead end, you must use that information as a starting point for developing a new strategy and implementing the next action plan.


An important adjunct to this trait of top performers is that they have specific, written goals, a specific written plan for achieving those goals, and a specific written time frame in which the goals will be completed.  Their action plan and time frame may be adjusted according to results obtained, but the goals remain.  From a psychodynamic perspective, the importance of writing out goals, actions plans, and time frame seems to be, at least in part, that such action makes these things a focus of attention in the individuals mind.  They become important within both the conscious and unconscious, making the identification of opportunities and initiation of actions that will help achieve the goals more probable.  Further, these written goals, action plans, and time frame become the top performer’s “system” for achieving their objectives.  They help to eliminate the interference that detracts from their potential thus enhancing their ability to perform. They simply follow their “system” until their objective is obtained.


Top performers genuinely accept the idea that success is a journey, not a destination.  Writing down goals provides a clear road map of where they are heading.  Writing down action plans provides a clear plan for getting there, and written time frames allow them to track their progress.  This serves to increase the level of awareness for events, opportunities, and actions that can carry them closer to their intended goal.  There is even evidence that written goals produce this elevated level of awareness through some very specific neuro-chemical effects on the brain.  But, those details are the subject of another article. For now, congratulations my friend and thanks for the inspiration.


About the author –

Rich Molden is a nationally recognized Performance Consultant / Sports Behaviorist and pioneer in the science and application of Psycho-ergonomics in both sport and business. He’s worked with, coached and interviewed hundreds of elite athletes, PGA Tour stars, top collegiate golfers, entertainers, high-profile business people and entrepreneurs. He invites your comments and questions. Please send them to